You can’t improve what you don’t measure
In a recent conversation with an executive director of a youth-reaching program, we talked about developing applets (small apps) and process changes which enabled one mentor to spend less time working on the admin tasks of mentoring and more working towards the direct “jobs to be done” of seeing direct correlation between activity and outputs. The director’s face said more than any of the words that remained within that vein of the conversation. It wasn’t just the attention to something innovative already wished for on the organization level, but that it was done such that understing the immediate value of what was and wasn’t being tracked made the solution ideal.
We shouldn’t be surprised by such moments. At every stop, there’s something of a “working yourself out of a job” to each role. This focus comes one from an innate ability to find new challenges in various roles. And also the leverage brought from various disciplines into those roles - focuses to which academic and professional professions are starting to recognize are not as siloed as they’d been taught and compensated.
These applets and process tweaks are great, but what’s the point? We can admit to doing them to keep from dealing with finite details of processes or communications which the tools and behaviors of the age have likely already addressed. Successes here have pointed towards items being opened to a much larger audience and the types of organizational changes end up rippling into other spaces. But if you are similar to us here; these are largely personal pieces. It might reflect more as selfishness, but no one aims to improve another’s job unless it makes their job much easier first.
Innovation Through Refining Internal Processes at YMCA of Greater Charlotte - Slideshare
How to decide what to do and not do? Look at friction points. Where are the gaps in operational or behavioral items where a rethink has been needed, but either resources or capacity weren’t there. Can you take some off-the-shelf items and architect something differently enough that the friction and efforts in existing methods are shown to hide opportunities? Are you intuitive to simply guess? Its never an accident when an off-the-wall guess might take you down some interesting roads. Many times, the decision to just do it leads to lessons which might not get employed until tools, technologies, or behaviors evolve. That’s an ok return on the investment - though not so appealing to patience, budgets, or maybe even ther role itself.
Mobile Ministry Magazine Hosted Using Nokia’s Mobile Web Server (PDF)_
What kinds of metrics are pulled from these experiments then? Totally depends on the engagement. In one of the experiments, the question about the length of time spent on a program was the product of someone’s best guess. A designed project tracker didn’t just show the time-engaged on the project, but how often the project manager updated the tracker (fuller engagement), what resources were developed (centralized location versus email threads), and that project in relation to all others (leading to some open budget convos amongst other things). A time logging applet turns into a multi-calendar, invoice-generating, and report creating system. The information gleaned from such works isn’t always an accidental find. The numbers are always there - exploring their value takes a different kind of effort.
That effort is the value of metrics. On one end, you can go down the line, but if you aren’t validating the approach, or even the energy expended, then whatever metrics you’ve been holding towards means little to nothing. If you don’t take the chance to explore, then you won’t know if the metrics you are using are all together valid at all. In the noted experiments, we found holes in a process which were better addressed by going outside of existing frameworks to attempt to answer. This was innovative, but only because the the normative behavior made clear there was no other way to define what success looked like. We had to go outside of the normative in order to see there were better metrics, and better value to be pulled into the business, technical, and customer experience.
A company can hire for skills, but cannot hire for innovation (to steal a recent tweet-quote). Innovation’s value comes from an effort towards some ideal state. What is that ideal state? Is that ideal state measurable today, or will something new need to be invented in order to get there. Are you maturing the capacity to do work differently? Or, are you still working out the tasks to be done so that getting to the “jobs to be done” actually happens and your product/process is validated?
Ask these kinds of questions. Explore down these roads. And then see what about metrics matter, and what you are actually doing to get there.
This has been a week of considering not just the validity of approach, but how work has to respond to methods and tools we might use to continue forward. The width and depth of such thinking has been shaped by this week’s links:
Why B Corporations Matter
Can Bots Help Us Deahl with Grief
Twitter Convo: Teens using iMessage Groups feeling like Slack threads
The Thoughts of a Spiderweb
Over the weekend, spent a bit of time diving into the work of service design during the Global Service Jam. There’s something pretty exciting about taking the expanse of what you know, adding a good bit of what you don’t, and mixing it with people you just met for a problem to be clearly defined in 48 hours. The activity within the Global Service Jam isn’t much different than most other work, its the intensity on figuring things out without the friction of tools, meetings, and even in-applicable research to get in the way. This isn’t different, yet it is. The methods and tools of work can and do transform greatly in the face of or in the absence of friction.
