ZenStorming

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Posts Tagged ‘design research’

Obviously Hillary Clinton Will Win – Four Post Election Lessons for Designing and Launching Innovative Products

Posted by Plish on November 9, 2016

Poll after poll showed that Clinton would be the next president of the United States.  They also showed that even though Trump supporters said that they would vote for him, they still expected him to lose – they expected a Clinton victory.

Poll after poll were wrong.

What happened? Why the misleading numbers?  How do I make sure that I don’t make the same mistakes and misread the signs when designing and launching products?

Launching a successful product can seem like a crap-shoot.  You roll dice and hope for the best. In the wake of Donald Trump’s stunning presidential victory, there are four lessons that those designing product/service launches would be wise to heed. Let’s take a look.

People don’t want to feel like outsiders – they want to be in the ‘in’ crowd

People don’t like Donald Trump.  It was obvious.  Even people in his own party were against him. Heck, when is was clear that Trump had won, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow wasn’t even subtle in her dislike of the President Elect.  With this type of negative environment being prevalent, people who were pro-Trump didn’t want to be seen as supporting someone who was so hated.  The result?

They either lied and said they were voting for Hillary, or claimed they were undecided.

The lesson here, is that people need to feel welcomed and accepted if you’re going to get the truth out of them.  If you’re designing a product and the users don’t trust you, or think that somehow their participation in a research study will impact them negatively, odds are you won’t get the truth.  Build trust and give people a safe zone to say what they want.  But be careful, this is only part of the story.

People tell you what you want to hear

History is replete with products that tested well in focus groups and then failed miserably when launched.  One of the main reasons for this is that people will tell you what you want to hear.  Or, they simply don’t know what they want so they pick whatever it is you’re showing them and they say they like it.  Focus Groups can be funny things.  Are people really telling you what they think, or are they telling you what they think you think they think?

So be open to reality

Some years back I was working on a project that was a ‘next generation’ version of a medical product I had designed the first generation of.  Only two years had passed, and while the market, and the medical procedure the product served, hadn’t changed appreciably, I made sure that I wouldn’t be the only one doing research.  I called in additional researchers/designers to watch the procedure and asked for their feedback.  I was afraid that I was only going to see what I wanted to see and end up with a slanted, if not erroneous, perspective on what the doctors were doing.

In this election, pollsters anticipated reality.  Pollster John Zoghby believed that polls were too heavily slanted Democrat.  This lead to over-estimation of a Hillary Clinton lead, if it was even there at all!  You’ll never see reality if you think you already know how reality behaves.  We see what we want to see.  We may not be malicious about it, but sub-consciously we think we know what’s really going to happen, so we set up our research to prove that true.

In the world of product/service design research, we need to find out what’s going on, not prove we’re right.  The stakes are too high.  Companies, organizations, communities are investing in a product that is supposed to pay them back in some way.  Not understanding the situation is the first step to catastrophic failure of a product launch.

So at the end of the day, do what people do, not what they say

Yes, you can be the first to predict reality, but often the better route is to let things play out a little more and then jump in the game with a passionate verve!  This has the advantage of getting actual data, actual feedback.  This information is much more actionable and since everyone else is wrong, being  a little late to the game won’t be a negative, it’ll be a huge positive!

If you believe that you need to predict reality and launch at a specific time and place, then don’t pick one horse in a race.  Place multiple bets.  Have a Plan B, and Plan C…Plan(x).   Then, as reality starts revealing itself, roll the appropriate plan into action with modifications as needed.  Incidentally, the first generation product spoken about in the beginning of this article was just such a multi-plan launch.. That enabled it to launch with the right components at the right time, even though the very beginning was touch and go understanding what was truly essential to the offering and what wasn’t.  In the end, we got it right.

That’s ultimately what it’s all about – getting it right.

One way we can get it right is to learn from what others have done wrong.

So regardless of whether you’re crushed or elated with this election (or perhaps even feeling a little of both!) pay attention to these four tips based on what was done wrong, and your next product launch won’t unexpectedly fail – you will get it right!

 

 

 

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Posted in Case Studies, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Use This Simple Innovation Technique to Create Better Pizza….er, Products!

