From the monthly archives: November 2012

The “want” and the “need”!

Last week I participated in a workshop on Lean Ux, which was facilitated by Diogo Terroso, one of the founders of NearInteraction.

In this workshop, we have placed some challenges, including trying to find solutions to a problem common to many people, particularly to entrepreneurs, and that comes down to the fact that “in addition to having little time for lunch restaurants are expensive”.

Understandably the problem situations, under these circumstances, are numerous and quickly let ourselves fall into the path of excessive weight and stress.

Our hypothesis (Group E) of solution passed through the change of behavior of people who identified themselves with this problem and translated on a computer application that functioned as alert and simultaneously as a daily bulletin of economic recipes and local places for lunch affordable in terms of cost and travel.

Of course, in a time so short, we would not develop the idea nor do rapid prototyping or test thoroughly because the goal was to just show some tools and analyze behaviors.

In this workshop that left me somewhat surprised, “our (group) capacity” to quickly find a consensual solution that passed through changing behaviors.

““Our behavior is deeply influenced by the norms and frameworks that surround us and design can be used to create systems and experiences that work with an underlying understanding of human behavior and cause people to fall into entirely new patterns of behavior.” – Banny Banerjee

Now reflecting a bit more, to develop our hypothesis, it was possible to create a more effective flow of information in the consolidation of change, focusing on the quality and quantity of information and in the creation of a network of people with similar needs.

I say this because:

-People tend to assimilate behaviors of other members of the ecosystem. We could call it the need of belonging or conformity bias.

– People are “predictably irrational” and influenced by emotional as well as rational criteria.

-People are more motivated to avoid losing than to winning.

After all what we would do was not predict the behavior but rather seek to influence it or change it.

Innovate in changing behaviors does not seem to be easy. We have to learn to make converge “want” and “needs” and in this way we promote voluntary actions on people.

I think we can say that needs are things which we think we should have and we can call want the things we would like to have but which are not really necessary.

However, when the “want” is related to our well-being, physical and financial health, with ease this want turns to need. Then, of course, we need a reward system capable of ensuring the maintenance of our struggle to achieve our goal.

This system involves intrinsic motivation, rewarding energy that emerges from the celebration of small victories and that we are winning every day when needs are met.

Here, as in similar situations, our great effort to find an effective solution, will be focused on creating a trigger to unleash this energy.

Let us read some tips (Tim Brown) so that we can start a path of change to achieve desirable behaviors:

-Create simple, new digital tools to provide feedback.

-Invent the future consumer, not the present customer.

-Be patient with monitoring “success”.

In this example problem referred at the beginning we might want to clarify that the context of this problem is systemic and this problem is not limited to lack of time or lack of money. The issue also includes the consequences of that scarcity, i.e. a feeding bad behavior that can undermine the health of the people.

It’s all about taking lessons learned from the world of design and applying it to the healthcare space so that small lifestyle changes, often fueled by new technologies, can have enormously positive results when it comes to improving health. In the clip below, Tim dives into two of the four principles that he says are key to individuals taking control of their own health: self-measurement and the need to balance impulsive behaviors.

Another principle that ties design thinking to healthcare is the need to approach problems from a “system level” so that we can all see the way in which the odds of making changes are often stacked against us.”

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Create new business models

“Stuck in broken business models, the Japanese companies suffered the consequences.

So what are the lessons for us?

First, realize that in a maturing market you have three options: (1) master the lowest cost position, (2) design new business models that add value to maturing components, as Apple has done with its computers by making the computer part of an interactive set of electronic devices, or (3) exit the category, as IBM wisely did with personal computers. Imagine if instead of buying Compaq, HP had invested its money elsewhere.

Second, learn to manage two conflicting cultures. Even as you drive out non-value-added cost from operating processes and supply chains and restate performance measures, you must foster a culture of innovation that gives rise to truly innovative new business models…

Third, recognize that we are moving from a time when mastery came from focusing on the parts of the whole to an era when understanding the whole and solving higher-level problems will lead to far greater success.”

