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.

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Rules to break and laws to follow

I know I am not reading all of the business books a well-rounded user experience professional is supposed to read these days (in topics like business and design, change management, business of experience), but I have kept up with the "1 to 1" series by Martha Rogers and Don Peppers. The next installment is due out in February: Rules to Break and Laws to Follow.

This one looks like it will be right up my alley, knitting in many things I have learned while focused on web user experiences the last decade or so.

An excerpt from a recent 1to1 magazine article (you need an account to read the article online). Added emphasis is by me.

To succeed with your business today, you might need to start breaking some rules -- rules that for the past century or so have underpinned most businesses' efforts to grow, meet financial goals, and make shareholders happy.

As we scanned the business landscape researching our next book, it became apparent to us that new interactive and information technologies have created a dramatically different business environment -- an environment in which customers share information with other customers easily and efficiently, the pace of technological change is not just rapid but accelerating, and organizational structures are becoming less important as the lowliest employees can leap tall hierarchies in a single click.

They list three "rules to break" in the article:

  • The best measure of success for your business is current sales and profit. Short-term optimization leads to long-term problems. Give tools to your employees so they can provide a quality customer experience. And then trust them to do a good job. That will give you the customer trust you need for long-term success.
  • With the right sales and marketing effort, you can always get more customers. Customers are the scarce resource and now that they are all connected, you cannot focus on only the one-to-one relationship with a single customer. You need to address the social network around each customer.
  • Company value is created by offering differentiated products and services. Products and services are important, of course, but they mean nothing without customers. When you measure the value of your company based on your customers (instead of your inventory or revenue or costs), the customer experience becomes a key factor. A bad experience by a single customer: the value of your company goes down just a little bit. Good experience: value rises a little. The touch points all add up. We can track these small changes better now with technology. And because customers are so well connected to each other, a small pebble dropped in the customer experience pond can ripple out to a large wave.

I am looking forward to reading the other rules to break and which laws are still worth following. Some of the topics listed in the table of contents that sound interesting to me:

  • A "Perfect Storm" of New Technologies
  • Which Do You Choose? Customers or Money?
  • Treat Employees the Way You Want Them to Treat Customers
  • Galloping Decentralization Means Culture is More Important
  • Reputations Go Online
  • Technology Seen Through the Wrong End of the Telescope
  • Customer-Inspired Innovation
  • Technology, Progress, and Change
  • The Power of the Network

I notice that this book is published by Wiley, part of their "Microsoft Executive Leadership Series". This may be the first book in the series.

Finally, with a new book comes the book tour. I might get to attend the first stop, January 22, sponsored by the University of Toledo Center for Family Business. The talk will be at The Pinnacle, which is 1.8 miles away. It is nice that Martha starts her tour in her "hometown".

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AIGA Toledo chapter

I just discovered that we now have an AIGA local chapter in the area, AIGA Toledo. Yeah! Amy Fidler and Jenn Stucker issued a call for participation in July and had the first organizational meeting in April. Since becoming an official chapter, the group has hosted Marian Bantjes in September and a social gathering in October (with Flickr photos from both events). Amy and Jenn have collaborated on other things, too.

Before the Toledo chapter was formed, local AIGA members had the option of driving to Detroit or Cleveland for meetings. There is also an AIGA chapter in Cincinnati.

I was an AIGA member years ago, when it had an active Experience design community of practice. I am no longer an AIGA member, but one of the hi-lites of DUX was meeting AIGA members (the "dressed in black" crowd): as we talked about user experience, the differences in our backgrounds did not really matter.

AIGA Toledo represents the first truly local chapter related to user experience. As a UXnet Local Ambassador, I hope I will be able to help them incorporate the right mix of user experience topics into their programs so they can help serve the broader UX community in Northwest Ohio.

I will still be hanging out in the Ann Arbor/Detroit, Cleveland, Dayton and Columbus areas to connect with UX professionals in the region, but it will be nice to also have a connection with colleagues closer to home through our new AIGA chapter.

Thanks to Amy and Jenn and everyone else who helped form AIGA Toledo. This is great news for the area.

