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Innovation, change

Innovation (technology perspective) and Organizational change (process perspective) from a human-centered perspective.

World Smart & Usable Planet Day?

Are "Smart Planet" and "World Usability Day" a match made in heaven or is it a silly idea to link them together?

Smart Planet is the buzz within IBM. More than just our next marketing ploy around "innovation" and unlike the declaration that the web was for real, this is something bigger. I am no expert at it (and I was not one of the bloggers given early warning), but I did know it was coming since ibm.com is going to be an important part of whatever it turns out to be.

Here are a few of the things that I have been watching/reading (the things I can share with you, at least):

There are many aspects that interest for me. A few things Sam mentioned during the Q&A of his talk hit home the most. One was mentioning Service science efforts within IBM. Another were the ways we have to work to solve these problems: multi-disciplinary, end-to-end, and collaboratively. Sounds like how I have worked as a user experience professional for many years. And the third piece is the overall importance that connecting things via web technologies will be, something else I am starting to get pretty good at.

What does this have to do with World Usability Day (which is going on as I write this, on the other side of the globe from me)?

  1. This year's theme is WUD Transportation: see the Global Transportation Challenge, read transportation experiences and many of the events will focus on transportation issues. For Smart Planet, one of the examples is about changing driving behavior.
  2. Last year WUD was about Healthcare, another common problem cited in the Smart Planet work.
  3. More generally, my participation in WUD the past few years has forced me to think more planet wide, more "worldly." I think it has helped prepare me for something like Smart Planet.
  4. I suspect I could make many more connections between the Earth-Day inspired World Usability Day and Smart Planet, but this is getting too long already. You get my point.

I have zero pull within IBM, but it makes sense to me that IBM should sponsor it in some way in 2009. If the company is really serious about Smart Planet, it needs to start sponsoring ways to foster the conversation, and World Usability Day 2009, with a theme of "Smart Planet" would be the perfect fit for a design thinking angle. If Sam gives me a call [LOL] then I will happily introduce him to Elizabeth Rosenzweig.

So as I reflect on this blog posting, and in anticipation of my World Usability Day starting tomorrow, I am left with one last thought.

User experience and information architecture cannot solve the world's problems, but with a push from the business world, the right political climate, and some inspiration, I am ready, willing and able to chip in and do my part. I do not really care what we call it.

IBM Total User Experience Innovation

Check out the July 22nd BusinessWeek: Innovation of the Week podcast:

  • R&D: The D Is for Design. "How research and development must change. Monty Montague, a principal at innovation consultancy Bolt, discusses how incorporating design into traditional R and D departments has led to major innovations at companies ranging from IBM to Herman Miller."

The basic question: "What is the relationship between research and innovation?" A few overall notes:

  • Innovation defined as "invention that gets out in the world" (debatable: "and provides value")
  • Do demand-driven research, not supply-driven (e.g., "outside-in" not "inside-out" which is the more traditional way)
  • Colt 45s and individualized blender examples
  • Key is "making connections" with the outside (customers, users, other industries)
  • The "D" is becoming more than just "development", including "design" (and design thinking)
  • Product, service and process innovation (not just products)

At about 6 and a half minutes into the interview. Monty starts talking about IBM. I may have transcribed some of the words wrong, but here is the basic quote:

Total user experience is how IBM has, not only through research and through revamping of their business model, developed innovative products, but they are innovating the user experience. And that is part of what R&D needs to do today. It needs to not consider itself a "product R&D group," but an "experience R&D group." And look at not only the development of the product, but the development of the user guide for the product, the service center for the product, the call center, the people calling to get information about the product, the selling environment in which the product is sold. All of those are touchpoints for the consumer that are as important as the product and the R&D team can be the facilitator of the innovation around all of those. And IBM has done that.

He does not mention specific examples or sources, but it is a very nice thing to say about IBM.

