The preceding post on QXbD research notes – Part 1.1 shared a retrospective with insights from my early college years, which were influenced by Bruno Munari‘s “projected methodology” and the Bauhaus‘ design principles.
Research Notes Part 1.2 (this post) takes me back to BarcelonaTech’s school of engineering in the early 90s, which I joined to study Human Factors Engineering while pursuing my last year of Industrial Design at Escola Massana, an art & design school.
Those days, Donal Norman’s “The Psychology of Everyday Things” and Henry Petroski’s “The Evolution of Useful Things. How Everyday Artifacts Came to be as They Are” became must-read books for anyone interested in thoughtful design principles in a new light. Norman was an Apple Fellow and became VP of the Advanced Technology Group in the mid 1990s. He popularized the term of User Experience.
Petroski was an engineer whose best known work focuses on failure analysis. He stated that the best Industrial Design involves “seeing into the future of a product” and that Human Factors Engineering is concerned with “how anything will behave at the hands of its intended and not intended users.” Here is a summary of some of his design principles:
- Tools make tools.
- Artifacts multiply and diversify in an evolutionary way.
- There always is room for improvement.
- Good can be better than best.
- Efficacy can be subjective, want overpowers need.
- Form follows failure: inventors should be technology’s severest critics.
- Focus on different faults means different solutions to the same problem.
- Engineering is invention institutionalized.
- Sometimes it is about a new job, sometimes about a better or faster job.
“Though the best designs deal successfully with the future, that does not mean they are futuristic […] There is an apparent reluctance to accept designs too radically different from what they claim to supersede […] if things are redesign too dramatically and the function that they perform can be less obvious”.
“Loewy summarized the phenomenom by using the acronym MAYA, standing for most advanced yet acceptable. Dreyfuss emphasized the importance of a survival form, thus making the unusual acceptable to many people who would otherwise reject it [Industrial Designers] have learned to strive for a delicate balance between innovation in order to create interest, and reassuringly identifiable elements”.
Donald Norman pointed to design issues leading to human error and making users unfortunately blame themselves in the process. He claimed that the “paradox of technology” takes effect when added functionality comes with unwanted complexity, which denies the sought-after benefits. These are some of the design principles:
- Design should be user-centric and consistent.
- Identify the true root cause of a problem.
- Well designed products teach the user how to use them.
- Make things visible, give clear clues, enough information and feedback.
- Get mapping and system state right, simplify task structure.
- Design for error, exploit the powers of constraint.
- Make possible to reverse actions, and make it harder to do what cannot be reversed.
Following up on the topic of technology’s paradoxes, it is worth reviewing Geoffrey A. More’s “Crossing the Chasm“, which was published in 1991. He explored the rationale behind the failure of emerging technologies, which fail to take hold.
There can be a deep chasm between enthusiasts and early adopters and the broader user groups shaping the mass market. Avoiding the Valley of Death starts with an understanding the adoption lifecycle: different user groups come along with different expectations. That prompts the need for the design of specific transitions and adaptations.
“Whole Product R&D […] begins not with creative technology but with creative market segmentation. It penetrates not into protons and processes but rather into habits and behaviors […] it implies a new kind of cooperation between organizations traditionally set apart from each other.”
HUMAN-MACHINE-SYSTEM DESIGN PRINCIPLES
BarcelonaTech’s teaching addressed Human-Machine Systems as an interdisciplinary undertaking. Human dynamics entailed the study of individuals and collectives such as teams and organizations. That would encompass the following disciplines and an strengths and limitations
- Psychology – skills, cognitive appraisal and workload, workstyles…
- Physiology – form factors, motions, anthropometry, biomechanics…
- Social Sciences – teamwork, organizational behaviors, culture…
Tools and machines involved hardware and software components. HMS’ holistic approach consistently tackled end-to-end solutions. These were placed in context and in specific physical environments. The sough-after outcomes of “Designing for People” zeroed in on:
- The delivery of capable high performance systems as defined by productivity by effectiveness and efficiency metrics, and success rates.
- Designing for users’ wellbeing and safety.
- Human Error is often a consequence of poor design.
- Addressing the broader user base possible, typically set at 95% coverage with adaptations, accounting for diversity rather than designing for just averages.
- Extreme case and stress testing, factoring life-long / lifecycle changes as solutions evolve and/or can be deployed in other context and environments.
We followed this iterative methodology, starting with due diligence on:
- Initial problem statement and goal setting.
- Operations assessment: use cases’ current state / present mode.
- User Taxonomy and Analysis: jobs, tools, work motion studies (tasks, workflows, success and failure rates) often relying on instrumentation.
- Data collection, processing, analysis and insights.
- Identification of value based activities, waste and risks.