Some friction is good. We find that being the case when our automobiles don’t slide off the road. Some friction isn’t - if you’ve ever pulled a hamstring you’ll get this point also. Friction is present though. The methods of motion and emotion transpose us from one state to another, mostly unwillingly. And then we do move. And whatever the intention behind what created the movement, it quickly turns into the potential of something better, different, worse, or in need of redefinition.
The tools we use to enable our potential clients to see what life looks like outside of the box seeks to make the best use of this friction. Sometimes, this means we spend more time with a slow push towards a galvanizing revelation. Other times, this is a quiet, quick, and presumptive strike against a point not yet made, demonstrating both the ability to see forward, and end the potential of an excuse to drive away the energy to overcome friction. Our product, if you want to call it a product, is merely the recognition of the various types of friction which inhibit progress. Doesn’t mean we are right, it only means we are faster to reduce the negative impacts of friction to remain than you might be in your friction to remain.
In a response to a Medium post on the applications/services interaction designers will have to fight through during 2018 and the near future, we postulate if the tools discussion is the wrong kind of friction. Most of the issues designers seem to address are the friction of communicating process and value. The tools used should indeed be made for the specific roles of designing, prototyping, and handing off/building; yet, if we stay within the world of those roles while the work outside of it changes itself to the age, are those tools even valid? Are the roles merely behaviors which point towards different, and likely evolving outside of the box, methods and tools of work? Not in a way which can be defined now. But, perhaps in a way in which an new world will be discovered, and the voices within that new world will better describe what it is we only do now by intuition.
Our goals aren’t to replace your decision making. Avanceé merely augments your tools and practices with a view deliberaly outside of the framework that’s considered normal. Normative behaviors are meant to be what they are - we are designing a way to go beyond them to other valuable expressions of work. The methods and tools for this journey exist more as “mind” and less as “hammer.”
Another week in the books, and more or less some interesting covers unveiled throughout the links of note this week. Take a look at some of what caught our attention:
Every Single Cognitive Bias in One Infographic
One smart guy’s frank take on working in some of the major tech companies via Marginal Revolution
The Complications of Growing Up Bionic via Medium
The Japanese words for “space” could change your view of the world
Caught in that time period right between the cold of winter that remains on your memory until the rest of the year, and the spring which brings the blossoming and rains of a different kind. Such a period often has us instinctively ask and push for change. What we think change is going to produce isn’t often what happens. There are several elements at stake, most of which are not predictable by any other measure other than we put the work in and now we expect a result. This is normal. However, change is normal, our prediction of what it will merit us is only a guess until metrics come back to confirm or discount our thoughts.
We find that advancing groups beyond their perceptions are similar to this description of change. We are invited to an engagement becuase its clear that the way work had been done previously is no longer sufficient. However, what that change entails, or what it will create, is only a guess until it happens. We carry a few metrics towards this; however our approach is really more instinctive than it is instructive. When you feel something works or doesn’t work, is it becuase of the culture of your team or processes? Is it based on what you can measure, or is it based on what you’ve always done? Are there questions worth diving into the depths for? Or, is your product inherently competitive becuase its formations came from someone else’s expectations, not your own? These aren’t wrong questions, and the responses are both data and emotion. This is what change opens us up towards.
At the same time, this time of year motions us to be care of false warmth. False senses of prosperity and acclaim before their time. We’ve seen the trees which have taken a few warm days in the middle of February and given allergy sufferers an early does of pain. And yet, those trees jumped too far ahead. The next cold snap didn’t just break those branches on which the blossoms happened, at the next change of season, that plant was too tired from fighting to keep itself alive and therefore its early-beauty could not be maintained. It knew there was something good within it, but it jumped too early, rather than waiting until the fullness of the season’s change.
There’s language of all kinds to speak towards change. Each religion, each philosophy, and even a number of musicians have given tempo, pace, and lyric to change. Managing that change though is one part managing your own expectations, and another part being determined enough to maintain tempo, pace, and patience. You change too fast and you risk becoming the model for the next leader. You change too slow, and you’ll become subject to the change.
