“Reflecting the diversity of the agenda, we are thankful for the support of our advisory board. The board is integral to the development and execution of Design Thinking, supporting the strategic positioning of the brand and advising to the content and participants that matter most. Hear from some of the greatest minds in Design Thinking as they shed a light on its mysteries and separate fact from fiction.”
“The world of IoT and connected devices is expanding rapidly. We all carry super computers in our pockets and interact with everything from home automation, cars, consumer electronics, and healthcare devices.”
“In this complex hardware + software environment the product development cycle can be tricky. For example, you can’t just follow agile software practices by the book when you’re building a connected pace maker. So how do we approach product development when the stakes are high and the moving parts are many? During this discussion we’ll be tackling topics such as:”
“How do you roadmap a product which includes both hardware and software components? How does agile development fit in? How does the regulatory landscape affect how we approach development and iteration? How do you build teams around these integrated products? And how do you keep them in sync and working together?”
I’d first like to thank the team at DevMynd for their kind invitation. I am looking forward to joining the panel discussion in Chicago this coming Thursday, February 22. In the meantime, I will welcome any comments and insights as I gear up for this discussion.
I’m working on outlining some of the myths, dilemmas and trade-offs that I have encounter as an Industrial Designer and in Product Management.
From a design perspective, there are two topics worth looking at: Design Thinking as a Human-Centered methodology and its outcomes in terms of: (a) utility, (b) usability, (c) consumability, (d) affectivity and (e) the composite and differential value of the resulting digital experiences that involve software and hardware.
This “new brave world” equips us with the freedom to explore new form factors, cognitive models and, most impoartantly, the development human x technology networks. Some of the specifics come down to design semantics re-defining HMS, Human-Machine-Systems, in the context of multi-modal user interfaces and innovative interactions where Machine Learning and new visualization paradigms happen to surface.
From a Product Management viewpoint, there is a need for also pondering about how to best leverage Design Thinking beyond Industrial Design and Software Development to talkle product and service strategy. Here my focus gravitates toward addressing: (a) success factors and (b) limiting factors under control, as well as (d) other determining factors beyond our area of influence that can impact the difussion of innovations either possitively or negatively. Moreover, I like to couple business model innovation with behavioral economics and information network effects.
This construct really boils down to capturing the essence behind (e) stakeholders’ acceptance criteria and (f) the users’ engagement, adoption and growth rates. This means defining capability and maturity levels and how to best factor for the fact that they adapt and evolve over time. Obviously, this leads to taking a close look at how to best intersect Lean and Agile practies, but not only, so that we can lead and navigate constantly changing environments in “digital time.”
Let’s get down to a more tactical level: end-to-end system design entails a mix of loosely and tightly coupled elements, and a platform approach to operate at speed, scale and wider scope that what black boxes can match. A reality check unveils a hybrid world where decisions on capacity and performance levels, as well as serviceability and dependency levels drive decisions toward optimizing for distributed systems and, therefore, the rising value of end-to-end solutions vs. point solutions only.
In that context, inter-disciplinary teams involving creative technologists and domain experts make our organizations effectively diverse, smarter and innovative. Otherwise, self-defeating arrogance, conflicting silos and technical myopia can make pre-production and production be costlier by promoting unncessary friction and getting everyone to work harder and harder rather than smarter. Typically, that negates productivity, forces a number corrective actions, and significantly shifts and/or downsizex sought after results.
The beauty of the Studio’s human-experience-centered practice is a healthy obssession for delivering “meaning.” The definition of “meaningful outcomes” (rather than churning outputs) makes these organizations behave based on value and impact. We strive to foster not just customer satisfaction and net promoter scores, but measurable customer delight and network effects (superior and service-level performance indicators) which, in turn, set and streamline technical requirements.
Long story short, the Studio’s mindset (critical thinking / wonder & discovery / problem solving) and workstyle (collaborative / experiential / iterative / adaptive) help explain why creative technologysts are instrumental and serial innovation engines for the digital age.
Footnote: the term “team of creative technologysts” was first coined by Nokia Bell Labs back in the 1940s to single out the differentiated value of inter-disciplinary undertakings. In the late forties, Bell Labs’ Clauded Shannon pioneered Information Theory and John Karlin set up the first Human Factors Engineering in industry. That HFE team was formed by a pyschologist, a statistician (the father of quality control visualization,) an engineer, and a physicist.
