TOTAL EXPERIENCE explores designing for experience: its theory, its practice, and how designing for experiences affects us socially and in our personal lives.


  • Bob Jacobson
  • Paula Thornton
  • BOB JACOBSON is fascinated by the experience of experience. A planner and technologist, Bob has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning & Design from UCLA. He's been a policy researcher, technology CEO, science writer, and consultant. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied cellular telephony's impacts on transborder communities in the Nordic Arctic Circle. Bob edited Information Design (MIT Press 2000) and is now writing a book on the theory and practice of creating edifying, transformative experiences.
    ( Archive | Contact Bob )
    CORANTE PAULA THORNTON says, "Understanding human behavior (economics), optimizing interactions (design) and facilitating conversations (markets), are the means to achieve strategic differentiation. This is the focus of our discipline. It is not a 'nice to have'‚ and is not, like documentation once was, an afterthought. It is the means by which to start a strategic discussion and the means by which to drive a tactical initiative. All design should be evidence-based."
    ( Archive | Contact Paula ) >

    (Courtesy of Mark Vanderbeeken, Experientia SpA, Torino)

    Experience Design Websites
    Core 77 Website & Forum
    Business Week|Innovate
    InfoD: Understsanding by Design
    The Wayfinding Place
    Wayfinding Focus
    Design Addict
    L-ARCH (Landscape Architecture Mailing List)
    DUX 2007 Conference
    Digital Thread
    Enmeshed, Digital Arts & New Media
    Ludology (Game Playing Theory)
    Captology, Persuasive Computing
    Space and Culture
    Raskin Center for Humane Interfaces
    timet (acoustical design)
    Steve Portigal, Ethnographer
    Jane McGonigal's Avant Game
    Ted Wells' living : simple
    PingMag (Japan)

    Experience Design Blogs
    Adam Greenfield's Speedbird
    Experience Designer Network (Brian Alger)
    SmartSpace: Annotated Environments (Scott Smith)
    Don Norman
    Doors of Perception (John Thackara)
    Karl Long's Experience Curve
    Work•Play•Experience (Adam Lawrence)
    The David Report (David Carlson)
    Design & Emotion (Marco van Hout)
    Museum 2.0 (Nina Simon)
    B J Fogg
    Lorenzo Brusci (acoustics)
    Cool Town Studios
    Steve Portigal
    Debbie Millman
    MIT Culture Convergence Consortium
    Luke Wroblewski, Functioning Form|Interface Design
    Adam Richardson
    Putting People First (Paul Vanderbeeken/Experientia
    Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda)
    Challis Hodge's UX Blog
    Anne Galloways's Purse Lips Square Jaw
    Bruno Giussani's Lunch over IP
    Jane McGonigal's Avant-Game The Future of Work

    Experience Design Podcasts
    Ted Wells' living : simple Podcast
    Design Matters Podcast, Debbie Millman
    Icon-o-Cast Podcast, Lunar Design

    Experience Design Firms and ED-Oriented Manufacturers
    Barry Howard Limited
    Hilary Cottam
    LRA Worldwide, Inc.
    BRC Imagination Arts
    Stone Mantel
    Experientia s.r.l
    Herman Miller
    Cooper Interactive Design
    Doblin Group
    Fit Associates
    Strategic Horizons LLC (Joe Pine & Jim Gilmore)
    Cheskin Fresh Perspectives

    Education and Advocacy
    Centre for Design Research, Northumbria University (UK)
    Center for Design Research, Stanford University
    International Institute of Information Design (IIID)
    Design Management Institute
    Interaction Institute IVREA
    Design Research Institute (UK)
    UC Berkeley Center for Environmental Design Research
    History of Consciousness, UCSC
    Design News Magazine
    Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD)
    Design Museum London
    Center for Sustainable Design
    Horizon Zero, Digital Arts+Culture in Canada
    Design Council UK
    First Monday

    Total Experience on Technorati
    Technorati Profile

    Get Camino!
    In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

    Total Experience

    February 28, 2010

    Design Thinking in Stereo: Martin and BrownEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    While read and reviewed by many already, this piece takes a critical look at Tim Brown’s “Change by Design” and Roger Martin’s “The Design of Business” for significant contributions and potential misses.

    When the topic of “design thinking” had gained enough momentum for BusinessWeek to devote an entire issue to design in 2004, it was a siren song to me. Newly converted, I digested everything I could find. Design thinking seemed to cover most of the experiential clues I’d been collecting as the means to improve business potential.

    By 2006 an IIT Institute of Design interview with Roger Martin, titled “Designing Decisions,” told of his conversion to the concept when noting the language and behaviors of designer friends. That same year, Tim Brown presented fundamental thoughts on design thinking that also caught my attention.

    But none of it was enough to satisfy me, so I convinced colleagues to help host a 2007 Design Thinking conference in Dallas, just to talk about it. We extended that conversation via a LinkedIn group that has grown to more than 2,500 members worldwide [as of this posting, 3000 members].

    Discussions on the LinkedIn group noted an increase in attention to design thinking, particularly in 2009. Martin was either speaking or hosting conversations with other members, while Brown issued a challenge to “move from design to design thinking” via a 2009 TED presentation. By the end of the year both Martin and Brown had released books on the topic.

    Same Song, Different Verses
    Both texts are extensions of each author’s continuous and evolving messages. Each approaches the same subject from a different perspective.

    In The Design of Business, Martin expands on what I’ve labeled the “Design Thinking Continuum” which he described in the winter 2003 issue of Rotman Magazine, under the same title [pdf].


    Martin took this continuum to a new level in a 2007 IIT-ID presentation when he talked about the significance of shifting from a focus on reliability to viability (which I summarized in Reliability vs. Validity). He expands on this duality throughout his book, in the context of specific business examples.

    Martin’s thesis for business: “Design-thinking firms stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their business. They do so with an eye to creating advances in both innovation and efficiency—the combination that produces the most powerful competitive edge.”

    Brown’s book, Change by Design, struck a chord similar to that of his 2006 presentation, which highlighted principles necessary for the practice of design thinking. He notes why business interests have turned to design: “Innovation has become nothing less than a survival strategy.” Later in the book he adds this emphasis: “Design thinking may be one of the most profitable practices a corporation can adopt during a recession.”

    Change by Design builds upon a theme that both Brown and Martin embrace: “The natural evolution from design doing to design thinking reflects the growing recognition on the part of today’s business leaders that design has become too important to be left to designers.”

    Good Vibes
    Neither book stands alone. Tim covers more of the practical elements of applying design thinking (some of the ‘binary code’) and Roger focuses more on the models to frame the activities (the algorithms and heuristics).

    In select passages from Brown’s repertoire, he illustrates how design thinking moves design into a more strategic role to unleash “its disruptive, game-changing potential”:

  • Empathy: “Perhaps the most important distinction between academic thinking and design thinking… The mission of design thinking is to translate observations into insights and insights into products and services that will improve lives.”
  • Collaboration: “We need to invent a new and radical form of collaboration that blurs the boundaries between creators and consumers…. For the design thinker, it has to be ‘us with them.’”
  • Synthesis: “The creative process…relies on synthesis, the collective act of putting the pieces together to create whole ideas…to sift through it all and identify meaningful patterns.”
  • Biomimicry and intelligent design: “Nature, with its 4.5-billion-year learning curve, may have something to teach us about things….”
  • Optimism and trust: Design thinking relies on an “attitude of experimentation,” supported by a “climate of optimism…Optimism requires confidence, and confidence is built on trust.”
  • Visual thinking: “Words and numbers are fine, but only drawing can simultaneously reveal both the functional characteristics of an idea and its emotional content.”
  • Prototypes and storyboards: “…thinking with my hands…”
  • Brown also offers specific examples on where and how to apply design thinking:

  • Transactions and touchpoints: “Describing a customer journey…clarifies where the customers and the service or brand interact. Every one of these ‘touchpoints’ points to an opportunity to provide value….”
  • Engineering experiences: “An experience must be as finely crafted and precision-engineered as any other product.... Unlike a manufactured product or a standardized service, an experience comes to life when it feels personalized and customized.”
  • Innovative approach: “Many companies have shifted the horizon of their research programs from long-term basic research to shorter-term applied innovation…. Eventually it will be as natural to see innovation labs in service-sector companies as it is to see research and development facilities in manufacturing companies.”
  • Not business as usual: “We…set out to train companies in our methods of human-centered, design-based innovation: user observations, brainstorming, prototyping, storytelling, and scenario building…. [This] is not the most effective way to proceed. Innovation needs to be coded into the DNA of a company…P&G…designated a chief innovation officer, increased the number of design managers by more than 500 percent, built the P&G Innovation Gym…and elevated innovation and design to core strategies of the company.”
  • New relationships: “Design thinking is being applied at new scales in the move from discrete products and services to complex systems.… We are entering an era of limits; the cycle of mass production and mindless consumption that defined the industrial age is no longer sustainable…. Design thinking needs to be turned toward the formulation of a new participatory social contract…. We’re all in this together.”
  • Embracing complexity: “When it comes to colonies of humans, we have to reckon with additional factors of individual intelligence and free will…. Instead of an inflexible, hierarchical process that is designed once and executed many times, we must imagine how we might create highly flexible, constantly evolving systems in which each exchange between participants is an opportunity for empathy, insight, innovation, and implementation.”
  • Repeatedly, design is compared and contrasted with design thinking: “Design is about delivering a satisfying experience. Design thinking is about creating a multipolar experience in which everyone has the opportunity to participate in the conversation.”

    Dissonant Passages
    I’m quite comfortable mucking around in concepts, which are far more critical to the design of transactions and services than to products you can see and touch. Martin focuses on concepts as a means to help others apply design thinking to things like business strategy.

    I’m not as comfortable, however, with the way Martin shares his concepts. The book was bumpy—it lacked the natural flow of his other works, and seemed ill sequenced. The strongest lead-in for the book started in Chapter 4—design thinking in the context of the P&G story—with supporting details in Chapter 3. Then Chapter 5 introduces the critical context for the trade-off between validity and reliability, with supporting details in Chapter 2.

    Chapter 1 starts off with a “new” concept, a “knowledge funnel,” that is referenced throughout the book. It takes the original design continuum (referenced earlier) and aligns each part to a funnel starting with “mystery” as the widest part. For me, the funnel detracts from the original concepts, as the funnel forces something that was once fluid and unidirectional into a very linear concept. The additive value of the funnel is not apparent.

    This is unfortunate because Martin’s concepts are not only relevant, they’re also interrelated in ways that provide a powerful framework for assessing and applying design thinking (as illustrated below in the “Design Thinking Framework”). The mystery continuum has a direct correlation to validity and reliability. Note how the left and the right of the various continuums in the following diagram correspond directly to one another.


    This collection mimics the left and right of a long-standing, powerful model: yin and yang. Just as with the yin/yang model, design thinking works to embrace the dichotomy—embracing both sides at once to create a new “middle.” But business tends to believe that the goal is to move toward the right. As a result, businesses are predominantly over-yang’d. Design thinking provides a means to restore the natural power inherent in the balance.

    Martin’s writing circles back on itself often and poses contradictions. He speaks repeatedly of a balance: “Design thinkers seek to balance validity and reliability.” Then in the diagram of the “Design thinker’s personal knowledge system,” the first label states: “1. My world is reliability oriented.” I got the distinct impression that Martin kept commingling references to designers with design thinking.