Since Monty seems like such a smart guy, I did a little searching for other things he has written. I only found a few:

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Getting to "we"

When I first read Getting to "we" in the April 2008 Communications of the ACM, I really liked two things about the article:

  • The 4 categories of Information sharing, Coordination, Cooperation, and Collaboration, with technology examples for each. Good framework: I will throw those terms around more carefully now.
  • The mention of whole system change methods like Appreciative inquiry and Charrettes to get to collaboration. The Change Handbook includes a lot more methods. Over the past 2 years, I have found the Nexus for Change conference a great way to learn more about these methods.

(You can download the article from ACM above. It is also available at The Profession of IT series from Peter J. Denning.)

A few other folks thought this article was also worth mentioning:

  • Thomas Vander Wal points out that "most of the tools and services...do not even come close" to what we need for collaboration.
  • Jack Vinson expands on "collaboration and community" and ties in another CACM article about social ties.
  • Mark Lindsey summarizes the punchline of the article: "collaboration comes by failure of other plans".

Weeks later after first reading it, I am still finding it useful (I have gone back to it several times lately), so I decided to mention it here. This article is another nice data point on the "IT systems" meets "social change" landscape for me.

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Nexus for Change II

It is time to start planning for Nexus for Change II, a conference at nearby Bowling Green State University (March 29 - April 1) about participative change methods. If you have been to a BarCamp or Unconference, you may have experienced one of these methods, Open Space Technology. The Word Cafe and Appreciative Inquiry are other change methods (buy The Change Handbook for even more).

The first two days of the conference is "Nexus U" - "U" for "university" and "you" - where you will learn the basics of whole system change principles and delve into a few of the methods. The 2nd half of the conference is about interacting with other professionals in this emerging community. And, of course, the conference has been designed by change agents to make sure you experience the methods as you share and learn about the methods.

Why would a user experience professional be interested in this conference? Many times organizational hurdles get in the way of quality user experiences. Fundamental changes in the business, processes or culture are needed in order to pull off what customers and other users need. User experience practitioners and information architects are becoming agents of change.

The Nexus for Change II conference is a way to learn about change methods and to immerse yourself in them. If we want to be change agents, we should learn from the professionals who specialize in it. Being able to better facilitate change will make you a more effective UX professional - just having the traditional user-centered design methods at your disposal are not enough.

I think user experience professionals can also contribute to the change methods toolbox. Often user research we do is a key aspect driving change (for example, when the Voice of the Customer is one of the compelling reasons for change in an IT organization). We also tend to be in tune with the impact of technology on change. If "improve the user experience or else we will go out of business" is what people are talking about within your company, then a combination of user experience and whole system change methods may be what you need.

I attended last year and will be there this year. Hope to see some of my UX friends there.

[Technorati tag ]

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Real politics

I usually do not pay attention to real politics, instead only dealing with corporate politics in my day-to-day job. Two things are slightly changing that.

First, a friend is running for Congress so I am reading Ohio political blogs now and observing how the Ohio 5th district candidates are using the Internet.

Second, Hillary Clinton's Innovation Agenda came up at work. Notice this section on "services science" and some of the wording used (italics added by me for emphasis):

Create the Services Science Initiative. The services sector now accounts for approximately 80% of the U.S. economy. Nevertheless, innovation is rarely associated with the generation and delivery of services. Companies are increasingly carrying out service R&D, but there is no discipline that promotes innovation and productivity in the services sector in the same way that electrical engineering, for example, has led to technological advances in the development of the computer chip. Accordingly, Hillary will create a Services Science Initiative. Modeled on the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the federal government will help support R&D in services; support and encourage cross-disciplinary research that draws on fields such as computer science, management, operations, and organizational behavior; and also facilitate the dissemination of knowledge. The Services Science Initiative will help improve the competitiveness of American business, and in the process, create jobs.

Now compare this to some of the phrases IBM uses to describe Service Science, Management, and Engineering and its academic initiative, like "multi-disciplinary research and academic effort that integrates aspects of established fields such as computer science, operations research, engineering, management sciences, ...". And IBM has helped form the Service Research & Innovation Initiative with similar goals to Hillary's.

I have no idea what is going on here, just noticing common themes. It is not every day that a candidate talks about something I am dealing with at work.

