New Tech Adoption: Convenience vs Quality

If you pay attention to trends in new tech adoption, then the tension between convenience vs quality is on your radar. Time and time again, consumers give up some amount of quality for convenience. Think about mobile phones, even before smartphones. Mobiles don’t sound nearly as good as a landline nor is the connection as robust. But the convenience of mobility eventually won. You can think about this tradeoff with other products: Netflix, online news, digital photos. The list goes on.

Of course, there are instances in which we really do want quality. Medical solutions come to mind. Also, perhaps, in the B2B space. I’ve been watching online supply chain startups like Fictiv and Maker’s Row. These aren’t consumer-facing companies but rather, business facing ones. And I wonder how their business-customers navigate the convenience vs quality trade-off. It seems it might be a tough sell in the B2B space. But only time will tell.

TAKE IT FURTHER

The Lit Review of Technology Adoption Models, JISTEM 2017

The Quest for Convenience, The Nielsen Co 2018

Supply Chain Trends to Watch, Forbes 2019

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repost: Write-storming #inclusion

If you read this blog, then you know that I’m interested in techniques for harnessing collective intelligence. Why? Because the complex problems we face require participation from a diverse array of stakeholders. Why? Because diverse participation, when done right, leads to better outcomes.

If you do a lot of teamwork, then you know that it’s easy to fall into the pattern of letting a few people on the project team dominate the majority of the conversation. A great technique for engaging the entire team, and thus arriving at more creative results, is write-storming. What write-storming does is it carves out time and space for all team members to engage in quiet writing and reflection. The ideas that individuals generate during a write-storming session can then be drawn on for group discussion.

I’ve been doing write-storming in one form or another for years but I really like how author Leigh Thompson maps out the technique. I’ll summarize here: Write-storming sessions are short, like 5-10 minutes. In a session, team members work silently to generate a lot of ideas on their own. Each idea should be written on an individual index card in legible hand-writing – I recommend all caps for legibility. Then the cards are collected, shuffled, redistributed, and read aloud for discussion. It’s important that the ideas remain anonymous so that the team can focus on the work and not on egos. The next step is for the team to categorize the cards and flesh out the ideas that have the most potential. I recommend fleshing out an array of ideas from conventional & easy ideas to unconventional & challenging ones.

 

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Why Brainstorming Doesn’t Work in FastCo 

 

 

Inventor Spotlight: ecoLogic Studio

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Check out these living sculptures from London-based architectural and urban design firm, ecoLogicStudio.

ecoLogicStudio takes a multi-perspective approach to their work, seeking to integrate the slow process of natural systems with the speedy processes of technological ones.

I love it when a design firm posts a manifesto on their about page. Here’s a taste:

We are not satisfied with the current level of engagement of the discipline of architecture towards the global ecological crisis: we believe that a critical as well as active role for architecture is necessary in order for the discipline to have an impact; we believe this role can be achieved by refusing to hide into the production of fictional scenarios, and by engaging with the organisation of matter, energy and information across scales and regimes.

Multiscalarity is critical to this new systemic comprehension of architecture and the “city”; we can experiment with new regional planning protocols by for instance re-framing the growth or farming of micro-algal organism across natural habitats, inhibiting or stimulating their proliferation in the landscape or in custom designed artificial systems, while incubating the emergence of related business ecologies [see the Regional Algae Farm project presented later].

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Responsive Landscapes

Inside Smart Geometry

Slow Design on wikipedia

A superfund to address the negative impacts of social media?

Check out this interview with investor and author Roger McNamee. McNamee’s written and recently published, Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe in which he articulates his thoughts on the negative impacts that facebook has on our economy, media, public health, and our brains. He argues that the gov’t needs to respond to these impacts as they responded to industrial pollution in the late 1970s – they created a system to hold companies accountable for cleaning up the mess.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  1. Delete your facebook account or, at least, don’t use it as your primary news source
  2. Curate your own news feed with an RSS reader like feedly
  3. Subscribe to and support quality journalism like WNYC’s On the Media
  4. Tell your reps that they need to address these issues at a policy level. (And if they need help getting up to speed, encourage them to reach out to you or someone you know who is tech savvy and a clear communicator)

Inventor Spotlight: Florence Knoll

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Iconic architect, furniture designer, and co-founder of Knoll Associates, Florence Knoll, passed away last week at the age of 101. She developed her classic modernist style for corporate interiors in the mid 20th century and it still rings true today.

Knoll studied architecture at the renowned Cranbrook school with masters like Mies van de Rohe and Eliel Saarinen, father of Eero. She went on to co-found Knoll Associates and was the driving design force at the firm. She designed spaces for corporate giants like IBM, GM, Heinz, and CBS, and she commissioned innovative pieces from Bertoia’s wire chair to Saarinen’s fiberglass tulip series (which she had to convince a New Jersey boat maker to fabricate) to van de Roe’s Barcelona chair. The work is timeless.

 

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Knoll Associates

Remembering Florence Knoll (Fast Company)

 

 

Design — what is it good for?

