Friday, 18 April 2014

Design Thinking: LEGO & DT (Not just a kids toy)

Design Thinking built using LEGO

I *always* had an obsession with LEGO so please excuse me if this posting is a little bias. For years my relatives and family friends knew every X-mas and Birthday a fail-safe gift was LEGO.

For me LEGO is a great fit for Design Thinking approach and development overall because:
  1. LEGO is Rapid Prototyping
  2. LEGO is Abstract.
  3. LEGO is Creative.
  4. LEGO is a Right Brain activity
  5. LEGO is Constrained.
  6. LEGO supports CI (Continuous Integration)
  7. LEGO is Fun.
  8. LEGO supports A11y (Accessible)
  9. LEGO is Reproducible.
  10. LEGO supports i18n (Internationalization)
Don't take my word about it. Tim Brown has a whole chapter (Chapter 4 - Building to Think, or the power of prototyping) in Change by Design. To be honest, if you aren't building or prototyping something, you may not be doing Design Thinking effectively. 

1. LEGO is Rapid Prototyping

LEGO builds are generally fast. There is no waiting for things to dry, no ordering parts, no welding, etc. It's so fast that often it's better to start building than it is to design something on paper (or in a some CAD program) beforehand. Changes can be done on the fly without having to re-architect the whole build.

Lastly LEGO builds are generally transient and don't last forever. It's understood that they get taken apart and put back in the drawer for reuse later. Therefore builders are less attached to a specific prototype, a key component to good rapid prototyping. 

2. LEGO is Abstract

One the best things about how abstract LEGO creations can be. People know it won't look exactly miniature real-life replica, like how LEGO mini figures all have the same head-shape and no knees! (Actually the Yoda LEGO mini figure doesn't bend at the waist and is quite a bit shorter than other mini figures, but you get the picture...)

Prototypes often have a low-fi feel and therefore invite user feedback which is core component of Design Thinking.

3. LEGO is Creative

When MOC'ing (My Own Creation) LEGO really that is building something from you imagination. Rarely do I see kids just sort and line up LEGO bricks. Everyone around a pile of random LEGO seems to consciously or not start to building things. It's like doodling.

This what I call the 'Reverse Entropy of LEGO' effect. Few LEGO fans can stand still and watch LEGO just sit there.

4. LEGO is a Right Brain activity

Without getting too technical, LEGO building is more a Right Brain process, like drawing vs. say writing. For those that traditionally favour Left Brain activities, LEGO building helps encourages Right Brain usage for a more Full Brain approach that can foster new ideas and ways of thinking .

5. LEGO is Constrained

Somewhat counter-intuitive, but for Design Thinking one great feature is that LEGO is constrained. While Desirability is the first pillar tackle, good Design Thinking designs optimize Desirability, Viability and Feasibility.

LEGO only has 6,800 unique pieces (down from 12 ,000 a few years back) and for projects we are usually constrained even further to the pieces we have at hand. Working within these constraints helps us get familiar with this pillar of DT and often fosters even more creativity!

6. LEGO supports for CI (Continuous Integration)

Just like some software tools, LEGO supports backing-out recent changes and trying new things. You often don't have to destroy a whole build just to try out a small change. So unlike a painting or drawing this fosters continually updating, refining and trying new wacky ideas!

Parts can even be built separately and added together easily at the end. Integration with LEGO is always fairly easy, as generally all LEGO blocks fit with other LEGO blocks, it's a fully compatible system.

(Also, as an Agile/SCRUM Master coach, you generally *always* have something to show. =) Even if it's a few block at the end of a sprint or iteration!)

FYI - This happens to me *all-the-time* at home. I'm constantly tweaking and trying new ideas out even on old builds I have displayed. A great idea comes to mind and I'm never afraid to try it out because it often only takes seconds to reverse it!

7. LEGO is Fun

The most common verb action for LEGO is 'play', even more than 'build', 'designing' or 'creating'. Maybe it's great childhood memories, but it's rare that you have to convince someone to 'play' with LEGO. When we use LEGO in Design Thinking workshops, I don't think I've ever heard anyone call it 'work'.