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Collaboration week in Chicago

I am fortunate to be in Chicago now, where all sorts of collaborations across the various UX-related disciplines are happening. Today and tomorrow are face-to-face meetings with other User Experience Network volunteers (at the IIT Institute of Design). Then several days of the "fowl" every-two-years AIGA-SIGGRAPH-SIGCHI shindig, DUX: Designing for User Experience conference. Then on Thursday, World Usability Day Chicago: November 8th is the one day this year we can all get along.

Outside-in Software Development

IBM Press has another good book out (on the heels of Do It Wrong Quickly).

My copy is still being shipped, so I have not looked at the book in detail. From what I have heard / read, the "outside-in / stakeholder" theme merges Agile methods (stakeholder = "Agile customer") and user experience methods (stakeholder = "end user"). "Consumability" and "Outside-in design" are key parts of the IBM Software strategy. (Consumability: making products easier to install, configure, deploy and maintain.)

To learn more about the book, you can see previews on Safari and read Carl's blog Outside-in Thinking [URL update on Nov-16-2007]. And of course,'s entry for the book (where I managed to buy a "used" copy that is new but very inexpensive, not sure how that works).

Catalyze Webcast, October 29th

Thanks for all the messages-of-support about the upcoming Catalyze webcast about UXnet. See my other blog posting for links to some of the things we will talk about. The Catalyze marketing engine is impressive, so I think there will be plenty of attendees. I will post a version of the presentation here (and other places) afterwards. See you on the webcast tomorrow.

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Succeeding through Service Innovation

I was asked to give feedback on the IBM/University of Cambridge discussion paper Succeeding through Service Innovation. Like many such requests, it was prefaced with "it should only take an hour" - I do not know how long it took me to read it, and comment on it, then to turn my feedback into something that made sense. It was much more than an hour. But at least I am done now, and it was worth it.

We shall see what, if any, aspects of my feedback appear as the "green paper" evolves into a "white paper." Most of my comments come from looking at service science and innovation through the lens of user experience (and my focus on corporate information architecture for almost a decade). Some of the things I found most interesting about the document:

  • In Section 1, I like that fact that they proposed extending the "Service Science, Management and Engineering" with a "D" for design. Adding more letters does not appeal to me - too many already - but adding in "design" (even though it is such a mooshy term) is one way to increase the focus on the human element (which I think does not come through enough in SSME literature in general).
  • Also in Section 1, I think the shift to a "try before you buy" economy helps customers focus more on the value of the end-to-end services instead of only considering the surface features of the product, like the price. The obligatory mention of "Web 2.0" was included.
  • In Section 2.2, key questions about architecture are listed, but I think they are missing one. How do we architect a service system to enable a quality experience for the people involved? (Both the customers and the front-stage staff that interact with them.) We all have a lot of stories about how hard it is to design for a quality experience when the fundamental building blocks of the system do not fit together ("lipstick on a pig"). And an even harder challenge: design an architecture for a service system that lets you build a seamless experience with a different service system.
  • In Section 3, the 4 clusters made sense to me because I see a large corporate web site as an example of something that includes all of them. It has the (1) marketing element, with (4) tons of information, requiring (2) sophisticated software engineering and metrics, and based on (3) a thorough understanding of individual and group behavior.
  • In section 4, I agree with the need for "inter" disciplinary instead of "super" or "multi" (but the "inter" diagram needs to look like a network, not a ring).
  • Also in Section 4, I like the "broad and deep" skill analogy, even though I am not sure "T-shaped people" is the right way to explain it. Nonetheless, we UX folks have been arguing about this for a while already. Examples: one Peter likes the T while another Peter thinks more holistically and suggests balanced teams should be the goal.
  • In Section 5, the recommendations were lacking an emphasis on the human element and enabling innovative experiences.

All in all, I see enough synergy between service science and user experience that I plan on seeing what other connections are useful to make. Feels like the tip of an iceberg.

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IBM Joins User Experience Race

I remember reading this back in May, but I guess I never blogged it back then. Better late than never: IBM Joins User Experience Race. Quotes from Mike Rhodin, Lotus, and their commitment to user experience. Too bad there were not quotes from the many other parts of IBM that are also racing for the UX checkered flag.

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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