    Perhaps Martin simply lacked having the benefit of a strong co-author like Tim Brown had: “My silent partner Barry Katz, through his skillful use of words, made me appear more articulate than I really am.”

    Unresolved Passages
    Other critics have suggested that neither author sufficiently communicated how to apply design thinking. With a deep reliance on the context of a problem, I’m not sure that anyone can “prescribe” enough of an approach to satisfy these detractors. My guess is that people still need help figuring out how the parts and pieces apply in various situations (if anything, this was where Martin excelled, as he gave example after example as to how the validity versus reliability continuum applied).

    Neither author sufficiently addressed the following:

    The design question. Martin has addressed the relevance of asking “why” in past articles, and Brown mentions it briefly in his summary. “A willingness to ask ‘Why?’ will annoy your colleagues…but…it will improve the changes of spending energy on the right problems.” But it is through repeated inquiry that the core design question is identified. In an earlier book, David Kelly gives a perfect example of not getting the question right (though his example is intended as a positive one). In the redesign of a water bottle for bikers, IDEO did not start with a non-product question, such as: “How do we deliver fluids to an individual who may have one or both hands busy?” If they had asked this question, they would have invented the water bladder years earlier.

    The significance of failure. While both authors heartily supported the significance of discovery by failure (failing faster), and cultures that support such, neither addressed the significance of failure as a starting point for design discovery and the relevance of accommodating exceptions in solutions (embracing failure as part of the solution).

    Embracing the in-between. Late in his book, Brown notes in passing, “It is precisely in the interstitial spaces…that the most interesting opportunities lie.” That is the sweet spot for design thinking. It is both in-between and comprehensive at the same time. It is the dichotomy, the paradox. In his book, Martin erroneously assigned the paradox to the mystery: “Starting at this paradox – this mystery…”. Design thinking’s strength is in embracing the paradox, considering possibilities across all of the dimensions of the Design Thinking Continuum. How is that possible? By delivering solutions that most appropriately apply binary code to the repeatable actions that no one wants to be bothered with, algorithms to repeatable yet variable things, heuristics where human judgment can help with exceptions, and a healthy dose of mystery to continuously question all assumptions. It’s effectively no different than applying the concepts of integrative thinking -- which Martin supports in his earlier book “The Opposable Mind” – across the Design Thinking Continuum.

    Curtain Call
    In the end, both books—and both authors—contribute significantly to the discipline of design thinking. My armchair recommendation for practitioners is to leverage both books. If your goal is to share the value of design thinking with others, I’d suggest Brown’s book over Martin’s.

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Design Thinking

    June 19, 2008

    More Amazon KindleEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    In a previous post I pointed out that there are a number design factors that weigh in to determine experience success. With the Amazon Kindle, portability and convenience outweigh other reported design flaws.

    Good Experience author Mark Hurst offers his own perspectives to the Kindle design team. His key observations and recommendations:

    1. The search function doesn't work well
    2. Its unclear how to upload content (particularly Creative Commons-licensed books)
    3. The button design is awkward
    4. "Next page" and the scrollbar have conflicting/confusing behaviors
    5. Content pricing doesn't make sense
    6. For $300 it should come with 'something' already loaded on it (hmm, I guess Mark's not impressed with the free copy of the New Oxford American Dictionary -- not exactly casual reading material)

    He mentions in the body of the text, that the device is not backlit. Like a book, it relies on ambient light to be read (that kinda strikes me odd -- even cell phones are backlit).

    All said, sales for the device continue to defy the concerns.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    March 28, 2008

    Getting TwitterpatedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Paying homage to my colleague, Bob, by posting a reference I made to him and his thoughts on Twitter today. And by doing so, illustrate the effect this 2.0 element of 'social networking' is having to change our daily experiences. [Read bottom-up]


    For those less familiar with Twitter, it was originally designed for people to announce a 'current state'. Indeed the single entry field interface prompts "What are you doing?". It was also uniquely designed to capitalize on mobile text messaging. Thus, a single entry string cannot be longer than 140 characters even if using the full-screen desktop interface. Many 'inline' interfaces have been created so individuals can watch what colleagues/friends around the world are doing/thinking throughout the day.

    It's a phenomenon of communicating with critical 'peeps' ("I'll have my people call your people") via 'tweets'. It gained necessary critical mass by adoption at the annual phenomenon-unto-itself, South by Southwest (SXSW) in 2007 -- the Woodstock of techno-dweebs -- where it became the mechanism for a networked conversation. Where, this year it was leveraged as the means to report on a reporter.

    For anyone you 'follow', their tweets are like an instant RSS feed into a reader (I've got one on my iGoogle desktop -- way more fun than the fullscreen version). For those of us easily distracted, we have to intentionally stay away from getting caught up in the activity (heaven forbid if I got these on my phone). Even when slammed for time, eventually I catch up and comment back on things shared by others. It's my own personal idea orgy.

    Catching up is particularly hard to do when several people are at a conference. During SXSW the history queue goes to overflow quickly (you 'miss' notes as they roll off -- my queue is about 200 messages).

    For those who prefer to manage who sees what they say, there's an option to approve followers.

    The power of social networking channels like Twitter is being leveraged by those 'in the know' as a source of data (ala. research channel). Barack Obama's campaign is following over 18K voices. Shortly after casually mentioning a very specific product in a tweet, I was suddenly being followed by a cow. So how much can you tell about potential consumers based on their conversations?

    Two critical voices (there are many) are David Armano (@armano) and Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang). The @name format directs a message to an individual. @name puts your message in their queue (if they're following you) or puts it in a direct message folder (if they're not). @name messages can also be set up to be the only messages routed to your mobile device, and can be set on/off follower, by follower

    David Armano suggests that Twitter has gained momentum because of the 2.0 elements which have been created all around it to offer a total Conversation Ecosystem. I maintain a collection of interesting elements of this ecosystem on I picked up most of these from 'tweets' from my 'peeps'.

    Writing about Twitter on Twitter is a phenomenon as well. But today there seems to be Twitterblogathon. Here I'm writing about it...Jeremiah Owyang suggests how to leverage Twitter as your own personal "social advisor" in real time, and an @armano peep drew attention to "Observations of a Twitter Newbie" by @marobella.

    Pick a channel, any channel. Leveraged as a location device, as a mini-blog, as a 'man on the street' reporting device, paying due homage to Mr. Weinberger, et. al, it's still all about conversations.

    And yes, there have been plenty of conversations around, "You know you're a twitterholic when...".

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    February 5, 2008

    Making LemonadeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    My original title for this was "Changing the Rules", but then I saw the broader beauty of what's being done here.

    Start with a good recipe:
    Find an experience people complain about...a lot.
    [Get your ideas from the 'joke butts' of the late night talk show hosts.]
    Find a way to make it better.
    You'll not only get their attention...
    (which is the 'best' you'll achieve with a multi-million dollar 30 second spot at the SuperBowl)'ll have immersed them in an experience that they'll appreciate, and remember.

    Who better than a leader in recipes to figure this out: Kraft Foods

    Here's their recipe:
    Don't just advertise your product,
    immerse people in it,
    while they're captive'
    and you really have their attention.
    Provide free food on airline flights,
    where they'll think anything tastes better.
    And 'free' is a great sauce...


    See related details.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    February 1, 2008

    Amazon Kindle: Video ReviewEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Innovation & Concept Design

    January 3, 2008

    Amazon Kindle: A New Experience ChannelEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Amazon%20Kindle.jpgWhile the likes of the iPhone expand our access to online, Amazon embraces our changing states of online and offline by synthesizing them in an experience-specific device, the Kindle, for wireless reading. Amazon reinforces the synthesis by using the term “electronic-paper”. With a pricetag of almost $400, the fact that they’ve had to post the following statement, says something for the market response since its November 2007 debut, and its potential:
    Kindle Availability Due to heavy customer demand, Kindle is temporarily sold out. We are working hard to manufacture Kindles as quickly as possible and are prioritizing orders on a first come, first served basis. Please ORDER KINDLE NOW to reserve your place in line. We will keep you informed by email as we get more precise delivery dates. Note that Kindles cannot currently be sold or shipped to customers living outside of the U.S.

    The Kindle even has its own Wikipedia post (maybe offering full access to Wikipedia offline is related? Oh, and did I mention a full version of the New Oxford American Dictionary?). The post reports that the initial offering resulted in a sellout in 5.5 hours. Sure beats standing in line for hours on the street only to end up empty-handed. While the device was announced well over a year in advance, and even though I’m on Amazon weekly, it’s never caught my attention until this week. That suggests to me, that there’s a lot more upside to this product. [Gosh and I’ve already spent my $400 buying a pair of XOs – I got as far as charging it up, but haven’t had the time to power it up. More later…]

    Here’s where the total experience gets more specific to a focused scenario: If you look very carefully above main contents of the Amazon Kindle product page (bottom of the page header) you’ll see a series of links related to the Kindle Store. Select “Kindle Books” and you get a collections of book ‘products’ different than their non-electronic brethren. These SKUs will download, on purchase, to your Kindle device, in 2 minutes. Not sure if you really want that title, and thinking of going to a retail store to flip through the pages? Grab the first chapter for free. That, my friends, now differentiates the offering by the experience — an experience that spins endless new offerings for the brand.

    When you specialize the experience to the product and the products to the experience, how quickly can the competition respond? [Repeat again, “The experience IS the product.”]

    Amazon is a market maker. When some companies waste valuable cycles building walls against the competition, Amazon goes out embraces theirs. By expanding their model to include used and second-market books Amazon capitalized on a larger portion of the demand chain, and expanded the total market (just ask the many used book vendors who liberally leverage Amazon’s online storefront) – recognizing as Bill Gates did, that when the pie gets bigger so does their slice of it.

    Amazon does this one better by creating the Kindle Edition of major newspaper subscription content. Bear in mind that these publishers have already had to grapple with the transition of their identity from newspaper to content provider. I wonder how long it will be before the section label will change to drop the “newspaper” reference? [I’d sure like to hear the debates that went on around the division of product collections and how to label them.]

    And while there’s been some whining about the cost of the newspaper subscriptions being the same as the newspaper stand versions for content that is more frequently being offered for free online, Amazon is likely looking to capitalize on the long tail of economics. Don’t think that they’re not going to experiment with the elasticity of pricing for these offerings over time. In the meantime, they capture the small slice of the market that finds reason for this offering to most closely match their specific scenario needs. [I know I’d want to be doing some ethnographic work to identify a potential Kindle-factor on BART, WMATA, and MTA (amateur sightings welcomed).]

    How many more dots can Amazon connect?

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    December 20, 2007

    Shine Doesn't MatterEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Shoes.jpg ...well at least not nearly as much as comfort. It's amazing what a company can discover when they actually do deep research about their products from the customer's perspective. Discovering such facts is fairly significant to your business model when you're in the shoe 'shine' business, like Sara Lee is (gosh, I thought they made great frozen deserts).

    The Wall Street Journal reported today about customer research done two years ago. So what do you do when 'shine' is 17th on the list of 20 related values? You focus on satisfying higher-valued attributes, like comfort.