8. LEGO supports A11y (Accessibility)

LEGO is Accessible. Anyone can play with LEGO. Most people are usually attracted to LEGO. I have a few sets on my desk at work and they are *always* a conversation starter. LEGO with it's Duplo lines is a toy that a person at any age can enjoy. While not everyone is a master-builder, almost anyone intuitively can start to put LEGO bricks together. You don't need years or weeks of intensive training and like drawing it seems every child is drawn to it.

9. LEGO is Reproducible

While MOC'ing (My Own Creation) is often tough, rebuilding an existing model is much more accessible. Unlike painting or drawing, it's quite easy to reproduce a LEGO creation, given the finished product.

Like an '3D Printing' process, it's possible to have an exact replica in your hands anywhere in the world almost immediately. Every replica is also exactly the same.

10. LEGO supports i18n (Internationalization)

LEGO is international. It sells pretty much everywhere in the world and seems to be quite universal in it's appeal. Started in Denmark, it's still family owned and as of 2013 was the 2nd largest toy manufacturer (behind Mattel). Like IKEA, LEGO instructions have no words and meant to be understood in any market.

Germany is the #1 LEGO consumer, followed by the US. On average everybody on the earth owns about 86 pieces bricks  LEGO. *Yikes*. I own a lot more than 86! ;)

So go, get your boss to order you some more LEGO for the office! Go ahead and dig out that LEGO bin and tell your spouse you're putting in some overtime!

Hope that helps,
Wayne Pau 

p.s. I've tried my best to use "LEGO" as the plural. For those *particular* enough to notice, the plural for LEGO is not legos. I believe it's supposed to be 'LEGO bricks'. This is called out in the 'Fair Play' guide on the LEGO site in the section "Proper Use of the LEGO Trademark on a Web Site".

Another site, Brick Brothers in their glossary has gone and said it's like 'sheep', which is both the singular and plural form as opposed to 'sheeps'. 

:) More than you wanted to know right?

Monday, 24 March 2014

How Google *Pwned* Samsung & HTC (aka Why Nexus is still #1)

By now everyone has heard that Google has sold off Motorola Mobility and what a loss it was. I strongly disagreed with that and this Forbes article says a lot of what I felt. Google needed Motorola Mobility for its strategy to *pwn* other vendors who greedily thought they could exert their unique brand of is 'enhancement' further fragmenting Android is.

  • Google Nexus 5 #4, LG G2 #9
  • HTC One Google Ed. #2, HTC One #3
  • Samsung S4 Google Ed. #6, Samsung S4 #7
  • Moto X #5 (ahead of all ODM except HTC)
(As of Feb 2014 - Business Insider RANKED)

You can see this with the latest Android device rankings. Every Google Edition of nearly every ODM device is better that the original (HTC One and Samsung S4) and the Nexus 4/5 are way better that any LG offering, yet are also made by LG. Add to that the announcement that the new flagship Samsung S5 will be more Nexus/Google experience like, you can see that Google has exerted it's will over its android ODM (original device manufacturers). 

I had always wondered why Motorola devices weren't more innovative. Sure questions on 'fair play' concerns from Samsung, HTC, LG, etc was a factor but I don't think it was the main driver. I *think* Google was trying to make a point on the RIGHT way for ODMs to add value to androids with minimal OS changes and subtle hardware tweaks. All this allows for more equivalency/democracy amongst Android, (think number portability in North America years ago and carriers) making it easier for consumers to switch between makers within the android ecosystem. 

Moto X and G were like Nexus devices in disguise! This way Google could use LG as the nexus vendor for nexus 4 and 5 and basically get almost 4x Nexus phones (adding in the 2x Moto phones) in the last few years!

