Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019
FULL LENGTH TRANSCRIPT VERSION
How would you define your organization’s maturity to Design Thinking?
Nokia is a Fortune’s Global 500 corporation headquartered in Finland, which involves in excess of 100,000 employees worldwide. Most of us joined the company in recent years… which I think is nothing short from fascinating.
Nowadays, Nokia is a top B2B player in large scale digital communication technologies. Most specifically: 5G, Internet of Things, Cloud and Software just to list some well-known examples.
R. Siilasmaa’s recent book, “Transforming Nokia,” discusses what it took to pull off the company’s dramatic recovery in the past few years, while noting that this is not the first time that we reinvent ourselves since 1865. His leadership style is characterized by “Paranoid Optimism,” which I’d like to discuss in context later on.
At Nokia Studio we intertwine disciplines such as Data Visualization, Cybernetics and Behavioral Economics to design state of the art Decision Support Systems for next-generation digital services. These are Human-Machine-Systems (HMS.)
Given our focus on game changing innovations, Human-Centered-Design (HCD) happens to be a critical success factor at all stages in the iterative exploration, definition, introduction and broader diffusion of emerging and next generation technologies Design Thinking’s desirability, technical feasibility and business viability are, therefore, well understood critical success factors.
The Studio’s research addresses how to clearly articulate early desirability coupled with market-pull & outside-in strategies. Thinking through the business value of design signals the need for removing friction from a B2B journey that involves formal contractual acceptance as the accounting trigger behind revenue recognition.
Geoffrey A. Moore’s classic, “Crossing the Chasm,” and Clayton M. Christensen’s best-seller “The Innovator’s Dilemma” make all of us mindful of the need for addressing the journey between early adopters (FOA, first office application, in the telecoms sector) and adequately scaling in the marketplace.
This means expanding across segments and industries to leverage economies of scale and, therefore, continuous improvement and innovation. Following that train of thought, consistently and predictably delivering superior satisfaction levels in the form of customer delight becomes a decisive and sustainable competitive advantage.
Our Studio is engaged in large, sophisticated and fluid projects that involve inter-domain undertakings. Successful cross-pollination intersects three dimensions:
- going wide across domains to take down silos and deep on a domain basis to best leverage our know-how
- tightly or loosely coupled integration in the value-chain / supply-chain ecosystem
- in-house and external collaboration in alignment with the above
While purposely implied by the naming, it is worth highlighting that our home-grown QXbD, Quality Experiences by Design, methodology zeroes in on delivering meaningful, differentiated and measurable quality outcomes that are tangible to our customers.
Nokia QXbD has been conceived as a meta-discipline that can be deconstructed and re-shaped on a project and sought-after outcomes basis. We can, therefore, not just start agile but also remain truly lean to effectively get the job done.
As introduced early on, Risto’s Transforming Nokia, discusses the impact of “Paranoid Optimism” which is also explicitly captured in the book’s subtitle. Tactically speaking, that means: leveraging the hindsight that comes from analyzing lessons learned, the thought process that leads to both obvious and hidden insights, as well as applying creative tensions and foresight to flush-out not just one single path forward, but alternative different scenarios for consideration.
In that context, Optimism in design fosters the pursuit of an ambitious game changing scenario. Being purposely Paranoid involves the sort of predictive and responsive monitoring that prompts and guides necessary reality checks and course corrections… and even pivoting in a timely fashion. This acknowledges the ripple effects and moving targets that arise when innovating and/or transforming which, when ignored, can derail any well-intended transformation effort.
Interestingly enough, Jim Collins’ painstaking research behind “Great by Choice” outlined that Productive Paranoia is a critical success factor. He exemplifies companies that have consistently delivered 10x results by outperforming competitors in bull and bear market conditions. Jim defines Productive Paranoia as a must-have business obsession, where contingency planning and risk mitigation are of the essence.
Paul Romer, World Bank Chief Economist and last year’s Nobel laureate, makes the case for Conditional Optimism and innovation being the outcome of the marketplace’s “discovery machine.” He differentiates between complacent and conditional optimism.
The complacent kind relies on deploying hard work to make things happen, and keep iterating, while hoping for the best by setting things in motion… also described as blind optimism. Conditional Optimism focuses on proactively finding solutions to problems, and closely monitoring outcomes thru the transformation journey.
Long story short… in Nokia’s context, Design Thinking maturity can be measured by our optimism as we strive to deliver state of the art technologies that augment and expand human possibilities, coupled with paranoid and creative tensions as we purposely obsess with delivering quality experiences.
Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019
“Together with his identical twin brother, Scott, he has laid the groundwork for the future of space exploration as the subjects of an unprecedented NASA study on how space affects the human body, which is featured in Scott’s New York Times best-selling memoir, Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.”
