Archive for August, 2007

What’s your innovation profile?

NextD and Basadur teamed up to bring us an innovation profiling tool. It is developed to help organizations better understand all the innovative talents they have in house and better assemble teams to leverage those talents.

It costs $12.50 to take. I took it to see whether it’s actually worth the money (probably not the best way to spend money). But hey, now you wouldn’t have to unless you are REALLY curious!

Alright, I’m going to lift my kimono and show you my innovation profile. Apparently I like to come up with the ideas, but not so much implementing them. (Surprised?) That’s probably why when I prototype in Blend, I want to jump out the window often (don’t worry the windows in my office are shut!)



To find out more about what’s behind this, go to Basadur’s website.


Strategy Conference at IIT Institute of Design

Good list of people at ID Strategy this year: John Maeda, team from Cheskin, Michael Bierut… Nice mix of agency, interactive, academic celebs, blog with more post conference info here.

Participate to Innovate – Marty Gage

I found Marty’s talk interesting because lately I’ve been thinking about how to conduct research in cultures where people do not like to be watched, particularly in work environments. That makes it difficult to do ethnography.

In that context, participatory design techniques can be great tools to create situations where a researcher can still observe behavior and language people use via artificially created contexts. Marty talks about one of these techniques that he has mastered.

He laid out his research method in a 4 part process:

  1. Prime
  2. Dream
  3. Embody
  4. Evaluate

1. Prime
Give participants a home work. Marty first interviews the business stakeholder and SMEs about the domain and what they want to accomplish with the design effort. From that, he preps photos and words along with instructions and a experience board to send to participants as homework. I’m going to try my best here to illustrate how those artifacts might look like, since Marty didn’t make his slides available yet.

words.gif pics.gif pic2.gif

In the homework, he asks the participants to write down the steps that they take to finish do a thing. Think about the feeling you want to have at each step and also pick a picture to represent that feeling. Draw a line through the middle of the poster board. Above the line, write down feelings you would like to have when completing that step. Below the line, describe feelings you would not like to have. Each of the participants are asked to do this before showing up to the study.


2. Dream
Once the participants get together. They are each asked to present their “experience map”. They each get to see how the others want the experience to look like. This is a great opportunity for the researcher to observe and listen. While the participants share their dreams, the collective aspiration serves as the dream foundation for the group.


3. Embody
Then, the group is asked to put together one experience map and summarize each step in the process to further define the ideal experience. They have to get consensus on the step, what the feeling they want is, and pick an artifact to represent that feeling. The observer can just watch them interact and learn how they made that final decision.

What does everyone have in common. What are some of the steps that are common in the group? What do they want to call them. What are some common pictures in those steps? What do they mean? The moderator helps the participants get to consensus. Through that process they embody the experience that vision.

4. Evaluate
Based on the study observation, the design team come up with concepts and go back to the participants to test the idea against the benchmark they came up with.

5. Convince
Look at the qualitative data quantitatively. After doing the same thing with many different groups, the researcher sums up the patterns found. Communicate the experiential model visually and pitch the concept to stakeholder.
Marty wrote an article on the topic on Boxes and Arrows.

Making research work – Todd Wilkens

Slides & what I got from it:

What is generative research, what makes good user research?
Generative research is good for generating insight and empathy within an organization

Features to Experience is like
Lab studies to Meaning

More qualitative and contextual work = more empathy

It’s NOT about listing what they need or said, it’s about what’s meaningful in their lives. Let’s say that again!

A little bit of empathy in the hands of a designer is hugely more powerful than listing what people need and the features we will offer them…

Case study: People and their possesions.
The magic of things: symbolism and meaning: Motivations (lead to) —> behaviors (establish) —> connections

Interesting stuff doesn’t make research successful, why does good research fail?

Because no one understands its value, its relevance or how to make of it.

Who create successful products?

YOU! You create successful products. Designers, developers, business analysts, customer service, product managrers, researchers, executive manager…. WHOLE ORGANIZATIONS MAKE SUCCESSFUL PRODUCTS

We help organizations make successful products


Throwing research data over the wall -> so little of it is documented and gets thrown over the wall…

Todd calls this the “research martyrdom”

Research has to be actionable and durable:

Actionable: designers should be able to know what to do with it, not the 10 recommendations, they know how to do their job.

Insights should have longevity beyond the research findings meeting. someone else learned something and then someone else goes out and learns the same thing again.


1. Integrate research and design
2. Improve communication


Do analysis with them there

If you can’t get them to do this with you, then the next best thing is to communicate:

research reports: where good insights go to DIE!
Wilken’s law “the effectiveness of research is inversely proportional to the thickness of the binding.

Good research deliverables:

  • Are clear and straight forward —> people can do something with it
  • Engage the audience —> how is this relevant to various audiences.
  • Tell the stories —> stories aren’t told in bulleted lists, we have to be good story tellers: connect with metaphors, values….


  • Insight meets empathy
  • From the persona behavior and motivations drove a lot of the design
  • Obstacles, given situations, triggers, highlight problems
  • Archetype is not stereotype, stereotype loses empathy

Show your ideas to users in the field, even in the mist of research:
Fidelity doesn’t matter, whatever you can do:

  • Comic book
  • Hifi
  • Lofi
  • Prototype a strategy
  • A box
  • A pitch
  • A scenario

Find ways to develop empathy

Example: Dan strapped a pound of rock to himself and walked around with it for 2 days to see how it feels to carry the insulin machines around when he was doing the charmr project.

Inclusive Iterations: How a Design Team Builds Shared Insights – Emily Ulrich

Emily talked about using the Elito method to capture design research and observation. This method consists a team of people from Sales, Marketing, Product, Design doing research together and doing a collaborative analysis session together filling out columns on a spreadsheet consists of the following. As the design researcher, Emily moderates the sessions and leads the research effort:

[Col 1] Metaphor [Col 2] Observation [Col 3] Insight [Col 4] Value [Col 5] Concept

[1] Metaphor – make it memorable

[2] Observation – one at a time

[3] Insight – what did we learn about people?

[4] Value – what does that tell us about the people and what their values are? Why is this important to us?

[5] Concept: it’s ok to have opinions before they know where they come from but just don’t get tied to them. See if it relates back to the observation and insight and how it provides value.

Why she likes this method?

  • Get Sales, Marketing, Product Managers, Designers, Researchers involved in the research and synthesis creates buy-in.
  • This method allows people to have judgements.
  • People can be creative without being held back from research even if it’s backed up
  • Everybody can add insights to the project
  • Bringing people back to the Elito, showing blank cells on the screen gets people back to the task at hand.  People want to fill in the blanks.
  • The process brings democratization to the design process and creates buy-in to the design focus.
  • Gets people focus on the task at hand instead of getting distracted by arguments.
  • Insights and metaphors have longevity

Example: “Access to innovation”

She talked about an example to help us see how insights can be translated into drivers for the rest of the design effort. For one of her projects (which was succesful), they were studying how people work in cubicles. One day her and her team were interviewing a senior architect and saw a pile of books by his desk. She engaged in a conversation about how he uses the books and turned out that they don’t have space in the office for an  library. But he uses them as resources to educate and inspire the younger architects in the office. She wrote that down and didn’t think much of it.

During the Elito session with the team, she brought it up to put into the observation notes column. They talked about it and someone called it  “Access to innovation”.  A bit more into the research, they kept seeing “Access to innovation” creep up in different contexts in the rest of the sites they went to during the research. Eventually it ended up driving a whole concept to solve a problem.


Keynote: Adapting the path – by Jan Chipchase

Jan is my hero. He’s like the James Bond of user research and design. For the first time, I think it’d be pretty cool to be a bond girl ;D

All joking aside, Jan’s doing some really cool stuff, jet-setting around the world engaging in researching the way people live in emerging markets. His group is located in Japan, tracking technology trends along with human behavior. Answering questions like:

  • Who are you?
  • How can you prove it?
  • How do illiterate people communicate?
  • What do you carry where and why?

Seems like a random set of questions, but I guess Nokia would be interested in that. To answer these questions, he and his team engage in some international investigation in allies and homes. They get challenges like: “you have one month to design a phone for illiterate people.” Turns out delegation is a big deal in that situation, good thing people who do that often live within strong knitted social networks.

He is now involved in the study of the future of urban spaces. Which turns out, as expected, to be a huge, elaborate study involving 20 translators, months to prep, tons of local guides, other experts, creative team, street survey team, running 6 types of social gatherings…

Co-creation (participatory design) is also a big part of what they do. Watching people express themselves can be a great learning experience.

Observations are the most important part of field work. What do things around people tell you about their values, perceptions, and how they will interact with your stuff.

Local norms are telling. For example, in Thailand they sell fake braces, people wear them to show status = being able to afford dental care.

All of this adds up to having an informed opinion. It builds credibility.

Our international man of mystery offered some valuable advice to the young ones:

What’s worked:

  • Make your colleagues smarter: how can I do what I do to make you smarter?
  • Know who you are: what are you interested in? what are you not interest in? Communicate boundaries, use resources at your disposal, shit happens in the field.
  • Let go: we want to know so much about people, let people in control of helping you find out more about them.

Jan’s blog.

Waterfall bad, washing machine good – by Leisa Reichelt

The gist of this talk was about designing product with an agile mindset. Iteratively, collaboratively, and humanistically (use of scenarios or stories). This is not new to us at Liquidnet, we’ve been trying to methodically carry this out in increasingly bigger projects.

Lisa’s background is in project management. I like her sketches, they’re very cute. Here are a few key points:






Sam Felder took notes exactly the way it is, here it is.