I was always curious as to why Google didn't try to build off the initial success of the Moto Xoom, the first Honeycomb 3.0 Android tablet. Both the Moto X and G are both Superphone format devics. If I had to guess the reason it would be either:

  • 'A' -  was happy with what it got from ASUS (why not? For the price the Nexus 7 is pretty much the best 7" tablet out there!)
  • 'B' -  thought that the larger market phone market (what Google calls "SuperPhones") fragmentation was more important to fix first.
Likely a little of both 'A' and 'B', but maybe more 'B' as money is still in "Superphones" and not really tablets. The margins are much higher still for cellular devices vs. WiFi-only. (See Cellphone Economics posting I had a while back.)

Don't believe me that ODMs don't want to make it easy to move to another Android phone manufacturer? See the photo below. Samumg and HTC intentionally make thier back button on different sides of the phone.

(S4 back button RIGHT from

(HTC ONE back button LEFT from
Notice that the back buttons are intentional opposite. Compound that with two very different icons, one with a curved back arrow (Samsung S4) and another more like a square bracket (HTC ONE). Keen observers will also note that HTC ONE has no 'middle' button. Menus are all done by Context Action Bars (as suggested by Google Android Dev site a few years back). The Home Button on S4 is really the middle non-labelled button, yet again different from HTC and others.

I wish Google could have made this a 'Hardware' standard too. Not a problem with Apple's iPhone 5s vs. 5c! *Apple fan-boys cheer* Both because there is no back button (and no labels on iPhone5s) and that there is only 1x hardware manufacturer.

Hope that helps,
Wayne Pau

P. s. Nokia and Motorola used to do this too with pick-up and hang ups buttons which was worse! It totally annoys 1st time users who muscle memory jets them to go back a screen, only to have app close and go to the homescreen.

*** UPDATE *** Looks like Lenovo is also going the patent route, buying a number of patents from UP. Read more here. So you can clearly see that Google by keeping the patents from Motorola Mobility clearly knew what they were doing!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

UX: Don't Make Me Think Revisited (aka 3rd Edition)

When I came into the office in January I realized that Santa (aka Steve Krug) via Amazon had left me a belated X-mas gift via mail!

If you are in UX and haven't read this book (in any edition), I can't over emphasize how important this book is. Steve is great at making complex things seem "common sense" and his super reasonable, laid back, humourous approach can warm even the grumpiest usability Grinch.

The "revisited" (or "reloaded" for Matrix fans..) part also includes a whole new chapter on Mobility (Chapter 10, titled "Mobile: it's not just a city in Alabama anymore"). Really this chapter will take you 20 minutes to read but it could change your life, I mean app. It might be worth it to just to buy the book only to read this new chapter! It's 21 pages of very, very relevant material for anyone doing mobile development.

For something more "fun", have a look @ Steve's Blog on how he played with the covers before settling on the current design.


=) Then... for even more fun do a quick search in Amazon of the book to see what other covers exists! It took me a bit to identify the 1st edition cover being so vastly different from 2nd edition, but I did find one in German with a neat look (Das intuitive Web!). So from 1st to 2nd edition, not much changed, but Steve and the published definitely made some whole-sale changes for 3rd edition. I personally think it looks great.

(Amazon Web Search URL)

With a gun pointed at my head, (ignoring that I consider Steve a friend) and told I could only get my team-mates and stakeholders to read just one book, this would be that book. It totally puts UX concepts into things the "everyday" person can understand. The examples (updated in 3rd edition) are incredible helpful and the humour makes it easy to get though the book in single day or sitting (although you might want to spread it out to let it sink it more or just constantly keep using as a reference).

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. In full disclosure, I admire Steve's knowledge and expertise in usability and even more importantly I really like him as a human being. He was generous enough to add me to acknowledgements page (yes I'm that Wayne Pau) but really my contributions and insights (if any) in the Mobility Section (Chapter 10) were very tiny. He's just that nice of guy! Thanks Steve...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Fun Topic: Apple vs. Samsung (Fine Dining vs. Mega Buffet)

*Sorry for the gap in posts. Being in Toronto, Canada we've been through Ice-Storms, Polar Vortex and Power Outages! Hopefully we'll get this back on track again in 2014... thanks for your patience.*

There is no getting around that Samsung and Apple are two very different companies. They are headquartered in two different continents, have two very different corporate histories and basically seem to go about business in polar opposite ways. Apple does everything, including write the OS and design the perfect matching hardware. Samsung uses (non-exclusively) a 3rd party (Google) to write the core OS (Android) and focuses on adding on the basic OS with value-adds aligned with in-house designed hardware. Apple only supports iOS devices, yet Samsung makes more than just Android phones, hedging their bets with Windows Phone, Bada and Tizen phones. Apple is concerned with the end-product, where as Samsung also sells it components to other companies (even at one point to ironically Apple possibly for shortfall of retina displays for new iPad Mini Retina).

