ZenStorming

Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘design thinking’

How to Make Sure Prototypes are Useful, Even When They Fail

Posted by Plish on November 28, 2016

It worked flawlessly for 4 minutes and 25 seconds…

And then it didn’t.  The VP smiled and said, “I get the idea.”  After getting through the embarrassment of the failure, the team learned what went wrong, and got to work testing variations of the failed component.  The new versions didn’t fail, and the product went on to eventually make millions…

 

“Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” – Warren Buffet

Risk and fear walk hand in hand with lack of knowledge.  The best way then to minimize fear and minimize risk is to understand,  to know what’s happening.  Prototypes are part of that knowledge building process.

The knowledge base that takes shape through prototyping is equally, if not more, valuable than the actual mock-up itself.

The challenge in most organizations is to make the shift from being object/success based, to process/knowledge based.  Then, even if a product never gets commercialized, the knowledge that gets created can be used for other products, other projects, and make those into money-makers.  Knowledge creates a bolder approach to the future!

What do we do to make sure we’re after knowledge, not just results?

Whether you are creating products, services, or even a new business model, don’t think of prototyping as a ‘testing an idea’ event, but instead as a learning process.   The best way to change into a process based mentality is to ask questions, and then create prototypes that will get you that knowledge.   Three basic questions guide how you get that knowledge as efficiently as possible.   Notice that nowhere are we asking,”Will this work?”  Instead, ask yourself these questions and then start prototyping!

  1. Which answers can I get to easily?  Easy translates into fast answers.  It doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, it just means  that there are few moving parts, so to speak.  The relationships are clear cut – there are anticipated outputs for each input.  Subtract a dimension from your  concept and test that.  For example, if a knob has three dimensions but you want to see how easy it is to grab,  cut it out of cardboard and build a two-dimensional model. Sketch when you can.  Is there infrastructure in place, such as test equipment, that makes it easy to test something?  Quick answers, that’s what you’re after.  You might not be able to go to the moon with your prototype, but you might be able to get more confidence that it’s possible.
  2. Which answers can I get cheaply?  Low cost doesn’t mean quick or easy, though often it does. These prototypes also often aren’t highly accurate. But that shouldn’t matter.  Can you build something out of polymer clay instead of 3D printing it, or molding it?   Find ways to duplicate function using cheap materials or techniques.
  3. Which answers  will give the greatest bang-for-the-buck?  Getting these may be neither cheap to test, nor fast to create, but, at the end of the day, they yield potential answers that could unlock future decisions.  To find these, ask what part, system or sub-system, if you eliminated it from the design, would cripple it hopelessly?  What is key?  The movie “Victor Frankenstein” is playing in the background as I type this.  The electrical charging system is key to energizing Frankenstein’s creations as none of his creations are possible without electricity. Those electrical systems are his bang-for-the-buck systems.  Those are the types of things you want to prototype!

With each of these three types of prototypes, make sure that you have back-up plans.  Make extra parts.  Make variations. Confirm that you understand why things are happening the way they are.

When do I prototype the final product?

Even though it’s often tied to ‘go/no-go’ decisions about a product, prototyping the final version is part of the prototyping process spectrum.   It’s still about knowledge creation, so if you’ve learned what you can about the systems in simple, cost effective methods, and you’ve learned about the ‘bang-for-the-buck’ systems, there shouldn’t  be many surprises.  Still, expect the best, and prepare for the worst.  Have plans in place to deal with those surprises.

Remember, prototyping is about knowledge creation!  That’s why failure is okay. (In fact,  believe it or not, you want some level of failure!)

Let’s summarize what it takes to make sure prototypes are useful.

Make various types of prototypes to answer questions:

Make easy prototypes.  Learn.

Make cheap prototypes.  Learn.

Make prototypes of your key components and sub-systems.  Learn.

Document your learnings.  Build upon what you know.  Experiment to find out what you don’t know, and document it so it can be shared.

Follow this process and your prototypes won’t just be an artifact tested in a one-time event.  They will be doorways to knowledge, and knowledge eliminates fear, allows you to deal with risk, and ultimately, leads to success.

 

Posted in 3D Printing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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!

 

 

 

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

Six Essential Guidelines to Failing Forward — Relishing Failure (Even When it Tastes Disgusting)

Posted by Plish on April 26, 2016

In the span of a couple seconds a wonderful orange, blackberry fragrance turned caramely, then malty, then char…

I quickly turned around and saw that my blackberry sauce had become a gooey burning mess.  Taking it off the heat I scraped it into a container and set it on the garbage can to cool.  I then promptly washed the pan and started another batch of my sauce – after all, the French Toast was already done.