As usual, the examples we found by analyzing the turbulent business world are related to large companies, but even with these three yellow warnings of bad weather in business, small and medium-sized companies can learn a lot.

We do not learn by reducing in size or adapting to scale, nor with best practices. SMEs can learn from the mistakes of other companies and explore the duds as a source of inspiration to draw their way and to create new business models.

It is wrong to think that if something went wrong in an organization that should not be applied ever again. The context and the range of skills (two differentiating variables), available in an organization can be the reason of failure and it can change.

Therefore, critical thinking must always be present when we talk about the good and the bad practices, the good and the bad models.

It is also wrong to think that a good practice will work fine in our company forever even if all the approaches to the new realities have been carried out.

When we are dealing with SMEs in order to propose a chance for improvement, growth or salvation, we must note that there is always someone who asks if there are case studies of success.

However, try to find out why some practices are not implemented with success is a way to identify existing competencies in organizations and it is also a way to redefine the problems or identify the real needs of the people and the organization.

For example, “In the early days of digital, the core behavior we needed to understand was that people wanted information at their fingertips and the convenience that came with digital transactions. In the social era it was all these things plus social connectivity. Mobility means information, convenience, and social all served up on the go, across a variety of screen sizes and devices.” – David Armano.

Learn from the failure or fault is a card that must be always ready to play. Very often we hear people trying to motivate entrepreneurs with their business and good examples of acts of courage but we already have more trouble understanding why some of them have failed (when, how, why and where).

Try to understand less good practices can be as (or more) useful than to replicate good deeds.

We decided to study the biggest losers: companies that, in one way or another, had seen their fortunes go south over a 10-year period…

Our 2012 survey revealed the same culprit, and suggested that it still leads to significant value destruction…Accelerating technology development is forcing the rapid adoption of new products, services, and business models; digital information is making organizations more vulnerable to theft and loss…consumer connectivity via social networks can broadcast missteps instantaneously to millions of people worldwide…Companies must learn how to effectively anticipate and hedge against these and other risks in order to survive.”

Learn from our mistakes and those of others are also a way to adapt to the new requirements of a changing world.

To adapt (to an organization) should mean, to create flexible and evolutionary business models, identify the paths of creativity and innovation, to be aware of the surrounding world and the inner world in order to maximize their talents and knowledge networks.

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Thinking about…

Experts in business and government are always talking about economies of scale. They say that increasing the size of projects and institutions brings costs savings. But the “efficient,” when too large, isn’t so efficient. Size produces visible benefits but also hidden risks; it increases exposure to the probability of large losses.”

On the other hand the “conventional wisdom” says that small is better when it comes to innovation and it also says that the more people are involved in the innovation process the better the result.

We know also that the context has a vital role in solving problems even when we approach the problems in a global way. Even if the problem is common to many people as the frequent lack of drinking water in areas where they inhabit, the possible solution begins always with a clear definition of the context and the ecosystem.

In recent years we have witnessed an economic growth and work in some areas of the globe driven by large-scale innovation and that is connected to the mobile communication networks.

It seems to be true that innovation is the main source of new jobs and the same time also seems to be true that are small businesses that generate most jobs.

We have seen a real trend of speech focusing on entrepreneurs and startups as a way to overcome many of the “crises” that exist in Europe and beyond, which makes me question the existing structure in many of the companies that ceased to be the source of employment and wealth.

Is that the time has come to restructure the large companies in small networks?

Could we design small businesses at scale and with this leverage the results?

The structures of different possible ecosystems that emerge around a core of innovation (e.g. Apple) are independent and flexible result of extensibility potential to the different contexts in a global world.


“The flexibility of small-scale infrastructure is attractive because it gives firms the ability to deploy investments gradually over time, which further reduces cost and risk. “If a city’s electricity demand is growing, a utility firm doesn’t have to finance a gigawatt power plant that might take four or five years to come online,” van Ryzin says. “It can instead deploy smaller plants as needed.” In turn, a firm doesn’t incur the cost of building a large plant right away — one that might not operate at full capacity immediately.”