The last time I think I paid this much to government policy was during the first Conference on Universal Usability in 2000 when I heard about the economic policy for digital opportunity.

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The Information Architect as Change Agent

Matthew Clarke has a new article on Boxes and Arrows about The Information Architect as Change Agent. I have not read it carefully yet (too early in the morning), but I added a comment about how I have come to many of the same conclusions through my "innovation and change" investigation.

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Abundance, errors and measurement

Chris Anderson of Long tail fame compares the "economic" models of abundance with scarcity. (I found it reading Abundance and UX at UX Magazine.) He explains that user experience improvements like the GUI are the result of thinking as computing power as an abundant resource, vs. poorer experiences because you have limited CPU cycles. A summary:

ScarcityAbundance
ROI memo, get green-lighted for a large projectWe will figure it out because it costs so little to try it out, do small projects
Forbidden unless permittedPermitted unless forbidden
We (central authority) know what is bestYou (users, audience, market) know what is best
Top-downBottoms-up
Command and control corporate managementOut of control: let it happen, measure it, dynamically respond, amplify good, suppress bad

This reminded me of a new book that is coming out for marketers: Do it wrong quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules. Disclaimer: the author, Mike Moran, is my former manager at IBM and I gave him feedback while he was writing the book.

Like Chris' message, you will hear about trying something small, measuring, and then altering your course of action. Mike uses the catchy "do it wrong" message: when there is an abundance, you can afford to make mistakes, and you are better off quickly making smaller errors.

If you have found the experimentation and risk-taking mentality a problem where you have worked, then tell Mike your "most egregious tales of delay, indecision, paralysis by analysis, and refusal to try things out" and win a prize. Better yet: the person who you write about will be sent a copy of the book.

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More notes from Entrepreneurial Thinking conference

The Entrepreneurial Thinking conference was well worth it. I look forward to the next one on April 18th, 2008.

Alan Webber (adding to my quick notes)

  • He did not have slides, so this is what stayed up on screen as he talked: Expert on change and innovation in the knowledge economy.
  • Two things matter for business success: Innovation and Leadership. That is where you stand out. (The rest are important but taken for granted.) They are two sides of the same coin. Innovation: upset status quo to create new value. Leadership: guide/create positive change, master the art of change. That means the coin is called Change.
  • Three brutal facts of business life: Globalization, Technology, Human capital. My favorite quote (paraphrased): "Web 2.0 is a buzzword that means: If the work is not moving to India or China, then it will move to the web." Human capital - it really means "hire the best people." Interesting stat: The top programmers are 10,000 times more productive than average ones.
  • In the TINA questions, I of course liked the fact that "customer's skin" and "design" are next to each other. Good quotes: "Know your customers better than they know themselves," "Your web site instantly communicates your brand values" and "Design is a signal of intention."
  • The best question for Alan was about open systems. The old model of a great business was that you controlled everything within your corporate boundaries.