    If I'd been the WSJ writer I would have questioned Sara Lee about Kiwi's brush with comfort products in 1992: "Kiwi to Market Comfort Insoles to Consumers." I'd want to know more about why they decided on the range of products they're now marketing (what did they throw out?) and how/why they hoped to differentiate these from existing comfort offerings like insoles.

    I'd also want to determine how much they really valued the results of research by asking what they've learned about the adoption of the new products so far (from the consumer's perspective) -- that is, what's been the feedback? I'd ask this, because the original research was initiated and conducted as part of a media/campaign budget, suggesting that ongoing Design Research has not be adopted as a key strategic contributor to their business planning.

    Having continuous access to such facts is critical to adjust a strategic business model: "Today's footwear is made less from leather and more from canvas and synthetic materials. Even the military, one of Kiwi's best customers since World War I, had been moving away from leather, partly because so much fighting now takes place in the Middle East, where desert sand makes canvas more sensible. Most consumers today are more likely to toss out worn shoes than work to keep them in good condition." This is critical information to prepare for a shift in demand for products.

    Amazing that a company's web site can be read like tea leaves, to infer critical things about a business and their agility: Sara Lee doesn't leverage the Kiwi site as a strategic component of their business. How do I know?

    1. Limited content
    2. More importantly, knowing all of the above for 2-years, why are products still organized by: Leather, Suede & Nubuck, Outdoor, Sport, Multi-Purpose?

    I'm buying comfort. Are you selling any of that today?

    Hmmm...the new products are not ON the web site. Wouldn't you want them there first -- particularly since retailers need to know about them to want to order them INTO the stores? Did they miss the obvious when it stared them in the face?

    "And when the Sara Lee sales representatives who call on big retailers like Wal-Mart and Tesco were told they'd have to sell the new products, "they looked at their sales directors like they were mad," Mr. Casa says. "They said, 'Kiwi is a round tin, mainly for men, and now you're coming to us with colorful products called smiling feet. It's not serious.'"

    Indeed, wouldn't you want to 'feature' your new products (and the stories about why they were developed) on your main page as a teaser, particularly on the same day that you've made the pages of the Wall Street Journal?

    What better position to be in than as a writer from WSJ to ask Sara Lee what percentage of their revenue is allocated to the online channel (seems like a reasonable business question). There's got to be a model we could come up with to 'guestimate' a range of investment based on the evidence of the channel as it speaks for itself.

    Doesn't seem to me that Kiwi was ever in the 'shine' business after all -- just polish, and only for shoes.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Design Research

    October 24, 2007

    When You Want Results...Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    ...hire the best.

    Apparently that's what the U.S. Government believes -- at least the Department of Homeland Security. In an unlikely pairing, they've engaged Disney to create messages to welcome visitors to the United States:

    The film and still portraits feature the diversity, friendliness and optimism of the American people. The film will be shown in the Federal Inspection Areas of U.S. airports, and in U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, while the still portraits will be incorporated in posters, banners and other imagery welcoming visitors to the U.S. The first airports to feature the images will be Washington Dulles International Airport and Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, to be followed by the nation's other international airports.

    Source: MediaPost, Marketing Daily, "Homeland Security, Disney Team For Welcoming Film"

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    October 23, 2007

    True Cross-Channel ExperienceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Don't know if you've tried this yet. Amazon offers a great example of a true cross-channel experience.

    Cross-Channel 1: Online to Real Time
    I had some books to return. I filled out the return information online and a return label was provided for me to print, tieing the box to my online entry. It made the return easy (which with my schedule is a critical barrier for entry).

    Cross-Channel 2: Email to Online to Phone
    I got an email today indicating that the box had been received on their end. The details of the return had an 'issue' (I was charged for return postage when I should not have been). I clicked through the email (I wanted to reply -- which I couldn't, but that's a different issue) to online and saw the option to contact Amazon by phone. A small window pops and asks for my phone number. I barely had pressed return and my phone was ringing! The item was resolved in 5 minutes.

    Cross-Channel 3: Phone to Email
    Back into my email, and there's already an inquiry asking me if my issue was resolved to my satisfaction. Even better, there were two separate links: one to click if I was satisfied, a different one if I was not. [and there's a closing of the loop]

    That's a Total Experience!

    Now, if they could just do something simple like offer me a complete inventory (list) of all the titles of books I've ever ordered (instead of asking me to open hundreds of orders to uncover that data -- and then do what? make my own list?).


    Something I hadn't really noticed (reinforcing this message), is that Amazon no longer really has a header with their logo prominently featured. Their logo is only one of the tabs...taking up miniscule real estate. Thanks to Luke Wroblewski for capturing this entire visual evolution. Apparently this change has been in place for 2 years.

    See, evolving design really does work!

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Innovation & Concept Design

    October 7, 2007

    Successful Brand Experiences?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The Design Council site features "Thirteen examples of successful brand experiences".

    This piece exemplifies my issues with brand experience definitions of those who engage the phrase most often: embodied by an inherent element of 'staged event'. Our paths of understanding diverge.

    Rubber%20Bands.jpg Experiences happen. When they happen to include inference to a brand, the brand owner better hope that the experience is a positive one, or at the very least, not a negative one.

    Each experience is framed by the fundamentals of economics. Consider the concept of elasticity. "Behavioral elasticity" and "elasticity of substitution" both come to play in brand experiences. Indeed, they help define a key element Marketers often rely on: affinity.

    My throat is parched and I open my refrigerator. As my eyes identify a can of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, a positive brand experience begins as I imagine the taste of the Coke, satisfying my thirst. The reality is, if the formula is not quite 'right', my experience will be impacted. If the can contains "Classic Coke" instead, my personal experience will be quite negative. In all cases I have engaged in a brand experience. The latter, impacted by a breakdown in quality control, results in a negative experience. Repeated too often, brand trust is eroded. My affinity is weakened.

    Severity depends on current elements that can impact my elasticity of substitution. If there is another brand with which I can have a similar positive experience, I will likely switch to that brand. If my perception of cola is only filled by a Caffeine-Free Diet Coke, then I have lower elasticity and will tolerate the variability as long as I can occasionally encounter the familiar experience that I prefer.

    The impact of changing a preferred brand experience is readily illustrated in Coke's historic error in abandoning the "Classic Coke" formula, rather than creating a different product to expand consumption.

    Consumer control over brand experiences, good or bad, is significant. In today's market, their voice is stronger. With lowering barriers to entry, there are many waiting to rush in and capitalize on the mistakes of others.

    Please. If you're going to engage in a brand experience conversation, do it in a deeper, meaningful way. Do it in a way that truly increases understanding of the many dimensions of brand experience and its direct impact on relationships. Those who focus on entertainment or event aspects (e.g. Chuck E. Cheese), limit the types of products/services to which they can apply their principles. They are more subjected to the shifting whims of tastes, preferences, and clever competition. And they are less likely to account for significant variables that can impact product affinity, and therefore, sales.

    Which definition do you embrace?


    Image Attribution: Getty Images

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    October 6, 2007

    Delta Embraces Experiential?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    A tease to content elsewhere...

    Delta Air Lines is bringing its in-flight experience to the streets of New York City with a temporary lounge.
    Visitors can drop by the 3,500 square-foot space at 101 West 57th St. called Delta SKY360 to test some of the airline’s newest features, including refurbished seats, new menu items and route information.

    The following comment is a bit disheartening as it seems to imply an oversimplification as to the potential of real relationships and real still implies an elitist business perspective to relationships with customers:

    It’s an opportunity for us to engage with our customers outside of the airport.

    It makes me want to ask, "What's wrong with engaging with them where they already are? Um, in the airport?"

    Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    September 26, 2007

    Design Thinking 2007, DallasEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    DT_07_Fullcolor.png As we try to catch Bob up with conversations already going on in the industry, let me illustrate the significance of having Design Thinking conversations by offering notice of an event planned for the DFW area.

    For those of you in the area October 19th, plan to join us. For the rest of you, this is an experiment for continuing face-to-face annual events in local venues. The idea being that there is much needed energy bringing local companies together and sharing their stories and progress with others (including the press, academia, and generally interested souls).

    Updates will be provided as we see where the conversation goes this first round. Already there are signs of a focus on organizational changes including new roles and new business models, but we wouldn't know these things were happening if we weren't coming together to talk about what we're seeing.

    We hope to challenge participants to return to their own circles of influence with actions to influence change, and seed deeper understanding through related programs throughout the following year in existing local professional organization chapter meetings -- e.g. UPA, STC, AIGA, AMA, PMI, etc. (that's the adaptive/integrative gene).

    Each year we'll convene to share and talk about our progress -- catalyzing latent Design Thinking DNA already floating in the organizational ether.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    August 31, 2007

    Design ThinkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I was attempting to edit the abysmal entry for Design Thinking on Wikipedia. I began to doubt the appropriateness of what I was writing – not for its validity but for its style. I finally decided to simply put what I would have wanted for an entry there, here.

    Design Thinking leverages implicit elements of design practices, as a means to approach problem solving. It is a critical factor for innovation.

    "Design thinking is a term being used today to define a way of thinking that produces transformative innovation." [1] The term has gained significance as it is being embraced outside of the normal realm for which it might have traditionally been applied.

    Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, suggests that Design Thinking is central to value creation in the 21st century (see "Design of Business"). It is not a matter of gaining an understanding of design, it's a matter of embracing design – a way of operating. Martin further suggests that success in the 20th century was defined by an ability to move through a continuum, from mystery, to heuristic, to algorithm, to binary code. In this way things are identified, a pattern is made, and exact replicas are generated. For a mass production economy this is an ideal model for operating success.

    But as barriers to information are lowered (less expensive, more readily available/shared), the economics of competition change dramatically. The value of intellectual capital is now often greater when it is shared and allowed to evolve openly (a lot of lawyers suddenly become irrelevant). Fundamental business models rely on minimizing risk. Getting to binary code was an ideal way to lock down fluctuation and variance – both associated with risk.

    New economic models embrace risk as reality, requiring a move back up the continuum to 'heuristic'. Roger Martin specifically suggests: "I would argue that to be successful in the future, businesspeople will have to become more like designers – more ‘masters of heuristics’ than ‘managers of algorithms’." For classic business models this is uncomfortable. The idea of managing something squishy is foreign. Design Thinking is required to operate in squishy-mode.

    It's not to be confused with a method – it's fundamentally a culture, a genotype to reshape methods of operating. Contemporary organizational structures are antithetical to this culture. Martin elaborates,

    Whereas traditional firms organize around ongoing tasks and permanent assignments, in design shops, work flows around projects with defined terms. The source of status in traditional firms is ‘managing big budgets and large staffs’, but in design shops, it derives from building a track record of finding solutions to ‘wicked problems’ – solving tough mysteries with elegant solutions.

    Whereas the style of work in traditional firms involves defined roles and seeking the perfect answer, design firms feature extensive collaboration, ‘charettes’ (focused brainstorming sessions), and constant dialogue with clients.

    Design Thinking is critical to and at the same time relies on emergent structures. As such, it is central to all aspects of 2.0 design.

    Design Thinking is a specific concept (the significance between specific and general use of a term is illustrated in the reference to complexity). While common methods of thought include deductive and inductive reasoning, Design Thinking embraces these but adds abductive reasoning. Abductive reasoning is effectively embracing a posture of "Why not?", but with a layer of rationale.