Will change from large in size to large in number (but small in size of infrastructure) scale?

For that, apart from direct benefits in the reduction of investment costs and risk (considerable economic benefits) it is necessary to create new frames to calculate the return on investment and that passes necessarily by the “calculation” of the efficiency and effectiveness of the organizations and by the well-being and growth of employees of these organizations.

Keeping the smaller nuclear teams, there is a building team spirit, an innovative leadership and recognition that the effort has value and purpose.

We already passed the age of large machines and large enterprises to small networks of computers and we already have seen the birth of new feelings of independence and responsibility in organizations through this evolution.

We must now respond more to the needs of different contexts of the different capacities of different ecosystems and start creating new alliances of enterprises, more open and innovative.

The space for a joint growth exists. Lack the will or believe in that possibility.

The flexibility of small-scale infrastructure is appealing because it gives companies the ability to deploy investments gradually over time, which further reduces the costs and risks and smaller units also offer geographic flexibility, we can use it in a single location or concentrated around key supply or demand sources.

Innovation initiatives that were once handled by dozens a decade ago are now run by only handfuls,” writes Michael Schrage. He mentions Google, Facebook and Apple among the leading innovators that swear by the power of tiny teams. The trend is not just with tech companies. Global pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline now regularly relies on teams of as few as eight people.”

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The ideas that we lack

There is something very different from what we discover suddenly and what we found as the result of a systematic and persistent work.

It is not the surprise factor that most differentiates these two sides of discovery. It is possibly the process as we combine the information that is available.

In the first case we may be facing a serendipity, which can translate as the faculty of making happy discoveries by accident, i.e. we have:

The “art” of finding what we don’t seek, when we look for what we did not found!

It is an art and as such, it can be practiced.

Our daily practice shows us that when problems arise our way tends to be the way of the resolution, that is, to seek solutions.

It’s a matter of focus! Or we face the problems or we move away intentionally of them and even in these situations to escape the unexpected can happen and give rise to solutions.

There is a fundamental principle for that serendipity does not happen which is to avoid favorable environments to its development.

If in my garden, I did not remove the weeds I know I won’t have flowers. However if I clean the herbs of the field I can think that those plants will provide beautiful flowers.

Serendipitous ideas seem not to be built, however the chance may be a favorable environment for ideas to be born!

The stated aim of building a cluster of this importance is to integrate healthcare, training and research, without compromising the independence of participating organisations. The hope is that, in so doing, partners will see gains in economies of scale and cross-fertilisation of ideas. As Dr Emery explains, “The large difficulty was we didn’t necessarily know what people were doing within the different organisations. So now that everyone’s basically in the same space, we’re all using the tearoom, there’s now joint seminars, and you’re catching a lift with people. It’s much more likely that you’re aware of what someone else in the next institute is doing, and you can say, ‘Hang on, you’re using techniques that I can use in my research’.”

At home, in a workgroup or in an organization, if we keep the info very tidy, we will never match the information available that for so long we were storing. To mix info can bring amazing results and we can do this when working with analogies.

For example, when looking at biological structures and their functions we can learn with nature on their strategies and solutions, and use this knowledge in other domains to solve problems.

To find a special place and choose the best moments of the day to think about nothing frees us from the pitfalls of preconceptions and assumptions that we have built over a lifetime.

Louis Pasteur once said “luck favors the prepared mind”.

At the bottom, the important, so that the ideas fly or bubble, is to create a good atmosphere, release the stresses of everyday life and let the imagination go.

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Cognitive barriers

A few days ago some of my new friends created two projects in an event (BragaSustainabilityJam) whose support base was sustainability. Some of the barriers they encountered in the definition of the problems can be analyzed now with other lenses.

When we are faced with complex problems our fragility in decision emerges because the barriers in decision-making do not pass only by the lack of information, they pass also by our behaviors of resistance to change.

Lisa L.Shu and Max H. Bazerman says: “We highlight three cognitive barriers that impede sound individual decision making that have particular relevance to behaviors impacting the environment.