However today I want to look at one specific difference in basic philosophies between the companies. In Apple we have a 'brand-name' synonymous with design, and like a fine dinning establishment believe they know what consumers want and have no problems telling customers what that is. It's the "chic" resturant with only one or two daily specials. Where Samsung seems to be the more accommodating endless buffet whose goal is to have something that will please anyone.

If you look here, it lists no less than 23 models of phones that Samsung has released in 2013. For Samsung, it seems they would be embarrassed if you asked for a phone format combination that they didn't already produce. The older Galaxy Y Pro Dous was the smallest display at 2.6" and new Galaxy Mega 6.3 is currently the largest at 6.3" (phone-format device that is not a true phone, but tablet like Tab 7" and 10"), more than DOUBLE the size!
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
  • Samsung Galaxy Win Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos 2
  • Samsung Galaxy Express 2
  • Samsung Galaxy Round
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket Neo
  • Samsung Galaxy Star
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
  • Samsung Galaxy Y Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy Win
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
  • Samsung Galaxy S4
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket Plus

(Samsung Galaxy Y Pro Duos - image from here)

(Samsung Galaxy Mega - image from here)

Apple on the other hand released 2x models in 2013, doubling the previous year's models with the 5s and 5c. Besides the *slight* pricing difference and visual colour offering, there really isn't that much difference between the available iPhones. Even Apple's own site points this out. The 5c has older A6 chip which isn't 64-bit, but many users would be hard-pressed to know the difference at this time between 64 vs. 32-bit iPhones (at this time... who knows about it in the near/short-term future... with apps and api in the feature that better take advantage of this... it may be more noticeable). Both phones use lighting connector, 720 video recording, 1080 HD display, 1136-by-640 resolution
and 326 ppi.
  • iPhone 5c
  • iPhone 5s

(iPhone 5s & iPhone 5c - images from here)

From a developer point of view, I find it hard to manage with the Samsung philosophy. There are so many disparate models with differing physical differences like screen sizes, resolutions, but also software & O/S level difference like Android O/S version and Premium Suite & security enhancement support like KNOX and SAFE. Having an app work perfectly on one Samsung Galaxy device does not ensure portability to another Samsung Galaxy device. Compound that with the issue that many models are region specific, it becomes a nightmare to support all but the most popular permutations.

From a consumer point of view, I find it hard to imagine how Samsung is able to make any "economy of scale" saving with so many different models of products. Shipping 3 or 4 models a year can be daunting for any company, but 23 models?!? For me I already get confused which are "budget" models or "premium" models. "S" and "Note" vs. the cheaper "Y" and "M" devices.

However it's hard to argue with Samsung's relative success. Compared to all other Android device manufacturers, they are the Apple of the Android world. For example, in 2 months, the new Galaxy Note sold 10 million units.

So bottom line? I hope I don't get into trouble for saying this, but it seems like Samsung is taking the safe-bet. It's spreading it's investment and ensuring that no device format is missed and basically offering the proverbial "Chinese Menu". So as a 'developer', I feel like the innovation is going to come from Apple and Samsung will always be playing catch-up. Realistically it seems like there are more Chinese Buffets than Michelin Star Restaurants.

Therefore, it might make sense for companies to develop for the less varied, but more refined iPhone and then attempt to move to support the massive offering from Samsung Galaxy/Android. Do you think Samsung took that into consideration when coming up with their product offering?

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

Monday, 2 December 2013

Design Thinking: User Needs vs. User Wants (What I love about my Aeron Chair...)