- Critical success factors and possible scenarios at play.
- Information, process, hardware and software specifications.
- Contextual and environmental considerations.
The next phase focused on Human-Machine-System design, including all relevant subsystems and interactions across them:
- Operations review: new target state and mode.
- Interaction Matrix* correlating human and design factors.
- Prioritization criteria and conflict resolution.
- Job and process streamlining, often leading to redesign, or new design.
- Goal setting based on metrics optimizing for system wide operability.
- Iterative improvement cycling through experiments, prototyping, simulations and testing.
The *Interaction Matrix correlated human factors (rows) for a given design option with the following “realization” ones (columns) and the degree to which those relationships were weak, medium or strong (matrix).
- Customer acceptance criteria.
- Operability levels, including safety.
- Conformance with functional requirements.
- Reliability and performance levels, as well as maintenance.
- Productization feasibility and costs.
- Aestetics and affective considerations.
Just a quick reminder about the fact that this article is still discussing topics set all the way back in the early 90s. Those days, Total Quality Management (TQM) and Lean lead the way. Note that ISO 9000 standards had been first released in 1987.
The top three key values were: Customer Intimacy, Operational Excellence and Product Leadership:
“customer intimacy: tailoring offerings to match demand […] detailed customer knowledge with operational flexibility […] customizing a product and fulfilling special requests […] engendering tremendous customer loyalty“.
“operational excellence: providing customers with reliable products or services at competitive prices and delivered with minimal difficulty or inconvenience“.
“product leadership: continuous stream of state-of-the-art products and services. First, they must be creative […] Second, must commercialize their ideas quickly […] business and management processes have to be engineered for speed. Third, product leaders must relentlessly pursue new solutions”.
High operational performance was broken down as follows:
- Productivity & scalability.
- Flexibility & adaptability.
- Mix complexity.
J.M. Juran discussed quality in the context of “Big Q” and “Little Q” where the former addresses a business problem and is all encompassing, while the latter is siloed and focuses on tackling technical issues. Big Q delivers the sort of value that users can appreciate.
Strategic Quality Management was meant to learn from customer experiences and leveraged House of Quality charts to design with.
The first step was to map out a taxonomy of customer attributes (CA) decomposed in primary, secondary and tertiary levels, the latter being the most granular list of customer requirements and expectations… all largely based on surveys and user feedback. This was done for the value chain consisting of end users, consumers, retailers, distributors, regulators, etc. Weightings were set to prioritize attributes based on contextual relevance.
CA items would then be placed on the left rows of the above spreadsheet for the purpose of cross-checking them with technical features to be shown as column headers. That was done by correlating CA and engineering characteristics (EC). The resulting center matrix was used to assess what items were positively and negatively impacted, co-variance, and to what extend. Each cell featured icons and color coding for strong, medium, weak relationships.
The pyramidal roof at the top was filled out afterwards to look into technical synergies and conflicts alone. Basically, becoming aware of how engineering characteristics interact and making decisions on optimizations and conscious trade-offs.
SOME OTHER THOUGHTS…
Attending both Art and Engineering schools was a fascinating experience to say the least. The opportunity to cross-pollinate across disciplines could made anyone feel like being in a reenactment of the Renaissance’s blending of arts and sciences.
Both Industrial Design and Human Factors Engineering optimize for the human experience and, therefore, make their professions be about “Designing for People”. Technology that does not account for human skills, strengths as well as limitations, all in context and in the scenarios and environments will operate under… becomes greatly exposed to failure.
Striving to make designs that fit people’s potential, rather than just expecting users to just fit… does require an interdisciplinary and iterative practice, painstaking attention to detail being critical. At that point, it also became clear that addressing the Big Q also had to do with articulating the business value of design.
- D. Norman. The Psychology of Everyday Things. Basic Books, 1988.
- G.A. Moore. Crossing the Chasm. Harper Business, 1991
- H. Petroski. The Evolution of Useful Things. Vintage Books, 1992.
- J. Krafcik and J. Womack. Triumph of the Lean Production System. MIT Sloan Management Review, 1988. Accessed on May 18 2019 http://www.lean.org/downloads/MITSloan.pdf
- J.R. Houser and D. Clausing. The House of Quality. Harvard Business Review, May 1988. Accessed on May 18, 2019 https://hbr.org/1988/05/the-house-of-qualityT.S. Clark and E.N. Corlett. La Ergonomia de los Lugares de Trabajo y de las Maquinas. Tylor and Francis, 1984.