Another week in the books and its been a pretty packed one. Here are the links which have come across the screens & eyes as most interesting:
Alogrithms of Oppression via MIT Technology Review
Engaging Absence by Thomas Padilla
Augmented Reality: Drawing Instructor Concept
What Might the Amazon, Berkshire, and JP Morgan Health Care Joint Venture Actually Do? Via 25iq
We are doing better with getting outside of some of normal reading patterns, but that’s not good enough. So if you know of great pieces, point them to us via Twitter (@AvanceeAgency) and they might make the reading list.
I think an earlier thought about being intuitive on purpose might be a truer characterization of Avanceé than many other turns of phrase so far. And yet, even that thought didn’t come out of nowhere - it was generated through a series of work, digesting thoughts from elsewhere, and the resulting actions from them. Wonder what the resulting acts for these links will be:
Tech companies should stop pretending AI won’t destroy jobs via MIT Technology Review
Stop Sayng Smart Cities via The Atlantic
An AI That Reads Privacy Policies So That You Don’t Have to via Wired
Everything Easy Is Hard Again
And finishing with a great quote from Peter Scholtes found on Twitter
More than 95% of your organization’s problems derive from your systems, processes, and methods, not from your individual workers. Improving systems takes a concerted, well-planned, usually cross-functional effort led from the top of the organization. Without conscious attention to systems, you will focus on people. Your people are doing their best, but their best efforts cannot compensate for your inadequate and dysfunctional system.
Pausing from developing a prototype to think and ruminate a bit about the point of the actions we do forward. Not so much there’s a change happening with Avanceé - only that it makes sense to continue to look at goals and actions and then refine or reset where necessary.
Some years ago, we were present for a smart cities conference in The Hague (Netherlands). There, Avanceé’s founder gave a keynote titled “Respond.Shift.Present.Invoke.” In a short summary, the perspective was to make sure that we aren’t forgetting that people are and will always be the drivers of what makes smart cities worth the investment and curation. A slingshot back into this from an article at The Atlantic (Stop Saying Smart Cities) causes us to gather alongside this purpose to “go outside of the box” and mine what actually happens and for whom does it happen.
As that article so wisely details, you cannot have a smart city without also having its consequences. And such is the case with anything deemed innovation in behavior, practice, or product. Because these are driven by organisms, there’s always going to be change. Some of that change might very well come at the behest of a well-funded or well-noted stakeholder. However, the depth of that change, the depth of the transformations, come when the character of those impacted begin to take on that change. There is a saying which goes something like, “its not the first person to do something who is the leader, but its the one who follows that person. That’s the one who is regarded as leading and pioneering the effort.”
Such is the case here. We aren’t sure what the outputs or intentions of all of the work that Avanceé will put itself towards. What is clear though is that the leading and prodding foraward by us will cause others to see and take up the baton and run the race towards the character of their contexts. Avanceé will have products, will instigate new behaviors, etc., but the meat of its impact may very well happen well outside of the purview of our reach. It will be others which drive the change… we have to be ok with being vital for the spark, but maybe nameless on the medal.
That’s a hard place for any company to realize. Harder still to continue to communicate what the value is, when we are saying as much here - the value of Avanceé’s approach is not what we bring, but how you are carrying it forward when we have completed our engagement. While that challenge for us means making every effort to communicate effectively, for you that might mean changing your perspective from “us” being the smarter party, to “you” being the actual agent of change.
There’s a feeling of awe and accomplishment each week publishing the links of interest. Not simply because it offers a time to look backwards, but as a whole, it paints a picture of the types of content needed to continually fuel the genesis of new ideas, approaches, and products. This week’s collection adds nicely to such a narrative.
The Workplaces of the Future Will Be More Human, Not Less via Medium
Learning to Prosper in A Factory Town via MIT Technology Review
Dyson’s Audacious Attempt to Shake Up Car Industry via Financial Times
And then a few thoughts from our gallery this week:
Design Is More Than What You See
An Apple Store Excursion, A Twitter Thread Moved
Feels weird to say this, but there seems to be something of a blind spot when it comes to the design industry. A vast majority of the conversation centers around what’s seen. And therefore technology and tools aren’t far behind. We talk about layers, button states, and even layout placements in terms of what’s seen. Yet, little to no attention is paid to the other senses.
