Posts tagged “stanford”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Start-Ups Follow Twitter, and Become Neighbors [] – [The supposed demand to be co-located in the same office building as Twitter, hoping for some f2f meatspace benefits from proximity to a virtual powerhouse] And so he snagged an office at 795 Folsom, Twitter’s headquarters in the SoMa neighborhood. There, he has been stalking executives on — where else? — Twitter, to see who is to visit Twitter’s offices. When he finds out, he pounces and “hijacks the meeting,” he said, by asking them to swing by his company, Klout. By doing that, he has met Robert Scoble, the influential technology blogger, and Steve Rubel, director of insights for the digital division of Edelman, the big public relations firm, and has spotted Kanye West in the lobby on his way to Twitter. Through elevator and lobby run-ins, he has also forged a close enough relationship with Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, that Mr. Costolo is helping Klout raise venture capital. “Now I have his cellphone, and I text him,” Mr. Fernandez said.
  • [from steve_portigal] User-centered Innovation in Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability class [SF Chronicle] – [The article mostly focuses on a specific innovative design – a low-cost incubator-type-solution for Nepal; but the most quotable bits were towards the end, where they discuss the operating framework of this class.] About to start its eighth year in January, the class has completed about 60 projects for 15 partner organizations in 10 countries. It brings together students from different academic backgrounds…They all have one goal in common: to design products for the poor and to treat them as customers rather than handing them our leftovers and castoffs. "We are trying to figure out what they want and need," said Jim Patell, the Stanford professor who leads the class. "It is not our job to tell them what they want."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Six scientists tell us about the most accurate science fiction in their fields [Mad Science io9] – [Brief interviews with scientists discussing where some of the real science resides in our science fiction. Great comments thread, including this one: "The other side of the coin is how has science benefited from science fiction stories."] Ronald Arkin, director of the Mobile Robotics Lab, Georgia Tech: "Realistic depictions of robots are pretty boring, so there's not much to say on what is accurate or not. No positronic brains, no running amok killing everyone and everything. I guess that's the fiction in science fiction. You watch enough videos of robots at real research conferences and it's hard to stay awake… Anyway, [one] comes to mind that is a bit more accurate than most: Hal 9000, in 2001, apart from his apparent psychotic episode, is a robotic system that people live inside. Current research agendas, in human-robot interaction, task planning, command and control, etc., could conceivably lead to such an intelligent system."
  • [from steve_portigal] Will You Try My Paper iPhone App? [Techcrunch] – [Stanford HCI student gets soundly criticized for seeking feedback on paper prototype with actual users! The drama – as often on the web – really takes off in the comments.] When I looked down at his hands, however, instead of an iPhone, he held a few pieces of paper with wireframe drawings in pencil. This was his app. I was supposed to pretend the paper was an iPhone screen and press the hand-drawn buttons as I shuffled through the flow. The idea is that you could point your camera at a magazine rack and get digital versions of the magazines, which you could preview on your iPhone and then purchase individual articles or the entire magazine. It made a lot more sense when he did it (see video). Now, there is nothing wrong with getting your ideas down on paper or paper prototypes to work out the kinks before you start coding. But you might want to wait until you have an actual working app on an iPhone before testing it out in the wild and asking for feedback from normal people.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Rankings [Customer Experience Matters] – # Retailers take 12 out of the top 20 spots. Most of the top rated companies on the list are retailers. Hotels also grabbed three of the top 20 spots. Interestingly, three financial services firms also cracked the top 20: credit unions, SunTrust Bank, and Vanguard.
    # Healthcare, Internet and TV services dominate the bottom. The bottom 11 companies on the list came from only four industries: five health insurance plans (United Healthcare, Medicaid, Anthem, and CIGNA), three ISPs (Charter Communications, Comcast, and Qwest), two TV service providers (Charter Communications and Comcast), and one credit card provider (HSBC).
  • Can Design Change Behavior? [Stanford School of Engineering] – Because behavior can be influenced—not just observed—it provides an important opportunity for tackling complex challenges such as sustainability. That opportunity is perhaps best addressed with design…With this outlook, Banerjee says he is excited to be one of the principal investigators in a new project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy in which he is working with other Stanford professors who have expertise in behavioral sciences, communications, human-computer interaction, and behavioral economics. The team aims to create interventions that influence behavior to bring about significant reductions in energy use. But what designers understand well is that people are “predictably irrational” and influenced by emotional as well as rational criteria, Banerjee says.
  • The Art of Asking the Question [UIE Brain Sparks] – Steve Portigal will show your team the art of asking the question. You might visit the user in their office or home, have them come to you for a usability test, or even have a chance encounter at a trade show or while waiting for an airplane. Do you know what to ask? Do you know what to listen for, to extract the critical detail of what they can tell you about your design?

