When not “always on” breaks the user experience

When travelling back from Asia I tried to check the option of an earlier
connecting flight with the new iPad App of my favorite airline. And guess what: it needs an Internet connection and in 10.000 m above the ground there is none. But I didn’t want to book tickets or check the real actual status of a flight. I just wanted to have the equivalent of what used to be a small book of timetables. Now this App, last time I downloaded the upgrade was 118 MB and has a lot of fancy pictures, e.g. of every airport the fly to. So I guess some additional bytes for the timetable wouldn’t have hurt the file size. But missing these did definitely hurt the user experience.

So besides all the pictures and graphics it is still the simple use cases that define the basic user experience, i.e. satisfaction.

Keep it in mind when designing an app!

The value of the process

Just yesterday I came across this great presentation by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels at Ted 2009.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.
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Besides the gorgeous architecture and the interesting ideas captured within, what especially struck me were his remarks about their design process and how to capture it.

It became clear that the value comes – not only – from the final result, but from the process of the creation and all the discussions related to it.

For me this sounds very familar from discussions around scenario planning, where also the main value is not so much in the final result (the future will be different anyway), but in the conversations and discussions that lead to it.

I also like the view of their office and storage with all the architecture models collected for future use.

Now, here comes the twist or the question that haunts me: How do you do this in a distributed environment, where teams a scattered around the globe and interaction is with 2 hour phone conferences and document sharing? How do you create a continous interactions and joint conversations along the process? How do you do brainstorming on the Internet?

Is a wiki infrastructure the right answer?

Or does it just not work efficiently?

It’s the Why that counts !

By accident I ran across this short book review of Erik Wesner’s “Success made simple” by John Moore over at Brand Autopsy.

What struck me was the first paragraph of the summary about the success of the Amish people driven by starting with the “Why”. This is exactly the message of Simon Sinek in his latest book “Start with why” (website). (Also watch his inspiring TED talk)

So it is not always Steve Jobs who can serve as the role model.

Success in the Marshmallow Challenge

Here is another interesting talk from TED. Tom Wujec analyses the Marshmallow Challenge (www.marshmallowchallenge.com) and what it takes to succeed.

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My three take-aways for successful innovation:

  1. prototyping and early feedback
  2. incentives do not improve the result, just the opposite (also see Dan Pink’s TED talk)
  3. innovation is a contact sport that requires interaction with all senses

Robot emotions, no ?!

Just came across this interesting talk by Dennis Mong at TEDxNASA

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Besides liking the overall talk, one very specific moment touched me. Roughly at 9:44 DARwIn 2a an autonomous robot scores his first goal in 2006. And while the developers burst out in cheers and GOOOOAL cries, the robot just stands there. My impression seeing it was, he just did not understand what this fuss was about.

So while scoring a goal is very well possible today, it will take some more development until robots really can play football, also emotionally.

And at 12:20 he starts sharing the labs secrets of innovation and creativity. Very interesting.

The Beauty of Organization

Over at Design Thinking Tim Brown (Ideo’s CEO) asked the question about the beauty of organisations. I have started to think about a similar question concerning business models so I dropped a few thoughts as comments.

Still working on finding an answer on the business model question.

Post 1:

I really like the question of beauty and aesthetics of organizations. The major challenge with organizations is that you can not feel, touch or experience organizations. So you can not easily build prototypes or enact the service experience. And I guess organization is also related to the corresponding business model and in some cases has a legacy/history/tradition aspect that is hard to capture.

The underlying issue here is that we are lacking a agreed visual representation of organizations and business model that would allow us to use aesthetic rules to evaluate them. The closest I have come across up to now is the Business Model Canvas by Alex Osterwalder (http://www.businessmodelalchemist.com/) that allows to show business model, but still lacks aesthetic criteria.

Evaluating organizations the question is also what the final success criteria is and whether “beauty” is really translated in to innovation or business success or profitability. And is a hierarchical organization more beautiful than a small team collaborative approach. Is the 150-organization size limit at Gore beautiful ?

So I would start with looking at ways to visualize organizations and translate business models that allow aesthetic evaluation.

Post 2:

Hi Tim

couldn’t stop thinking about your “organizational beauty” question on top of
my previous post and here are a few more thoughts.

