Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Apr 2023

One Step Further

Speculative fiction as an act of thinking

In a project, we are aiming a few steps beyond what is considered conventional when people refer to reporting. Often, the goal is to build a reporting engine and interface to go along with it. And then have monitoring, thresholds, and some kind of summarizations as the key points of interaction. But, if we look a step deeper, the priority is to go beyond the report itself to the decisions a report needs to help facilitate. To this end, what about the kinds of decisions those who consume reports would like to better understand - about their organization, their products, or even the markets in which they play? At the same time, we are forced to be thinking about those persons who are a part of those organizations who don’t make those decisions, but often sit in the middle of the process - configuring data sources, queries, and even multiple layers of file management - in order to get to a posture of being able to transmit something that initiates decision making.

To do this, am looking at the current slate of technologies around recommendations and transformational data elements. Setting out towards building a future-facing story where the conversation with the data is more about “what didn’t you ask” rather than “what is it that you need to know?”

This type of thinking has landed in an area of speculative fiction, looking at recommendation engines, large language processing models (or what we used to call “big data”), and then the expectations of such an interface to present the information, and invite curiosity as the parrot on the shoulder to get inside just a little bit more than “here’s what the numbers show.”

Concepts (mock-ups, wireframes, comics, storyboards, etc), in this wise, are merely an act of fiction. And in this case, it’s a piece of fiction being used to ignite thoughts. Because if the answer were easy, then the solution needs to be taken one or two steps further. The real solution isn’t the easy answer, though when it is presented it will always feel as if it were. If taking those steps forward we can find some greater clarity, then the question is no longer “should we do it that way,“ but “why don’t we do it that way?“

Inventing these types of stories alongside product and process concepts allows us to take an idea, and then just go one step further than simply doing what is expected. We cause others reach for the imagined future, bringing it ever so much closer to reality.