Guy Kawasaki

  • Worth the price of admission. Very inspiring. And funny. Great presenter. (Guy is one of the judges in SlideShare's World Best Presentation Contest.)
  • His talk was titled "The art of innovation" and it was very similar to his "art of the start" talks. There are several copies of his Art of the Start floating around - here is one on SlideShare and another.
  • Since some of his points were different, I will list them here., with short notes. (Update: PDF attached below.)
  1. Make meaning (the money comes from the meaning but you cannot make meaning just from money)
  2. Make mantra (not mission statements)
  3. Jump to the next curve (10 times better, not 10% better)
  4. Roll the DICEE (Deep, Intelligent, Complete, Elegant, Emotive)
  5. Don't worry, be crappy (ship and then test, but only revolutionary products can get away with this)
  6. Polarize people (if you design for everyone, it works for no one)
  7. Let 100 flowers blossom (spread it widely because you will get unanticipated customers)
  8. Churn, baby, churn (hardest part is shifting from "do not listen to the people who tell you it is impossible" before shipping to evolutionary mode - "listen to your users" - after shipping)
  9. Niche thyself (high value + unique product - high and to the right on the charts)
  10. Follow the 10/20/30 rule (for pitching ideas - 10 slides, 20 minutes of talking and then discussion, 30 point font)
  11. Don't let the bozos grind you down (innovation is about seeing the next curve, those stuck in the current curve will get in your way)
  • I now get the last quote in Guy's presentation, where he calls himself a bozo. "It's too far to drive, and I don't see how it can be a business." He interviewed for the job as CEO of Yahoo! when it was first starting, when it was only a hierarchy of links. He figures it was a 2 billion dollar "no thanks." Correction: I originally wrote "was offered" the CEO job - thanks Guy for clarifying that point.
  • One of the questions stumped Guy and set him off on a trail that mentioned his near-divorce and ended up with him buying his way into heaven, on a first class airline seat. I could not hear the original question, but it was something like "How has your coolness factor affected the impact that you have had?" Guy gave an Orel Hershiser answer ("aw, shucks, I am just a regular guy"). Not sure if he was referencing Orel since he went to BGSU or if Orel is some standard for humility.
  • I did not realize Guy was a hockey fan (seems obvious now from this cartoon). He was given a BGSU hockey jersey - I need a copy of the photograph of him and coach Scott Paluch for my office wall. Too bad we could not arrange for Guy to play some hockey during his visit (like he did in Minnesota in January). The guys I play with at BGSU had ice time Friday morning. The next time Guy visits, we will definitely have to get him on the ice and see if his hockey skills are as awesome as his keynote presentation skills.
  • Other things

    • I hung out a lot with the great folks at Hanson. Very nice to have them involved. Shared a lot of great ideas for nurturing the user experience community in the area.
    • BGSU is doing other good things. I did not take notes on this part, since I was eating, but from what I remember: A new program where a cohort of students go thru the business program with a cohort of multi-disciplinary teachers. A way for alumni to come back for "lifelong learning." A new WBGU-TV program of interviews with entrepreneurs, starring Martha Rogers. (I will blog this more as I learn more - or someone who knows the details can add a comment here.)
    • There are other events happening at BGSU this weekend, none of which I can attend. The one I really will miss is Oprah's dress (not).
    • Keith Trowbridge, Executive Quest, is quite the character - I attended the break-out session where he spoke. Stories ranging from how he got the curling rink built to the "BGSU mafia" to his innovative timeshare business.

    Quick notes from Alan Webber talk

    Most people were scribbling down Alan's 12 TINA (There is No Alternative) questions, so I will blog them first and do other notes from the Entrepreneurial Thinking conference later.

    1. Do you have the right kind of leadership for your organization?
    2. Are you playing a bigger game?
    3. Are you getting more than your fair share of truly great people?
    4. Is your culture about teamwork or "all for yourself"?
    5. Is your corporate DNA diverse enough?
    6. Are you living inside your customers' skins?
    7. Do you know what your company's design is saying about you?
    8. Do you know what your company stands for?
    9. Is technology a cost or a way of doing business?
    10. Is your company a talk show?
    11. Are you a fast company or a slow company?

    Update: Were there 12 questions or 11? I think I may have missed one. Also: Technorati tag: entrepreneurial-thinking.

    Service innovation

    Checking out some of my Innovation resources, I hit Business Innovation from BusinessWeek. "IBM" jumped out at me, leading me to:

    I knew that the Almaden lab was doing service research (excuse the legacy page design). The news here is the announcement of the Service Research & Innovation Initiative. Their first big activity appears to be a symposium on May 30th.

    Jim Spohrer, the IBMer involved with this, used to be active in HCI. Nice to see him move into the "business research" area.

    I see this as the natural progression in The Experience Economy (a book in my UX Zeitgeist). Stages of economic value: Extract commodities, Make goods (product innovation), Deliver services, Stage experiences.

    So when will we get the "Experience Research & Innovation Initiative"? I am kinda surprised "Experience Innovation" was NOT listed as a "next realm of business" in the NextD slash at IA.

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