Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for January, 2011

Solving Problems and the Benefits of FUN!

Posted by Plish on January 26, 2011

FUN!  is something that all animals, to some extent engage in. 

Humans have the ability to design it.

Volkswagen has recognized the innate value of fun and developed this great website.  It’s dedicated to the premise that “something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.”   

But, FUN! does more than change behavior. 

“I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” -Thomas A. Edison

Work = 1/(FUN!) where FUN!=Passion x Freedom. 

To increase the level of FUN! and decrease the perception of work, find ways of increasing passion and/or freedom. Make sure people are playing to their strengths, and give them the responsiblity to make things happen; responsibility to make decisions.

Do this and the FUN! level will increase, the perception of work will decrease and the results will be amazing.


Posted in Authenticity, creativity, culture of innovation, innovation, Play, problem solving, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A Tool for Generating Innovative, Emotionally Impactful Design

Posted by Plish on January 20, 2011

Coming up with emotionally impactful designs seems hit and miss sometimes – it just depends on the quality of the ideation session.  One way to make the process somewhat more repeatable is to create some structure around the process of tying emotion into the design.  Since the senses provide a conduit to the generation of emotions,   a tool for coupling  (or decoupling) various senses to various attributes of a design would be extremely helpful for fomenting innovative ideas.

 The Sense-Attribute Table I’ve developed is just such a tool. I’ve included an example below in an Excel spreadsheet.

What I’ve done is list the various senses along the vertical axis and various attributes along the horizontal.  I then created conditional formatting in the cells.  A ‘+’ sign means that this attribute positively impacts the sense; ‘/’ is neutral and ‘-‘ negatively impacts the sense.  

Just as with Attribute Dependency Templates and Forecasting Matrices, the purpose here is to break existing relationships between senses and attributes or force new ones. 

For example, if we’re innovating a coffee mug, let’s look at some attributes and senses and make and break relationships.

Hearing/Contains Liquid – Currently the mug functions in a neutral to positive manner as the pitch of coffee pouring into the cup does change as the cup fills.  What if the cup had a sensor/system that played soft music that got softer (or louder) as the volume of the cup changed?

Hearing/Grippable – Currently the design is neutral. What if the cup sensed the strength of the grip and emitted a tone as the gripping force changed?

Smell/Contains Liquid – Currently  the design is neutral.  What if the cup, like Sam Adams’ beer glass, was shaped to make the aroma more concentrated, or smoother, or….

Sight,Touch/Grippable – Currently positive because you can see and touch the handle.  What if you broke the relationship by removing the handle?  In some ways new positives arise even though it may be harder to hold the cup.  For example, the cups could be easier to stack.

These are just some of the examples of how this matrix works.  You can use it for services as well.   Think about touchpoints and examine how each of the senses impacts them. 

Another way to use the tool is to determine which emotions are elicited through which sensorial experience of various attributes.  You can then generate ideas for strengthening these or creating entirely new emotional experience profiles.

Here’s an Excel version of the spreadsheet.  Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, Design, Emotions, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, The Senses, Traditional Brainstorming | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

So you want to Design for the Senses? Don’t Forget These!

Posted by Plish on January 15, 2011

When we think about the senses we usually default to the five primary senses of  Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste and  Touch.

We could further subdivide the taste  (sweet, salty, etc.) and touch (cold, hot, pain, etc.) categories but usually those distinctions are useful only under certain circumstances.

There are however, four other “Senses” that humans all use to some extent or another, and these also play (or at least should play) key roles in designing products and services.   These are:

1. Motion/Balance

This sense is tied into our experience of moving through the world or for that matter, standing still and not tipping over on an incline.  We even speak of  a  ‘sense of balance.’  The body is especially sensitive to changes in acceleration.  This sense gets reinforcement from the sense of sight which explains why some people get more nauseous experiencing a movie of a roller coaster in a theater than they do on the roller coaster itself. This is because the eyes are telling the brain there is movement but the vestibular organs responsible for sensing movement are saying, “you’re sitting still,” and the confusion messes with your gut.  The Wii and various video games leverage this sense as do vehicles.  Think of how nice a strong acceleration feels when you’re trying to get into traffic from a short entry lane.