- M. Treacy and F. Wiersema. Customer Intimacy and Other Value Disciplines. Harvard Business Review, January – February 1993. Accessed on May 18, 2019 https://hbr.org/1993/01/customer-intimacy-and-other-value-disciplines
- House of Quality Template. QFD Online. Accessed on May 19, 2019 http://www.qfdonline.com/templates/
Exploring Other Methods. November 7, 4:00 PM Understanding How Design Thinking, Lean and Agile Play within Service Design.
“Since service design serves as the umbrella discipline for delivering service experiences, there are many sub methods to address different types of problems. For example, Design Thinking is helpful on the front end to empathize and identify customer needs where Agile is helpful in software development and digital experience design. This group explores well-known methods and how they play a role in the service design universe.”
I’m back in Chicago and I would first like to thank everyone who joined my session about “Exploring Other Methods” for your participation (full house) and encouraging feedback. I hope to cross paths again in the near future. In the meantime, we can take advantage of LinkedIn to stay in touch. I would also like to express my gratitude to Michael DeJager and Tyler Peterson for all of their tireless help.
Here are the links for a couple of the items that I briefly discussed when providing context for Exploring Other Methods: a photo album of where I work, Nokia’s Chicago Technology Center, and the first version of the Human Factors Engineering Manifesto. Regarding requests about the slideware for my talk… I ran an interactive whiteboarding session with my iPad connected to the projector and I did not produce formal slides.
The discussion’s narrative was centered on how to best approach HSM, Human-Machine-Systems, to craft a compelling Service Experience. In that context, “Human” refers to relevant stakeholders and “Machine” to any technology involved. The “Systems” approach prompts a holistic undertaking which includes Front Stage, Back Stage factors and the continuum across the too.
Service Design is about innovation, whether capability-wise that qualifies as incremental, breakthrough and/or disruptive innovation. Today’s Service Design also entails a wide range of low and high-tech at any point in the process. While this is just anecdotal evidence, when I asked everyone about who can do away without any technology, there was an implicit understanding of the rhetorical nature of my question and, therefore, the obvious pervasiveness of digital experiences.
We are a technological society. Good design is concerned with human factors and crafts technological solutions to enable human experiences that contribute to our quality of life and the quality of the work we do. That is Human Factors Engineering (HFE) reason for being, a field pioneered by Nokia Bell Labs in 1947.
From that perspective, it pays to intertwine any relevant practices and tools for the healthy purpose of figuring out what combination works best for any given Service Design project. While process repeatability is a desired outcome, what makes an interdisciplinary team smart is the ability to mix, match and blend what’s needed for each undertaking.
We can think of it as an a-la-carte menu featuring elements from Design Thinking, Agile and Lean methodologies just to name a popular handful to start with. I did not discuss some other such as Concept of Operations, Goal Directed Design or Outcome Driven Innovation, but I do recommend expanding one’s horizons beyond the aforementioned few. Note that while featuring commonalities, each one works with different optics. A holistic approach to Service Design also requires a composite method, leveraging as much (or as little) as needed from any, and with any needed adaptations.
Rather than summarizing what I shared at Service Design Week, I’m taking this chance to further reflect on those insights. So, given that we operate in highly dynamic environments, why wouldn’t designers also apply dynamic methodologies?
I’d like to think twice about cookie-cutter and one-size-fits-all approaches because Service Design typically prompts problems and opportunities where fixed-gear-techniques that might have worked well in the past can end up betraying one’s confidence: they might no longer serve or be the best fit whichever purpose they were originally conceived for. Design typically takes us beyond our comfort level, and that makes it an exciting profession.
Statistically speaking, the more one does the very same thing, the closer one gets to mastering that craft (e.g. deliberate practice model). But, paradoxically, you also get closer and closer to confronting environmental deviations, anomalies and rare events in an ever-changing world with even-growing moving parts and targets (e.g. black swan model). Besides, Service Design practitioners shouldn’t deny themselves the benefits that come with continuous improvement. So, here is a quick recap: innovation in Service Design’s outcomes and method innovation go hand by hand. As Einstein put it:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?”
“The 21st century human factors organization touches so much more than the usability or ergonomics of a product, playing an integral role as the human-centered umbrella connecting the many facets of product and experience design. How is the human factors function creating a fertile environment for the human experience leveraging design thinking and other methodologies?”
Speaking session on April 25. Focus on Human Factors Engineering: Advancing the Human Factors Manifesto through Design Thinking, Agile and Lean. Design Thinking 2017.
In what way do you believe Design Thinking has made the biggest impact in your human factors work at Nokia?
Your question makes me think of a recent conversation with my daughter who is in junior high. She walked me through a school project asking her to pin point and discuss outstanding differences between her day-to-day life and her grandparent’s experiences when they were her same age.
