Archive for September, 2009

Matthew Milan of Normative interviewing Dennis Schleicher Jr. of UX Sears at IDEA09

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Here is a link to a video of Matthew Milan of Normative interviewing me about Innovation Parkour.

On YouTube
On Vimeo

Below is transcript of this segment of the interview

So you went in and did this on your own with another group. What did you try to improve with the practice of this method.


Well, I am a big believer in the concept of requisite variety. If we would task you all to go an invent a better fork. And you would go back and say “Oh yeah, it has 4 tines, let’s put 5 tines on it, let’s put 6 tines it.” That is a simplistic way of innovating. “Oh, you can eat more food. You can eat it faster. Isn’t that great!” But if you know lots of different ways of going about doing something such as you can do it with chopsticks like the Chinese. The Ethiopians eat it with flat bread. Royalty don’t eat at all, some one feeds it to them. Having that extra variety of approaching a problem and of seeing what the solution is allows us to innovate even more.

So I see the innovation parkour as a way to explore and to practice in a safe environment or a less non-risky environment, many ways of seeing or being creative. And it is having those obstacles are key to that experience. That is why you are taking about JJR (Jean-Jacques Rousseau) “living in chains, born in freedom” (which I paraphrased from the original “Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains”). That we always live within walls. Most of the walls we live in are, if we would start walking to them, it would take our lifetime plus one day to get there. We are not going to get there. So we have to artificially bring these walls together just like wall-walkers. You know if you bring two walls close enough together, you can shimmy up them with both of your legs and rise to the top. How do we find these obstacles and bring them close enough so we can think about things in new ways.

And the walking around and being together with people and going to these different places, you know the existentialist standing-up of the essence with you and people working together is like an epistemic game where these people together, they don’t have each answer all them-self, but working together in a group they are able to bring for some how some reason their tacit knowledge starts to come out and come together and the solutions are absolutely incredible. Its based on collaboration, people coming together, each having maybe part of the solution or part of the idea and then not just the people, but the different places or spaces in which they are playing. That comes up. And going around to these places, you can’t “imagine” the stereotype of what that monument is. That is just too easy, you are going to the actual place, you see what’s there, what works, what doesn’t, and it’s in your face.

So I think that aspect of being there in person and working with the other people, both combine incredibly to allow us to do design thats not the synthetic logical thought of first this step and then this step kind of a recipe, but it’s something of you are opening up the refrigerator door and saying ‘What’s for dinner with what you have.”

Issue Board Example with Search

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Here is an wonderful example of an issue board. Developed by Anthony Hyun and Dennis Schleicher. We used it last week in a Design Studio exercise. We generated almost 12 new ideas in less than 30 minutes. All participants really enjoyed it and wanted to do more. What was great was that many of the ideas do not involve massive new functionality or features, but would still increase the “loyal customer experience.”


Bodystorming Techniques: how to handle “experts”

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

In a bodystorm how do you handle “experts” and “dominant talkers?”
Bodystorming works best when you bring together different people. But what happens when someone is a “expert” and tries to guide the group down only their path.

Dealing with Self appointed experts

  • Other people will defer to them SO really set the stage with everyone first putting down what is known about the issue.  It helps to give each body storm group  materials (like an issue board) so that everyone is using the same set of “facts”.
  • Underscore the fact that everyone has tacit knowledge that needs to be brought to bear on the issue and they need to talk & ACT in order for their tacit knowledge to be expressed.
  • In addition when the people are first introducing each other, try to avoid encouraging responses that would highlight participants level of education, socio-economic status, or amount of experience with the issue.

Dealing with Dominant Talkers

  • Spot them in the pre-session small talk and make sure during the body storm you keep a close eye on them and perhaps spend more time with that group in the initial start.
  • If that doesn’t work then give them a speaking stick or other object that if you want to speak you have to hold to make it painfully obvious how much one person might be dominating dialogue.

Best is to Set the Stage from the start

  • “In body storming exercises like this we know that some people talk a lot or seem to drive the group. It is essential for body storming success to have all of you participate because only through everyone working together does all the tacit individual wisdom get bubbled up and affects other individuals and coalesce in the whole of the body storm.. So if I come over an interrupt to make sure everyone is participating, please don’t be offended. It is just my way of making sure we get good results from your investment in your body storm.”


Focus Group Moderation Guides for the same issues

Want to Increase Frequency of Purchase? Use Entrainment

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

You want more money? More sales? How about having your current customers buy your product(s) more frequently.

Try the Entrainment Recipe (entrainment is about synchronization, alignment between two organisms, systems, etc. It is the dance between your customers’ lives and your webpresence)

A simple approach strategy to increase sales is thus to increase frequency of purchase.

But how do you do that? How to do that within user centered design?

