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Don’t Worry About the Elephant in the Room, Look for the Chameleons

Posted by Plish on June 30, 2016

 

color-changing-chameleon-lizards

Photo Courtesy of momtastic.com

 

You’ve got multiple experts in a room.  They’re all giving their opinions on the state of a market, or a new product.  Very often this leads to the manifestation of proverbial Elephant in the Room – the obvious issue no one wants to mention because it’s embarrassing, or taboo, as it has implications that could impact the project in a negative way.

While no one wants to talk about the elephant, the good news is that it’s there.  Yes, no one is talking about it (yet), but if  the culture is such that accountability is valued more than meeting deadlines, the elephant will be revealed and it will get talked about.  (If there are negative ramifications for saying something important just because it will negatively impact a product launch, you’ve got bigger problems than the elephant*.)

But very often, there are insights in your Voice of Customer (VOC) feedback that aren’t obvious, that won’t get talked about or dealt with – they’re Chameleons.

Chameleons are more dangerous to your project than elephants (I’m speaking with regards to VOC type data, or any situation where people are interpreting what others believe or are doing. I realize chameleons are cute benign reptiles 🙂 )  .  This is because people don’t know what they don’t know.  But, just because something isn’t known, doesn’t mean it can’t be known, or that there aren’t tell-tale signs present.

Since you can’t see the Chameleon directly, you have to look indirectly for the shadows –  Shifting shadows, a glimpse of movement.  It’s things that are implied, not things that are obvious.  It’s the nebulous things, the directions that are inferred from what is being said and done, not the words themselves.

This is important, because the words themselves are going to be the same words that members of the VOC panel will use when describing the situation to your competition.   If you want to have a product or service that is different and superior to what everyone else does, look for the Chameleon.

What are some tricks for seeing the Chameleon?

When dealing with VOC, a textual analysis is a great place to start.  It can reveal underlying dispositions and assumptions.  It can also show what types of metaphors, and thus what contexts people are using when they talk about your product.  I was once part of VOC feedback and noticed that certain subgroups of clinicians consistently referred to certain medical devices using military-like terms: cocked, captured, loaded, etc.  No one really noticed it because those terms are ubiquitous.   I did some textual analysis and noticed that there was another subgroup that rarely used those terms.  This was a Chameleon!

So I raised the question, do we want people using a war/battle metaphor for this surgical device, or do we want the market to use, and experience, a different, more healing metaphor?

The other tip is to pay close attention to what people do, not only what they say.  Body language, rituals, procedures, actions of any type, can give tremendous insight and reveal the Chameleons that everyone else will miss.

I once researched  a medical procedure and realized the doctor used a particular motion again and again.  The doctor never mentioned he made the movement, but he did it every procedure.  The kicker is that no products on the market leveraged that particular movement.  So I rolled that motion into the product design, creating a more ergonomic, simple, and cost effective to make, product.

Remember, do textual analysis and analyze what people do.  By being cognizant of these two tips, you’ll be well on your way to recognizing the Chameleons when they become present.  It’s well worth looking for them.  Sometimes they hide right next to the elephants. 😉

 

 

*- Actually this is a Cultural, or Corporate Chameleon.

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Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, Disruptive Innovation, ethnography, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving, Service Design, Surveys | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

A New Tool for Understanding People’s Emotions – Beyond Verbal

Posted by Plish on July 26, 2013

“Hey, Bill, how are you doing?”

“Things are going well!”

“It doesn’t look like it.  Looks like you’re tired and worn out.  Something bother you?”

“Nah, I’m hanging in there.  Life is good!”

Variations on the above conversation happen all the time.  People say one thing but are feeling another.  For whatever reasons, sometimes people don’t feel comfortable sharing their emotions.  That’s okay – we respect that.  But, when you’re trying to create a product or service that makes that person’s life easier, it often helps to understand the emotional underpinnings.

In the past I’ve blogged about PrEmo, a way of measuring emotions by utilizing the natural human capacity to notice emotions in others.  A new tool has been (and is being) developed over at BeyondVerbal.com.  They’ve been analyzing the intonations in people’s voices to tease out the emotions behind them.  These intonations are universal and when categorized, provide a means for determining the emotional states of people around the world.

I did my own little demo at their website.  So far, I’ve found it amazingly accurate.  I’ve also found it hard to fool.

So give it a try – I’d love to hear your thoughts about the tool and its applications!

Posted in Behavioral Science, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Experience, innovation, Innovation Tools, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Building Empathy on the Road to Innovation (and a Better World)

Posted by Plish on October 5, 2012

While the woman on the table braced herself for the extremely invasive transvaginal ultrasound, the technician tried to calm her:

“You know, when I was in school, they had us go through this exact same procedure so that we can understand what you’re feeling while you’re going through this.”