Posted by Plish on May 20, 2015

We’ve all had this experience:

You order a pizza for pickup.  You get home and open the box and find the cardboard under the pizza is wet and soggy.  You dig into the pizza but find out that, unfortunately, the flavor of  the wet cardboard  transferred to the pizza’s crust.

I’ve had the same experience on pizzas that were delivered as well.  Anything more than 10 minutes and the soggy cardboard effect kicks in.

How do we fix it?

Let’s use the time honored technique of re-ordering the sequence of events to create a different, and better, product, er…pizza.

Very often certain events get canonized as the way to create a product.  In some ways this is a good thing as it virtually guarantees repeatability in end products.  In the case of pizza the following happens :

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on hard surface
  8. Cut pizza
  9. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  10. Give to customer
  11. Drive home
  12. Open Box
  13. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Now, the steps in red are what the restaurant typically sees.  They are pretty much oblivious to steps 11-13 as they are busy doing steps 1-10 for other customers.  The problem is that the restaurant can keep doing 1-10 flawlessly, but the fact of the matter is that step 11 is especially critical to 13 being a pleasurable, or not so pleasurable, experience.  If the drive home is more than 10 minutes, the quality of the pizza could start going downhill.  The longer the ride, the  dark, steamy, cheesy, oily environment inside the box takes its toll as cheesy oil and moisture soaks through the cut marks in the pizza and soils the cardboard.

That in turn starts soaking back into the crust and impacting the flavor.

We could solve this problem by adding substances to the crust that will repel, or mask, the cardboard taste but let’s do something easier.

Change the sequence of events.  There is one step in particular that directly impacts how the pizza crust will survive the ride home.

How about:

  1. Take order
  2. Take crust and spread tomato sauce evenly
  3. Place cheese on tomato sauce
  4. Add  other toppings (If applicable)
  5. Place in oven at 425F for 15 minutes.
  6. Pull pizza out of the oven
  7. Place on cardboard and slide into pizza box
  8. Give to customer
  9. Drive home
  10. Open Box
  11. Cut Pizza!
  12. Take slices of deliciousness out and eat!

Yes.  Let the customer cut the pizza.  Not only will that help the crust quality, it takes a step, and some time, out of the pizza making process.

It may not seem like a lot, but a couple of seconds with every pizza baked will add up by the end of the year.  Heck, if the restaurant wants to, it can sell branded pizza cutters, or give one away with every 10 pizzas purchased.  Make it a game: “We make it and bake it, but you cut it and love it!”

So, if you want better tasting pizza, try this simple innovation.

When you order your pizza, tell them to not cut it.

But, don’t expect old habits to die hard.  In the restaurant that I’ve been testing this theory with (Thank you Salutos for unknowingly providing the pizza for these experiments! 🙂 ), even when I’ve given them instructions not to cut the pizza, often they’ve cut it anyway,

More important, next time you’re trying to improve a product that’s based on a process, look at rearranging the steps.  You might just end up with a tasty new product! 🙂

PS. I shared this tidbit on Instagram first.  Feel free to follow me there for more on innovation and creativity!  Just click on the pic to go to my ZenStorming on Instagram.

Posted in Best Practices, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Highlights from IIT’s 2013 Design Research Conference

Posted by Plish on October 10, 2013

Once again the IIT Institute of Design has put on a provocative and stimulating conference.

Under the theme “Exploring Creative Balance in Design“, the conference was a potpourri of glances at the past, understanding of the present, and flashes of future.  It was held at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History, a stimulating change from the Spertus Institute, where it’s usually been held.  There was an interesting ‘negative’ about the location in that electrical outlets were few and far between. Charging phones and laptops was a challenge.  (Personally, while on my quest to find outlets, I found some really cool nooks in the museum that I didn’t even know existed)

Some highlights in no particular order:

Mickey McManus of Maya inspired awe.  A trillion connected devices is just around the corner.  A trillion!  Think of what is possible (good and bad) when those devices interact with each other!  Think of how nature communicates with itself!

Mel Lim talked about keeping Ego in check.  A wonderful challenge to becoming better people to create a better world.