If you haven't sat on one of these chairs, I'd highly recommend it (you can always just go to your Local Herman Miller Show-case if your work or friends don't already own one). As a user it's pretty much the perfect chair. I don't think I've sat in a more comfortable chair (when fully configured properly), especially with the optional lumbar support at the back. 

(Not all companies are willing to invest in their employees, but it's definitely a luxury I've totally enjoy at my office.)

(My actual chair - a 10+ year old model)

Herman Miller has always been knowing for their high-end furniture, but when they invented the Aeron, it was a game-changer. I remember being in a fancy start-up and getting these chairs! It was all the rage, but it was a chair that cost many times more than it's traditional alternatives. (Today's Black-Friday sale @ HM had it at $577.15 from $679.00, but I distinctly remember it being closer to $1000 earlier on.)

This is what the HM sites says in it's description:

The Work Chair Redefined
Aeron changed the way everyone thought about office chairs—from its revolutionary look to its advanced ergonomics to the fact that it's 94 percent recyclable.
Instantly adaptable to all the motions you go through every day while seated, Aeron provides healthy comfort and balanced body support. Its innovative suspension and easy-to-use adjustment controls let the chair move effortlessly as your body moves.

If you haven't already, I encourage you to look at the Design Story feature @ the HM site. 

(Prototype -

(Above is a great example of a low-fi model. In the video, Stumpf talks about another prototype as "just ugly". A topic for another day, but prototypes are great! Sketches are great! Look at how many were created during the Aeron design! Think about the 50lbs of clay from the last blog.)

From the web site there are many quotes, but these are a brief splattering of the most "telling" ones:

"They threw out all preconceived notions of what a work chair should look like."
"Function Is Form"
"We wanted a totally new kind of chair.
"I want to sit on this really bad."

The chair we are looking at today, the first Aeron, over 20 years old (designed in 1992) was a disruptive innovative change. The chair won so many awards and it's crowning achievement is that it's part of the MoMA permanent collection. Yet how could a chair so beloved today actually almost not make it to market?

If you've read Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, it tells of the chair didn't do well.
  • 4.5/10 for Comfort Scale
  • 2-3/10 for  Aesthetics Scale

It actually didn't even meet min. score (7.5) that Herman Miller internally puts on Test Group ratings before product release. It was actually called "The Chair of Death" by in the 1st group. Yet luckily Max Depree the Chairman and CEO of Herman Miller at the time had the foresight to ship it regardless. This is his explanation:

“We are a research-driven product company. We are not a market-driven company. It means that we intend, through the honest examination of our environment and our work and our problems, to meet the unmet needs of our users with problem-solving design and development
- Max Depree (Chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, Inc)
Notice that Depree clearly understood the role and limitation of Market Driven data. He had the courage to forge forward and now the chair he oversaw is now in the MoMA. Yet that wasn't blind-faith, it was because he knew his guys *knew* users. The product was too disruptive to get an accurate Market Target Group rating.


So why did I write this post? Was it simply just because I wanted to talk about the amazing chair that I've sat on for far, far too long? No. I believe that today far too many people looking at Design Thinking confuse interviewing Users for their Insights with asking consumers their Opinions. In Design Thinking, especially at the Empathy stage, I would never give a survey on a final product and ask them to rate from 1 to 10 what they thought of Comfort, AestheticsUsability and then using some fancy math to determine how to optimize those parameters.

It sounds cliche but simply Users don't know what they want. As Design Thinkers if we get "Lazy" and try to get end-users to design products, we will never get Disruptive Innovation. At best all we can is slightly better, incremental development (ie a prettier iPhone, etc). At worse we get something totally unusable, like the Car built for Homer.

"A camel looks like a horse that was planned by a committee"
- Sir Alec Issigonis
Users are great at being Users, but usually are very poor Designers. That's why even in Usability Testing we *never* ask questions which lead a user to offer an alternative design. Questions like: "Oh, so you don't like that button? How would you like to see the button?", rather we're about the why: "Oh, so what makes that button difficult to use/hard-to-find/etc?".