An Entrainment Recipe (A delicious blending of web use sugar and customer life-cycle flour)


1 cup           Good understanding of your customers’ lifecycles
1 pound     Good understanding of how frequent they use your site
2 oz             Design thinking on how to support their lifecycle on your site

  1. Find out how frequent do your customers use your website.
  2. Find out what your current customers’ “rounds” are. (A daily/weekly/monthly/yearly “round” is the re-occuring cycle of activities.)
  3. Determine the current “entrainment” between your customers and your website.
  4. Determine what frequency you want to go for (which is of a shorter cycle time than you found in step 1)
  5. Figure out how you will support (this might involve new features, functions, or even product/service assortments.)

Basically, If you first look at the activities that your customers are doing (their frequency), then figure out in which ways you can entrain your website with what your customers are doing on a more frequent cycling than what they are currently doing.

So, give this recipe and I’d love to hear how it tastes to you.



How do you measure frequency of purchase?

Entrainment definitions in Wikipedia (a variety)

Issue Boards, How to take your bodystorming to the next level.

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

In order to help you do better bodystorming one thing I have found helpful is building an issue board. Below is an example of an issue board. Then a diagram of how the overall board is organized. Lastly, how each radian decomposes from the Issue through concepts to each of the individual forms. Go to the Issue Board Page to see my thinking behind this.
Issue Board

The Benefits of the Issue Board for bodystorming are:

  • Helps us to more fully align the success of the product/service with the needs, desires, and success of the customers.
  • Help the company to understand what is truly meaningful in relation to complex human issues of culture, lifestyle, culture, and values.

Now to show you how the issue board is organized.

Issue Board Structure A

Here is how you choose each of the images. the logic behind each of the images and the structural relationship.

Issue Board Structure

Forget Personas, Do Bodystorming

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Bodystorming is the New Personas.
Why Bodystorming Works?  Need states. It focuses on need states.

Bodystorming is a kind of research (testing) that helps identify “need states.” Most of the time you sit around and talk about classifying your customers by demographics like age or gender, or psychographics like lifestyle or even behaviors like purchasing patterns. If you are lucky you bring in research or go out and do research on these different segments. Instead, or in addition to do that, bodystorming through projective role playing forces you to focus on the need states. (Need states = And for a single product there can be multiple need states. And a product can’t be all things for all needs. FOCUS.

Understand the need state and you bodystorm if it is done well will SATISFY. A good bodystorm is one that captures the need state and shows how it is satisfied.
A good bodystorm is one that in it’s immediacy and intemacy shows a customer at a level of how they are experiencing at that very moment your brand.

We need to focus more on the different usage occasions with the product and service and the needs that define them. That is exactly what bodystorming does. It goes even further because it allows both us as designers and business owners to see and understand what is working and what’s not working so that we can interpret design opportunities.

The needs of a segment should drive design

Some work that calls for going beyond need states to cultural occasions

What would happen if your executives had to buy gifts for some customers? Would it be a disaster in the making?

Friday, September 4th, 2009

How to know if you are out of touch with your customers. Can your company’s executives pass this 5-step test? Get 6 executives (preferably high up mucky-mucks.)

  1. Find 3 regular customers who use your store.
  2. Pair 2 executives with 1 customer.
  3. You can even let those executive interview the customers for 30 minutes.
  4. Then the 2 executives go online or in store, pick out, purchase and give a gift to the customer they talked to.
  5. Then have the customer speak about the gift, if it was an appropriate choice, if they liked it, what they liked about it, what it means to them, etc.

Impacts from this test:

  • To check what the execs know (and didn’t know, and learned) their customers.
  • To see the executives figure out ways (the questions to ask is just one limited way to learn their customer likes/dislikes/interests) to learn customers wants, needs, interests, desires, and aspirations.

 Now, if you delight in imagining subjecting your execs to this sadistic exercise, hold on a minute.  Before you sick the “real customer” hounds on your executives, you better do this yourself first. Drink your own soup. WARNING: HOT SOUP!

Based on an idea I heard from Karen Holtman  who attended EPIC09 in Chicago and revealed this plus lots of other idea nuggets on how to be a “guide to” instead of an “expert on” your company’s customers.

Decision Makers Don’t Have Time for Wireframes

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

The people who make the funding decsions don’t have time to read and “understand” the usual documents such as use-cases, detailed wireframes, and PRDs.  Some common situations are:

  • No one has the time to print out let alone read the use-case document, AKA use-case book.
  • The wireframes are too detailed to follow for those who don’t live and breath them.
  • The PRD is really just a cut&paste from a previous PRD.

What can you do? Take a look at the Function-Structure-Process Diagram.

Function Structure Process Diagram



The goal of this diagram is to do five things.

  1. Show a clear understanding of the goals (function) of the business or organization.
  2. Show a clear understanding of the process (activities) for the users and how they change over time. Change over time could involve learning something (as in this example), building brand awareness or loyalty, or conquest of new customers.
  3. Show the overall structure of the solution you are proposing which could be a web presence or web application.
  4. Show which specific parts of the structure you are proposing support which functions (goals.)
  5. Show which specific parts of the structure you are proposing support which processes (activities) that the users are engaged in. 

References and Further Reading (esoteric warning)

Yes, this is systems thinking with plurality.

Design and Philosophy by Peter Kroes, Pieter E. Vermaas, Andrew Light and Steven Moore