Thanking Troy Henikoff for a recent1871 walk-thru, which I joined as part of an MIT delegation. We first met at Techstars Demo Day back in 2014. Three years have gone by since, Troy is now a Managing Director with Math Venture Partners, an early to growth-stage fund focusing on entrepreneurial undertakings featuring “an unfair advantage in acquiring and retaining customers to produce outsized returns.” Here is a sample of Math’s portfolio.
1871 is a digital startup incubator and is positioned as Chicago’s premier center for entrepreneurship in the tech sector. Techstars is a startup accelerator and, as pointed out above, Math Venture Partners is an investment firm.
Long story short, 1871 is first and foremost optimized as a community environment. The underlying supporting framework provides collaborative workspaces, training focusing on design, technology and business, which includes senior mentorship, incubators and accelerators. All of these opportunities are available following the under-one-roof collocation practice downtown Chicago.
“What is 1871? The story of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 isn’t really about the fire. It’s about what happened next: A remarkable moment when the most brilliant engineers, architects and inventors came together to build a new city. Their innovations — born of passion and practical ingenuity — shaped not just Chicago, but the modern world. What started 140 years ago continues to this day. Come to a place where you can share ideas, make mistakes, work hard, build your business and, with a little luck, change the world.” – 1871
Matter is 1871’s neighbor and Chicago’s healthcare startup incubator. As shared in this Chicago Tribune’s article, Chicago has major hospitals, medical schools, pharmaceutical and device companies, a powerful healthcare hub which Matter seeks to galvanize by supporting entrepreneurial initiatives and innovative tech.
Chicago’s area is also home to leading institutions such as University of Chicago, Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, The Illinois Institute of Technology, and DePaul University just to name a few. So, academia and industry intersect to take advantage of talent and business opportunities.
My personal interest in environments such as 1871 has to do with a “give & take” experience. Born in Hispania and back in the distant Roman times, Seneca the Younger believed that we are learning even more when we share knowledge that we might already posses. Basically, he was talking about Human Factors and Information Interaction: a virtuous feedback loop kicks in when we strive to articulate thoughts and structure conceptual frameworks to better convey insights. That, in turn, springs new thoughts.
I pride myself about having developed a mix of creative and in-depth expertise on innovation practices thanks to a fortunate interdisciplinary career spanning 20+ years already. That personal belief is backed by specific achievements and, admittedly, some disappointments, both having delivered teachable moments worth reflecting upon.
So, in a “give and take” scenario, my “giving” has to do with sharing know-how and synthesizing relevant advice to entrepreneurs, which I have been able to provide by joining Dr. Moises Goldman’s 1871 mentoring sessions on several occasions.
Going back to Seneca the Younger’s thinking, in exchange for volunteering my time (and whichever insights I can provide) I always get to “take” away valuable experiences back home with me such as:
(1) a sense of great satisfaction and fulfillment that comes from helping others in a meaningful way,
(2) a contagious entrepreneurial spirit that one can instinctively embrace in discussions driven by passion and determination,
(3) their combined positive impact in my own work since they re-energize my thoughts and goals.
My grandma used to remind me about a Spanish saying that translates into “tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are,” which might equate to “birds of feather flock together” in English. In any case, and leveraging Human Factors again, social and professional networks can be graphically depicted by nodes (individuals) and links (relationships), which can carry information such as reputation and influence levels, as well as information dissemination paths. So, I’m glad to count those who I interact with at 1841 as part of my network and can only hope that this is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Mr. Karlin, associated from 1945 until his retirement in 1977 with Bell Labs, headquartered in Murray Hill, N.J., was widely considered the father of human-factors engineering in American industry. The legacy of that research now extends far beyond the telephone: the keypad design Mr. Karlin shepherded into being has become the international standard on objects as diverse as ATMs, gas pumps, door locks, vending machines and medical equipment […] In 1947 he persuaded Bell Labs to create a unit, originally called the User Preference department and later Human Factors Engineering, to study these larger questions.”
John E. Karlin, Who Led the Way to All-Digit Dialing, New York Times.
As shared in my previous post, we were gearing up for Nokia’s event on Human Factors Engineering and kept busy with the final touches. The event management team at the Technology Leadership Council (TLC) had first planned to host this company conference on November 29. More recently, we moved it to December 6 to better manage some of the logistics.