“Currently, Mark is on the Commercial Crew Safety Board at Space X […] and is the co-founder of World View, a full-service commercial space launch provider.”
Endeavour to Succeed. College of DuPage, Department of Physics. February 14 2019.
I managed to attend Captain Mark Kelly’s talk in Chicago just the day before I was leaving for Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress. M. Kelly’s presence and insightful remarks commanded both admiration and utmost respect.
Among many other fascinating topics, he discussed NASA’s “None of US is as Dumb as All of Us“ as a reminder of the negative impact of ‘groupthink‘ in the context of faulty decision making. Most specifically, he referred to dramatic mistakes leading to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, which disintegrated upon re-entry in 2003.
“Large-scale engineered systems are more than just a collection of technological artifacts. They are a reflection of the structure, management, procedures, and culture of the engineering organization that created them.”
“They are also, usually, a reflection of the society in which they were created. The causes of accidents are frequently, if not always, rooted in the organization—its culture, management, and structure.”
“Blame for accidents is often placed on equipment failure or operator error without recognizing the social, organizational, and managerial factors that made such errors and defects inevitable.”
Nancy G. Leveson, MIT. Technical and Managerial Factors in the NASA Challenger and Columbia Losses: Looking Forward to the Future. Controversies in Science and Technology Volume 2, Mary Ann Liebert Press, 2008.
Groupthink is part of the taxonomy of well-known cognitive biases and takes hold when divergent thinking and disagreement are discouraged (and even repressed) as part of group dynamics.
Hindsight is 20/20 and, statistically speaking, ‘black swan’ events are characterized by seemingly random surprise factors. Groupthink can obfuscate the early detection of predictors such as leading outliers and anomalies, which left unattended can overwhelm a given system over time… and be the source of cascading effects and critical failure.
Groupthink’s negative impact compromises any best intentions such as organizational cohesiveness in the spirit of consensus, agility, productivity, timely project progress and de-escalation management.
Often times, there might be neither adequate situational and risk awareness nor a basis for sense making drawing from the comparative analysis that comes with diligent scenario planning.
Individuals and organizational cultures with a succesful track record can also experience complacency. Over-confidence fosters the sort of behaviors and decisioning that served the group well in the past.
Though, when in the mix of a changing environment defined by new parameters under the radar, only operating within the perimeter of a given set of core competences and comfort zones, makes those specific behaviors blindsight and betray the team’s mission and purpose.
Many plans do not survive first contact (or a subsequent phase for that matter) as their implementation creates ‘ripple effects’ of various shapes and propagating speeds. Some of that can be experienced as ‘sudden risk exposure.’ Once passed the ‘point-of-no-return,’ if that challenge is met with neither contingency planning nor the ability to timely course correct, pivot or even deploy a basic safety-net offsetting the impact, the project fails to ‘cross the chasm’ and is headed for what’s technically known as the ‘valley of death.’
This was one of the key issues discussed by Clyton M. Christiansen when I took his Harvard class on the ‘Innovator’s Dilemma,’ and is also a key point behind Risto Siilasmaa’s ‘Paranoid Optimism’ as well Paul Romer’s ‘Conditional Optimism,’ all of which advocate for scenario planning and sensing optimization to be able to calibrate or re-assess the path forward.
“Michael Shermer stated in the September 2002 issue of Scientific American, ‘smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for nonsmart reasons.”
Groupthink can also manifest itself by means of ‘eco chamber’ effects’ as misguided consensus amplifies what becomes a “self-serving” bias. That is, in effect, a closed feedback loop process that magnifies logical fallacies. These can come across as reasonable enough postulates, though if based on rushed judgement and selective focus they can also suffer from ‘confirmation bias.’ This is the case when new evidence is only used to back-up the existing belief system rather than share new light.
In the context of Decision Support Systems and Cognitive Analytics, the above reasoning deficits become root causes of errors impacting operations. That can involve both (a) Human-Human and (b) Human-Machine interactions, as well as impacting programming work resulting in (c) biased algorithms and automation pitfalls when left unsupervised.
Carisa Callini. Human Systems Engineering. NASA, August 7 2017. https://www.nasa.gov/content/human-systems-engineering
Carisa Callini. Spaceflight Human Factors. NASA, December 19 2018. https://www.nasa.gov/content/spaceflight-human-factors
Clayton M. Christensen. The Innovator’s Dilemma. Harvard Business Review Press, 1997.
COD Welecomes Astronaut Mark Kelly. Daily Herald, February 13 2019. https://www.dailyherald.com/submitted/20190201/cod-welcomes-astronaut-mark-kelly-feb-17
Geoffrey Moore. Crossing the Chasm. Haper Collins, 1991.