    Random trial and error is expensive. Rationale is too often replaced by random opinion. While predominantly driven by profit-motivation (e.g. search engine optimization, transactional growth), there is clear professional growth in the discipline of web analytics. To be most effective, Design Thinking must be informed by Design Research (transactional analytics, behavioral analytics, feedback loops, usability studies, and ethnography). I call this evidence-based design, Jeffrey Pfeffer calls it evidence-based management.

    Another differentiating element of Design Thinking is a focus on synthesis rather than analysis. Claudia Kotchka notes:

    Designers problem-solve holistically, not in a linear fashion. While the scientific method for problem solving uses problem focused strategies and analysis, designers use solution focused strategies and synthesis. They start with a whole solution rather than break it down into parts.

    Good Design Thinking is the ability to see things not readily apparent to others (that's where market differentiation can occur). Thus my favorite Schopenhauer quote:

    “Thus the task is
    not so much to see
    what no one yet has seen,
    but to think
    what nobody yet has thought
    about that which
    everybody sees”

    It's the ability to see the 'edges' of something, to find shape and form in a mass of stuff. It's the ability to see things differently – to see the implicit and make it explicit.

    Additional References

    Comments (6) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Commentary

    July 6, 2007

    Toward the Total ExperienceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Synthesis.png I loved Bob's cute image in his June 28th post. I think I was so taken by the imagery and his personal story that I missed the significance of his incidental mentioning of the Adam Greefield piece. Just for diversity, I'm linking here to the original version as a contribution to Adobe's Think Tank series.

    Of greatest significance:

    ...the time would appear to be ripe for a new kind of designer to take center stage...neither a "graphic" nor a "Web" nor even an "interaction" designer.

    Over the past few years, the domain of practice known (if only briefly) as "user experience" has begun to accommodate the new realities...recasting itself as "experience design."

    Adam then suggests why the transition is relevant:

    ...our technosocial practices have transcended the rather limited model of the "user" ultimately derived from old-school human-computer interaction studies...

    One of the challenges with the piece, is that Adam makes sweeping assumptions as to what he believes Experience Design has resulted in. Indeed, there are always malappropriations of any discipline. But good Experience Design is flexible. Indeed, the primary focus is to recognize that not every scenario can be accounted for, so the design needs to be flexible enough to not rule out possiblities. The true focus of Experience Design is to design out barriers. We're the engineers of facilitating individual progress.

    The examples Adam selects are very narrow in focus and his perspective of "Experience Designer" appears to be more in line with that of Joseph Pine's perspective (one that I have always taken issue with, as a predominant focus), where the goal is to 'create' an experience. My definition of Experience Design is to 'facilitate' an experience. Fortunately, Adam is effectively arguing for the same thing, but doesn't realize it. [I can also see how this 'disconnect' could have occurred as he got his inspiration from AIGA perspectives of the space/practice, which are often in line with the 'creationism' theory (e.g. reference to theatre).]

    He specifically states the architectural goals I have been defending for over a decade, that the ultimate design goal:

    ...ought to allow people to swap their own desired components in and out at will, to pull data out in a useful format...

    The latter was a point I tried to make to Bill Gates, face to face, in 1990 when I asked, "When are you going to separate your applications from the data they create?" The former was the point we made to a collection of vendors at an internal MCI data warehousing conference in 1996, when we asked them to break their applications apart into component functions and allow us to assemble them at will and put our own interface on the front. While akin to the SOA efforts going on, I have IBM architecture diagrams from the '80s that purport the same thing.

    Both of these concepts are fundamental to 2.0 thinking. But they're not specific to just digital -- digital just happens to provide a great platform upon which to effectively exchange stuff and facilitate open conversations, with recall.

    In the end, it's not about designing 'in' an experience it's about designing 'out' barriers to end goals (intents). It's about tying together things that are often considered in isolation from one another. And fundamentally it IS about the whole (contrary to comment 2 from the blog post suggesting that "holistic never ever works"). The disconnect comes to play in various ways that want to focus on the parts (budgets aligned to a piece of the whole, breadth of responsiblity/influence limited to a part of the process, akin to Seth Godin's 7 Reasons This Is Broken, the first one being, "Not My Job").

    Experience Design is fundamentally a practice of synthesis, not analysis.

    Image Credits: L!NA, Flickr

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    July 5, 2007

    Relationships Are About the Total ExperienceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    UPDATE: I've added several postscripts to the bottom of this. Combined with today's information makes this worthy of a republish. Today I got a phonecall from AT&T (ok, what part? no clue...) to personally 'clarify' my concern and escallate this issue to management. At least there 'is' a mechanism and it's active enough that this case made it into the pipeline. What surprised me was that I had to paint a picture for the caller. They don't personally have an email account like this..."here's your sign".

    Orignially published June 18, 2007
    ATTYAHOO.png I'm still on hold as I'm writing this...such is the beauty of the 'channel of one' that blogs afford.

    Companies need to begin paying attention to something besides the bottom line. They're missing 98% of the reason that dollars show up there in the first place...relationships.

    If people paid as little attention to their relationships that most 'big' businesses do...we'd solve the population explosion. There's a lot of 'lip service' out there to customer-centric, but it's all a checklist, "Yep, I've got someone working on that." Forrester even has shown the progress over the last 3 years in 'doing' anything about those great intents.

    So, here I am on the phone stuck between two call centers: one that is supposed to help me with my 'issues' (but only the ones they have scripts for), and the other one that can close my entire relationship with AT&T...and there is not a single business executive in the mix to realize what is going on or why. So I'm telling them here.

    It's not like I haven't tried (and oh-by-the-way...this costs me time and money too...multiply that by even 100,000 customers and that's a lot of time and money). I wrote an went to Yahoo! My question was, according to them, something that AT&T needed to handle.

    Weeks later (who has time to waste like this, going nowhere fast?) I was online again. I opted into the online chat...I was 56th in line and it was moving about 1 a minute -- you do the math. I was able to find a phone number. I called. The support line, mentioned before, could only address 'real' problems...mine didn't qualify.

    I insisted that I be escalated. They didn't even have an escalation proceedure. So I gave them one..."Escalate this so that I can close my ENTIRE relationship with AT&T."

    Now I'm on the phone with account close. They're asking me for information only available on my bill...never mind that I do all my billing online (so can you wait for 5 mintues while I go through your interactions to bring up a bill so I can look at it? -- who tests these rediculous scenarios anyway?).

    What's the big deal anyway? Paying for a free service.
    Anyone can sign up for a free Yahoo! email account. It comes with advertisement banners on every page. Until recently 'not' getting those banners was the benefit of paying for my AT&T | Yahoo! account. Not any more. My paid account now has advertisement all over it. So why do I need to pay for this experience?

    Someone has made the decision to 'add' this to the experience without considering the implications. Maybe I'm a lone voice...I hope that I'm not [apparenly not]. We shouldn't allow our relationships to be prostituted in this way (as it is, this email account was originally owned by was sold 3 times before it got to AT&T...I didn't change, they did).

    I am looking for AT&T to take accountability for the products/services and corresponding experiences that they are selling...otherwise, the field is white with competition. Anyone ready for a new client?

    I realize this is not world hunger...what it is, is companies being irresponsible in their decisions and their impact to customers...the whole reason for their existence. Ok, maybe for someone like AT&T, commercial accounts are worth a lot more...but if we can get 100,000 voices to stand up as a collective...they'd carry a little weight.

    The beauty of 'online' is the nature by which one voice gains velocity and intensity through the inflection of others. The voiceless now can be heard. Relationships are not humanless processes.

    Black isn't the only color cars can be made in.

    I have continued to raise this 'voice' through any and every channel that I can. I posted a comment through the 'abuse' channel (the options didn't give me too many choices). I received a response dated Jul.03.07, which stated the following:

    We apologize for the inconvenience. The advertising is a needed step
    towards providing world class service at an affordable price.

    If you could see the dancing aliens that come up and take up half the page as I'm trying to read a personal email, I'm not sure you'd classify it as "world class". Call it what you will, it still smacks of prostitution.

    Imagine you've just sent a tender email to your near-delivery pregnant daughter, only to have a 5" ape jumping up and down on your screen pounding his chest. Each time an ad shows up it reminds me how much I hate doing business with AT&T.

    That's the kind of negative relationship equity companies would pay to avoid.
    Instead, we get to pay for the priviledge of being annoyed.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | This Is Broken

    June 28, 2007

    New Courses AvailableEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    While we typically wouldn't blanket copy an email announcement here, I think this one is significant in what it means as to 1) the potential to grow the discipline and 2) that someone can justify offering such courses (e.g. there's enough demand for them -- because there IS!). And Victor Lombardi is just a really sharp industry resource.

    If anyone gets a chance to attend, please share your experience!
    [Don't miss the discount code...]

    What's also interesting is the 2.0 aspect of this. While only for New York City right now, imagine leveraging this 'community' and its infrastructure as a means to offer your own single session/event in your city (e.g. an upscale craigslist for classes/seminars). While we all might not have material to go into training full-time...sharing our own special knowledge for one course a year might be doable.


    Smart Experience is a new school in New York City offering
    classes for Internet professionals. We intend to cover
    state-of-the-art topics taught by the most experienced people in
    town. The school is organized as a marketplace, so you can tell
    us what classes you want us to offer, and what classes you want
    to teach. Learn more...

    Use discount code "Beta" when signing up for 20% off tuition...

    How do you proactively design an experience that expresses your
    brand? We will address the complexities of applying traditional
    brand guidelines to interactive environments, the relationship
    between the traditional brand elements of brand promise, goals,
    positioning and how to translate these to interaction and
    experience guidelines. Taught by Karen Hembrough who has worked
    with AOL, National Geographic, and iXL and just earned her MBA
    from Columbia University.
    1 two-hour workshop, Thursday, July 12. $70.

    This class will introduce the topic of business strategy and
    illustrate how Internet strategy is practiced by online and
    traditional companies. In class we'll discuss how Internet
    strategy applies to our particular situations and create our own
    fictional business by applying a particular strategic method.
    Taught by Victor Lombardi, the Director of Smart Experience, who
    also consults on Internet product development and is a leader in
    the field of information architecture. 2 two-hour workshops, Tuesdays
    7-9pm, July 10 & 17. $140.

    There are more classes on the website, as well as a listing of
    the best Internet events in New York city available via iCal,
    RSS, or email newsletter...

    Victor Lombardi
    Director, Smart Experience
    NYC Internet, mobile, and software education

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings

    The 5 P's of Design & DevelopmentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Note: I've redated this to raise it again with new info. Forrester had published an insightful report (July 2006) that spoke to larger considerations for workspace design: Untethering Information Workers: Rethinking Workplace Location and Layout (subscription only access). I was going to call out a few key points here but there were too many to pick from. Let's just say that it does a good job of highlighting many critical aspects of the TOTAL experience. Someone in our discipline could run with this and add tremendous detail and value to this 'start' of the story.

    Alternate Title: Microsoft Embraces New Work Spaces Reminicent of the Purple Sofa Era

    Both titles bear a bit of explanation. Marketing has 4 P's used as a model for strategy: Product, Price, Promotion, Place. In the process of uncovering the details of events going on within one group at Microsoft, I realized that they'd effectively identified 5 P's for Design & Development. These are shared in the context of this piece.

