May 15, 2011

Moving the blog

The Vanity Experiment is moving to

Small change you won't hardly notice if you're browsing online, but if you're reading this via a RSS reader, you'll want to go change the feed address to this: feed://

Why the change? I've been using Movable Type version old.OLD since about 2004, so I decided to get with the times. Bring on Wordpress (which is now running my entire site).

Posted by Ant at 12:41 AM | Discuss (0)

May 04, 2011

Service Design 2011

The service design conference in Sydney held yesterday was really worthwhile.

On reflection, the highlights for me were Opher Yom-Tov's presentation "Designers on the Inside" - a nice "Top-Ten" style preso with some salient points that are well-worth remembering. A few that stuck in my mind and I'd heartily second [paraphrased] were - "Build a vision, but also include the first step toward it" "Just start..." and "Great leaders enable service design to succeed" though on that last one, I think the word 'enable' is a bit soft. I'd say 'mandate' is probably a better aspiration, even if a rare find.

I also enjoyed seeing Melis Senova, from Huddle design talk about the difference between corporates and NGOs. She had a sweet little framework for structuring thinking through the initial brief-gathering phases of a project. Check out her presentation on the Service Design 2011 site to see this simple polar map that shows who, what, how, when... very simple, but the most effective techniques often are.

Richard Beaumont, to use the phrase of a colleague of mine "dropped a Knowledge Bomb" on us with his talk "Designing the ultimate retail service experience". Probaby the most experienced and certainly "The Real Deal", Richard imparted so much, that I only caught half of it, and this is the second time I've seen him deliver the same content. Talk's about a million miles a minute, yet in an entirely entertaining and engaging way. Great content from someone who's been there done that and has bucket-loads to share. Richard, if you read this, to set the record straight, I didn't design any part of Victor Churchill on Queen Street in Woollahra. He asked who'd been there, to which I raised my hand. Maybe I misheard and he asked if anybody in the audience had designed it. I didn't, the talented folks at dreamtime design did. But I agree, the sausage door handle is great.

My presentation (Alongside Technology - Service Design on a Shoestring) was a highlight for me, but mainly because I'm passionate about sharing some stuff we've been learning at Different over the last year or so, which after we did initial strategy pieces, was very much more at the pointy end of implementation and borders on change management.

Here's the presentation.

There are some photos here taken by Erietta Sapounakis who, along with Bec Purser, also helped me a great deal with the content of this presentation (they've been at the coalface this past year).

These presentations stuck out for me. However, every presentation was great in it's own way. There wasn't a single one that was only OK, which as Donna, one of the conference organisers said at the end, is very rare indeed!

Overall, the presentations showed that like most burgeoning design disciplines, as a community we're still trying to find a common language, even though we're doing similar activities to one other - it is, after all, just design thinking in another guise. But we're also feeling for the boundaries. Where does design end and change management begin? How do you "build" a service without crossing into the areas of training and corporate culture? Is that our domain? I think so, but in what capacity we're still figuring out.

Posted by Ant at 03:46 AM | Discuss (0)

February 22, 2011

Interface Spelunking

I recently posted a slightly nerdy interaction design blog post over on the Different Website.

Spelunking is an outmoded term for ‘caving’ - the recreational sport of exploring caves. It can also be a metaphor for user interface exploration, where a user must explore the features or content of a system by diving deep into a ‘cave’ (i.e. area of a system) to do a task, only to need to come out again to do the next task or step.

Interface Spelunking Part 1

Posted by Ant at 09:04 AM | Discuss (0)

December 16, 2010

Why Big Businesses Fail to Innovate

A month or so back, I wrote a blog post on why big businesses typically don't produce very innovative products and services.

Why do so many large, and particularly older organisations find it difficult to innovate? While most understand that creating new and different ways to serve their customers is a path to competitive advantage, few actually do it.

Why is it difficult for someone in a large organisation to do things differently, when in smaller companies, the same person may find no resistance?

Looking at the few large organisations that do innovate consistently, such as Apple, Procter & Gamble, Google and 3M, there are some fundamentally different approaches that can lead to innovation. However, there are also some tenets that govern the culture of innovative organisations that are absent in others. In this regard, it’s valuable to discuss what is absent in the everyday large organisation that impedes innovation...

Read "Why Big Businesses Fail to Innovate" at Different's blog

Posted by Ant at 04:19 PM | Discuss (0)

August 28, 2010

UX Australia 2010

The talk I gave at UX Australia this year was on experience strategy and how you go about creating one. Given the talk was about 45 minutes long, it was necessarily high level. In it, I was able to present the Experience PromiseTM which is a new deliverable for communicating the experience vision. We created it at Different a year or so ago and have been using it with great effect to ground project teams and clients in what the customer experience goal really is. Now I must get on and write a book by the same name. I've been planning to do it this past few years, but procrastination and a manic schedule seems to get in the way. No more excuses! Enjoy the preso.

Posted by Ant at 04:56 PM | Discuss (0)

May 26, 2010

Word of the Day: Homophyly

ho·moph·y·ly [hoh-mof-uh-lee, hoh-muh-fil-lee, hom-uh-fuh-li]

–noun, plural -lies.

1. a resemblance due to common ancestry.

2. the condition of being of the same race.

An interesting segment on ABC Radio National's program Future Tense discussed "Echo Chambers" this morning - a label given to the phenomenon when we seek out people who share our opinions in environments such as Twitter and other networks. For a long time we’ve known that birds of a feather, flock together. But it’s interesting to explore what role the information age and internet play in exacerbating this phenomenon. Quite opposite to what many think; that the internet brings us closer to people from other cultures and divergent opinions; the evidence of behavior on social networks suggests that we actually talk very little to those we don’t know and/or don’t share our values and views.

It got me thinking about how this phenomenon can be better leveraged by user experience practitioners and business. We like people like us. If you’ve ever studied anything about body language, you’d know that we mirror people’s postures when we want them to like us. You may also know that we alter our digital identities on social networks in ways that we think will make others like us, maybe such that they are more like them. Take LinkedIn for example. Would you post pictures of your unguarded moments at a party on a network designed for making professional connections? We don’t because the people we want to like us would not think the best of us if we did. It's not the professional image we think employers would project of themselves.

This phenomenon of homophyly has many implications for the experience designer. Outside of the digital realm and into how we approach clients, it means we need to dress the same as our clients and talk using terms they understand if we expect them to like us, believe us and adopt our recommendations. Too often we flock together, talk to each other in our special language because we are human. We like people like us.

But, clients who pay the bills usually aren’t like us. They think we’re oddballs spouting jargon about things that don’t seem to matter to them. That is, until we make it real for them by speaking about the bottom line and how good customer or user experience positively affects that. Or about how they don’t succeed with their internal projects because there are just too many opinions; opinions that don’t ultimately matter because it’s not usually about the internal people at a company. It’s the customer’s opinion that matters and you can only hear that through the filter of the experience researcher and designer.

We are translators of customer needs, goals and can lead business strategies through this acumen. That’s our value and that’s how we must position ourselves if design is to be taken seriously and truly change the world for the better – bringing our clients success. But not in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers when our clients wear suits. And not in a suit when our client wears jeans. And never speaking in terms they don’t understand.

Posted by Ant at 03:59 PM | Discuss (0)