First, despite claiming that they want to leave the world in good condition for future generations, people intuitively discount the future to a greater degree than can be rationally defended.

Second, positive illusions lead us to conclude that energy problems do not exist or are not severe enough to merit action.

Third, we interpret events in a self-serving manner, a tendency that causes us to expect others to do more than we do to solve energy problems.”

However these behaviors can be used as an advantage to help make decisions in many situations.

Deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning were and are for so many, both privileged forms of logic and so we use them more often.

These two modes, based on “scientific tradition”, allow a person to declare at the end of a process of reasoning if a statement is true or false.

But today the acquisition of knowledge is not a purely abstract, conceptual exercise. It is an exercise that involves interaction, observation and a constant research on the world around us.

Understand things does not imply trail a path of progress toward an absolute truth, but rather a set of interactions that evolves with the environment or ecosystem where the need of understanding is felt.

Today make decisions implies accepting possibilities and responsibilities be it in non-profit projects as in any business and to look for the intersection of two worlds that converge – what is reliable and what is possible.

“Visualize an x-axis, with absolute focus on reliability on the left and absolute focus on validity on the right. If you drew two bell curves, the center of the business person’s curve would probably be on the left, toward the reliability end, and the center of the designer’s bell curve would probably be on the right towards validity. That is, the mean for business people would be centered more on reliability and for the designers on validity. You will have some overlap of the two curves: designers who are reliability-oriented and business people who are validity-focused. So we have fruitful group in the middle where, I think, you can take business people and imbue them with design thinking skills, and make them more validity-oriented thinkers.” – Roger Martin

The design approach for problem solving problems, assumes that it is difficult to create a good alternative, but if you’ve developed a really good, the decision on which alternative to choose becomes easy.

According to  Boland e Collopy, the attitude and the analytical techniques used by the managers are useful for situations where the problems are stable, whereas a design attitude is required, when a possible alternative is required.

The first step that leaders and managers must give is to understand the differences between how they go in business and prospects of designers about how to solve problems.

Corporate decision-makers tend to follow a very analytical process, making decisions by understanding all the options available, which leads to consumption of time and difficult management of information considered relevant. The desired analytical rigor is in fact only if the information is relevant and acceptable in the decision-making process.

Design thinking points the construction of prototypes and iteraction as a way to learn. It synthesizes the interdisciplinary information and develops concepts that can be translated into new steps to action and when embrace constraints (rules are constraints) shows the evolution of the work through the design.

“The design is focused on resolution and as such requires an intervention, not just understanding. Whereas scientists describe how the world is, the designers suggest how it could be. It follows that the design is an activity central to the military profession, always that they allocates resources to solve problems, design is always a central component of operations.” – Banach

The environmental problems and the military issues are two major dimensions which although complex can be seen under the prism of design thinking.

To address the issue of decision making or choice of possible alternatives it is important that do not let us reduce to the “old school”.

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“What can be” anticipates change

“We live in a world of punctuation with limited equilibrium, where the future is less of an extrapolation of the past and more of a realization of innovation and new ideas. This is a world where adaptability becomes advantage.  New combinations of technology, competition, and communications are causing fundamental change in venerable institutions and hundred-year-old business models.” – Gary Hamel

Adaptability is one of the most important human characteristics and extends now to organizations not as a form of survival in a world of losers but as the survival seen as an opportunity to grow and to the achievement of a better life as individuals and as organizations.

This adaptability is achieved through the discovery of learning from mistakes.

We are part, in our private or professional life, of numerous games where the rules change “as one who changes his shirt” and the challenge always placed is:

Or we adapt quickly and are more effective than the evolution of situations and we can think on a path to a better future, or …!?

To get answers to these questions means to examine the “field of adaptability” so we can find clues that lead us to useful rules of thumb that will help us to avoid an unwanted balance or lack of balance.

Now let’s imagine us and organizations with whom we collaborate with the following profile:

“We never took refuge in denial.

