Last week, frog took part in Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, the world’s largest gathering of the telecom industry (with a record 70,000 attendees this year) and an increasingly important forum for everything that falls under the rubric “Connected World.”
Marco Beghin, president of Moleskine, delighted the FUSE conference audience in Chicago today when he skirted the traditional and, often tiresome, power point presentation and moved towards an overhead projector. He placed his small moleskin notebook on top of the clean white screen to begin his talk “The Analog Digital Continuum.” Storytelling in the most nostalgic way, Beghin flipped through his notebook to unfold pictures and script that were tucked between the pages. This underscored his narrative about the importance of artifacts in human identity, highlighting a 3,500 year old skeleton of a nomad found among his knives, bowstring, and copper axe as an example of how the objects that we carry with us can tell a story of our experiences. But Beghin wasn’t arguing for us to bury our experiences in notebooks. He explained the obvious: the possibility of sharing analogue experience is amplified by the digital experiences we have through online storytelling. At the Salon di Mobile this week in Milan, Beghin announced that Moleskin would display the reverse phenomenon by capturing all online data happening around the event with a 3ft high robot and transcribing it on pieces of paper to create a physical expression of the conversations happening digitally.
The European Union recently published the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2010, a performance assessment of innovation in EU member states. It investigates relative strengths and weaknesses of the research and innovation systems per country along related indicators. The monitored categories cover enablers, firm activities and outputs. “Enablers” investigate the essential ingredients to the activity such as HR, Finance, and Research Systems. “Firm activities” comprise indicators like investments, linkages and entrepreneurship, and intellectual assets. “Outputs” monitor indicators that translate into actual benefits for the entire economy, such as innovators and economic effects. However, member states are clustered into categories like innovation leaders, innovation followers, moderate innovators and modest innovators. A brief look into the results reveals that Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Germany are grouped as innovation leaders. The second cluster indicates innovation followers ranking above EU average, while a third cluster sums up countries that are weak in innovation. Norway is ranked “moderate innovator” performing below the average of the 27 countries monitored.
This afternoon I spent half an hour with a slew of South by Southwest attendees, sharing how my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills came about. I presented the above deck, and answered a ton of diverse questions from the audience. I've tried to capture some of the questions and my responses below.
In a few days, herds of nerds, tech geeks, and entrepreneurs will descend upon Austin, Texas, for the conference where technology, design, and social media converge in a hyper social explosion—SXSW Interactive 2011. A lot of veterans are offering all types of sage advice on how to transcend noob status (download that scheduling app and stay hydrated!), and how to savor the most out of the info-packed sessions brought to you by the digerati themselves. In the spirit of sharing (SXSWi content is part of the sharing vs. privacy debate), we’ve put together the beta version of frog’s itinerary—an open attempt to tackle the 500-plus panels with some kind of finesse.
It is common knowledge that most new products and services fail when brought to market. Charles Kettering, Board Member of GM (1920-1947) famously noted that when it comes to innovation: “You don't know when you are going to get the thing, whether it’s going to work or not and whether it’s going to have any value whatsoever." And even as things may have improved a bit since Kettering’s time, thanks to today’s attention to innovation processes and user-centered development practices, there’s still uncertainty that haunts all innovation attempts.
This high fail rate of new products and services stands in interesting contradiction to the flood of “Best Case” studies you will experience if you happen to attend a lot of business and innovation conferences. Best Case studies are certainly great stories and we all love to tell them, but I’d argue that in real life failures give you much more of a learning experience and motivation for improvement then success would ever do – think about the road to excellence if you do sports, think about how your kids grow up etc. And certainly this is also the case when it comes to business. So shouldn’t we hear much more fail stories and learn from them?
Peter Frumkin, a Professor of Public Affairs and Director of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community, organized the seminar; we had talked before in some depth, and he had told me he was interested in learning more about design thinking. He had been carefully listening to the lecture, and he approached me at a break to discuss the role of sample size – “how can you be sure your sample isn’t biased?” he asked. Of course, it’s entirely biased; I described how design is provocative instead of predictive, and how marketing focuses on making sure a small insight represents a larger behavior, while design explores the possibility of what might be. Peter’s response was that it seemed like design is about supply, while marketing is about demand. Design, he said, looks at what they can best supply to a given market, while marketing judges what the market demands.
Can the Wii teach playground rules? Is an e-book the answer to the literacy challenge? What are today’s children learning from playtime and what do toy and game developers need to know to create play experiences that foster 21st century skills? As new technologies and media are embraced by younger children, it is crucial for designers to create tools and toys that will engage them while fostering creativity, education, and, of course, fun.
While reflecting on the IxDA 2010 conference, I’m trying on various lenses of evaluation, and coming to a conclusion that the profession of Interaction Design is reaching an interesting and critical divide. The divide seems to break down around two forces of gravity, loosely identified as:
A. Design, as a discipline. A locus of study, similar to science or art in breadth and depth, and focused on criticism, behavioral change, craft, empathy, humanism, and reflection. B. UX, as a form of applied design in the context of marketing, and focused on consumption, speed, innovation, and often, apparently, compromise.