We notice that little-to-no attention when we look at devices like the Apple Watch. Its really a nice piece of hardware, but for all that it can do towards hearing you, the response more often than not needs to be seen and/or tapped on the user’s end. And don’t let your action be something that needs to continue on the iPhone - then you’ve got to not only tap a button to acknowledge the shift, and then (non-verbally) instigate whatever the action was again on your iPhone. Its all visual (nevermind the rest of not respecting contexts).
This bears its head a bit more with connected speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Echo. Now, these are voice-led platforms, yet still there’s a reliance on visuals for the initial setup, and even the building of the experiences. These are certainly on their way to being voice-first - but until the authoring tools are also held in the same sensory space as the consume/productvity actions, designing for voice-first will also land in the palette of what’s seen.
I find the focus dedicated accessibility professionals and automotive designers pay to non-visuals as being a better place to design from. Not that being visual is the floor of the experience - but adds something to the base experience which enables a better contextual grasp of the moment. Turn signals still do their click; CVTs fake engine rev sounds; haptic feedback for sight sticks. Using sounds and touch (and to the clothing, automotive rental, and food industries: smell) to the design palette opens a door into the kind of immersion which fuels one to knowing they are using something that’s a part of a larger system. That there’s a symmetry and balance happening, and the context was designed to engage (or disengage) their senses towards this.
Stripping the things away you see, can one say many companies have actually designed anything at all? The feel of an Apple Watch is certainly different than a Rolex. But that mechanical sound evokes something that the temperature and weight of the Apple Watch’s chassis cannot (or will not). What happens when you strip away what you can see and lean-in to evoke another sense - something more than sight? Design that meets this question should invite a different kind of attention indeed.
Welcome to Friday, and despite the higher-than usual amount of work, there’s still plenty of good writing which has happened to challenge and break-the-box of several perspectives. Here’s our links of the week:
Teachers on Strike: Do We Still Need Them? Via SogetiLabs
Automatiion is going to hit workers in three waves, and the first one is already here - Technology Review
The House that Spied on Me
What is Ambient Computing via Medium
Do you have items worth featuring on our weekly links list, share to us via Twitter (@AvanceeAgency).
Generally, we look towards some unidentifable place beyond the horizon to set a goal. Some call it “moonshot” and others call it just reaching beyond the horizon. This isn’t risky. In fact its more or less the safe thing to do for any team or organization. The challenge therefore is easier to take on because there’s a sense of inevitability to the actions that will happen. If you take the small steps, then what comes next is as normal as the sun going up.
What you don’t often hear about are those groups who focus on something which is well beyond the horizon. Focusing on “effectiveness for tomorrow’s after-lunch meeting.” This seems too direct; too detailed; too finite to stroke the creative impulses where curiosity and purpose make sense of an effort. However, its that detail, that specific “getting ready for the thing you can’t predict” where your impulses thrive. It’s in the “I need to make the 10th person to ask me this better” approach where you start to define the kind of practices and approaches which are truly innovative, and lend into something a bit more immediate than “greater numbers will validate our approach.”
This isn’t normal thinking. For Avanceé, its not simply taking the small steps which makes a big impact possible, but focusing on some (sometimes arbitrary) point in that approachable future where you identify a single detail, a single goal. And from there, you aim for the outcome there and there only. Its a focus not for what is risky or impossible, but for what’s focused enough to incite the kind of creativity which makes for making a better calendar for the moments which will come after.
If last week was a case of trying to pick the best from a large stack, this week is more like trying to find the best items where there’s been more or less an echo chamber in familiar and unfamiliar spaces. Nevertheless, we push forward:
Kant Against Your Oculus Rift
Interface Writing: Code for Humans
The Napkin Disrupted: Meet Ink to Code, a Microsoft Garage Project
There are many organizations, upon hearing the term “user experience” land on the perception of “finally getting a pleasing product in front of people.” And while the hope is indeed a correct one, the perception of the user experience professional to handle (and be adept) at everything from application development, to marketing, to organizational strategy, to project/product management is one where expectations end up having many fall short of those perceptions - UX eventually finding itself in the bucket of “things we wish we did well but don’t have the time/budget for.”
There’s no need to wonder why that perception goes awry. User experience has too often fallen upon the eyes-only facet of a product’s experience. Does it look “good” to me? Does it follow what “I” understand as what “my” customers need?