The woman smiled slightly, relaxed, and thought to herself, “At least this won’t be as bad as it could be…”

And it wasn’t…

Empathy goes a long way towards impacting how we behave with others, how we design products and services for others.  Sometimes, as with the ultrasound technician, a shared experience forms the empathic response.  However, we can likewise gain empathy by observing how others respond to certain situations – by reading people: looking at their faces, listening to their voices, watching how they fidget or stand still.

While responding to others’ expressions is somewhat ‘automatic’, the accuracy of our empathic responses can actually be improved.

Researchers at Emory University have developed a meditation protocol (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, or CBCT) that trains people to be more effective in reading what others are feeling.

Study Co-author, Lobsang Tenzin Negi, director of the Emory-Tibet Partnership, had this to say:

“CBCT aims to condition one’s mind to recognize how we are all inter-dependent, and that everybody desires to be happy and free from suffering at a deep level.”

Build empathy and build a better world.

Sounds like mandatory training, not just for innovators, but for all humans…

 

Posted in Behavioral Science, Case Studies, cognitive studies, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, Innovation Tools, meditation, Research, Science, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

When a Design Gets Ignored – Lessons From a Parking Lot

Posted by Plish on February 3, 2012

Went to the Post Office today and saw the above scenario and had to take a picture. (I roughed in a map of what the parking lot looks like.  Green arrows represent the designed travel path. The X’s denote cars oriented as seen in the picture.  I parked by the lone car along the entrance to the P.O.)

Despite the best efforts of planners to create a smooth flow to the traffic pattern in this lot, when the opportunity presented itself, everybody took the ‘easy’ path (which was, no doubt, started by one individual) and the people pulled through the ‘design intended’ slots, and into the next, enabling them, hopefully, to pull directly out, albeit awkwardly, without having to back-up.

I think we’ve all done what the above people did.   In a moment, we decide to park ‘wrong’ but we’re happy with what we’ve done because we think we’re getting a two-fer: Easy in – Easy out.

The reality is bit more complicated. In order to get out easily we need:

  • No one parking across the spot from us
  • No one parking behind us
  • No one parking too close to us
  • No one leaving at the same time
  • No one driving down the roadway the ‘right way’, looking for a parking space.

If any of the above occur, our path out is hardly easier than it would’ve been had we parked properly.

The lessons from the above are myriad, but the one that stands out is this:

If a design enables someone to do a task more easily in the present, with a perceived benefit in the future, that person will do the task the easier way, despite gentle reminders to the contrary.

The corollaries to prevent the above are the following:

  • Make it more difficult to do the task (concrete parking chocks would do nicely, but frankly, I don’t like them)
  • Eliminate the perception of future benefit (signs showing chaos if people park wrong, signs threatening ticketing, etc.)
  • If the preferred way of parking is more elegant, redesign! (This really could be done on this lot. Seriously, will anyone ever park in those spaces on the right side of the lot??)

The above scenario is a cautionary tale that highlights the importance of prototyping and experimenting to learn how your product will be used.  Testing needs to go deeper than just confirming that people can follow instructions and that people use your product as you expected.

You really learn about your product, and what people’s needs are, when you allow them the freedom to interpret the product and its use context, on their terms.

“But nobody followed the rules! They didn’t respect the traffic flow and slant of the parking spaces!”

Exactly.

 

Posted in Behavioral Science, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want to Keep Your Empathic Edge For Innovation? Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check

Posted by Plish on November 13, 2011

We all know the effects of high blood pressure: increased heart disease, kidney disease,  stroke.  Now there is one more thing to add to the mix: Emotional Apathy.

Research shows that increased blood pressure is associated with the deadened ability to pick up on emotional cues.  Without the ability to pick up on emotional cues, tension and pain points camouflage into the background.  When everything becomes vanilla, finding the insight that foments the next great thing becomes all the more difficult.

So how do you keep your empathic edge?

Research shows there are effective approaches (outside of drugs) that are  pretty easy for anyone to implement.  Remember the Blood Pressure Control MEME:

Minimize exposure to first and second-hand smoke

Exercise regularly

Meditate

Eat healthy

Humans are wonderful innovation machines, but like any machine, they need to be maintained.  Keep an eye on your blood pressure and your ability to see emotions in others will stay sharp – as will your ability to be innovative.

Posted in Behavioral Science, cognitive studies, Customer Focus, Design, Emotions, Health Concerns, innovation, meditation, problem solving, Research, Service Design, Society, stress, The Human Person, Wellness | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Creativity: Left Brain + Right Brain = WHOLE Brain

Posted by Plish on November 1, 2011

Came across an article originally published at The Conversation.  With all the talk of right brain vs. left brain, it turns out that recent research highlights that creativity is a whole brain process, or more specifically, creativity is a function of efficient communication between hemispheres.  I blogged recently about using music to improve creativity, and it turns out that musicians, as well as trained designers (people typically thought of as creative), tend to have more cross-talk between hemispheres than others.

In addition, researchers studying  cerebral blood flow in creative individuals concluded that,

“(creativity is) an integration of perceptual, volitional, cognitive and emotional processes.”

So, it looks like maybe we’re beginning to understand how our brains pull everything together and we act creatively!

Maybe not.

This recent review study  starkly states:

Taken together, creative thinking does not appear to critically depend on any single mental process or brain region, and it is not especially associated with right brains, defocused attention, low arousal, or alpha synchronization, as sometimes hypothesized. To make creativity tractable in the brain, it must be further subdivided into different types that can be meaningfully associated with specific neurocognitive processes.

In other words, creativity, is proving difficult to scientifically detect and study. But, don’t let that stop you, or anyone else from embracing life and what we are as humans…

~Creative~

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Brain Stimulation Tools, Creative Environments, creativity, Emotions, imagination, innovation, Lateral Thinking, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Research, Science, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

That’s YOUR Chunk of Open Office Space, This is MINE…

Posted by Plish on September 16, 2011

In the past I wrote about the health impact of open plan office spaces and their impact on creativity

Now it appears that open office spaces, intended to foster interaction, instead foster territorial behaviours that undermine collaboration.

 Professor of Strategic Management, Stephen Cummings, who led the study said,

“The intent of taking away dividing walls and doors is usually to improve creativity and performance by fostering spontaneous fun, interaction and sharing…However, we found evidence that it can lead to attempts by employees to re-create spatial and social structures and boundaries, actually undermining the behaviours an organisation is trying to encourage.

…most teams marked out their territory with posters, slogans and personal items, even moving furniture to create their own personalised space, which seemed to put other teams off moving into that space.  Employees also tended to use the activity rooms in their established team groups at separate times rather than mingling with other teams.”

He also mentioned that people felt that they lacked privacy and hence they had to be more rigid in their behaviours and hence less innovative.

So what to do?  Well the obvious step is to create a mix of open and private space, understand what your people are like, and build an environment that plays to individual strengths, needs and personalities.  “One size fits all,” isn’t the way to an innovative culture.

 

 

 

Posted in Architectural Design, Authenticity, Behavioral Science, Case Studies, creativity, culture of innovation, Health Concerns, innovation, Nature of Creativity, Team-Building, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Looking for the Secret to Successful Problem Solving? Banish the “…but…”

Posted by Plish on August 27, 2011

Try this concept when problem solving, in brainstormings, in your personal life. 

It’ll work wonders.

Posted in Behavioral Science, Best Practices, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, culture of innovation, idea generation, innovation, problem solving, Tactics, Traditional Brainstorming, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Pen *IS* Mightier Than the Keyboard!

Posted by Plish on May 11, 2011

 

click to see full size

Langen and Velay– This is a GREAT article on writing and the haptic experience.

Two summaries worth reading: Better Learning Through Handwriting and How Handwriting Boosts the Brain.

Posted in Authenticity, Behavioral Science, children, cognitive studies, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, imagination, Information Visualization, innovation, Nature of Creativity, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Environments and Creativity – Why Not in Political Discourse?

Posted by Plish on April 30, 2011

A little over a year ago I blogged on optimizing your environment for creative output.  I also wrote about the pros and cons of open office plans.

I wanted to share this article from today’s Wall Street Journal that touches on both of the above topics.  One amazing tidbit:

…Researchers at Ohio State University and the National Institute of Mental Health tracked 60 white-collar workers at a government facility in the central U.S. Some had been randomly assigned to an old office building, with low ceilings and loud air-conditioners. The rest got to work in a recently renovated space filled with skylights and open cubicles.

For the next 17 months, the scientists tracked various metrics of emotional well-being, such as heart-rate variability and levels of stress hormone. They discovered that people working in the older building were significantly more stressed, even when they weren’t at work. The scientists said the effect was big enough to be a potential risk factor for heart disease.

All this got me thinking about how early philosophers and politicians carried out their discussions in open air forums, surrounded by fresh air and blue sky.  They dreamed of ways of improving the world, becoming better people, and their imaginations would soar. 

We are indebted to their innovative thinking still, today.

I wonder how much more creative and effective our elected officials would be if their sessions were in an open air environment, without rows of desks and aisles, no left or right…

Their work might actually have the freedom to soar,

and we, likewise…

Posted in Architectural Design, Behavioral Science, Creative Thinking Techniques, creativity, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, Politics, The Senses, Wellness, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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