    Steve will help you prepare your team for any opportunity, be it formal user research or less structured, ad-hoc research. He’ll also give you tips on how to work with your stakeholders and executives, who may also be meeting potential customers and users, so they know what to ask and how to listen—integrating their efforts into the research team. (Wouldn’t it be great if they understood why you’re doing what you’re doing?)

    Update: Use promotion code CHITTAHCHATTAH to get lifetime free access to the recording after the fact (normally a separate cost)

Stefan Sagmeister, Performance Ideator


Graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister gave a wonderful talk Wednesday night at Stanford, as part of the David H. Liu Memorial Lectures in Design series. He focused on Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far, a group of projects based on a list of personal maxims he took from his diary.

For me, the highlight of the talk came when someone in the audience asked about Sagmeister’s ideation methods. After mentioning “hotel rooms in foreign cities,” Stefan described an Edward DeBono lateral thinking approach which involves looking at a project from “a completely nonsensical point of view.” Then he picked up his water bottle and did an off-the-cuff ideation that created a perfect little gem of a moment.

I’ve paraphrased a bit, but this captures how he talked through his process:

“Say you were going to design a new water bottle. You could base it on a . . . zipper” (the choice was triggered by a zipper on the jacket of an audience member in the front row).

“Let’s see, it could interlock” (demonstrates by spreading and interlocking his fingers), “You could have 2 that go together . . . maybe a 4-liter bottle that comes into 4 parts. That wouldn’t be too bad.” (pause)

“Not bad. DeBono would be proud.”

From start to finish, this ideation took about 10 seconds, and it was just a great illustration of a creative thinking process.

This demonstration, coupled with a caution Stefan made about the dangers of starting ideation from existing solutions and opinions, got me thinking about the art of research.

Design research is often positioned as a kind of counterbalance to the type of creative act I’ve just described. But, when it’s well-practiced, research includes a juxtaposing and synthesizing of ideas that is similar in creative process to the bottle+zipper riff. Just as with other aspects of the design process, research culminates in possibilities for new ways that things can go together. For design researchers, the materials for this synthesis include a deep and focused exploration of people: behaviors, bodies, meaning, culture, complaints, wishes, lies and truths.

At the beginning of the night, Stefan talked about his fear of doing graphic design primarily for other graphic designers, comparing it to playing “music for other musicians.” He said at a later point, “If you can reach a mass audience with good quality, that’s the highest honor” (and listed the Arch of St. Louis, The Simpsons, and the Champs Elysees as examples).

The beauty of integrating a focused understanding of people into the whole design process-using it as one of the basic materials with which to design-is that what comes out the other end of the pipe will be imbued not only with the vision of its creators but with the soul of that wider audience as well.

Innovation and Persuasion?

Diego asks for ideas for the next course he might teach (co-creation anyone?). If you’ve got ideas, add ’em here or at his site (see previous link). I’d like to see a class about innovation and persuasion. As Roger Martin talks about there are some very different mental models (my phrase, not his) in the worlds of design and business. Indeed, some systems inside organizations serve as antibodies to hunt down and destroy intruders in order to keep the body healthy (oops, metaphor overload here)…rejecting processes and ideas that could be innovative. How does design thinking as a process begin to address that? The design challenge (as Martin sorta says) is not only the problem itself but the means to move the solution through the organization to where it’s championed and adopted.

That’d be a fun course.

Roger Martin and Design and Business

Last night we went to Stanford to see Roger Martin from U of Toronto’s Rotman B-school talk about Business and Design. This seems to be the identical talk he’s been giving this year at other events, as many of the slides looked familiar just from blog browsing.