However, since we will commemorate HFE’s 70th anniversary at Bell Labs this coming year, we have decided to shift gears: we are now working on a celebratory event expanding upon the current agenda. The date for the new conference has not yet been set. But, “third time’s the charm” and the event’s visibility, new scope and impact in 2017 are set to outdo our initial objectives. So, stay tuned : )
In the meantime, our team would like to thank everyone involved in planning and supporting activities up to this point. Given this new undertaking, we would also like to welcome those of you coming on board.
Last but not least, we are very grateful to our guest speakers and hope to be able to re-engage them for the bigger event.
You can click on the left picture to go back to my earlier post to see Nokia’s videos for some of the products and projects listed on the event’s current agenda. The following four ones feature our four guest speakers in some other videos, which happen to be available online.
David Shrier, MIT
Tom McTavish, IIT
Rodo Kotorov, Information Builders
Gordon Vos, NASA
Happy Thanksgiving : )
“Netflix’s analytical orientation has already led to a high level of success and growth. But the company is also counting on analytics to drive it through a major technological shift […] by analytics we mean the extensive use of data, statistical and quantitative analysis, explanatory and predictive models, and fact-based management to drive decisions an actions”. Competing on Analytics by Thomas H. Davenport and Jeanne G. Harris.
“Big data changes the nature of business, markets, and society […] the effects on individuals may be the biggest shock of all […] this will force an adjustment to traditional ideas of management, decision making, human resources and education”. Big Data by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier.
“Social physics functions by analyzing patters of human experience and idea exchange within the digital breadcrumbs we all leave behind as we move through the world […] the process of analyzing the patterns is called reality mining […] one of the ten technologies that will change the world [according to MIT Technology Review]”. Social Physics by Alex Pentland.
This was one intensive summer with very little time left for anything else beyond work, day-to-day family life and spending most evenings and weekends studying. MIT BD&SA course developers estimated a weekly workload of 8 to 12 hours through 9 weeks. Though, many of us have spent north of 15 hours a week to cover: videos and readings, Python programming and written assignments, quizzes, and forum discussions. By the way, all definitely worthwhile.
While taking this course, I couldn’t help recalling the kind of scarce data we used to work with when I got my postgrad on Human Factors Engineering at BarcelonaTech in the early 90s, also graduating with the first class.
By means of an example, one of the industrial ergonomics projects got kicked off with statistical data provided by the military. Stats on Marines fit for service being the only readily available physiological data for us to design a local civilian application. We knew that wasn’t a representative model of the target user base for the industrial workstation under design. Back then, undertaking a proper data collection study was costly and beyond project means.
Our group worked with small data by testing things on ourselves and leveraging in-house dogfooding to some extent. Though, unfortunately, this kind of findings might not adequately reflect the reality of human variability. If overlooked, that can result on implementing designs that optimize for a set of “proficient some” while undermining ease of use for many others and missing the mark in the process. Let’s keep in mind that, as clearly outlined in Crossing the Chasm, early success among devoted early adopters might not translate in mainstream praise and popularity, then failing to grow the user base and failing in the market.
To be clear, working with secondary research (e.g. reference data sets from third parties) and conducting primary research by testing things on ourselves coupled with in-house dogfooding are all valuable practices. Though not necessarily enough to make a compelling difference in today’s “big data” day and age.
MIT BD&SA discusses the benefits of working with living labs driven by UCD, User Centered Design. We now have commercial off-the-shelf technologies (smartphones, Internet of Things, sensing networks, machine learning) at our disposal, which allow us to capture user actions and behavior on location and, most importantly, with greater data resolution.
Couple that with ethnographic research focusing on understanding human factors by observing users in their own environment and usage context and, most importantly, capturing their PoV, Point of View at each step.
So, those of us working on Human Factors Engineering and driven by User Centered Design to deliver processes, tools, products and services, can create new experiences that take the human possibilities of technologies to new unprecedented levels, analytics becoming of the essence to #MakeTechHuman.
Big Data Revolution. TED Radio Hour. NPR.
Source: Business Innovation Demands Accelerated Insights. Intel.
See you at RecSys 2016 next week : )