She talked to my parents and diligently outlined a long list of things that we happen to take for granted today: some fairly simple, some quite sophisticated and far reaching… all innovations on their own right at a given point of time. So, I couldn’t help sharing with her samples of work pioneered by Nokia back in 1947 when Bell Labs set up the first Human Factors Engineering department in the American industry.
I must confess that I also conveyed to her the kind of pride that comes from embracing Human Factors as a discipline and belonging to an organization that has made a difference for the past 70 years. I let her know that we measure HFE’s project results based on outcomes that have a positive impact in either our lifestyles and work practices and that I account for both goals set by design and also unexpected effects that surface over time.
We are talking about user friendly systems optimized for ease of use, effortless operability and, first and foremost, for any of us to better interact with each other in context whether we happen to be present in physical, virtual or hybrid environments. We all leverage devices, tools and process at our disposal… which we sometimes modify and adapt or just create new ones. Note that all of this also means fostering our diversity, cultural values and collective well-being.
Nokia’s vision zeroes in on the human possibilities of a broadly connected world, jointly with a path forward that is sustainable and continuously optimized. This entails a firm belief on the value of humanizing a new wave of emerging technologies and the notion of transparent infrastructure that become pervasive and ubiquitous everywhere: 5G, cloud systems and the Internet of Things being some examples.
Human Factors’ multi-disciplinary approach is driven by putting people first and understanding and shaping technology as the means to an end (instead of just expecting users to conform to capricious implementations that show disregard for elegant sophistication and ease of consumability and overall use. Therefore, Design Thinking’s dynamic research approach equips our team with what I call “rigorous plasticity” – this being my flavor of a methodology driving (a) a user centered mindset and (b) a workstyle densely packed with the type of serial ingenuity that makes HFE a source of innovation and differentiation.
Design Thinking is clearly applicable in solving complex problems and catalyzing creative thinking. How do you feel Design Thinking has transformed the overarching human factors engineering organization?
At Nokia’s Lean Ops Program we apply Design Thinking to projects characterized by large scale end-to-end systems integration. We work with leading edge technologies to address network operations in the telecommunications sector, which happen to be among the most complex, distributed and multi-layered systems across industries.
We are conscious of the fact that the source problem statement and point of view that we start a project with might not necessarily be the ones that best solve and deliver breakthrough innovations at the back end.
In essence, multidisciplinary “co-creation” and “early induced pivoting” in the research and ideation processes make Design Thinking’s iterative and adaptive flow a solution driven engine. My experience is that it also creates what’s known as a backlog of “real options” in innovation management, while augmenting development capacity and overall solution quality.
How have you gone about blending design thinking, agile transformation and lean start-up methodologies in your human factors organization? There are certain similarities to each mindset, but how do you resolve discrepancies?
This can be best addressed by means of an example: our team doesn’t focus on Lean Startup’s Minimum Viable Products (MVP) as such since we place the emphasis on the greater value that comes from addressing the whole, this being a conventional Lean principle. Our language embraces the early generation of Minimum Viable Solutions (MVS) instead and in sync with Design Thinking’s holistic approach to an optimum user experience through the solution’s shelf life.
This mindset shift is not just about semantics. Note that it accounts for the sheer size, scale and scope of the end -to-end systems we work with in the Lean Ops program. Moreover, it factors solution lifecycle’s requirements because consumability is expected to evolve over time.
Let’s keep in mind that the high-tech sector is characterized by a rapid succession of technologies and alternative approaches often abound. Add to that the fact that the telecommunications industry is capital intensive and competitiveness relies on sizeable investments in long term projects… and in fast changing markets. Therefore, Design Thinking is of assistance with work on future proofing solutions as we work with end goals in mind, including repurposing and recycling at the solution’s end of viable life.
What value do you believe IQPC’s Design Thinking 2017 will deliver to experienced practitioners like yourself?
I’d like to first thank IQPC for engaging me as a member of the event’s Advisory Board early on, and for the invitation to discuss some of the work that we do at Nokia Applications & Analytics Group in the area of Human Factors at our Cloud Innovation Center.
Design Thinking 2017 has been structured to enable formal and ad-hoc opportunities for any of us to exchange insights, practices and experiences in an open, approachable and engaging forum. This reflects the pluri-disciplinary and diverse nature of the work that we all do, which sets Design Thinking practitioners apart from conventional silos and rigid frameworks.
Design Thinking is a soft methodology that explicitly calls for consistently going beyond our comfort zone so that ingenuity’s X-Factor comes to the surface and makes a difference project after project. With that in mind, the event’s agenda and speaker roster transpires the courage that it takes to approach each single project as a new endeavor worth diving into, and to do so in the midst of ambiguity, uncertainty and changing conditions while counting on Design Thinking as a serial innovation practice.
First published by the International Productivity and Quality Center, IPQC.