Where Science Meets Muse

Archive for February, 2011

Making Innovation and Design Consciousness Ubiquitous – Lessons from Open Mics

Posted by Plish on February 26, 2011

I used to be a fan of the Pecha-Kucha presentation format. Stripped down, only the essentials, no wasted time.  This is what a presentation should be. 

But then, like this person and this person, I became frustrated by it.  Frustrated because if I wanted to run a Pecha Kucha night, I had to get permission from the ‘founders’ of Pecha Kucha.  The reason for getting permission is because, as the website says:

We have a very simple Handshake agreement with each city basically to ensure there is only one event series per city and people are not treading in one another toes or pulling the rug out from under there[sic] feet. PechaKucha Nights take quite a bit of organizing and the more networks the better so we think it is better for cities to focus on one event.


As a practicing musician I often go to open mics to try out new tunes and refine them prior to using them in shows.  For those that don’t know, open mics are held weekly, or at least monthly, at various venues such as bars, restaurants, churches, cafes, etc..  Some of these are very spartan in format, others are quite elaborate with backup bands, but they all have food, drink, friends and fun.  They often last for 2 to 4 hours, some even longer.  Many open mics develop followings and have regular attendees.  They are events!

According to the PechaKucha website there are over 230 cities holding monthly PechaKuchas. According to openmikes.org,   there are at least 137 open mics in and within 25 miles of Chicago each week!  That’s 548 per month, not counting those establishments that have monthly, as opposed to weekly, open mics. 

 There are twice as many open mics in one city in a month than there are PechaKucha events worldwide!

That is sustainability.  That is empowerment.  That is a whole lot of sharing, of interaction, of friends and fun! 

What are the rules for performers at open mics?  Usually it’s something like 3 songs or ten minutes, whichever happens first.  PechaKucha, as a reminder, is 20 slides for 20 seconds each- six minutes and forty seconds max.

According to their website:

Pecha Kucha was devised  by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham and their office Klein Dytham architecture has supported the movement and global network for the past 7 years covering all cost for staff and web development. To keep the project sustainable and viable going forward as the network expands we are setting up a foundation. The foundation will also support creative projects such as the Mark Hoekstra PechaKucha Night Award.

As a reminder, there is no central office for Open Mics, no foundation, no licensing the format for events.  Just a simple rule: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Conveying Information, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Education, Experience, imagination, Information Visualization, innovation, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Society | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Need Inspiration and Insights Into Human Nature? Don’t Miss These Sites!

Posted by Plish on February 21, 2011

I was recently asked for sites that I go to for online inspiration from a design standpoint.

The first, I’ve mentioned here before.  It’s AskNature.org – an inspiring portal for seeing how Nature solves problems.

The second is a site that I write for on occasion (and wish I had more time to write for), Trendhunter.com. They actually give away a browser toolbar that has a list of various trend sites – it’s a great resource  for ideas.

The last three are wonderful (and sometimes quite entertaining) in that they have a uniquely human touch to them.

The first, HighIdeas.com , touted as “the best ideas (while you’re high)”, often has contributions that make you think, say “hmmm….”  and reach for the Cheetos.  (For the record, I have never contributed to this site)

Halfbakery is a listing of “half-baked” ideas. It describes itself as, “a communal database of original, fictitious inventions, edited by its users. It was created by people who like to speculate, both as a form of satire and as a form of creative expression.” Some of the ideas here are not all that half-baked.

Last, but by no means, least, there is Failblog.   This site is a catalog of failures.  It also has a  subdomain that is particularly thought provoking:  There I Fixed It -Redneck Repairs .   This site is chock full of everyday people’s solutions to everyday problems. (For the record, I have never submitted to this site, though quite truthfully, I probably could have.)  There is brilliance hidden here.

What sites do you find particularly inspiring or revealing of human nature?

Posted in Authenticity, Biomimicry, creativity, Design, idea generation, imagination, innovation, nature, problem solving, The Human Person, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Free, New Tool for Online Meetings/Collaboration – Try Zipcast!