I took a lot of notes but I’m probably not going to type up a summary of the talk if others have done so. For now, I’ll point you to other summaries such as this one (scroll down to “The Highlight of Day One: Roger Martin-Designing in Hostile Territory”), here, and here. You can find his slides from a previous presentation here. Yesterday’s presentation included a final slide that talked about how businesses can become more creative and innovative, essentially by transitioning from a traditional firm to a design shop, at least in part. He identified several categories of change.

In the Flow of Work Life, move from ongoing tasks and permanent roles to projects with defined terms.

In the Style of Work, move from defined roles and waiting til its right to collaboration and iteration.

In the Mode of Thinking, move from deduction and induction to deduction, induction, and abduction (where you ask what might be)

In Status, move from managing big budgets and stuff to solving wicked problems.

In Attitude move from “only what we have budget for” and “constraints are the enemy” to “nothing can not be done” and “constraints increase challenge and excitement”

There wasn’t a ton of shocking new material in his presentation, but it’s a mostly clear framework that explains well. I was definitely reminded a great deal of the presentation that Tom Mulhern and I did back in 2004 at About, With, and For on Buttoned-Down Creativity.

It was a mostly-talking presentation, with a lot of big images that supported stories, so the slides are hardly stand-alone, but maybe worth a quick visit. I think Mulhern and I could have gone further and written an article or two; we still could, of course, because I think we had some good ideas and a more tactical and sympathetic approach than Martin is taking.

Antonelli at Stanford

My thoughts on the Paola Antonelli talk at Stanford are posted on Core77.

Not included in that writeup is my rant about how ridiculous un-navigable Stanford campus is. I’ve been there dozens of times over the years but we still got lost trying to find the building we wanted (and their fancy Internet map website isn’t at all usable, giving you a tiny little window), relying on directions posted on the Stanford site (that proved to be inaccurate). There’s no signage or other wayfinding. Buildings are joined together in a way that makes it hard to see where the “next” building is; an entrance may or may not exist, with small letting on that door (which is 40 feet and up stairs from the pathway) indicating the name of the building and the building number.

We got lost even retracing our steps back to the car afterwards. The campus is poorly lit and every building looks the same; there’s no visual cues to figure out where you came from.

Like so many other things, it’s designed for the people that are already there. It’s not designed for newcomers or even regular occasional visitors such as myself.

Saffo speaks

As part of the David H. Liu Memorial Lecture Series at Stanford, Paul Saffo from the Institute for the Future spoke briefly last night, in a talk entitled The case of the blind venetians; reflections on innovation and what makes Silicon Valley tick

Saffo is a great speaker, lots of anecdotes and metaphors and implications and sidebars, so any attempt to summarize is going to be incredibly flat. Nevertheless, it was a simplistic story he told: in essence that Silicon Valley is a specialized version of the California myth, which is a distillation of the American Dream (that’s my synthesis, as you’ll see, he didn’t quite say that)

Loose notes:

In the history of Silicon Valley there have been so many innovations. We lurch from failure to failure, we know how to fail. The death of the Interactive TV industry had programmers and technologies just waiting, so the Web industry was able to move right into the same place.

Bad management is good for innovation (looking at all the famous Silicon Valley companies that are badly managed, i.e., Steve Jobs). Good management kills innovative ideas. Don’t read management books.

What does the culture of this area (Silicon Valley) offer up in terms of how we accept failure? We permit failure, unlike Seattle, France, or Sweden, where one failure can tar a reputation forever, going bankrupt can bring shame. There are consequences to failure here, but they aren’t lethal.

But why here? Why does it keep repeating?

California is a place that is fueled by dreams, against all odds. Consider the meme of California even going back to Spanish literature of 1500s – originally envisioned as an island, but despite multiple proofs that it was indeed part of the mainland, the idea that it is an island continued to appear on maps for many years – decades and more.

As trite as it sounds, California is still a place where dreams are believed to come true. From the Gold Rush, Hollywood, early aviation – many of which started elsewhere in the US but took strongest root in California, and despite the fact that success came to very few of those who tried, the story of the dream persists.

For innovators, you have to kid yourself, because if you looked at things realistically, you’d give up. Keep the dream alive.


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