You take the bee colony as an example of beautiful organization and I would agree. The focus of the bees, however, is not so much on innovation but on robustness and survival. So innovation might require a specific view on organization.

Your question tries to map the abstract concept of organization to the abstract concept of beauty (and throwing in innovative-ness as a third) and I feel you probably need to put some “facts” in the mapping process.

So I would start by identifying measurable criteria/factors assumed to be relevant for innovation and organization like: team size, different areas of knowledge/competency involved in innovation process, number of
contacts required in teams, geographical distribution of teams, speed and levels of decision making within organization, innovator archetypes involved in teams, distribution of power within team (equal votes vs. few leaders).
I would then put this in some tool that could translate this for different organizations into a visual representation, e.g. using Processing and tree diagrams (see for example http://www.generative-gestaltung.de/M_6_4_01_TOOL ).

Playing around with this I guess you could already see whether there is beauty, e.g. very colorful or evenly distributed patterns in specific organizations.

Coming to the organizational archetypes for innovation you could feed organizational structures for teams which could be considered innovative/creative and look at the results, e.g. film studios/tv productions, ad agencies, research institutes, product design/development firms, startups, etc.

I would think that this could also generate some overarching principles for innovative teams, e.g. like Gore’s “not more than 150 people in one organization” or Shaker-like principles you already mentioned.

Visual thinking on a global scale

Just found this masterpiece of visual explanation by Dan Roam in the Internet. The key is the demonstration of the power of the visual explanation.
Personally, working in and with many global teams I spend a lot of time in teleconferences and web meetings where much of this power is lost. The maximum of visual input is a set of prepared slides that are shown. The creative power of standing at a whiteboard and jointly developing a (visual) understanding of the problem and solution is not or hardly possible.
Just by coincidence SAP today launched a new product StreamWork which enables Internet-based collaboration, but watching some of the demo videos it appears is also focuses on formal structures like presenations, to-to-lists, tasks, etc.
It is also interesting to watch the excellent presentation of Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO) at Serious Play conference, where he discusses IDEO’s approach to brainstorming and creativity. Obviously thinking with hands and brainstorming and personal interaction are key to innovation and creativity.
Being a very visual person I’m still looking for Internet-based tools to support this visual interactions. Actually it would be interesting to know whether Internet-based global collaboration changes our decision making and creative process.

99 reasons to buy

Cleaning up my desk I came across a flyer from the Bachler-Team, a training and consulting company from Austria. The flyer lists “99 Reasons to decide for the Bachler-Team”. Picking up the flyer when we had an off-site session at their beautiful location in Abtenau a few years ago, my boss asked me to have something similar for our products.

So I started collecting ideas and reasons, but only managed to get to roughly 35.

Now picking it up again I started thinking: Is it better to have 99 reasons, which is quite a lot, or rather have 2 or 3 very compelling reasons? While the flyer obviously is intended to be a little fun and not meant to be too serious, in the meantime I strongly believe that the few compelling reasons are the key for successful business.

Many reasons are intended to match the expectations of as many potential customers as possible, but it is almost impossible to fulfill 99 promises.

Theater in the Internet Age

Over the weekend I heard a radio interview with famous german theater actor Rolf Boysen. He will turn 90 the next days and had some great insights to share.
However, the main point that struck me was not so much any specifics he mentioned but the my question what the theater would look like in the Internet Age with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube.
The worldview in almost all theater plays today, especially classical ones – and Rolf Boysen is especially known for playing King Lear – is about people interacting face to face in a real, physical world.
Today people are more and more interacting via email, facebook, twitter, skype, i.e. not in a real world but in a virtual world.
So would theater in the Internet Age being people exchangig tweets, would we need actors at all and would they just sit in front of PCs to write their messages to big screens?
Or would the actors actually read their texts aloud?
What kind of training would actors need in the future?
And what about the audience, wouldn’t it be very boring just reading text from screens?
Would the audience actually still assemble at a theater as a physical location or would they just meet in the Internet to watch / read the play at home ?
Could we actually start by adapting classical plays for Twitter ?
(and by doing so discover what is lost in a virtual world)