Posted by Plish on February 18, 2011

Slideshare has just launched a really slick, new service called Zipcast.  It’s an online meeting tool.  It’s free and it’s simple.  Simply set up a free account through Slideshare and you get a free meeting room.  Call a meeting and broadcast it on Twitter or Facebook, or keep it private and only invitees can participate.  The fact that it’s spontaneous and doesn’t require any planning is great for initiating discussions on the fly.  Zipcast does require that your meeting centers around a Slideshare ‘presentation’ (yours or someone else’s) that is already uploaded but this isn’t really negative – after all, most meetings are centered around documents anyway, right? 

Features of Zipcast are:


  • Use any presentation: yours or someone else’s
  • Personalized meeting rooms
  • Streaming live video
  • Group chat
  • No downloads
  • Unlimited meetings & participants
  • Facebook & Twitter integration
  • Private or Public


  • Password protection
  • No ads
  • Conference call number

What does Zipcast claim it can be used for?

  1. Share ideas with remote colleagues.
  2. Launch your next product
  3. Talk at a conference remotely
  4. Teach anyone, anywhere
  5. Pitch a client
  6. Walk people over your sales deck
  7. Support your customers
  8. Run a non-profit fundraiser
  9. Share your photo albums
  10. Have fun sharing presentations

Personally I can see this being used as a great way to teach people, to give webinars for free, or to work on social innovation projects.  People could contribute to a discussion, a new presentation could be made based upon the feedback, another meeting held, and so on.  I could see this becoming a platform for online Pecha Kucha, which I would really dig.  Think about it.  You could tune in to a Pecha Kucha presentation 24-7 and not have to sit through hour long presentations.

This will obviously morph and be taken in new directions as it gets used.  I can already see an artist uploading lyrics/poetry to their Slideshare page and giving a concert/reading for anyone and everyone that will listen.

This seriously has some coolness going for it.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in Conveying Information, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Education, Information Visualization, innovation, Social Innovation, Social Networking, Social Responsibility, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Driving Emotional Connections – A Case Study of Home Shopping Channels

Posted by Plish on February 11, 2011

In times when people are deluged with stimuli, it’s essential to design products and services so that positive, lasting, energizing experiences result. These emotionally engaging products and services, when analyzed, share commonalities.

Richard Chase and Sriram Dasu, in their article: Want to perfect your company’s service? Use Behavioral Science;(Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu;Harvard Business Review, Jun 2001; 78-84) point to 5 rules that can improve the positive experience of services or minimize the impact of negative experiences when they occur (I color coded three rules so they can be found later in the article).

  1. Finish Strong
  2. Get Bad Experiences Out of The Way Early
  3. Segment Pleasure, Combine Pain
  4. Build Commitment Through Choice
  5. Use/Respect Ritual

Harvey Hartman of the Hartman Group, in one of my favorite, loaded, little books,Reflections on a Cultural Brand: Connecting with Lifestyles, highlights 5 principles and how they lead to emotional engagement.  Design the control  of these principles and you increase the emotional engagement:

  1. Community>>Interaction>>Belonging
  2. Knowledge>>Empowerment>>Confidence
  3. Authenticity>>Trust>>Security
  4. Relevance>>Personal Connection>>Comfort
  5. Surprise>>Delight!>>Pleasure

When used in tandem, both of these sources provide guidance in designing experiences- Hartman with regards to the content of offerings and Chase/Dasu with regards to how things unfold over time.

Let’s examine how these various principles are applied in the case of home shopping television stations such as HSN or QVC.

These companies are excellent examples of providing emotionally engaging services.  (If you have access to these stations, it might be worth stopping by and watching them for a while – some of what I will say will make much more sense after you have.)

When tuning in to one of these stations people see a gregarious host, possibly an equally bubbly product expert, beautiful models, close-ups of various products and a prominent insert on the screen that points out the retail cost, the customer cost, shipping, how many have sold and/or are available, and how much longer any special deals will be present.  And this continues, pretty much, 24×7.  There is a wonderful structure to the flow of the shows.  Whether it’s food, jewelry, frying pans, or electronics, when you tune in to a shopping channel you quickly fall into the flow of the program – people fall into the ritual.  The programs are also segmented by product offerings and time.  Because of this combination of ritual and segmentation, people can tune in at the time of their choosing, and buy what they want, when they want, with a choice of payment plans and shipping options.  These stations strongly leverage three of Chase/Dasu’s 5 guiding principles.