    As to the Purple Sofa Era, those of us who lived it, immediately identify with it. In the late '90s, nearly every dot.flop interactive agency (and even some internal corporate eBusiness groups) created more dynamic, creative physical work spaces to support the different work they were intending to generate, and to attract highly-creative resources.

    purple%20sofa%202.jpg These environments seemed to have common elements: purple sofas, Herman Miller furniture (especially Aeron chairs), writeable walls, and foosball tables. What is disheartening is that what follows in this piece was clearly suggested, with research (The People Are the Company), in 1995. So we're a little slow on the uptake.

    There are two supporting media pieces: the short version (a 15 minute tour of Microsoft's Patterns & Practices Lab) and the long version (a 49 minute interview describing the evolution of the group and their workspace).

    Notes and Observations...

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    May 22, 2007

    Falling Short of an End: TargetEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    [Happy Birthday to me! Heck, what's the point of authoring a blog if you can't send yourself wishes?]

    I'm following up on Bob's post today with the unanswered question, "When does an experience end?" My answer: when you're done. The problem is some companies end an experience based on some parameter other than what the reasonable expectations might be for a customer (or other relationship). Let's consider a few common ones:

    • The end of 'scope' for a particular initiative
    • The end of budget for a particular project
    • The end of attention/patience of a manager responsible for implementing a service
    • etc...etc...etc.

    Target%20bullseye.gifSo I have a question for Target: what was the reason you stopped short of this particular scenario? Don't get me wrong. Target is one of our favorite companies for paying attention to design...just not particularly to interactions (hmmm, and now that I think about it...I have a cherished colleague that's a designer there...maybe I need to ask him this question). So this isn't about pointing a finger -- this is truly about, what are the reasons experience designs fall short?


    • My weeks of late have been beyond hectic (thus, not covering for Bob when he was gone -- I barely had time to talk to myself, let alone do blog posts).
    • I have an important wedding shower to go to later this week.
    • I learned that the bride-to-be is registered at Target.
    • Fabulous: quick access to the gift registry.
    • Easy access to her registry via her name.
    • I spin through her list and my attention is drawn to some items listed with "free shipping".
    • I find that I can order two of the items in the list and still be within my budget (that makes me look good).
    • The order can be shipped directly to the bride-to-be without me knowing her address or Target having to tell me what it is (tremendous).
    • I get a confirmation on the screen and a nice html email.
    • This is all great! But I am sorely disappointed...

    What happened? Target didn't finish the scenario. I wasn't just buying a gift. I was buying a gift for a shower. I still have to go to the shower. I will be going without the gifts. I will bring a card...but what can I put into the card? Target did not offer me (the template for which would be next to nothing to design and could be reused repeatedly) a simple printout that listed the pictures of the items, with their titles that I could include in my card to announce my soon-to-arrive gift! A simple solution would have sealed the deal on my otherwise 'exceeded' expectations. Instead, my expectations were exceeded all the way to the end...and one simple action turned my experience into a disappointment (I now have to take the time to create my own 'gift announcement' -- like I have time for that...).

    I don't offer this to 'complain' about my situation. I offer this as an example of just how minor the big things are. Somehow, real world examples are better at illustrating the points we're trying to make than us talking about them endlessly.

    So...for one rule of thumb, the experience ends when the scenario is over (satisfied) -- not at the end of the scope, the budget, or the patience of the manager.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    April 23, 2007

    Asleep at the SwitchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I'm in this line of practice to combat blatant bad behaviors on the part of businesses -- particularly those with long-standing histories and solid brands -- they should know better. But longevity does not guarantee continuuity of brand experience. Companies do not appear to recognize the risk of ignoring customer experiences.

    GE.pngCase in point: GE and the sub-brand, GE Interest Plus. Based on my entire relationship with this company (which hasn't been that long, but has been extremely painful), I wrote the following message to them last week (via their online feedback loop -- which will likely never reach anyone who can/will initiative change in the company).

    This is clearly a company in trouble, if we're to measure success based on solid attention to touchpoints. Let me illustrate (this will also be blogged). [I covered my 'disclosure'.]
    I signed up for Quick Transactions. I have in front of me the brochure: "How to Manage your Investment On-Line or Over the Phone". Indeed the 'first attention' position of information after opening the tri-fold brocure communicates the following: "GE Interest Plus offers you the ability to manage your investment in a number of ways: + Through our Account Access website ( + Through our automated telephone line at 1-800-433-4480 + By speaking with a representative from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. E.T."
    Last Wednesday (before the tax deadline) I called to speak with a representative (one of the three channels offered in the brochure). I asked for clarification on transactions, as my last online transaction took 4 days to post to my bank account. He assured me that it should be transacted in 24 hours, so I requested that a large transaction be executed.
    To my amazement, 5 days later there was no money in my bank account. Indeed, when I checked my Interest Plus account nothing had been transacted at all.
    My life was too busy this week (marathon planning meetings at work) to do anything until this following Friday, but my husband had called earlier in the week and had been told that I couldn't have possibly attempted a transaction with the rep because they can't DO transactions by phone (hmmm, didn't the brochure state otherwise, and didn't the rep I spoke with give me the distinct impression that he'd indeed completed such a transaction for me? I did insist that the tapes be pulled and reviewed).
    When I called I got a very patient representative who continued to restate to me the basics (none of which are called out in the brochure). Indeed, when later asking to speak with a supervisor I was told that wire transactions (not mentioned anywhere in the brochure) are called out in the prospectus. Where are the research findings you have which suggest that a prospectus is a means by which to effectively communicate with your customers?
    It was noted to me that there is a $15 fee for 24 hour wire transfers. When I suggested that I would like to have a wire transfer initiated with the fee waived to make up for the mis-information on many fronts, I was told that they would readily waive the fee but that my account was not set up for wire transfers and that paperwork would need to be mailed to me for signature.
    Welcome to the 21st century.
    But the story doesn't end here. I went online to execute the transaction I was assured had occured 8 business days ago. I tried to log in. I couldn't. After several tries, I suddenly realized something that had only been partially evident to me before: the web site and the phone system maintain two totally different passwords (and yet neither channel communicates this).
    None of this is remotely indicative of the practices which individuals experience via other online relationships. Clearly even your print and phone interactions are highly flawed in their ability to communicate and/or engage in reasonable transactions. Your comparative competition is not other investment institutes, it is the whole financial services industry.
    I recommended to the supervisor that he look for another job.

    It's quite sad, because they have a great product. They stopped short of the design cycle, by focusing just on the product -- not the experience that goes with the product.

    While there are certainly more 'scum-laden' behaviors worthy of industry attention/correction, latent bad behaviors such as these should have full disclosure. Mainly, because in the case of companies that should know better, these behaviors are often in management blind spots. These companies are so large and so impersonal that the 'voice' of the customer and the 'voice' of the employee are drowned out by the noise of a monolithic, thought-to-be well-designed machine.

    Every once in a while someone needs to pull the whistle on the line to get management to come running and check things out.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

    April 2, 2007

    The Experience Is the ProductEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    When you can't seem to find the right words to explain what experience design is all about and how it fits into business, point your conversation partner to this fast-paced 4 minute video of Peter Merholz describing the what's important to consider -- how customer experience is something beyond the product itself.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design

    March 3, 2007

    Problems at Amazon?Email This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I experienced my first chink in Amazon's brand experience armor. It wouldn't have necessarily been enough to report on (how many random issues do we run into in experiences daily?), but this seemed too different in too many ways. I did a search to see if anyone else had reported anything (not that the search engines aren't so clogged with 'noise' that results would be meaningfully indicative of anything) and found only 1 artifact, which isn't even directly related. Take my observation for what it's worth.

    I went to order a book on Amazon yesterday. Amazon set the bar for simplicity in online ordering. I could have used 1-click, but after the initial novelty wore off (years ago), I often find that I change orders a lot and like to mess with a shopping collection for some time. But in this case it was just one book.

    When I got to the payment page, my head tilted to the right -- you know, the autonomic inclination when your eyes and brain are trying to resolve some unidentified conflict -- where "something's different" is trying to raise to the level of conscious awareness.

    Months earlier, as a result of very successfully-crafted persuasion, I had set up my primary payment option as my bank account. It was suddenly not there. Then I noticed that issues at the payment stage were not supported in any way: there was no access from the page to your account information and there was no access to any help links. I bailed out of the transaction to do some research. This was the first of many repeats of this action.

    The only 'clue' that I had was that there was some 'red' on the payment page: one of my cards on file had expired. Having been in this business too long, I'm supposing that there might be an error condition overriding the display of my bank account. I check and my bank account is listed as my primary method of payment. I'm running short of time -- I wasn't planning to spend this much time to order a book. I engage the online feedback loop to get some clarity.

    The next morning there's a response in my inbox. Well, there's an email. There's nothing in the response that even remotely addresses my concern, but there are phone numbers. I call. While the support agent spoke perfect English I knew they were not US-based (I had to spell everything). They had no answers and suggested at least two actions I was not happy with (1. Would need to wait until Monday to get someone to help me 'fix' issues with my bank account -- there was no evidence that my bank account had any issues and 2. They'd report that I had problems with a virus (where the heck did this come from?)). Lastly, they gave me an email address for the web team.

    In the meantime, the prior email had a feedback feature for me to respond if the email had solved my problem, and the call itself generated another one of these. It was through this mechanism that I got some real answers:

    Hello from
    First, please allow me to extend my sincere apologies for any inconveneince this matter has caused to you.
    I want to let you know that we've removed the option to "pay directly from your bank account" temporarily due to an issue with our payment processor. I'm afraid I don't have any information about when or if we may offer this option again.

    That's pretty significant. And yet, through at least 4+ touchpoints this oh-so-important piece of information was not available to either myself or the interacting support staff/mechanisms.

    Has Amazon finally exceeded the optimal tipping-point of size and control?

    Or are they too focused elsewhere?

    Lately profits have fallen, dragged down by spending on new technology projects and on free-shipping offers that Amazon considers marketing in place of TV ads. Analysts expect full-year net income this year to come in at about $180 million, or half of last year's total. Most worrisome to investors is Amazon's three-year-plus binge on new technologies. So far this year its spending on technology and content, including hiring hundreds of engineers and programmers to produce all these new services and buy more servers to run them, is up 52%, to $485 million. As a result, operating margins, at 4.1% for the past four quarters, now come in at less than Wal-Mart's 5.9%.
    Source: Business Week 11.13.06

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    March 1, 2007

    Classic: Channeling Negative EnergyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    PayPal, likely the most frequent subject of phishing expeditions, has now turned the tables on the practice and without doing a single thing to change their business model is using this practice to their advantage.

    Getting a PayPal email in your inbox is almost an immediate 'mark as spam' action -- unless you see the title of something you recently bought in the subject line. This subject line said: "How to spot scams and protect your identity"...not too many phishers would pick this as a topic. But just to make sure, I opened it. Inside was a beautifully-crafted html page with various sections and links, better than some of the finest of online page design. At the top of the page banner, centered off of the PayPal logo was a large "Hello Paula Thornton" (most phishers don't have a lot of personal information). There were enough cues in the piece to clearly suggest that this indeed was from PayPal.