So what are Users good for? Why are they SO vital to Design Thinking? They are vital because:

"It's the user's most primal needs that drive our insights which are the basis for our designs."

         User Need ==> Insights ==> Design Ideas

Users don't mean to, but often they aren't trained to separate 'actions' from 'intents', 'opinions and prejudices' from 'feelings and raw emotion'. When we do Design Thinking practically in our teams, we often are asking each other what is the "raw" feeling there, what is the underlying motivation. (Think: Toyota/Kaizen's 5 Why type of approach).

As Malcolm Gladwell put it in Blink:

“The participants in the early experiments weren't telling the testers how they really felt; they were telling them how they were prejudiced against something so different from their experience.”

- Malcom Gladwell (Blink - 2005) 

If you haven't done so already, I suggest looking at my previous blog on Levels of Insight. As we move up the hierarchy we need to become more and more empathetic, it's not up to the user, but the Design Thinker to be properly trained and educated in how to extract those insights. We need to asking the right questions and tune-out the noise.

To become a great Designer I believe you need to ensure that you are not falling in the trap of being caught up with lower insights, fraught with prejudice and fear, but are mining the more deep-seated core "needs" which will drive those monumental "insights". To be honest it's hard work...

    User Interviews != Market Research Panels

If you want to "do" Design Thinking correctly, spend the time upfront with doing single User Interviews that will drive your Empathy stage. Use those interviews to drive your ultimate single Character Composite and then create your Point-of-View and How-Might-We statements in your Define stage.

To end off off, if you also haven't seen the video from the late Bill Stumpf from the Herman Miller sit, it's just great. His best quote is:
"I enjoy myself.. and I do it through Design" -  Bill Stumpf (1936-2006)
(Not surprisingly the video doesn't mention any of the difficulties that Malcolm Gladwell outlined in Blink. It almost makes you think that users loved it on the 1st try! However we know that wasn't really the case. However history and the 'real' market have definitely vindicated Bill Stumpf,  Donald Chadwick and Max Depree.)

Let's get to "WOW". Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. Besides reading, Blink and looking at the HM site, another great article on Aeron is on Barkham Office Furniture website here:

Monday, 18 November 2013

Design Thinking: Quantity vs. Quality (aka Getting to 50lbs of Clay...)

(From Wikipedia)

It's not a new story, but when talking about Quantity vs. Quality there are definitely some misconceptions. However one parable often told about this is about a Ceramics Class. It's actually reproduced in the book Art & Fear, which I got from LifeClever blog entry:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot”albeit a perfect one”to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work ”and learning from their mistakes” the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
I feel almost like Nissim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan) when I point out that there is often this fallacy that its much more efficient if we must focus on Quality and that it's mutually exclusive from focusing instead on Quantity

In fact as counter-intuitive as it might sound, the opposite is actually true. I have seen the empirical evidence of this and this is why so many of today's ideologies (Agile, SCRUM, Design Thinking) all are set-up to constantly iterate, evolve and improve. (If you want proof of how this works look at the Intel example in Jim Collins' Great By Choice. Continued innovation is a staple of long-term success.) 

Mathematically this should make sense, but this isn't the point I'm talking about. The "Infinite Monkey Theorem" states that a monkey given enough time at a typewriter could reproduce all the works of Shakespeare. However I'm not advocating randomly trying things and by shear volume making the next great product. I'm certainly not advocating getting more monkeys and more and typewriters! Design Thinking eliminates the need for this type of luck-based brutal force type of approach. 

However, what I feel is understated today is the 'amount of quantity that' people should suspect a project needs before it's 'mature'. Bill Buxton in Sketching User Experiences suggests that good 'sketchers' may come up with 40+ sketches a day! A good Design Thinking project has multiple iterations, often starting with very quick, low-cost, low-fi prototypes and expanding to more elaborate, hi-fi prototypes when the team is more confident on what the users wants.