“Argyle Executive Forum is bringing together senior digital & IT executives from a variety of industry verticals for our biannual CIO Chicago Forum. Throughout a full day of content and networking, we will focus on the most pressing issues facing IT executives with regards to leading the business through digital transformation, with an agenda geared specifically towards Chief Information officers, Chief Data Officers, Chief Digital Officers, as well as Data/ Analytics/MIS VPs, Directors, and Architects in a leading role.
It is worth noticing that this event featured partners who we work with such as HP Enterprise, Thought Leader Sponsor, and IBM, Breakout Session Sponsor.
That talks to the criticality of collaborative undertakings as Digital Transformation becomes a pressing objective across industries, academia, public service and government sectors.
What follows is my notes and personal insights. While all the sessions and discussions were quite relevant, I would like to highlight the opening keynote, which set the tone and narrative of the event.
James P. MacLennan, SVP & CIO at IDEX, discussed “The Five Components of a Great Digital Strategy,” which addressed the fact that “Design Thinking”, “Human Factors” and a collaborative culture involving interdisciplinary workstyles and “Great Teams” have become of the essence.
Moreover, he stated that “a Digital Business” will only succeed when it understands hot to connect with people.” The “human element” and, therefore, “people centered” strategies turn out to be critical success factors.
I would like to add that this entails engineering a continuum of (a) stakeholders, who are all human personas by definition, and to do so across (b) UX (user experience) and CX (customer experience) domains.
This job takes (c) a holistic understanding of customer facing (front end) and resource facing (back end) elements forming a coherent end-to-end system. Otherwise, operational fragmentation will take a toll and will deny the intended DX benefits.
James’ presentation displayed the convoluted UI (user interface) shown in this picture to illustrate the paradox of well intended yet counterproductive implementations that negate transformation initiatives.
Here is another valuable insight coming out of Argyle’s Executive Forum: information technologies (IT) and tech and processes for operations cannot longer be worlds apart, which demands superb cross-functional teamwork.
Cognitive overload, deficient information architecture, and poor usability translates into: human error, risk aversion, costly budget overruns, missing or deviating from goals, so on and so forth.
Any and all of these issues combined can be silently impacting quality or, simply, just lowering the bar for a business to get through noisy and cluttered operational environments. That is hardly the stuff that operational excellence calls for.
Obviously, in the context of CX, customer satisfaction becomes harder and harder to attain and, more specifically, to get that effectively done in a consistent fashion.
Predictability and consistency are key objectives for any Quality Management program. If that scenario alone wasn’t troublesome enough, Customer Delight (rather than just satisfying agreed upon requirements) is Design Thinking’s ultimate performance indicator, which commands a premium clearly beyond reach under those circumstances.
Quality management wise, “satisfaction” is the fulfilment of expected specifications while “delight” is about great pleasure, or great satisfaction if you will. “Satisfaction” can be rationalized and is the acceptance ticket to be in business. “Delight” accounts for human affects (emotions) and is a powerful source of differentiation. Those who think that’s just about splitting hairs should take a pause and think twice because DX is set to enable game changing experiences on all counts and fronts.
Thoughtout the forum and session after session, Jim’s “Design for Humans” principle gained more and more critical mass as presenters and panelists discussed the reasons why we should be mindful of the user journey and how to best improve all touch points along the way.
In one of the panel discussions this became even more evident when the question on aligning people, processes and technologies pointed to difficult prioritization exercises. Note that there was immediate consensus on the need for putting people first and humanizing technology and processes by applying Design Thinking, a human centered methodology that is corner stone to the job of creative technologists.
That means projects that are driven by clear missions and specific experiential outcomes and lifecycles (Goal Directed Design) rather than just an I/O approach. It also means rapid experience prototyping and A/B multivariate testing to explore possibilities since Design Thinking is a serial innovation engine.
Chicago’s NPR station aired a rerun of “The Power of Design” this past weekend. The discussion was centered on “How Can We Design For A Better Experience.”
By the way, TED’s acronym actually stands for the convergence of Technology, Entertainment and… Design.
Interview with Tony Fadell, one of the main designers of the iPod (Apple) and founder of Nest (Google).
“Design begins by also noticing all those little problems that many ignore (…) we we though our lives accepting these design flaws that actually don’t improve our lives.”