MIT Experts Reflect on Shuttle Tragedy. MIT News, February 3 2003. http://news.mit.edu/2003/shuttle2
Tim Peake. The Astronaut Selection Test Book. Century. London, 2018.
Scott Kelly. Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery. Knopf. New York, 2017.
Scott Kelly. Infinite Wonder. Knopf. New York, 2018.
Steve Young. Astronaut: ‘None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us.’ USA Today – Argus Leader, May 13, 2014. https://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2014/05/13/astronaut-none-us-dumb-us/9068537/
Will Knight. Biased Algorithms are Everywhere, and No One Seems to Care. MIT Technology Review, July 12 2017. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/608248/biased-algorithms-are-everywhere-and-no-one-seems-to-care/
“[They] lost their quality leadership to new, aggressive competition. The most obvious consequence was lost of market share (…) [due to] quality features that were perceived as better meeting customer needs [and] they did not fail in service as often.”
“Loss of market share is not the only reason behind [it] (…) a second major force has been the phenomenon of life behind the quality dikes. We have learned that living in a technological society puts us at the mercy of the continuing operation of the goods and services that make a society possible (…) without such quality we have failure of all sorts (…) at the least these failures involve annoyances and minor costs. At their worst they are terrifying.”
“A third major force has been the gathering awareness by companies that they have been enduring excessive costs due to chronic quality-related wastes (…) about a third of what we do consists of redoing work previously done (…) lacking expertise in the quality disciplines, they are amateurs in the best sense of that word.”
J.M. Juran’s assessment on Quality issues in the 1960s-70s.
What follows are some of the insights driving the work that I’m doing on reviewing, leveraging and updating QbD (Quality by Design) in the context of today’s fast growing and all-encompassing digitalization.
I am dusting off my research from 2010 on the 3Q Model. Back then I was a senior manager at Alcatel-Lucent’s Solutions & Technology Introduction Department. My current role is Senior Studio Director at Nokia Software’s Solutions Engineering. Note that the scope is End-to-End Solutions. These are holistic system-wide (cross-sectional and longitudinal) undertakings intersecting different domains to deliver the higher value of the whole. I have discussed QbD for Digital Transformation projects at the Design Thinking 2018 event and at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference on CQR (Communications Quality and Reliability) back in April and May of this year. Interestingly enough, both events were held in Austin, Texas.
QbD was first coined by Juran, a renown pioneer of quality practices, whose work on that specific topic started in the mid 80s. He linked Quality to customer satisfaction and reliability as the two dimensions to focus on:
“Features” were defined as “quality characteristics,” which meant properties intended to satisfy specific customer needs. That would also include “promptness of delivery,” “ease of maintenance,” and “courtesy of service” to name some examples. “The better the features, the higher the quality in the eyes of customers.”
As far as reliability and, therefore, replicability and consistent performance, “freedom from deficiencies” conveyed the fact that “the fewer the deficiencies the better the quality in the eyes of customers.” A “deficiency” is a failure that triggers dissatisfaction, which calls for incurring higher costs to redo prior work.
“Fitness for use” was mentioned as an attempt to capture the above two together. The so-called Juran Trilogy entails Quality Planning, Quality Control, and Quality Improvement.
More than three decades have passed since Juran started to work on “New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services.” Let’s decompose QbD’s acronym at face value and distill its essence.
As a designer, my belief & practice system focuses on “serial innovation” consistently delivering superior value. This is achieved by means of purposeful and elegant solutions equipped with capability models and optimal functionality leading to Quality Experiences.
Customer Delight, rather than just satisfaction, being the sought after outcome. This applies to both small and large undertakings, and as A. Kay, a pioneer in graphical user interfaces, best put it, “simple things should be simple, complex should be possible.”
Following that train of thought, “Designing Quality into Solutions” should become center stage to: (a) collaborative and iterative ideation, (b) agile development, (c) continuous delivery and (d) the dynamic diffusion of (e) new and mass-customizable digital services for consumer and enterprise markets, as well as no-for-profit. Overall, QoB is key to Operational Excellence.
In a world where “Continuous Improvement” leads to incremental and breakthrough innovations, Quality’s critical KPI, Key Performance Indicator, can be expressed in terms of measurable advances in QoUX, the Quality of the Users’ Experiences. These are lagging (outcome) metrics that are far from static because they evolve within and over lifecycles. Therefore, reliability is not just applied to production operations, but also to the solution’s consistent performance and serviceability over time and under changing scenarios and events.