It's important to note that these prototypes go through iterations. Things changes, new ideas are introduced, but overall each successive prototype is built upon the previous version. Each one (generally - there are some lulls and backtracking...) becomes better than it's predecessor. So back to the Ceramics example, even more importantly if we were to line up all the pots by chronological order, we'd clearly see the progression of skill and mastery.

This is why Design Thinking is tightly coupled with building prototypes and more accurately sometimes called "Design Doing". Often times Design Thinking teams are crippled at a decision point and as Design Thinking Coaches we're encouraged to help them push through it by being decisive and often taking a risk. The reason for this is because we don't want teams stuck or bogged down by indecision. We'd rather a team make a choice, prototype it and the most importantly *test* it out on users. (At that point it often much quicker than just trying to guess what the user would like better...)

This is what I believe was equivalent to the "Quality" ceramics group was doing:
...the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay
Show me a team that has a large graveyard of prototypes and sketches and I can almost guarantee they are being productive. What Design Thinking is not is simply a framework for brainstorm and evaluating ideas. It's an overall systematic approach of being in user insights that drive an iterative, feedback based approach to improve dramatically the odds of creating user-driven products.

Being of Asian decent, I can't resist the opportunity to use this famous quote:

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
Even 2500 years ago, we knew that doing was more important that just listening and observing. As sacrilegious as it sounds, I'd almost modify this to read:

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand...
...I then keep doing over and over and over again and I get BETTER." 
Confucius + Wayne
(If you've ever seen small Chinese children learn to write their first 5,000 Chinese characters, you'll understand what I mean!)

Still don't believe why quantity focus triumphs just quality focus? This is why rule #2 for Brainstorming from Stanford is:
"#2 - Go for volume. Getting to 100 ideas is better than 10, no matter what you initially think about the “quality”. Try setting a goal for the number of ideas you’ll get to in a certain amount of time to provide some stoke."

So I guess my main question to you if you're doing design thinking is "How many ideas and prototypes have you been through lately?" Are you getting Quality via Quantity from your Design Thinking team?

One of the most famous quotes about volume is likely this one by Thomas Edison

"I didn't fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work."Thomas Edison
However, I see the # of attempts anywhere between 2,000 to 10,00, but I think it's more likely 6,00-ish, according this quote from Franklin Institute:

"Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material." - Thomas Edison
Reached your 50lbs yet? (.. be it 200x post-it ideas, 30x user interviews, 20x prototypes, 10x iterations, etc) Ensure you're setting a worthy Quantity goal constantly with your Design Thinking initiatives!

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. Just remember you still have to put in the time and that means actions. Just remember Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hrs theory (also clearly stated in his Outliers book). Hitting the jackpot product in only a few iterations or prototypes is just getting lucky. If you want to take luck out of equation, you need to iterate and you need to keep going back to your users to get feedback and improve, evolve and re-factor.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Design Thinking: Levels of Insights (Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy)

So... following up the Empathy video from the Cleveland Clinic in our last blog entry, I thought back to how we do User Interviews with Design Thinking and how we try to 'mine' core insights view User Empathy. As I was trying explain this, I came up with a quick and dirty "Hierarchy of Empathy" that I believe helps to explain the levels of empathy or insights we can get from interacting with users.

I largely based this on the Stanford d.School Bootleg Empathy Mapping tool. As I was trying to explain the Empathy Map, that got me thinking about framework to help explain to reach those special, deep, inferred "insights" during User Interviews.  We use this at SAP for Design Thinking User Interviews, as this helps to formulate the notes from User Interviews in a useful grouping. 
Empathy Map - Stanford d.Sdhool

It's a little like Maslow's Hierarchy, so I'm going to call it:

 Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy

(Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy)

The hierarchy has 5 levels, (0-4, I must be a programmer... *hehe*), where:
Level 0 - "IGNORE" - General Apathy
Level 1 - "LISTEN" - What I am Saying...
Level 2 - "OBSERVE" - What I am Doing...
Level 3 - "READ" - What I am Thinking...
Level 4 - "EMOTE" - What I am Feeling...