“Steve Jobs challenged us to see our products through the eyes of the customer, the new customer, the one that has fears and possible frustrations, and hopes and exhilaration that the new technology can work straight away for them. He called it “staying beginners” and wanted to make sure that we focused on those tiny little details to make things work faster and seamless for the new customers.”
“There is this positive emotional momentum that builds on itself at each step of the process (…) when you hit a brick wall you loose all the momentum (…) and though away an entire great experience.”
“There are to halves to design, just as there are two halves to your brain, the emotional part and the rational part. If you want people to truly adopt your product it has to have an emotional component, something that grabs you (…) that unlocks your curiosity, it also needs to rationally work (…) because people see value beyond the sexiness.”
Interview with Joe Gebbia, Airbnb cofounder.
“Any time that you see duct tape in the world, that’s a design opportunity (…) it’s an indicator that something is broken, that something did not perform the way it was design to and that there is an opportunity to improve it.”
“Design is the key to (Airbnb) success (…) and as a competitive advantage, design is thing that can separate you (…) the next thing that can differentiate you. All things being equal, two comparable products side by side with the same technical features and components… you will be crazy to choose the one that is harder to use.”
“Airbnb’s design decisions not only made the service easy to use but it helped millions of complete estrangers trust each other (…) and open their homes (…) design is more than the look and feel of something, it is the whole experience.”
“Proud to celebrate #AdaLovelaceDay, highlighting women in STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and their achievements. They all play an important part in encouraging the next generation of young girls to pursue their dreams. Join in, and tag a woman who has inspired you” – Nokia.
“First published description of a stepwise sequence of operations for solving certain mathematical problems and Ada is often referred to as ‘the first programmer’ […] She speculated that the Engine ‘might act upon other things besides number… the Engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent’. The idea of a machine that could manipulate symbols in accordance with rules and that number could represent entities other than quantity mark the fundamental transition from calculation to computation.” – Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) – Computerhistory.org
Proud to share that just last week my daughter participated in STEMfest 2016 at NIU, Northern Illinois University. Here is the video recorded by her school:
“The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Englbart’s December 9, 1968 […] The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system called the oN-Line System or more commonly, NLS. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: windows, hypertext, graphics, efficient navigation and command input, video conferencing, the computer mouse, word processing, dynamic file linking, revisions control, and a collaborative real-time editor (collaborative work). Engelbart’s presentation was the first to publicly demonstrate all these elements in a single system. The demonstration was highly influential and spawned similar projects at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The underlying technologies influenced both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical user interface operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s.” – The Mother of All Demos, Wikipedia.
Compelling demonstrations can make all the difference when introducing emerging technologies. There is no slideware or paper substitute for the kind of revelations, quality insights, and lasting emotions that we all get when experiencing things live and first hand. On the research side, interactive demonstrations have become invaluable tools that expose and test concepts. Moreover, they prompt invaluable feedback by questioning, validating, unveiling unsuspected items as well as winning hearts and minds to further advance a cause.
Those are some of the reasons why I prioritize demo development and my research process involves activities such as field trips and ethnographic insights captured in environments like the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago and open-door showcases at renowned institutions like Fermilab. Successful science exhibits make complex topics approachable and engaging. They are carefully designed with craftsmanship pride to be perceived as astute, immersive and to appeal to our brain’s intuition and intellect.
The above graphic features quotes from Albert Einstein and Nicholas Negroponte on the left, coupled with Salvador Dalí and Arthur C. Clarke on the right. I created that poster’s first version a few years ago and became my reference framework for prototyping and demonstration since. The photographs are courtesy of Wikipedia. Here are further insights on what these quotes mean to me:
1.- DEMO OR DIE – The introduction of inventions and diffusion of innovations relies on effectively conveying clear and concise value. Interacting with engaging demonstrations can be best supported by well thought out whiteboarding sessions. This communication strategy works best when allowing dynamic conversations instead of long agendas packed with presentation monologues. Most people can talk about the many times when they were either overwhelmed, underwhelmed or just bored to death by slideware… and became suspicious of hype. Note that we all deal with an unfavorable Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio in today’s information rich environment and, therefore, compete for customers and/or users’ undivided attention. Once again, memorable hands-on demonstrations can make all the difference.