As I went to throw away the failure, I grabbed a spoon and tasted this mess.  Who knows, maybe something good came out of it…

 

Carbonized berries with a hint of charred honey – bitter and brown – there really was nothing redeemable from this.  My takeaway?  Perhaps use a little more liquid, a little less sugars, or more importantly, just pay attention better!!

People always talk about failing fast, failing forward, etc.  But failing is only beneficial if we take the time to analyze, or in this case taste, our failures.

What’s needed first when we analyze?

A willingness to look!  If I was simply interested in making the French Toast and plating it; or if I was only interested in getting rid of a smoky mess and throwing it out, I wouldn’t have found out what the gooey stuff tasted, looked, smelled and felt/acted like.

Be curious about the failures no matter how mundane or common they may appear.  As noted in the classic, “The Art of Scientific Investigation“:

 

Discog40

The Art of Scientific Investigation, by W.I.B. Beveridge, Pg. 40

 

The trick then is to look and really question whatever you can’t explain (and sometimes even questioning the things you (think you) can explain can be very useful!) Multiple people can see the same phenomenon and yet see different things.

Some years back, a veteran engineer was convinced that a plastic part was failing because of something happening in the mold.  I was brought in to take a look at the situation as they were short on resources.  Not taking the veteran engineer’s word, I looked more closely under a microscope.  Something didn’t seem right. After looking at the part, and the entire manufacturing and testing process more closely, I realized that the failure was actually due to a testing fixture applied to the part after it was molded.  Good parts were being made bad!  A change in the testing procedure resulted in weeks of saved time and the product was able to launch on time.

So,  while fruitful failing starts with observation, there are actually six points you should think about next time you burn a berry sauce, or something fails. Pay attention to these six points and you’ll be guaranteed to be failing-forward:

  1. Practice being curious about why things fail.  Ask questions, observe, taste, feel, smell.  If you can’t explain something, if something seems odd, follow up!
  2. Can this failure actually be used?  In other words, is it truly a failure? The charred goop may have tasted good – maybe I could’ve used it in its new form? (I couldn’t but I asked this question 🙂 )
  3. Can some aspect of the failure be used?  Okay, so maybe it tastes disgusting, but does this mean that it’s totally a loss?  Maybe charred, seasoned berry goo is good for digestion? (I don’t know if it is, but I’d venture it isn’t.)  Maybe the sticky sugar is a biofriendly adhesive?
  4. What did I do? How did I get here?  Understand the full width and breadth of what was done to create the failure.  Look at the ingredients that went into the failure, the tools and fixtures, the timing, the context/environment.  Understand what truly caused the failure.
  5. Document it!  Jot it down, put it into your phone, take pictures, make recordings. At the very minimum, commit what you can to memory.  Be conscious about remembering what happened so that it doesn’t happen again.
  6. Can you recreate the failure?  At the end of the day, we should be able to recreate the failure (I am quite confident I could burn my sauce again and create the same brown goop).  If we can’t recreate it, we didn’t understand it.

Failing is the easy part.  Turning it into something to build upon takes a conscious, concerted effort.  However, the more you are cognizant of these six points, the more fruitful and the more repeatable your product development efforts will become.

Then the fun REALLY starts!

🙂

POST SCRIPT

~~~The second batch of blackberry sauce was sublime ~~~

🙂

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Innovation Tools, observation, problem solving | 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 »

Brand Strategy and Design – One Collective Voice at FUSE 2015

Posted by Plish on March 23, 2015

Yes, one of my favorite conferences is coming up and I hope to see you there!

FUSE 2015

From April 13-15  in Chicago, Illinois, the Loews Hotel will be home to a provocative and inspiring mix of leaders in Design, Brand Strategy, Marketing, Innovation, Trends, and Strategy.  For 3 days you will have an opportunity to learn, network and enjoy stimulating talks, workshops and more.

I always leave FUSE with a mindful of ideas and things to share.  To aid my recall, I capture my experiences of FUSE in concept maps.  You can go to Slideshare and check out my maps of DAY 1 and DAY 2 from last year.

Looking forward to seeing you there and hearing your experiences!!

Posted in Brands, creativity, Design, design thinking, innovation, Service Design, Trends | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chef Guy Fieri on Innovation

Posted by Plish on April 1, 2014

Every time I get the opportunity, I ask great chefs this simple question:

What does innovation mean to you?

This year at the International Home and Housewares Show, I caught up (quite literally as you see from the video,) with Chef Guy Fieri.  His response to the question: “What does innovation mean to you?” is shown below.  Give it a watch and join me below the video and I’ll share my thoughts.

Chef Fieri’s thoughts echo, I think, what many people believe innovation is:  The willingness to “step outside the box” and try new things, the willingness to experiment.  Undergirding this willingness, though, is a key acceptance of failure.  He realizes that not everything will be great but we won’t know unless we try.

It’s quite simple really, if we think something, try it and see what happens.  Small changes can have huge impacts; wolves can change the course of rivers.

What are your thoughts on Chef Fieri’s approach?