Levels 1-4 match up directly to the 4 quadrants of the Empathy Map. On the left is the "Observed" or Level 1 & 2 insights and on the right is the "Inferred" or Level 3 & 4 insights.

So in more detail...

Level 0 - is happens when developers create apps without even considering or thinking about the user. This is the worse way to develop or design anything. By the very nature not knowing or not caring enough to find out about end-users, they almost guarantee they will have no meaningful insights.
(This mirrors most of the 7+ billion people in the world you've never met or know anything about. Someone once said that "Apathy" is worse than "Hate". At least with hate, you need to know what you hate. It's the "Takes ones to know one" thing... You don't even know who they are.) 
Note: I draw the line between level 0 and Level 1, because below this line, there is no real quality "user-driven insights". End-user need is not driving the project at this point.
Level 1 - is the first step to cater to the needs of users. The bare minimum is know your end-user enough to communicate to/with them. To have a "common" language when you can 'listen' (and not just hear), what the user is saying. The limitation here is that the Design Thinker still needs to interpret what is said within their own understanding or world-view. 
(This mirrors strangers who you may strike up a one-time conversation with. You have very little background or context, but at least you are able to talk to them. For example, travelling in a new country, while you might technically know the language you could be easily "confused" by an unfamiliar culturally based idiom that wasn't meant to be taken literally.)
Level 2 - is the second step to gather the true needs of users. Unfortunately as we discuss often in Design Thinking people sometimes say one thing and do another. Ethnography is basically a branch of research that involves just 'observing' subjects. Words can sometimes be misleading, but actions have an "honesty" to them. 
(This mirrors people you interact with for longer periods of time and know or judge/assess them by how they interact with you, not just what they say to you . You know their body-language and can read their gestures and actions. That mean-looking colleague just bought you a chocolate bar for no reason, shows maybe he/she doesn't hate you...)
Level 3 - is the start where the designer needs to intimately understand the user as they move away from "observed" insights and into "inferred" insights.  I used 'read' here as in somewhat like "mind-reading". As we all know, there are many things we as human think, but never act upon. There are also many things we want to do, but never actually get around to doing. 
(This mirrors people who can communicate non-verbally with you. Sometimes you can tell what is on their mind without them telling you verbally or non-verbally. When done correctly, there is less chance for being mislead or misinterpreting something as these are in fact the motivations or 'means reas'. If it were real, telepathy would be a great tool, but in its absence we use a combination of context, observations and conjecture to come up with our 'best-guesses'. )
Level 4 - is the highest level of empathy, where you can 'emote' with the subject. Feelings are like raw emotions and can be the core or root of some very powerful insights. Some of the best designs feed off of our very primal emotions, satisfying some of our very deep seated needs/wants. For Design Thinkers, this is the ultimate or root "Why?" 
(This mirrors the very small circle of intimate people in your life that you naturally feel for and over time become intuitively attuned to their state of mind and moods. You basically know them and can live in their "skin". You can literally "be" them for short periods of time.)
The reality is that as you move up the levels, it takes more much time, energy, training, determination and experience to reach the next level of empathy when interacting and interviewing with End-Users. On the flip side, the higher the level of empathy, the more core the insight. If you want to be a *great* Design Thinker, you want to be moving upwards in the hierarchy, to get those more deep-seated, core insights and drivers. 

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. When I tried to Google this and find something similar to this Hierarchy of Empathy (to ensure I did not copy from previous source), I could only find M.L. Hoffman's "Four Levels of Empathy" (below), which was similar, but different. However the list itself does help to re-enforce that as 'children', we start move up a hierarchy of "Understanding" those around us.
1. Global empathy
2. Egocentric empathy
3. Empathy for another's feelings
4. Empathy for another's life condition 
My source for this was:

There are a lot of parallel's with Hoffman's 4 levels and my Hierarchy of Empathy. However I've made my divisions much more aligned with the Empathy Map of Stanford's Design Thinking process. 

I apologize in advance to anyone else who might have come with a similar pyramid before mine. It wasn't meant to be radical, just a vehicle for visualizing something I wanted to explain as part of User Interviews.