2. Proprioception

This is the body’s ability to know where its various parts are in relation to each other, even when we can’t see those other parts.  The ‘touch the tip of your finger to your nose with your eyes closed’ test is for this sense.  When people (factory workers, athletes, physicians, etc.) are training various limbs to repeatably do certain tasks, products need to be designed to not interfere with this sense. This is why professional baseball players’ bats are made to tight specifications at an athlete’s request.  Any small variation in the bat could, and most likely will, interfere with this sense and alter the player’s swing. 

3. Time 

Time is something that is poorly designed for, if at all.   We often design to minimize the amount of time being spent but fail to realize that most people have a tendency to overestimate the amount of time it takes to do something when that task is unpleasant.   It’s essential to design products and services such that the passage of time be more pleasurable or useful.   Remember, if you design something that results in a boring three-minute wait, it will feel like ten to the person waiting and it will leave people with a bad experience. 

4. Morality

Here again, like the phrase, “sense of balance,’ we use the phrase, “sense of morality,” in everyday language.  This sense, which also may rely on the other senses to inform it, can influence design in many ways.  Moral sense undergirds the  Sustainable or Green design movements.  Failure to pay attention to this aspect of design can be problematic.  In the 1990’s, it became known that Nike was using sweatshop labor to manufacture its shoes.  Since then, Nike has been on a mission to improve labor conditions, as well as its reputation.  Over the years, they have made great advances, as have other industries like the leather industry where innovative tanning methods have been developed so that workers are not exposed to toxic chemicals.  This interconnected world is starting to breath with a pan-cultural sense of morality.  Ignore it in your designs at your own risk.

So, next time you’re designing something that you want to impact the senses, don’t forget to go beyond the realm of sight, touch, sound, smell and taste.  Innovations that do will be better received, and most likely, better for the world.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, Social Responsibility, Society, Sustainable Technology, The Human Person, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Finding the Voice of the Customer

Posted by Plish on January 8, 2011

Humans are attuned to hearing other people’s voices.  Or rather, we have a tendency to hear and zero in on those things that pique our interest.  A unique, high-pitched voice squeaking about an experience with a company’s product catches our attention only if it’s in a language we can understand and only if it’s a product we care about.  If we speak English and the voice is German (well, we think it’s German because obviously, if we can’t speak it,  we’re guessing which language it is, right?) we tune the person out and relegate it to background noise.  If it’s not a product we care about, again, the conversation becomes background noise and we turn our attention to something else.  

This is only natural. We all have limited bandwidth of time and energy.  If  voices don’t somehow resonate with us, we turn our attention to those that are interesting or useful to what we are trying to accomplish.

But, businesses cannot afford to be deaf to any unique voices…

To make sure your company is effective at hearing the Voice Of the Customer (VOC), answer these simple questions with brutal honesty:

What language is your customer speaking?

Is the company fluent in this language?

Language here means more than just the same spoken words using the same alphabet and grammatical rules.  (Actually, really meaningful VOC can be obtained even when there is a disparity between the languages spoken.) Language here means the deeper  foundational dispositions of the customer.  It’s more than words.  It’s about actions, motivations and emotions.   It’s about getting past the customer’s vocal cords and getting into their hearts and heads. 

Customers can only be understood when there is empathy with them. 

Unfortunately, many VOC projects start all too easily with the premise that there is a common language between the company and the customer – it’s English (or French, German, Ukrainian, etc.), the language that the focus groups and questionnaires are done in.  Projects starting in this manner often end up with the VOC output sounding vaguely familiar.  Unfortunately, few will ask if the reason something sounds familiar is because it is an echo of the study sponsor’s voice.

Meaningful innovations seldom come from these types of VOC studies.  They instead come from those studies that truly understand the deeper language of the customer.  Products coming from these types of VOC studies, ultimately  leave customers speechless with delight.

That silence is the most powerful, vocal endorsement of all.

Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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