~~~

Thank you, Chef Fieri!  You’re schedule was fast paced and packed with action (like your food!) and taking the time to chat was most gracious.  Thank you, and keep rocking!

Posted in creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Food, innovation, Interviews, Nature of Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Getting Naked…Innovation!

Posted by Plish on November 5, 2013

If you’d like to read a comprehensive, yet very readable book on the innovation process and the tactics of designing for people, I highly recommend the book Naked Innovation by Zachary Paradis and David McGaw.

How much does the book cost?  Right now it’s less than I paid for it when it first hit the shelves of an IIT Design Conference.  In fact, it costs nothing!  That’s right – it’s free.  The authors want to make an already good book even better, so they are re-releasing it for free, one chapter at a time, and asking for feedback from the readers.

What do you need to do?

First step: Head to  NakedInnovation.com.

Second step: Download individual chapters of the book.

Third step: Read…

Fourth step: Give your feedback.

This book is an excellent addition to your innovation library, and now is the best time to pick up a copy and contribute to making the next version even better!

Let me know your thoughts when you read it.

Posted in Books, Crowdsourcing, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools, Reviews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 2013 CreativeMilwaukee@Work Conference – #MustExperience

Posted by Plish on October 19, 2013

I wanted to share this reminder that the CreativeMilwaukee@Work conference will be November 8th, 2013, at the Discovery World Museum in Milwaukee.  Sponsored by Creative Alliance Milwaukee, this year’s event promises to be even better than last year’s, and that’s saying a lot.

These folks are the real deal when it comes to design and creativity and I strongly encourage you to check this conference out.  It’s an all day event and for $125, between the things you’ll learn and people you’ll meet, this is easily one of the best “bang for your buck” conferences around.

From the historic Third Ward, to the great products and companies that call Milwaukee and southwest Wisconsin home, Milwaukee is establishing itself as a locus of creativity in the Midwest.

Come to Creative Milwaukee at Work and check it out for yourself.  You won’t be sorry you did.

Oh, and be sure to find me and say, “Hi!”

Posted in Arts, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, innovation, Service Design, Social Innovation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Accelerating Innovation Using Human-Centered Design: A Seminar

Posted by Plish on October 11, 2013

If you’d like to learn more about Human-Centered Design, and how it can power your innovation efforts be sure to check out DMI’s seminar, powered by friends over at the LUMA Institute.

Developing Effective Action Plans for Accelerated Innovation is being held Chicago on November 14th at the IIT Institute of Design.  The seminar will introduce participants to:

…a versatile system for innovating with speed and agility. It is a hands-on workshop featuring an organized framework for Human-Centered Design methods and a corresponding series of collaborative planning exercises.

(Specifically participants will learn: )

  • A practical construct for repeatable innovation
  • Deeper competence in the practice of Human-Centered Design
  • A collaborative approach to drafting action plans
  • Ways to enhance an existing process
  • Ways to establish a new process

Each participant will also receive a copy of LUMA’s Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods  as well as the Planning Cards based upon the handbook.  I’ve got the Handbook in my library and I can say first hand it’s a great resource and should be in the library of anyone doing Human-Centered Design.  (I’m planning on adding the cards to my collection as well 🙂 )

The interactive seminar is being led by Bill Lucas.  Bill has 25 years of design chops informing the seminar you’ll experience.  He’s fun, engaging, and a heck of nice guy. (Tell him I say “Hi!”  if you go.)

For Registration info click here.  If you can’t make it to Chicago, be sure to check out the LUMA site for other workshops and seminars.  They are always busy putting the education into innovation.

Oh, and if you do go, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Posted in culture of innovation, Customer Focus, Design, design thinking, innovation, Innovation Tools | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 »

 
%d bloggers like this: