Archive for the 'collaboration' Category

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.



Designing evolving products – by Ryan Freitas

Once in a while, I come across people who really impress me. When that happens, it fills me full of hope – “maybe one day, I can be like them.” Ryan is one of those people. His eloquence is infectious.


I related to his talk on evolving products because I am in the mist of working on a project that is, what Ryan calls a “punctuation” of our product lifecycle. Every product we work on evolves. However they evolve differently for many reasons. Some iteratively evolve. Some reach a gradualism stasis,that is when a punctuation is necessary. When he said it, it was much better put 🙂

Ryan’s talk was round the toolset for doing punctuation. I like the word choice here, because people often talk about “innovation”. The idea of “innovating” can really take us off track because people have different ideas about what that means. Truly, when your design connects the business offering genuinely with the people you serve, you innovate on real value. We live and breath this at Liquidnet. However, Ryan was able to offer some new insights into how we can do that better.

This is the toolset he covered in his talk:

1. Restate the value
2. Tell the story
3. Atomize the feature
4. Tidy the seams

Sounds simple right? I know, he’s good. Then he breaks it apart what it all means.

1. How do you restate your value?
You get to know your audience, your benefit to them, your competition, and differentiation. Getting to know your audience, of course, requires user research which hopefully combines interviews and ethnographic techniques. Knowing your benefit to them would come from really getting to know the business and understanding how the business is connecting with their customers. Knowing your competitors may be a simple web search and dissecting a site’s value. In our case, we had to dig deeper. The the differentiators, they should be fairly understood by the business. However, in our recent project, we had to restate it in relation to our new personas and the new industry landscape.

After researching answers to all these questions, you start to dream about your personas, secretly sketch designs in your notebook, your brain is about to explode with myriad of possibilities and directions. That is time to synthesize everything down to an easily understandable message. What is your elevator pitch?

2. Tell the story
Like Ryan, our team develop personas to keep our organization focus on the human behaviors. Each of our personas represent one obvious behavior pattern within our customer base. Personas help us be very specific about goals, desires, attitudes. We do “a day in the life” scenarios for our personas and I hope soon we would storyboard them Kevin Cheng style to bring more context to the useage scenarios.

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I like what he said “don’t force the user, fit into their lives.” In our current project, we built value statements that work fine for us now. If I have to do it over again, the things I would try to do better are: speak in the user’s language, be very specific by using plain language, keep it as short as an elevator ride of 15 stories (not 60), and give it a core.

3. Atomize features
Just as your value statement needs to speak to the core value of your product or service, so does your prioritization work. Each project comes to a point where you have to start deciding what goes into release 1, 2, 3 and etc. Identifying and focusing on the core will help you “peel that onion”. How? He had some advise:

“Ride the winners” – Rich Skrenta. (rich skrenta,

Work within constraints. This one is most interesting to me. What if your technology you have to build this on was very constrained and you have to work with the basics? What is the thing you must embody in your product? What lies at the heart of your product that people respond most passionately to?
Conway’s law:


“Despite jocular usage and jocular derivative “laws,” Conway’s law was not intended as a joke or a Zen koan, but as a valid sociological observation. It is a consequence of the fact that two software modules A and B cannot interface correctly with each other unless the designer and implementer of A communicates with the designer and implementer of B. Thus the interface structure of a software system necessarily will show a congruence with the social structure of the organization that produced it.”

4. Tidy the seams
So after you have clearly articulated your value and you manage to derive a design strategy and roadmap. It’s time to carry out the design. You come to a “oh shit” moment – you have more product channels or simply more work than one design team can manage, so you have to break up the work. In our case, recently we’ve had to break up one product to manage by different design teams after the design framework was completed by one team. The sheer amount of work and deadlines necessitated the break. We hope that similar philosophies in design and working closely will help us get to the end delivering a coherence experience.

Ryan cautioned that the result of the discontinuity is losing your customers instead engaging them. But he offered some advise: communication is not enough!

  • Emphasize on commonality throughout all key-elements of the experience. If you have a design element that does X in one channel of your product or service, make sure it’s respected across all channels.
  • Reduce noise wherever you can. Find things that will trip users up.
  • Start from the core. Prioritize 3 things that your product must embody, build those into each channel with a level of consistency that won’t lose your customers.

Delivering one experience across many channels done by many different teams is no easy task. I am excited to see what we come up with and how we pull it off! I think it will be worth it at the end.

Communicating ideas through an organization – Andrew Crow

When a speaker starts a talk with a James Kirk reference, you can’t help but listen on to figure out how you too can win Koboyashi Maru challenge… Actually I am not a big star trek fan, but I am a huge dork nonetheless.

Andrew’s talk puts much more eloquently what I tried to write about in this article: “Six Techniques for advocating design in your organization“. (Shameless self-plug is allowed on my own blog 🙂 )


Here are Andrew’s 6 tips:

1. Understand people:

Your coworkers are people, they have emotions, motivations and goals.
Andrew favored Myers Briggs test, apparently they do it openly at Adapative Path and it helps them understand how to approach each person differently when they communicate with each other. I personally think this is a great idea as long as it’s used for good and not evil. Good – help each person understand how to communicate effectively with their colleagues. Evil – use it to box people into groups and create stereotypes that are not helpful to team building.

2. Motivation:

Find out what motivates people and appeal to them from that angle.
Navigating politics: Manage people and organizations and recognize your constraints. Minimize negative impact on those constraints. Manage expectations.

Manage up: make sure the boss knows what you need to be successful. But pick your battles. I know I’ve made this mistake before and very soon realized I didn’t pick the right battles. Often times I could mitigate it, but sometimes it’s too late. It takes time to practice this, especially if you are a passionate person 🙂

Manage down: Set up team’s environment and mindsets. Protect and serve those around you. I think this is important even if you don’t have anyone reporting to you. I’ve been more conscious about this lately with people I collaborate with.

3. Moving the sub-conscious cheese:

Nice analogy. Change perception and undrstanding through gradual adjustment. “How can you help them help you?”

4 . Bulid credibility and share knowledge:

Increase other’s awareness and understanding removes barriers and levels the field. I think this is really hard to do and I am constantly trying to find better ways to help me do this. I often see designers take a more Nazi approach and talk at people about design and its value. That doesn’t seem to work very well. I have been guilty of this in this past. Recently, I’ve taken a real conscious effort to take an informal and collaborative approach to help my colleagues understand my work – I tend to choose working with them and showing results along the way rather than preaching. However, through that relationship building, I feel you set up a lot more opportunities for them to ask questions, thus giving you an opportunity to share and build credibility. It’s a long and slow process I think.

5. Using influence:

I love this quote: “You can accomplish anything you want in life provided that you don’t mind who gets the credit” – Harry S Truman.

Using influence and getting your message through your influencers to the person who can help you make the change – is not evil! I have seen people who tried to practice this but were sneaky about it. That does not serve anyone very well. If you are trying to bring positive changes to your organization, find those who can help you help them! It’s ok to do, moreover, it’s hard work also.