ZenStorming

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Posts Tagged ‘ethnographic research’

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 »

Get Insights Into Human Behavior by Paying Attention to the Everyday

Posted by Plish on August 31, 2013

Looking for insights into human behavior?

Sometimes they are right in front of us. The problem is that we are in such an automatic mode, that we don’t notice what other people have done. We are often mindless (as opposed to mindful) observers of the world around us.  It’s a shame that we are, because these insights can be powerful inspirations for innovation.

Below you will find pictures from three different locations I’ve visited lately: A restaurant restroom, a gas station and a Walmart.  In all these pictures there’s clear evidence of what people’s preferences are.  Take a look, and use these questions to guide your reflection:

  • What do I see?
  • Why might this be happening?
  • In what ways can this be improved?

I’ll share some thoughts on the other side of the pictures…

 

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The Restaurant Restroom

I find it fascinating that people clearly have a preference for the left push button handles, most likely because they presume it’s the “hot” water.  It’s not.  In fact, both left and right push buttons release cold water.   Because the wear is so lopsided, it’s also possible that as the spring timer runs out and the water stops, people re-press the left button again, even though both buttons give cold water!

Both faucets also act the same way – although, the top picture is from the faucet that’s further from the urinals.  From that we could infer that people go for what’s closest as well.

Incidentally, I frequent this establishment and still find myself pressing the left button handle both on first and secondary presses.

In what ways would you improve this?

Gas Station

This phenomenon is in multiple places, not just at gas stations.  The “No” button gets a major workout.  Apparently most people don’t want receipts, or car washes.  These pads get worn out and need replacing all because of one button.

In what ways  would you improve this design?

Walmart

I went to buy cat litter and loved this image (I took it right before I bought the litter).  The upper and lower shelves are untouched! Everyone has been pulling from the middle shelf. As you can see from the picture (albeit barely,) the cart is just below the edge of the middle shelf.  It’s almost effortless to load up the cart with kitty litter.  (I actually took some from the upper and lower shelves for fun.)

How could the experience of kitty litter purchasing be improved?

These are just three examples from everyday experiences that highlight how people’s preferences can be inferred without having to even ask a single person.  (In the past I’ve blogged about a couple of other examples where people ignore the intended design of parking lots and walking paths.)

I also look at these examples as inspiration to design things right the first time.  Sure, components can be replaced and even re-designed, but why not get it right?  Why not do some homework up front to see what it is people do?

I’d love for you to share other examples of products that aren’t being misused per se, but clearly have aspects that are being over/under used because they are under-designed in certain ways.  Share them below or on Twitter. Use hashtag #OverUnderDesign .

Looking forward to your input!

 

 

 

 

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, innovation, Innovation Tools, problem solving, Research, Service Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 »

Innovating For (and From) the Fringe

Posted by Plish on January 21, 2012

One of my favorite TV shows is Fringe.  It’s tale of parallel universes and the FBI’s, Fringe Division team, and their fight against inter-dimensional, and/or high technology crime.

The whole concept of the fringe, is a loaded one.  It is the place where the familiar feathers into unfamiliarity; where rules change and people must innovate and use technology creatively, simply to survive.  It’s the place of exile, the place of wonder and mystery.  Fringes are fragile – they fray.  They give the appearance of solidness but only until one touches them.  Then, they become ethereal webs that elicit unsure steps of probing instead of the surefooted steps of conviction.

The TV show depicts these fringe events as truly out of the ordinary.

The truth is, fringe events are around us everywhere.  When I buy a drink for someone at a bar and hand it off, that moment when I’m letting go and the person is receiving, is a type of fringe event.  When I click on a link and wait for the next screen to reveal itself, that is a fringe moment.  These exchanges of objects, states and information, facilitated by the interaction of two people (or at least a person and an object), are fringe moments.

Oh sure, they’re not rips in the space-time continuum, but they are moments when everything hangs in a balance of ‘what-ifs?’.