    Of the many actions available on this newsletter-like piece was the following:

    How PayPal Works
    Check out the new demo
    See why PayPal is the safe and simple way to pay online.
    Find out the many ways you can use your account. Watch the demo.

    While they never really use the words directly (very crafty) by the tying in of this message to all the other messages around identity theft, phishing and the like, they're reinforcing the opportunity for people to use their service as a means to secure their personal identity and related financial information.


    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    February 26, 2007

    The Missing Rosetta StoneEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Harold G. Nelson offers an interesting perspective on the realm of our discipline:

    "Scientists and artists legitimately serve their own interests-their curiosity or need to express themselves. In contrast, design is defined as a service to the 'other'. Design is relationship-based-a social system-and designing is a complex, dynamic process I describe as a 'conspiracy'-a breathing together-among stakeholders in the design."

    He also talks about our ability to be transcendental (well, not exactly, but it seemed like a great '60s attribute to try on for fit). His case for design as a basis for leadership is all the more intriguing when looking at its reliance on a "service relationship" (it's likely slighly different than your first mental image). Based on my own heightened focus to embody more 'change management' practices in our discipline, this quote was also quite relevant:

    leaders forget, people like to change -- they just don't like being changed
    [emphasis added]

    Mr. Nelson suggests that a design culture helps accommodate the change, but this also requires an organizational design competency.

    A quick review of his book, The Design Way, strongly suggests that there are some keys here to crossing the chasm. The more I learn about Harold Nelson and his work the more it looks like it could be the missing Rosetta Stone for our discipline. He certainly has pegged a primary reason I've never pursued an advanced degree.

    Quotes from in-depth interview in NextD Journal: ReRethinking Design
    Caution: While purported as an 'interview', GK VanPatter has a tendency to pontificate too profusely at the expense of gaining greater understanding of the individual being interviewed. The last 20 pages (printed html pages of 44 total) is an endless stream of GK interjecting material which should have been published in a separate piece.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    February 23, 2007

    Kaizen Meets EthnographyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Just keep finding ways to introduce the principles. Check out this example, excerpted here from a manufacturing publication:

    ...won over by a Kaizen demonstration that stressed the importance of videotaping. Seward was inspired enough to purchase a video camera on his way back to the plant. On his return, he made a 10-minute video of an assembly/packaging process that he sensed incorporated too many duplicated steps. He then invited three operators, an engineer and an operations manager to watch the video with him. Their curiosity about Seward's plan turned to active involvement when he then asked the workers to describe problems they were having with the process. "The flood gates opened," says Seward. "I filled many pages. When they finally slowed down, I asked what they thought we could do to improve the process."
    The team quickly noted the wastefulness of having expensive process machinery sit idle while the operator assembled parts. Then automation was discussed, which led an operator to ask if Seward's experiment would mean the end of his job. "I assured them they would never lose their job at this company because of this process," says Seward. "I said it will make their job easier and allow them more time to get involved with additional work as we bring it in, which is good for growth."
    Seward's impromptu Kaizen session led to a new, partially automated machine the company designed and built in-house. "It paid for itself in five weeks," says Seward, by enabling more units to be built in less time.

    Now maybe someone should point out to them why it works...

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    February 19, 2007

    WikinomicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    wikinomicsglobetop.jpgLeveraging the common model to combine a book with a discussion, Wikinomics claims to focus on how mass collaboration changes everything.

    The thoughts framed by this concept were central to the discussions that went on at the recent FASTforward 07 event (which I'm already planning to attend next year). Conversations around the event and the thinking that went on, continue with high energy. Aside from the uniqueness of the event in the pre/post use of the blog which was seeded with some high-energy thinkers in the intranet / Enterprise 2.0 space, the event was unique in that although hosted by a vendor (and sponsored by several others), it was clearly an event to bring together bright minds and allow for deep conversations to go on around the topics and possibilities for this space -- such that the vendor(s) themselves can learn from the discussions as equal participants.

    What was refreshing is that principles of Experience Design were front and center in the conversations. It was clearly a 'design thinking' sort of event.

    One concept that came out of the discussions, which is reinforced by the Wikinomics artifacts, is that we need to embrace the power of the 'individual as a channel'. Major companies are thinking through new business models to both embrace and capitalize on this reality. Related discussions were quite heady.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events and Happenings | Experience Design & Technology | Websites, Blogs, and Podcasts

    January 17, 2007

    Design as a Strategic FunctionEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Online Video: Executive design recruiter, RitaSue Siegel, offers her perspectives to assess whether or not a company is commited to design strategically. [QuickTime, 03:40]

    In it, she closes with one of her beliefs: that getting an MBA is not a relevant step for increasing one's ability to be effective in design leadership. Other more recent pieces contributed by RitaSue provide a great perspective on the growth and potential of the larger discipline of design.

    Notable Quote

    Five years ago few designers used the term experience, as in experience design. Today, virtually no designer leaves the office without it.
    From Innovation, Winter 2006

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    Other TV Experiences to ChangeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    When I posted my HDTV comments earlier this week, I'd forgotten that I'd previously shared my dilemma of finding the right HDTV equipment. In that post I noted the opportunity to bypass programming schedules and avoid the necessity to store programming yourself, but to rely on the source for the programming.

    It only came to my attention today that the BBC is specifically addressing this issue, as a public entity. An "on demand application with the working title of MyBBCPlayer".

    Of significant note is this quote from the Director-General: "Quite quickly we expect many more households to adopt a range of solutions for moving media from PC to TV and vice versa and from fixed devices to mobile ones and back again."

    I'm ready for it...

    Footnote: It's obvious from additional comments why we can find some of our best practitioners coming out of this organization. We'd all love to work in an environment where at the highest levels this was the focus of the work:

    This picture of a possible on demand future is part of a bigger story – which is the BBC's response to what is often referred to as Web 2.0.
    The second chapter in the web's history requires other changes from the BBC: a much greater focus on content management and supported metadata to allow for sophisticated search and navigation, a shift of gravity from text towards rich audio-visual content across the piece, an engagement with user-generated content, user-recommendation and personalisation which goes beyond anything I've touched upon this evening.
    And it requires a different kind of BBC

    To our colleagues at the BBC, don't let us get in your way...

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    January 15, 2007

    January 10, 2007

    January 5, 2007

    January 4, 2007

    December 24, 2006

    CRM: Can't Remember MuchEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Having come through the ranks of CRM activities before becoming 'more enlightened', I wanted to compare and contrast the difference in thinking between the disciplines of CRM and Experience Design. As a caveat, I still firmly believe that the fundamentals of CRM are sound -- the problem is in the way it has been spun by so many vendors and blindly adopted by too many people who are in over their heads in their job roles.

    With due respect and gratitude for the level of effort it takes to put together an event, the comparison has been framed around a replayable webinar "5 Keys to Customer-Driven Marketing". Also, there are many sound principles introduced here, and should these principles help influence anyone to 'better' thinking, this is to be celebrated. The intent here is to point out, as is an element of their presentation, the gaps which leave significant opportunity untapped. It isn't that CRM (customer relationship marketing) is wrong in any way; it's that it is only a piece of the overall puzzle. The concern is that too many companies are not connecting the pieces of the puzzle.

    There is a fundamental 'flaw' that comes up repeatedly in most CRM initiatives or even in CRM principles: they forget more than they remember. Case in point, one classic CRM initiative (pre-CRM evolution) was MCI's Friends & Family. Through this program MCI rapidly gained large segments of the long-distance market. But there was a problem: The standard telecom business model could not sustain a customer focus. All data was keyed against a BTN: billing telephone number. That is, to the business model, the center of the universe -- the thing to which everything else was tied -- was the billing telephone number. It's all well and fine to willingly accept from customers information about the people they want to maintain relationships with, but if the first time they change phone numbers (ala. "move") all of this information is lost, what value have you provided to the customer?

    Worse, the relationships were valuable information to MCI, but there was other valuable information that customers often shared on customer service calls, but the agents had no means by which to capture all of this 'free' data. Instead, MCI spent millions each year on data from which they would 'extrapolate' what people wanted and/or might desire.

    Unfortunately, this is the primary focus of most CRM initiatives -- trying to predict what people might do, with less attention paid to what they're already doing. The "5 Keys to Customer-Driven Marketing" presentations attempts to rectify some of this, but here again, it's the 'marketing' term that musses up the intent. The principles of marketing as a discipline have come to rely on certain mechanisms for insight: surveys are one of them. While surveys can be useful, they are but one piece of a huge puzzle. The focus of this webinar relies on surveys as a primary input mechanism.

    1. To Know What Customer's Think -- Ask Them
    Notable quote: "We want to do more listening than talking."
    My retort: If you really wanted to listen, as was the case with MCI, you'd be looking at the touchpoints where people are already telling you plenty, but you're not capturing any of it.

    Building upon Peter Senge's principles of continuous learning, and the fundamentals of optimizing life models through feedback loops the goal is to engage in continuous listening. One company which readily embraces this term, iPerceptions, indeed engages in a similar business venture as does the sponsor of the webinar. They are a sharp group of people. But their product approach fails to embrace one critical truth: what people say and what people do are often not congruent. The data gathered from these listening mechanisms has limited value until it is mapped against actual behaviors. [Interestingly, Stanford University has a new field of study related to influencing behaviors called Captology.]

    Lastly, people answer questions within a specific context. Too often, these answers are extrapolated to other contexts for which they may or may not apply. Without additional measures to ensure the 'transferability' of certain data to other contexts, questionable decisions will be made.

    The true value of such data is to help identify what might need deeper research, which then leads to their second point...

    2. Make Customer Feedback Actionable
    Notable Quote: "Understand the 'why'"
    It would fascinate me to see the measurable negative contribution made by surveys to the GNP because of the time wasted by all parties involved (the designers, the implementers, the analysts and the consumers themselves) because the questions asked are either a) not actionable or b) never acted on.

    Surveys cannot answer 'why'. A 'why' is deeply imbedded both in intent and a myriad of variables that play into the economics of decisions. What is disturbing is how many well-heeled companies spend millions on meaningless data or who ignore (take no action) on the most telling data (because either no one is listening or someone is 'hiding' the tell-tale evidence of poor performance).

    3. Understand the Gap Between Importance and Performance
    Gap analysis is recommended along 4 continuums: Customer Service, Product Quality, Salesperson's Knowledge, Timely Delivery.

    Study each of these labels very carefully. Which of them are in the language of the customer? Would any of them directly hold the answer to 'why'?

    I consider such measure important in the same way that you might check a person's blood pressure. The attribute "high" blood pressure is a relative measure based on certain norms. There are conditions in which those norms may be irrelevant. Each company has to use this data to determine what their own 'norm' is. They also have to determine what the elasticity of their norms are. Does attempting to make small changes in a gap, throw the results to another extreme that are more deleterious?

    Such measures are only relevant in trends over time: rates of change. And they are single data points that will prove to have specific correlations to any variety of other valuable variables. What those relationships mean will vary from business to business. They are data points which suggest other research to be conducted.

    4. Make Feedback an Ongoing Activity
    When you look at all the supporting activities which the presentation suggest here, there is a huge correlation made between "Feedback" and "Survey" as if they were one in the same. A survey is a week feedback mechanism, at best: it is neither timely nor contextual.

    It is at this point in the presentation that it is suggested that 'trends' are important in data gathering. It is difficult to gain any significant value from 'trends' of questionable data.