Given Quality’s unequivocal narrative around the “experiential” paradigm and, therefore, human-centric-optics, QbD’s best work should optimize for user “delight,” which is defined as superior “satisfaction,” rather than just aiming for requirements compliance.
It is very tempting to rally around core competencies within comfort zones that exist, and then settling on just aiming for “customer satisfaction” around “must-meet” baseline requirements. Though, that might not suffice given the necessity to innovate and better compete by leveraging unique sources of sustainable differentiation.
Let’s now state the obvious: “designing” Quality Experiences into digital solutions is best addressed by means of Human-Centered methodologies that optimize for (f) users’ “acceptance criteria” and (g) the kind of “adoption levels” that foster user base growth.
The opposite approach would risk the adverse effects (and hidden costs) that can be incurred when technical myopia leads the way. A. Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” captures that very well. His book is referenced below.
Just for the record, the year is 2018 and we are gearing for a pervasive digital world dominated by software defined systems. The 4th Industrial Revolution’s floodgates are set wide-open.
Low and high tech perform best when playing a supporting role. Technology enables “Services” which justify it, otherwise the so-called Chasm and Valley of Death wait around the corner. It pays to emphasize that “Services” are defined by “Use Cases.” So, it shouldn’t take much effort to see that “Use(case)ability” (“usability” being the proper term) is a CSF, Critical Success Factor. “Fitness for use” in other words.
Let’s take that further and couple “usability” with designing for usefulness,” “utility,” “consumability & serviceablity” as well as “affectivity” because perception and human affects orient satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels.
QbD cannot be put to work without adequately addressing Human Dynamics, which entails psychological (e.g. cognitive models, information architecture) physiological (e.g. device form factor, workstation ergonomics) and social dimensions (e.g. network effects increasing value for users.) That happens to be the SoW (Scope of Work) of HFE’s (Human Factors Engineering) interdisciplinary teams in Design Studios… and the topic of my next post on QbD’s Intellectual Capital.
A few more thoughts…
In spite of one’s day-to-day work and/or belief system being either closer to or removed from the kinds of jobs and tasks that make tech human, it makes sense to engage in meaningful outcome oriented and goal driven practices by applying HCD, Human-Centered-Design. The purpose is delivering quality and achieving customer acceptance and delight, given that customers are human beings. That is the reason why Design Thinking has outgrown the field of industry design and is applied to a wide variety of domains and disciplines nowadays.
Tech’s roller-coaster industry is packed with well intended technologies that fail. We all know that this is a fiercely competitive environment in constant change. Though, it is also true that, in many of those cases, UX, User Experience, professionals were not engaged at any part of the process, or were purposely involved at the back-end, or were called to come to the rescue in the eleventh hour. That leaves no room for Design to make a difference. Superficial changes just amount to bells-and-whistles and shiny-objects to disguise the underlying quality issues that are likely to re-surface at some point.
QbD’s top objective should be excelling at effectively & efficiently addressing our customers’ acceptance and adoption criteria. That remains true even in the context of full automation. Humans still get promoted and demoted (or fired) based on those system’s performance. D. Newman’s recent article on Forbes magazine rightly states that “you cannot run your business without people (…) you cannot operate technology without people (…) research have shown that people are a critical component for digital transformation.”
Today’s best practice calls for “reverse engineering” solutions by working from that human-centered understanding around Human Machine Systems (HMS.) That is substantially different from only relying on a far riskier “if you build it, they will come” model and its costlier brute-force mindset.
When dealing with challenging, intractable and complex projects, overlooking that fact typically results in exponential project risk and plenty of the, otherwise, avoidable zig-zagging course corrections ahead (e.g. opportunity costs in financial analysis and hidden and latency costs in systems engineering.)
Agile’s iterative development and ability to pivot shouldn’t be a refuge for either subpar or no design effort, but a vehicle to best implement QbD and augment development capacity while minimizing technical debt. This is why this revision of QbD for today’s tech industry calls for Design Sprints to lead the way.
Last but not least, before dismissing this QbD revision as a philanthropic and humanistic only endeavor, I suggest deep thinking around its (1) business criticality and (2) contribution to risk mitigation.
J. de Francisco
Bell Labs, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
Nokia Software, Senior Studio Director @ Solutions Engineering
A. Cooper. The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, Sams Publishing, 2004.
D. Newman. 3 Reasons People are Critical for Digital Transformation Success. Forbes, June 2018.
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies Reliablity Roundtable – Human Factors Session (2). Innovarista: Innovation at Work, July 2018 innovarista.org
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies – Human Factors Session. Innovarista: Innovation at Work. May 2018 innovarista.org
J.M. Juran. Juran on Quality by Design: the New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services, The Free Press, 1992.