The designer’s skill set is seen as a generalist skill set. This might be because designers are trained in two complementary areas: artistic practice and social science. They learn artistic practice so they can master a creative process (sketching, modeling, building, testing, iterating). Designers train in social science so that have tools that help them to understand and collaborate with end users of what they design.

It’s a valuable skill set. But it’s also broad. It can be applied to just about anything. It can be applied to scaling a product like facebook so that the company can get billions of users addicted to using the platform. Or it can be applied to a non-profit so that they can engage their community in positive change.

These examples are two extremes and of course, there are lots of applications between them. But I want to pause here for a moment and ask the people who are interested in design to ask this question: Design — what is it good for? Why is it important to learn this skill set? Do we learn it so that we can help the 1% get richer which, at the end of the day, is what the facebook application is about? Or do we learn this skill set to genuinely make the world better?

The Credentials We Don’t Have

I read a piece in Forbes the other day that listed 10 reasons why smart people doubt themselves. A point that caught my attention was point number 5: They tend to focus on the experiences and credentials they don’t have, rather than on the ones they do.

This reminded me of my professor for an MBA class I took ten years ago. She gave this advice to all women in the class: get your credentials. Note that she was the only female professor teaching in the program and she spoke from experience. She had not one, but two PhDs because having one wasn’t enough.

I’ve heard other credentialed women give the same advice: get your credentials. ‘You want to be able to get up in front of a group of men and be sure that they know that you can do the hard thing. Then they will take you seriously.’

Being smart never feels like it’s enough. You can write smart papers and present them at prestigious conferences, be invited to speak on panels to share your insights on your research and experience. But if you don’t have the right credentials on paper, it can be a major distraction and yet another reason to confirm the story that you aren’t good enough.

But what if you change the story? What if you catch yourself when you fall into the trap of focusing on what you haven’t done. What if you redirect your attention to the things you have done and ask yourself how you might build on those things? What if you say NO to the old and familiar traps and create something new?

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

Ten Reasons Smart People Doubt Themselves (Forbes)

Negativity Bias (Psychology Today)

This little drawing from Liana Fink

The Business Value of Design – McKinsey

There’s a lot of fluffy writing out there about the business value of design. It’s frustrating. So I was super happy to hear this report from McKinsey yesterday which maps out the value of design clearly and includes evidence, themes, problem areas, and advice.

THE EVIDENCE

To tee up this investigation, McKinsey looked at the performance of 300 publicly listed companies over a five year period and pulled out two things: 1. Their Financial Performance and 2. The Design Actions that these firms took. (Design Actions can range from putting a designer on the exec board to deciding to track design metrics).

What did they find?

The revenue growth of top design performers was almost double that of their industry peers.

These are good numbers.

They also found that the business value of design reaches across industry sectors. Their study includes analysis of three distinct industries: consumer packaged goods, medical devices, and retail banking.

THE THEMES

The report defines four themes that contribute to the positive correlation between financial performance and design actions:

1. More than a feeling. These companies bring as much research and rigor to design as they do to other business functions

2. More than a department. Design isn’t done in a siloed department. In fact, the researchers found that siloing designers can actually lead to decreased financial performance. Instead, design-driven firms embed designers in cross-functional teams throughout the organization

3. More than a phase. Design-driven firms adopt an attitude that design is never done. They iterate on their design from strategy to launch and beyond by building prototypes, gathering customer feedback, and turning that feedback into better designs and customer experiences

4. More than a product. Design-driven firms understand that customers don’t respond to individual widgets as much as they respond to the entire experience with their company. With so many physical products having software and service components these days, this should be a no-brainer

 

THE GAPS

Nothing sums up the gaps between theory and practice better than this quote from the report:

If you look at these actions, while they may be commonsense, they’re not common practice, because they need senior management to orchestrate.

Why is it so hard to integrate designers? Well, they are different. What makes having them on your teams great also makes having them on your teams challenging. The advice? Look for “T-Shaped” designers that have a depth of knowledge in design and breadth in related areas like business strategy and technology trends.

Another tip for moving to an integrated design practice is to not do it all at once. Instead, pick a project and apply the themes to that project. That’s your prototype. Mock it up, test it, iterate, then scale.

 

TAKE IT FURTHER

The full podcast and transcript is here

 

Understanding Intimidation

Intimidation tactics are an abuse of power–a form of bullying.

Intimidation tactics come in many forms. They can occur in personal or professional relationships. Sometimes these tactics are visible which makes them easier to identify. Other times they are more passive which makes them harder to identify.

No matter what side of intimidation you are on, it’s helpful to understand that it all stems from fear. Fear lives in the oldest part of our brains, the amygdala which is sometimes referred to as our reptilian or lizard brain. That old part of our brain has had a lot of practice over the years and is really good at driving fear-based thoughts and actions. But with your own practice, you can teach yourself to override it.

No matter the form intimidation takes in your life, here’s some advice:

If you are the intimidator, cut it out. You don’t need to make people feel bad in order to do your thing. Try to identify what drives your behavior and let it go. 

If you are the intimidated, ask yourself why you let other people’s baggage get in your way. You’ve got your own stuff to deal with, right? That’s enough.

With practice, you can rise above it. Rise rise rise.