    5. Incorporate Feedback Back into the Business
    Notable Quote: " is about getting the information and creating a continuous learning environment."
    This is the point at which CRM and Experience Design take the biggest divergence. To successfully draw conclusions from the feedback and to determine which actions to take from the feedback require principles of design. There are no inherent principles of design embodied in CRM disciplines.

    Additionally, I have found that when I've looked at the same data as others in a marketing role, we will focus on different points of 'relevance'. Their first instincts will often lead them down a path that is neither substantiated or truly relevant to the customer.

    Lastly, in none of this does it suggest that specific new activities are needed or resources that might be 'differently' trained or have a different perspective than their existing resources -- even if it were just to bring in a resource to help reframe the current way of thinking, for a brief period of time.

    Case Study: Golden Key International Honour Society
    The second part of the webinar is a case study of a non-profit. It is a great example of how good things can come from limited models. They are doing a lot of the right activities in spite of the limitations of above-noted models.

    Notable Quote: "As a new Chief Operating Officer...I asked to see the last survey...what was done with it?...nothing...what did it cost?...somewhere in the neighborhood of $20K...I thought...what a waste."

    To which I thought: Why by repeating the same action would different results be expected? Certainly, there were a lot of improvements made -- there are a lot of improvement opportunities. But as people get better at all of this, the opportunity gaps will diminish. Value will rely on design principles to be applied for true differentiation, principles which rely on a variety of data points carefully positioned to set a more-stable foundation from which to build upon.

    That said, the case study did just that: apply design thinking to the problem space. It showed how surveys can best be implemented in an overall research strategy, but didn’t point out the limitations or the other efforts required. This was all clearly a situation that had potential for ‘more’ should it embody more design principles.

    Closing the loop on the original premise of this piece, one critical principle is a stronger focus on 'memory'. All truly phenomenal experience models are those which either shift or embody the memory of the individual into the relationship, and do so as seamlessly and as unobtrusively as possible. One more notable term raised was “customer intimacy” – truly intimate relationships are those which have deep knowing.

    P.S. the end of the webinar there was a 3-question survey that came up. The first question asked for a rating from 1 to 5, only no context was given as to the scale for the rating (was 1 or 5 high?). Such is a classic example of why surveys are so fraught with problems and how the data from them can lead to bad decisions.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    December 21, 2006

    November 16, 2006

    October 10, 2006

    Design Lessons from IIT's Institute of DesignEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Newly minted IIT-ID graduate Denis Weil is profiled in Business Week's "Want a Master of Design with That?" Among Denis' lessons learned:

    Notable Quote: "The true value of design in business is being able to use real case studies to show how design adds value."

    A great focus group cross-check: "We have customers act instead of talk, because in focus groups, people can't project how they will act."

    ...And the pinnacle view across the kingdom: "The emerging discipline is not just how to design artifacts, but how to design the kiosk, the interface, the process."

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: ED Education

    IT = Innovation TerminusEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Innovation%20Barrier%2060SI_chart.gif An insightful piece from Information Week, "IT & Innovation: Out Of Sync?", highlights surprising findings as to the perception of others about IT's contribution to innovation. The expectation would be that IT should be highly innovative; the reality is not bearing up this assumption.

    Quotes from the piece:

    At Babson College's Research Center on Innovation and Corporate Entrepreneurship (ICE), we define innovation in six words: implementing new ideas that create value.

    Harvard professor Jim Cash suggested at an InformationWeek conference that the term CIO should stand for chief innovation officer—with the same guy in the job.
    Our IT people don't think like innovators.
    I often refer to our IT group as the business-prevention department
    IT often says no to the innovator in many companies

    Examples of roadblocks installed and heavily guarded by IT:

    • No outside groupware
    • No loading of unauthorized tools
    • No access (particular challenges to change, e.g. rapid inclusion of contractors and/or industry collaboration)

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Odds and Ends: Random Observations

    August 14, 2006

    Behavioral EconomicsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    With lots of good intentions, I've resigned myself to simply share important stuff as I come across it rather than waiting to find the time to comment on it (as illustrated by the many half-written pieces that sit on my desktop).

    I've mentioned repeatedly (on many different 'channels') the importance of economic concepts to our work. If I wasn't able to convince you before, perhaps these will add another perspective. Check out two important pieces: A Perspective on Economics and Psychology and Behavioral Economics: Reunifying Psychology and Economics. [Step gingerly around the highly-academic voice of these pieces.]

    The only commentary I'd want to add is that the flavor of the pieces are still very 'large market, classic economics' in nature. See if you can transpose the concepts to markets of one and individual choice. And lastly, anyone who questions the validity of 'rationality' in behaviors doesn't understand the true meaning of rationality -- it's contextual. The real value to us as practitioners is to figure out what makes certain behaviors 'rational' to those who engage in them. Those values and/or motivators are the hues that define the paint of our designs.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design | Theories of Experience

    June 20, 2006

    June 19, 2006

    June 14, 2006

    Service Innovation Through Design ThinkingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The best 37 minutes you can spend — with the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown, from a March 2006 presentation. But for those of you too busy to sit still for 37 minutes, here’s all the important stuff…

    …what’s resonating with business today is actually that design is a really valuable way of tackling a lot of different business and creative issues. And that it can be a way into tackling problems that organizations have struggled with, often for a long time.

    For many companies, design and design thinking is more of a way that they tackle thinking about their future. It’s a way that they move intentionally into their future in many different ways. We certainly are finding many organizations using design thinking as a way to embark on strategy — or a way to think about their future and where their future may lead them. Strategy is no longer the domain only of the management consultant, but today is also a space in which a designer plays an important role.
    Service organizations are about, ‘How do we relate to customers in ways such that we deliver value?’, and design is a great way of thinking about that.
    I think there’s a difference between design thinking and design. Designers use design thinking, but lots of other people use design thinking too. There are components of design thinking, there are pieces of design thinking which are highly applicable in many different places.
    In the work that I do it’s the relationship between design thinking and design & innovation that’s incredibly important. It’s been a really large piece of what’s brought design to business in new ways.
    We can’t, as designers, assume that we ‘own’ innovation. We’re not the only people that innovate.
    [see diagram below] Essentially that whole space is available for innovation.


    ...continue reading.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design

    June 13, 2006

    Waiting for NEXT Generation TVsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The reports are true. When the kids move out, you really do change all your furniture and buy nice stuff. We've been looking at TV options for months. Just about ready to hang a purchase over the fireplace (needing to find a new location for our mountain scene serigraphs), we're now going to stare at the serigraphs for several more months. What's changed? The winds.

    Framed by two prominent geographic features of the North American continent, they're blowing east of the Great Salt Lake, across the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Surprisingly, not from the Pacific nor the Atlantic.

    New%20Picture.gif Unfettered by any profit motive BYU-TV offers on-demand TV that plays continuously from my laptop at all hours of the day. Miss something important? Spin it back and listen/view it again. No expensive equipment to 'store and replay' programs in your home. For now, no TV required. And in fact, in preparation for the arrival of a 'new' TV we'd already passed on our console TV to our daughter's apartment. No great loss.

    From my hotel room, the TV no longer goes on, nor do I have to worry about arranging my mornings around 'catching' my favorite programs. Via wireless connections, I watch them as I can, or listen to them and replay them several times. Don't like what's playing right now? Spin back through the programming for that day and find something more interesting.

    Lastly, an interesting 'feature' of the optional QuantumMedia viewer. In capturing the image above I did a simple shift-prntscrn, and pasted it into Microsoft Office Picture Manager. Much to my surprise, as I opened the clip to 'trim' it, the current program continued playing 'live' in the clip.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    April 1, 2006

    March 15, 2006

    March 13, 2006

    March 9, 2006

    March 8, 2006

    March 6, 2006

    February 26, 2006

    January 11, 2006

    January 9, 2006

    November 20, 2005

    Gastronomical Goes AstronomicalEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    The strongest point that Joseph Pine makes in his book Experience Economy is how companies capitalize on the economic return scale by increasing the experience value. Where Starbucks moved the coffee bean up the economic chain by making the drinking of their coffee an experience, there are a number of Chicago restauranteurs who are taking cooking and eating to the next level. [Recognition given to CBS News Sunday Morning for their feature on this timely topic.]

    bacon.jpgPushing the limit not only on the preparation of food, but also on its presentation and delivery, these epicurial artists have kitchens that resemble high-tech research laboratories. Transforming balsamic vinegar from a liquid into a solid or delivering a popcorn soup where a quick dip in liquid nitrogen turns the consumption into a smoke-blowing, dragon-like experience, to ordering from the menu delivered on a plate and then eating it as the opening course. These creators are pushing the edge on both the product and the way in which it is delivered and consumed. The standouts include Moto and Alinea (who's fabulous photography is shared here). The latter experiments with new delivery mechanisms, such as the bacon slings pictured here, to feature their unique creations.

    As you uncover more of these unique eating experiences, be sure to share your finds here.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology

    November 3, 2005

    September 7, 2005

    September 2, 2005

    Survival ModeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Heartfelt concern and positive thoughts go out to the families whose lives have been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. [All of my Cajun relatives were all but spared just as Katrina veered east.]

    Hurricane katrina.jpgWithout intent to diminish the dire circumstances of individuals whose lives have been drastically changed by this event, therein lies a great object lesson. Suddenly, there is no 'normal'. Moreso than recent catastrophies, the situation in New Orleans suggests that recovery may not only be long, but may simply not be worth it for some – both for those with little and for those with 'more'. Some have quickly adapted and have used the upheaval to redefine their lives. A distant relative, a restauranteur, has moved his family into an apartment in Baton Rouge and is already pursuing new business plans there, with plans to permanently relocate.

    While our professional goals tend to focus on trying to make things 'better', sometimes there is need to simply focus on survival -- to give singular attention to making basic corrections before adding embellishments, or perhaps to simply switch direction altogether. Often, businesses miss subtle 'survival' opportunities because nothing stops. Nothing draws attention to the situation.

    When an o-ring fails on a rocket booster system, the results are catastrophic. Businesses can often operate for years with many just-ever-so-slightly-impared o-rings that manage to allow them to function — perhaps less optimally.

    And then again, sometimes, just as in the case of the fatal o-rings, someone has spoken the truth of the situation. From the 'inside view' of many companies I've often found an unspoken truth: denial. No one wants to admit anything that might be percieved as failure. Once in my career I discovered that a regularly published report had not been accurately designed (it was mis-reporting data). Once corrections were made, I was prevented from 'celebrating' the report corrections to the recipients (e.g. "We recently discovered and have fixed..."). I was forbidden from telling them that the reports had changed at all -- to do so would have supposedly implicated 'failure' on the part of the Director.

    This is offered as a simple testament that the greatest forces of destructive turbulence are often quiet and unspoken. Our challenge may be a responsibility to infuse greater tolerance for honesty and forthrightness. Change is difficult, but deep pride presents a high hurdle that can trip up the path to a noble goal.