2.- GROW TO LOOK LIKE THE PORTRAIT – High tech is a fast paced industry. One can be left wondering if the technology, toolset, application and/or overall system being discussed will grow and scale as needed beyond day one. There can also be concerns around maturity levels, roadmapping options and future proofing when working with emerging technologies. Demos can be used to convey a tangible vision based on attainable end-goals. They can also be used for what-if-analysis, sunny and rainy day scenarios (which can include full lifecycle and stress tests) and plot plausible journeys to go from A to B and any steps in between. Helping everyone come to terms with what lays ahead is key to defining product strategies and planning decisions “to grow to look like the portrait.”
3.- EXPLAIN IT SIMPLY – Apparently unavoidable jargon and well intended technical kumbaya can become easily entangled. Complex explanations suffer from information overload. Convoluted narratives pleasing the presenter’s ego can make unclear what specific problem or pain point he/she solving, and what the sought after benefits and priorities are. When “less is more” it definitely pays to define a vantage point, zoom out, distill fundamentals and synthesize the essence. Knowing your audience and getting the job done in the clearest and most effective terms possible means striking a balance and staying away from oversimplifying or complicating matters. This is an iterative exercise that often demands more time, effort and reviews than the usual information dump. We also need to be able to step-zoom to deliver the next level of detail and to conduct deep dives… without incurring information overload. Humanizing technology, storytelling techniques and ease of information visualization are key to developing a coherent narrative.
“The meaning of a communication is defined by the Change and Affect it creates for the audience. Stories are concerned with transformation. In stories something Changes to create an emotion […] The Change has to resonate with the Audience to generate an Affect; a feeling, a reaction or an insight […] We shall consider these two defining characteristics of narrative to clarify the purpose of any communication […] Change and Affect create meaning. – “Crackle and Fizz. Essential Communication and Pitching Skills for Scientists.” – Caroline van den Brul. Imperial College Press.
4..- IT’S MAGIC – This is all about the so called X-FACTOR: an unsuspected quality making something be different and special in unequivocal terms. To be more precise, the X-FACTOR’s experience can be broken down as follows:
- SURPRISE FACTOR – this relies on managing perceptions and the discovery process, the tipping point being delivered by a timely and unsuspected clever twist and a defining punch line – the “aha” moment.
- WOW FACTOR – high impact, impressive, awe-inspiring outcome, benefits and results that can be easily understood and embraced – the “I didn’t know we could do that” and “I want to know more” moment.
- COOL FACTOR – elegant sophistication and grace, clear object of desire – the “I want that” moment, this being most demos’ ultimate Call-To-Action (CTA.)
The art and science behind the above is known as “affective design.” Techniques such as perceptual learning and emotional intelligence in design (emotional design in short) are applied in Human-Computer-Interaction (HCI) to foster pleasant ease of use, drive further engagement and productive usage in the process. Widespread digitalization and the advent of wearables make HCI commonplace, which is influencing product design.
The above is a demo’s “full disclosure” chart, which breaks down what’s real and what’s not. This is needed because vaporware can be an issue of concern.
1.- PRIOR ART – In the above example, a given percentage of the demonstration system involved known technologies, some from third party partners.
2.- STATE OF THE ART – The greatest and latest features, cutting edge delivered by technologies that are available today.
3.- FUTURE ART – A sneak preview of new features and capabilities that are planned, undergoing development and/or committed, but not yet available.
4.- ART OF THE POSSIBLE – Proof of Concept illustrating experimentation results and potential, bleeding edge capabilities that are not yet committed.
By the way, vaporware is the result of positioning 3 and 4 as part of 2. Avoiding unpleasant misunderstands prompts the need for disclosing these four different maturity levels. Note that one graphic applies to a comprehensive demonstration system encompassing those four aspects and their relative weight.
One other thought, there is a difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. The first delivers improved qualities such as better performance in A/B comparison testing as an example, “A” being prior art and “B” state of the art. Most would agree on defining disruptive innovations as game changers which deliver unique capabilities that clearly supersede legacy and conventional systems. That alone renders “A” obsolete. A/B comparison testing leads to discussions on the difference between Present Mode of Operations (PMO) and Future Mode of Operations (FMO.)
“Humanists must be educated with a deep appreciation of modern science. Scientists and engineers must be steeped in humanistic learning. And all learning must be linked with a broad concern for the complex effects of technology on our evolving culture.” – Jerome B. Wiesner.