Let’s look now at how the experience of Shopping channels maps to Hartman’s principles.


It’s clear that aspects of shopping networks map well to the principles noted by Hartman.  Multiple opportunities for building positive experiences are leveraged whenever possible.  The more that experiences can be mapped to these principles, the more powerful the pull of the product or service.   Couple this with the Chase/Dasu principles and it becomes obvious that the success of home shopping channels is anything but accidental. 

There is a nexus of  experiential meaning present for those that visit these networks, and this means that it is highly likely that these people will also be evangelists.  The result is a self-sustaining, emotionally fulfilling shopping experience, all in the comfort of the home.

How do your products and services stack up against this tandem of Hartman and Chase/Dasu principles?

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, Market Assessment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Stuck Coming up With Ideas? Try the Brian Eno Technique!

Posted by Plish on February 4, 2011

Was reading this article on using flashcards as prompts for ideas regarding design.  Some great resources are in that article.  One that was particularly striking was the Oblique Strategies card deck by Brian Eno.  (For those of you who don’t know about him, he was with the band Roxy Music, and since has been an ‘ambient’ music pioneer.  He’s also the one responsible for the few second musical intro to Windows 95 and beyond).  He (and Peter Schmidt) developed this Oblique Strategy card stack as a way to get creatively unstuck in the studio.  You can purchase the actual cards here, but there are other ways to benefit from the content of these cards.

Text versions and other links to the various versions of the decks are here, and if you want a quick fix, click here to go to a web based version.

I just clicked it myself and the message was:


What a great bit of inspiration.  Because we all know that sometimes, in the midst of projects, when trying to get the best solution and the most creative innovation, having the courage to be embarrassed, to say what everyone else may have been thinking but didn’t want to say, to try something that’s already been done because you have a slightly different way of making it happen, to stand up for something or someone else’s idea – sometimes courage is the essential ingredient in innovation.

I can see I’m going to like this…

Thanks Brian (And Peter Schmidt)!

Posted in Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, idea generation, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Improving the Patient X-Ray Experience

Posted by Plish on February 2, 2011

I had a different post planned for this week, but on Friday, in a freak accident, I snapped my kneecap and went on a whirlwind, 48 hour tour of the emergency and surgical facilities at a local hospital.  Because of  the nature of my injuries, I was required to get x-rays of my knee – a lot of x-rays.  I lost count.  There were at least 10, 14 maybe.  It actually seemed like more!

The X-ray process is very regimented. You get in, you get positioned, you have to hold the position (sometimes also holding your breath), the x-ray gets taken and then you relax until you get repositioned for the next one, and so on…

There are indicators outside the entry doors for those in the hallways to tell them when the x-ray is in use, but nothing in the room for the patient.  When I asked the tech about it he said, “There’s a little beep.  When you hear it, that’s when the x-ray is happening – only during that time.”  He took the next x-ray and I heard a faint beep in the control room.

 “Hear it?”

“Yup,” I said.  But, quite frankly it was next to impossible to hear.  The reason why it’s so important to hear is that, as  a patient, I was lying there with my leg bent in an awkward, and painful position.  I only wanted to hold it for as long as needed.  I needed to know when the x-ray was complete so I could relax.  Now, I know that many techs will actually announce, “You can relax now,” and that’s good.  But what about before the xray?  The patient is patiently holding and is never quite sure when the x-ray is going to come.  All of a sudden it happens and they say, “Relax.”

There needs to be a better way.

So, I started thinking  how other participatory processes are guided.  Drag racing, traffic lights, car washes, dancing games.  They use lights, words, and sounds to  inform people about what’s coming up next. No surprises and everything flows – it becomes a dance of sorts.

Guided by those thoughts, here is a proposed way of improving the x-ray experience for patients.  It’s a way of making the x-ray process participatory.  Using a handheld, wireless remote, the tech initiates an x-ray sequence using colored lights, vocal commands, music and sounds to help the patient better understand where she is in the process and thus give her better feelings of control,  making the  experience more positively perceived. 

Would love to hear your thoughts! (Oh, if you don’t like the choice of colors or music, blame it on the painkillers 😉 )

Posted in Case Studies, Conveying Information, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Emotions, Health Concerns, Healthcare, innovation, problem solving, The Senses | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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