    Where are the business writings on effective ways to mitigate and influence rampant pride? We need insights to relevant approaches to be more effective in our efforts.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    August 7, 2005

    Rethinking Skyways and TunnelsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Our buddy, MarK Hurst (of Good Experience fame), recently shared a link to a New York Times article, "Rethinking Skyways and Tunnels" (requires registration).
    Based on my own experiences with Skywalks, in particular, I take issue with the conclusions drawn from the article. Or, I choose to point out that this is a far more complex economic exchange of tradeoffs such that the 'reasons' for decline in cities with these structures is not necessarily the result of the structures. Indeed, how much 'more personable' is a street-level sidewalk rather than either skyway or a tunnel, especially in extreme weather. Do you find your interactions more frequent with people on the street than in a similar walkway suspended or depressed? Are you looking for interactions or trying to just get somewhere?

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    July 5, 2005

    Attracting Existing EnergyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    As Experience Design goes, I tend to be an advocate for the 'small stuff' and leave the 'large stuff' to people like Joseph Pine. I wanted to share this decidedly small stuff experience to serve as a testimony of what works.

    While much of what I write about focuses on companies who prevent customers from doing business with them, this is clearly a celebration of a decidedly small company that made a point of maintaining/building on the 'attraction' of what might otherwise end up being a one-time customer.

    Here's the story.

    I have a refrigerator with a changeable water filter. It's a fabulous, time-saving feature that helped us replace a former routine of having huge 5-gallon bottles of water delivered to our doorstep (with associated requirements of having to find storage for 3 full bottles and two empty bottles -- not a desirable challenge in less than 1500 square feet living space -- all important details for those of us who look to understand the full depth of experiences). But this water filter is not something that is easily purchased up during my normal shopping routines to the grocery store. It takes some effort -- effort that is not necessarily cherished.

    In fact, I spent quite a bit of time looking for an appropriate online source for this small but important piece of my daily life, at the best price. I even saved a box from the last filter (which is lying on the floor in my garage right now, as a reminder) to make sure I'd know what I had to order. The task to reorder this filter has been 'nagging' me of late. But the thought of finding the reference to my previous order just wasn't appealing. I'm sure I would have waited for the red light to show up on the refrigerator until my 'tipping point' would have been reached.

    But today, this arrived in my inbox. I leave this to stand on its own as a best practice for a small but effective means to increase business and build relationship equity, that very few companies focus on.

    Hello Paula Thornton,

    On your last order placed with on 10/5/2004 you requested to be notified in 9 months that it is time to change your refrigerator water filter.

    That time has passed and it is now time to change your refrigerator water filter. Below you will find a link to the product(s) that you ordered when you signed up for our free reminder service.

    We also would like to offer you a $1 discount on your next order as our Thank You to you for your continued support. To redeem the discount, simply enter the discount code 8899101 in the disount code box while in the shopping cart and click on the update button. You will see the discount reflected in your total.

    You last ordered the following products. Click the product name to view the details and to order your replacement.

    WF50, UKF8001AXX, 12589208 Amana Water Filter

    Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to serving you for your next order. Best regards,

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    June 17, 2005

    June 9, 2005

    Embracing ZeroEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    As we approached the new decade, one of the buzzwords was 'coopertition' — finding ways to embrace the competition to increase potential. Just a short time before that, at a Gartner conference, I was shocked to recognize a significant change in Bill Gates that would seem to support this position. Sitting on a panel with his major competitors, in the past had they directed challenging comments toward him you could feel him restraining himself to avoid leaping across the stage to accost them. Instead, this time he was calm and collected — a decidedly distinct change. But there was one telling comment that explained his demeanor. He said something to the effect of, "Every time the competition makes a dollar the pie just gets bigger. I realized that this isn't a zero sum game."

    Now a new group of entrepreneurs has found a way to capitalize on 'zero' — free phone calls. In metropolitan areas of New York, phone kiosks have been set up allowing the caller to make 4-minute long distance calls for free. The tradeoff? The kiosk is an advertising billboard. Just like advertising was the economic mechanism which provided tele-vision at no cost to the masses, now tele-communication is going economically retro.

    The responsible entity, Popa Media, often finds an 'open arms' business demeanor as they hunt down new locations to position kiosks. Where in many situations they would need to rent space to place a phone, they are often offered free space because of the additional foot traffic the phone draws. After all, people have to 'stand still' for those 4 minutes and are likely to take a closer look at their surroundings than they might otherwise. Popa capitalizes on this with the byline: "The hottest branding platform on the planet."

    Additionally, the phone itself provides an interactive component to the experience. Many advertisers are local businesses. The phone is equipped with a speed-dial number directly to the advertisers. Finding the right combination of location and offering is key. In an installation on the campus of SUNY an apartment advertisement got a call 5 minutes after the promotion was put in place.

    This 'branding platform' helps shorten the distance between sellers and potential buyers, all the while offering an economic return to the buyers for their attention.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Integrative + Interdisciplinary Design

    June 7, 2005

    Science Meets Madison AvenueEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    One of the benefits of having some 'bench time' is being able to just do random things, like read a bunch of books and/or (sometimes simultaneously) flip through channels on TV (which is admittedly a bit limited when you can't afford cable or sattelite).

    Today my reading and watching crossed paths (not simultaneously). Visiting some friends recently, I was mentioning my 'list of foods' (from "Eat Right 4 Your Blood Type"), and they pulled a book off of the shelf to share: "The Antioxidant Miracle". Today I flipped to PBS and heard a lot of the 'lingo' from the latter book and thought perhaps I was listening to the author (I ran to find the book to check the author's name, "Lester Packer"). That wasn't the case. Instead, I learned that yet another individual, Nicholas Perricone, had similar perspectives all based on additional research (hmmm, two people with similar conclusions based on their own observations or drawing conclusions from even really old research, rethought). Unfortunately, I had tuned in for the last 10 minutes of the presentation, so I had to quickly uncover more details.

    Perricone_186x272.jpeg As I attempted to learn more (to update the supplement shopping list I was going to fill this evening), I uncovered the transcript of a Larry King interview with the doctor (a dermatologist by practice). Here's where the story bears relevance. Larry asked the doctor about the purpose of a storefront he has on Madison Avenue. Dr. Perricone replied: "The store is basically an information center. I believe that the health care industry and beauty industry is going to merge so what people need is good information so you come to the store, we have registered dietitians, we have skin specialists, there is a library there, there are video screens, you can sit and learn and think about what's happening, complete evaluation, medical history, what you should be eating, vitamins to be taken, what are your skin problems. The idea is that information is the key. If people have good information, they can take very good care of themselves."

    Experiential and educational shopping...something even I created a concept for just as an exercise for a destination 'village'. Any other good examples of 'immersive' commerce?

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design

    April 25, 2005

    April 19, 2005

    April 15, 2005

    April 13, 2005

    April 2, 2005

    To ENIAC and BeyondEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Taking advantage of my Washington DC proximity, I made a trip to the National Mall again today – this time taking in the American History Museum. While it needs some serious updating, the one exhibit that I was most inspired by was the one on the Information Age.

    ENIAC.jpg Ignoring for a moment, the blatant misuse of the term information (most of the technologies supported the exchange of data, not information), I made some rather significant discoveries. While everyone seemed to zip past one multi-wall equipment display and exclaim simply, "That's the first computer", I spent considerable time watching the various video clips discussing the operation of the ENIAC.

    I began to realize that with the hundreds of light indicators and the hundreds of vacuum tubes, the fault possibilities for the basic operation of this device were endless. Most of the effort to execute a calculation was in testing the soundness of the parts and pieces, before a calculation could be initiated.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary

    February 5, 2005

    The Big Duh and The Big HighEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Big Duh.jpg Forbes Magazine has a current article that gets a 'big DUH' award from me: "Have It Your Way". Playing off of the old Burger King promotional tag, it's their inane claim "companies are tapping consumers as never before" that really caused great gall.

    Aside from the fact that the article is celebrating something that people would clearly EXPECT companies to do, they are making it sound as if this were a 'new' thing. Did they totally miss the cottage-industry era? Are we saying that the industrial revolution has finally come full circle?

    The article continues "they have concluded that instant feedback is one way to cope with the pressure for shorter product cycles and with the high failure rate of new products". Can we offer another big round of "DUH"s? Did they miss the memo on scientific models which have proven this theory has existed forEVER, we just weren't smart enough to see it? Or that feedback loops are the means by which, on a path of free energy, that we can increase momentum (see item #6)?

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Commentary | The Practice of Experience Design

    February 1, 2005

    January 22, 2005

    On Being HumanEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    Child Reaching.jpg Obviously, one of the critical bodies of knowledge for our discipline is the study of human behavior. With that, I have a recommendation. Eating my cereal and soy milk this morning I happened to flip to the Discovery Health network. I had the priviledge of catching the end of what is apparently a recurring three-part series: The Baby Human.

    While I'll hopefully be catching the rebroadcast this afternoon (I can't go too far from home today, as the beginning of a winter snowstorm is quietly decending on the WDC area), I wanted to share the inspiration I gathered from this, in the hopes that some of you might also be inspired to watch.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Theories of Experience

    January 16, 2005

    New Kid On the BlockEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    top_logo_exhibitions.jpeg Late in September 2004 the last piece of open real estate on the National Mall was filled up with the new National Museum of the American Indian. Given that there were so many people in town for the pending inauguration festivities (I've never seen so many Portapoties in a row) visiting the new Museum required that we stand in line for a while to get through security (just purse/backback checks). That delay gave us time to appreciate the gorgeous lines and texture of both the architecture and the landscape.
    But that was only heightened by the visuals inside. I could have stared for hours at the detailed craftsmanship of the massive copper sculpture surrounding the ground floor tribal circle made to represent a wooden fence threaded with birch bark. Don't get me started on the design of the elevator doors, the matching theme inside the elevators and the stonework on the floors...

    We headed straight for the 4th floor. We were there for over 2 hours and I only saw half of the exhibits just on that floor alone.

    I wanted to publically thank all the designers involved in this fabulous celebration of history. I was particularly impressed with the multimodal design to be experienced in the Lelawi Theatre. An intimate circular setting (tiered bench seating in the round), at the center was a 4-sided logpole frame with a coarse cream woven blanket hung from each side. These served as projection screens...well, some of them. Under the frame was a large, lumpy rock-like piece that also served as a screen, and the domed ceiling overhead served as a screen as well. Literally, you would have to see the exhibit over and over again from different angles to take in all the visual projections. And it wasn't overdone.

    The last item that I got to take in, that I just kept staring at, was a document signed by George Washington. In such an informal/comfortable environment, it seemed like such an important piece of history to be randomly mixed in with all the other artifacts. For a girl not used to being steeped in the history of America, it inspired an awe or two.

    I guess maybe I should head to the National Mall more often on weekends. The price of admission (free) is certainly affordable.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Practice of Experience Design

    January 13, 2005

    January 1, 2005

    December 31, 2004

    September 30, 2004

    Customer Experience Is the BrandEmail This EntryPrint This Article

    Posted by Paula Thornton

    I'm not one to support the mention of brand and experience in the same phrase, but there is one brand that has been around for a long time that has always embraced a deep understanding of customer needs: REI.

    Featured in a Fast Company article "Smart Strategies: Putting Ideas to Work" one of the most telling statements was: "No longer content with the emotional imagery of advertising campaigns, shoppers now demand experiences in exchange for brand loyalty." But there's a lot that the article misses about this particular company and its relationship with customers.

    ...continue reading.

    Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Experience Design & Technology