Instead, UX ends up being filtered though - and therefore product-fit - out of the inputs of those who build and sell. This shouldn’t be the case. UX done well speaks - emphatically - for the best needs of those who are using the system/services/product. Think of why people use services like Wix - its not that building a website isn’t needed, but the friction for doing so is so much that a well-designed tool fits the perception better - even if that perception means a plateauing of the (perceived) quality of websites.
In order to not misplace one’s perception (with UX and most else), there’s a bit of a reset which needs to happen within industries and those who work in them. Admonish the business for doing the part of getting a product in front of folks (yes). Encourage the techincal components to develop and mature further, wider, and deeper (of course). But don’t lose the equal weight which is to be given to those who use and consume. It should be their ease of use; their lack of unnecessary friction; their security and flexibility to choose which makes your product(s) stand forward. Only then can you say you are stretching towards a positive user experience; and in saying so actually build that which will land in the right places on one’s balance sheet.
For the most part, keeping the links list to 3-5 items has proven to be pretty hard this week as there has been a bit more which caught the interest and attention of Avanceé:
End of Watch at The Verge
The Useless Concept of ‘Calories’ at Medium
How to Turn Our Smartphones into Everyday, Hardware Wallets at Medium
Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor
How Google Ditched VPNs for Remote Employee Access via The New Stack
Often, we would like to think that doing an analysis, reinvesting in the mission/vision, or even deploying a new technology/tool will allow us to capture some sense of the newness of innovation. We are more or less grasping at straws, looking for a meaning in what we are doing which will ressonate with our core publics better, or will increase the width and depth of what we offer to others. A part of the fractals within such spaces could be called design thinking - an approach to look for and appreciate the design, not just the process or the technology which drives those innovative processes. While design thinking is indeed part of such a toolkit, one must be willing to also go beyond design thinking in order to capture realistic expressions of innovation.
Realistic expressions of innovation - or going outside-of-the-box on purpose - is both the hard data of what does/doesn’t work, as well as the revisualizing of your goals without the legacy of past decisions, tools, or moments on deck. Being able to have one foot in the probable, and the other in the realistic. For example, for one client, it didn’t matter the number of newsletters, events, and flyers if the basics of printing, lighting, and cleanliness were taken care of. Operationally, they needed to reorient towards those smaller points of disciple and function in order to maximize the impacts they wanted to have for their clients. Innovation simply was orienting line workers towards expectations with a task sheet. If the tasks were done, there wasn’t an issue in displaying the rest of the facility.
Designing a usable, and low-training-needed task list was the innovative act. It was out-of-the-box as it stopped using the communication methods which weren’t working. It was out of the box to encourage the extinction of excuses. It was out of the box to count conversations, and give equal weight to those which caused members to join, and visitors to not come back again.
Going beyond design thinking is our mission. But, making your organization’s sense of innovation, purpose, (and eventually) profit, is what we help you design for you. If these are the types of viewpoints needed, get in touch with our founder and we can help you see these realistic expressions of innovation for your company/mission.
This week’s links of interest and contemplation:
In Which a Neural Network Learns to Tell Knock-Knock Jokes
CES 2018: Real Advances, Real Progress, Real Questions
Missed on Tuesday’s big post due to activites & focuses going elsewhere. But here’s a key theme: tools we use shape the way we shape our worlds. Many times, we don’t realize the misapplication of a tool or its resulting behavior until something grevious happens (Hawaii nuclear alert for instance). Other times, we engage in some aspect of sharping our world, but end up needing to bend to tools, methods, or behaviors which have not caught up to us (tweet earlier on voice-augmented artifacts for productivity tools).
We cannot miss the constant evolution our tools provoke towards us. So, while yes it’s correct that we cannot move to every new thing which comes along. And even some older things we hastily move back towards because of their comfort. The focus on doing the best job means being attentive not simply to the outputs, but to the craftsmanship which happens during.
Avanceé believes we can design the present using the future’s tools not because the tools are here, but because we are. What we create when the focus is that hasn’t yet been given the words, images, or videos to be described… yet.
Some links which have stood out this week:
Turning Design Mockups Into Code With Deep Learning
Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens
The Upside to America’s Gadget Infatuation
If Avanceé sounds like aspects of design thinking, that’s deliberate. To invite out-of-the-box perspectives into “business as we know it” settings, you have to often ask the questions which will reshape your grounding.