“Innovation is a risky business and the failure rate is high. Traditional approaches to consumer research may exacerbate the problem. There are many shortcomings with traditional research approaches, and one of the main ones is that data collection focuses on what people say they do, rather than on what is actually driving behavior.” – Behavioral Science – Do people do what they say will do? by Innovia.
Tim works for Innovia Technology and will be visiting Nokia’s Chicago Technology Center, Naperville Campus, on Monday, May 8. He is a physicist from University of Cambridge, UK, with a research background on ballistics who has spent the past 15 years addressing human factors led innovation.
Tim will share insights from recent projects as well as highlights of work done for Nokia back in 2003. About 15 years have gone by and he will conduct a retrospective to unveil who ended up implementing those concepts in today’s market.
Post May 8 Session Notes – Tim’s talk covered the need for gaining a deeper understanding of people as both individuals and collectives to best inform the design of new products, services and business models. Tim emphasized the value of a holistic approach to problem solving and a focus on behavioral drives. He stated that conventional research solely looking at attitudes and beliefs can miss critical insights.
Nokia’s community can access Tim’s presentation and recording on my work blog.
I am now taking the chance to share my thoughts on this topic and, whether we call it “stated vs. observed behavior” or “reported vs. actual paradoxes,” the point is that those of use working on Human Factors Engineering and/or leveraging Design Thinking cannot just rely on product or service requirements as described by customers and end users themselves.
Therefore, on location ethnographic research coupled with instrumentalizing objects, tools and environments to gather telemetry as they are being used over their useful lives are also of the essence, given user permission as this entails privacy concerns.
“According to Alan Mulally, former Ford Motor Company CEO, Henry Ford said that if, when he founded his company, he had asked potential customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Quote Investigator.
Hawthorne Works was a Western Electric factory in the Chicago area, which is part of Bell Labs’ outstanding legacy.
I’m now inserting a side personal note: I now live Chicagoland and have worked with Bell Labs, now part of Nokia.
More than a century ago, going all the way back to the 1920s and 30s, Hawthorne Works undertook a study to assess what lighting levels correlated to higher productivity levels.
However, research findings revealed that (a) worker’s awareness of being observed in the context of (b) paying attention to their needs in the workplace elevated their motivation and productivity, which trumped other factors such as lighting levels whether they would be set low or high.
I would also like to share another interesting observation. This one involving Bell Lab’s own John Karlin:
“The Times, who refer to Karlin as widely considered the father of human-factors engineering in American industry, relates an amusing story of an earlier project–one that demonstrates his keen understanding of human behavior: an early experiment involved the telephone cord.”
“In the postwar years, the copper used inside the cords remained scarce. Telephone company executives wondered whether the standard cord, then about three feet long, might be shortened.”
“Mr. Karlin’s staff stole into colleagues’ offices every three days and covertly shortened their phone cords, an inch at time. No one noticed, they found, until the cords had lost an entire foot. From then on, phones came with shorter cords.”
Once again, I’d like to thank Tim for his talk and for the also interesting discussions that preceded and followed that session. We both agree on the positive impact of holistic and interdisciplinary practices, which lead to a disciplined and robust approach to defining value based outcomes.
This is about innovative solutions humanizing technology in everyone’s best interest. So, it definitely pays to leverage Behavioral Sciences and Behavioral Economics when addressing serial innovation programs.