They are also moments ripe for creative innovation.  They are the moments when improv actors can create brilliance or grey.  They are the moments when health care providers can seamlessly transfer information and improve healthcare, or they can be moments of confusion – planting the seeds for future accidents.

In order to innovate in the fringe, it requires that we understand, and design for, what each person, or object is expecting to give and get.  There are two universes present on either side of the fringe event, each with its own rules. The operating laws of these universes need to be accurately ascertained in order to design appropriately and creatively.  Oh sure, we can assume what each party wants, but to really create magic, we need to know the local laws of interaction and provide an environment for synergy.

If we commit ourselves to the study of the moment – if we seek to understand the objects, interactions and suppositions that brought about that moment – we innovate from the fringe and in so doing, for the people and objects creating the fringe moment.   We become crafters of portals – doorways through which experience and objects pass.

Let’s not take this task lightly.  Whether professional or amateur:

We really do have it in our power to shape experiences in the universe. 

Posted in Conveying Information, creativity, Customer Focus, Design, Healthcare, innovation, Service Design, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Design and Innovation for Seniors and Disabled

Posted by Plish on September 18, 2009

Where's the Innovation for the Golden Years?

Where's the Innovation for the Golden Years?

I’ve always believed that too many of the products that get touted as being great innovations with well thought out design actually are not necessarily all that great of products with regards to usability by seniors or disabled.

One of the main reasons this occurs is that, in general, Western Cultures do not promote interaction with seniors or the disabled.  These people get pushed into sub-cultures of sorts and are thus insulated from the society at large.  

Out of sight, out of mind, out of design…

It’s not just current product designs that are senior/disabled non-friendly.  Since many social challenges confront people as they age, innovation and improvements to address these challenges are required, but unfortunately are few and far between.

What would I suggest to start getting some innovative design work going in these areas?

1. There needs to be greater awareness of the needs of the aging and disabled population.  They need to be recognized, not as a subculture that is somehow separate from society, but as an essential part of society in the here and now.

2. Awareness comes from immersion.  Unfortunately, immersion can only happen in many cases by visiting places like assisted living centers, and hospitals.  In the mean time, we can start by visiting great websites like Serene Ambition – Boomers in Transition.

3. When present in those places where there doesn’t seem to be very many elderly or disabled ask: “What can be improved here so that elderly and disabled can truly be a part of this place/event?” 

4. When looking at products ask: “Could I use this device if I had arthritis? Or couldn’t walk well?  Or if my hand tremors? Or if my eyesight was failing? Or if my hearing was poor? Or if I couldn’t breathe well? etc…”

5. Be sure to visit the Center for Universal Design.  Great references there.

Finally, younger people need to get out of denial and see the spectrum of life in its entirety.  Everyone get’s older.

The good news is that designing and innovating for the aging/disabled is ultimately doing it for ourselves…

What are your thoughts on this?

Posted in Customer Focus, Design, Human Rights, innovation, Life Stages, Society, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Great Information Visualization Tool – VUE

Posted by Plish on September 1, 2009

vue

Different tools are required for different tasks.  When it comes to mindmapping and information management there are tons of possibilities.

I came across this software called VUE.   It’s less of a mindmapping tool and more of an information visualization tool.  Its strength lies in the multiple ways information can be arranged, sorted and manipulated.  I can see this working great for process analysis and research purposes.  Check out this video that also utilizes some pretty slick interaction tools.

Some perks about the software:

  • You can also use this tool to build presentations
  • Embed URLS in nodes
  • Embed pics or other files into nodes
  • Group and manipulate various nodes
  • Export as PDF or as a webpage

The best thing about it? 

It’s free!

So download it and play with it.  I’m sure you’ll come to like it and see multiple uses for it!

Posted in creativity, Design, idea generation, Information Visualization, innovation, Mind Maps, problem solving, Research, Reviews, Traditional Brainstorming, Web 2.0, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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