John Doyle gave an amazing talk of the limits of systems, how the same concepts govern phage evolution. Fast and specialized systems or slow and flexible?  How to walk the line?  What about feedbacks in our systems?  How do we design for that?  There was also a cautionary bent to his talk, but he emphasized the need for people to adopt new ways of looking at systems in the world.  He mentioned to me afterwards how essential it is that the design world gets involved.  The research needs to be made accessible to more than just mathematicians to be able to impact the world in its most profound way.

Darlene Damm spoke of her DIYROCKETS project.  Open Sourcing the Space Industry.  Amazing and disruptive innovation!

John Payne talked skeuomorphs and more,  Ultimately it’s about understanding our culture so we can communicate through design more effectively.

Panos Papalambros spoke of optimizing designs using algorithms that are automatic as well as human assisted. Discussed the benefits of crowdsourcing this process as well.

Liz Sanders and co-creation.  There truly is power when individuals create together as a communal entity. She’s got a great resource at Maketools.com that I’ve personally used.  This is exciting work and it’s only going to mature more.

Matt Jones and Richard The of Google Creative Labs showed the power of video in prototyping.  “All design is fiction.”  Love that quote because everything starts as an idea – a fiction – and it becomes reality.

Lucy Kimbell talked about the various types of empathy using Star Trek’s Deanna Troi as the research subject.

There was also everyone’s favorite “curmudgeon”, Don Norman.  He emphasized the need for design research to be more effectively integrated into corporate product development processes.

Matthew Clark and many others gave amazing talks.

If you’d like to see more from the conference check out #DRC2013 on Twitter.  You can also go to Seen for a timeline of twitter posts about the conference.

Lastly, but in no way least, I met old friends and made new ones.  When all is said and done, that’s what makes these conferences so valuable.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and looking forward to next year!

Posted in Co-Creation, creativity, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Maker Movement, Open Source, Research, Social Innovation, Sustainability | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Here’s One Thing You Need to See, Analyzing Words Upon a Tree

Posted by Plish on August 20, 2013

Great innovations occur when we can see things in ways that others haven’t.

To that end, we study people, their behaviors, what they say, and what they do.

When looking through the research, sometimes it’s difficult to tease out anything new.  We get stuck in the superficial meanings of what people think.  To get deeper, we need to change our perspectives, we need to create ways of seeing the data anew.

One common tool is the ‘Word Cloud’. It does a great job of enabling us to graphically understand the frequency of certain words in a body of textual data.  The bigger the word, the more frequently it appears in a text.

For example, here is a word cloud of the Gettysburg Address.

gburg

We can see that the words “nation”, and, “dedicated” are very predominate in the speech.  What we can’t understand though, are the contexts of these words.

Enter the Word Tree.

Word Trees enable us to see the context, understand where words are going and where they came from.

For a while, finding a free Word Tree analysis tool was pretty difficult.   However, developers have been busy and there is a new player on the block.  Jason Davies has shared his wonderful Word Tree tool here. Feel free to plug in your own text or play with the many examples that are there. (You can also enter a hyperlink to analyze web pages or Twitter feeds!)

Let’s use the tool on the Gettysburg Address and look at the word “nation”. (You can play with the Address I uploaded, here.)  What I like about Jason Davies’ tool is that you can configure the tool to show the context of what comes after the word of choice, or what comes before. Here’s an example:

gburg2

gburg3

There are other Word Tree tools out there, Many Eyes, and Revelation Global.  The latter incorporates a limited word cloud into the page which is somewhat helpful, but the page is cluttered and it’s hard to move around.  Plus, there’s no way of saving the output.  Both Many Eyes and Revelation Global require registration.

I encourage you to give Jason Davies’ Word Tree a whirl. Let me know what you think.  But be warned, playing with Word Trees can be extremely engaging.  Make sure there are no deadlines looming – unless of course, those deadlines deal with understanding textual data.

Posted in Conveying Information, Design, Innovation Tools, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Want to Uncover New Product Opportunities? Try Archaeology

Posted by Plish on April 14, 2012

I recently read this wonderfully provocative piece on how archaeology can be used as a tool for new product research.  The crux of the paper is that insights into new product opportunities can be gleaned when we shift the focus off the consumer, and onto the products themselves, as this graphic shows.

While this perspective is fascinating, it’s not entirely new.  Certain industries have, for years, been focusing on products in a unique way that others don’t. One of these is the medical device industry.

In this industry, once a product is sold it isn’t forgotten.  If, at any time, there is a problem with a product, the Manufacturer is supposed to be notified of the failure.    It is then incumbent upon the Manufacturer to look into the failure, and based upon the results of the analysis, undertake corrective and/or preventative actions to ensure the failure doesn’t happen again.

When investigating medical product failures, scant, helpful feedback from clinicians is not uncommon.  When asked about the problem, often the response is, “Your product failed.”  Specific details of who did what, when,  are difficult to tease out.  As a result, medical device failures are, in many ways, much like an archaeological dig.  The product has to speak for itself…

The package landed on my desk with a thud.

“What is it?” I asked. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, problem solving, Research | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

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 »

Starting an Empire – Sears’ Eye for Making People’s Lives Easier

Posted by Plish on June 9, 2011

It’s simple.

Observe>>Reflect on the Experience>>Act on the Insights(=Design Solutions).

Richard W. Sears, founder of Sears Roebuck, lived by that process.

His goal was to make life simpler for people and make a profit doing it.

In the 1880’s as the country was adopting and making sense of time zones (from 300 to four), Sears sold watches to rail travellers.  People who before had to calculate the time by looking at the sky and deduct or add a minute for every 12 miles traversed, depending on the direction being travelled.

His focus on making life easier for his customers is epitomized by this blurb in his 1908 catalog which made it clear that people didn’t have to be intimidated by the mail order process. 

Don’t be afraid you will make a mistake (on your order). We receive hundreds of orders every day from young and old who never before sent away for goods. Tell us what you want in your own way, written in any language. We have translators to read all languages.

And my favorite:

Observation: People placed their catalogs and books on coffee tables.  The books were often stacked when the house was cleaned.

Reflection on Experience: The Sears catalog had to compete with the Montgomery Ward catalog for space.  In order to get noticed, somehow the Sears catalog had to differentiate itself in some way.  As printing techniques for the catalogs were relatively simple, Sears took an entirely different route to differentiate his catalog. 

Act on the Insights:  He made the catalog smaller than the Montgomery Ward catalog so that when the catalogs were stacked on the coffee table, the Sears catalog would be placed on top. 

Building an empire is actually quite simple.

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Experience, innovation, problem solving | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

It’s Not About Users but About People – Research into People Centered Design

Posted by Plish on October 8, 2010

Just got back from the 7th International Conference on Design and Emotion.  This was a wonderfully stimulating conference, one that I’ll be processing for quite some time.

While there were multiple sessions that were truly inspirational, perhaps one of the forerunners was a presentation entitled: Including people in the design process – Good but how? by Dr. Yan Ki Lee.

Her bottom line is this:

t’s not about users, it’s about people; people who are creative partners in the design process.  It isn’t about designing for people, but designing with people.

Rather than expound upon her work, I invite you to check out the thorough and provocative toolkit at designingwithpeople.org .

The methods and activities sections of the site are full of case studies, video diaries and resources.  Fascinating and educational, it’s well worth the time spent on this site.  It will only make you a better designer, a better innovator, and dare I say, a better person.

Posted in Case Studies, culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, Healthcare, innovation, Innovation Tools, Research, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Intuitive Guiding of Iterative Design Research to Expedite Product Development

Posted by Plish on May 14, 2010

Wednesday,  at the final day of the Design Research Conference,  a panel discussion was held on the topic of design research and its role.  One panelist, Don Norman, was particularly animated about the need for design research to better serve industry by providing the results of the research in an expedited manner.  

While listening to Norman I found myself in total agreement with his assessments.  I also resisted the urge to jump up, wave my arms and say, “We’ve already done it!!!!”

What is ‘it’?

‘It’ is: Expediting design research to help industry develop products faster.   This technique may or may not work with non-product design but thinking about it, I’m not sure there’s a reason why it shouldn’t. 

So what is this process?  Here’s a diagram of the comparison between how design research is done in traditional programs and in expedited programs.

Click for Full Size

The typical Research and Development (R&D) process holds science in the highest esteem.   It consists of a research phase, Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, Best Practices, Creative Environments, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Market Assessment, problem solving, Research, Tactics, The Human Person, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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