We are positively disconten.

We always play offense and never defense.

We run to meet the future.

We are relentlessly optimistic.

We regularly reinvent ourselves and our industry.

We capture more than our fair share of tomorrow’s opportunities.

Often we surprise our customers and competitors.

… and we do it all in the absence of a crisis. “

This is an adaptation of the words of Gary Hamel and through it we can look our individual world as an important part in the development of organizational skills.

The biggest fail of all that we can experience is the inability to adapt.

To be able to adapt to the environment and to the speed required by that environment is a major challenge and a potential source of competitive advantage to any organization.

It is not enough to the “old and heavy” organizations simply wanting to be similar to startup or be agile and resilient. Organizations have to adapt to new environments, emerging needs and new ways of being in the business world.

We live in a fast-changing economy and constant pressure between all stakeholders leading organizations to reconsider and continually readjusting their business models.

In this way the business models should be flexible and adaptable to changes from the outside world and should be managed with agility.

Recognize and understand the need to develop a capacity of adaptability is the only way that organizations have to act effectively in the face of the challenges posed to them.

As the pace of change accelerates, so must the pace of strategic renewal.  Indeed, one of the most important questions for any enterprise today is this:  Are we changing as fast as the world around us?  All to often, the answer is no.”

Companies live in a world of “archaic” rules that facilitate a posture to extrapolate the future based on the past and do not embrace the “what can it be”.

There is no doubt that knowing the rules is something important but in the face of accelerated change and evolution, to know when to break it is essential to a successful outcome.

To imagine how to break the rules should be a regular exercise of managers of the organizations. We are not talking about lack of ethics or morality in the development of any activity because these are the guarantee of the sustainability of companies.

Adaptability should mean for companies the capacity to imagine a future where to create options is more effective than choosing between options presented.

”When I get invited by CEOs to talk about integrating design thinking into their organizations, they listen attentively. As they understand what it is, the cautious ones argue that the core of their business is just too important to expose it to the risks of design — and maybe we could experiment with design in some minor part of the business off to the side. My response, typically, is to argue that the core is the most critical place for utilizing design thinking in order to save the core — and their whole business — from the inevitable poor consequences of exploiting the current rather than exploring what might be. But that argument rarely works”, says Roger Martin.

Corporate decision-makers tend to follow a very analytical process, making decisions by understanding all the options available, which leads to consumption of time and difficult management of information considered relevant.

This way of being is certainly not compatible with the need for constant adaptation of the companies.

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It matters who we are and not what we did

Last week I was asked to do a light approach to Design Thinking in the event Behance Portfolio Week Review – Braga, 2012 and now I leave here some of the points I discussed and that somehow seemed interesting.

It is not simple, and also possibly less “politically correct” to speak of Design Thinking to designers knowing right at the beginning of the presentation that only a very small number of those present had heard of DT.

It was an event where designers of the various “specialties” were present and expose for consideration of an “authority”, their portfolios.

Then after a short approach to the process of design thinking I put the following question:

And if we understand our career as a problem, could we use Design Thinking to generate a possible solution?

If yes, the portfolio as the tangible manifestation of the solution must be seen as a vehicle to demonstrate who we are and how we think.

The portfolio must demonstrate design capabilities, the design process used, leadership skills on difficult situations, ability to solve problems, the ability to imagine and visualize things, etc.

The portfolio should express our independent thinking on matters that we consider important.

Thus the creation of the portfolio becomes a challenge and then we have to think of how to approach it.

We know that a deep understanding of people’s needs is that allows us to create meaningful solutions.

We need to have a vision of what we want to be in some years and not only what we want to do in the next week.

Off to discover the needs of the person who may eventually appreciate our potential is to show openness to new opportunities and be inspired by new ideas.

“The problem has become increasingly acute. I’m eager to hire the next great class of designers, but to my dismay–and the dismay of many young hopefuls who’ve often spent many years and thousands of dollars preparing to enter the industry–I’m finding that the impressive academic credentials of most students don’t add up to the basic skills I require in a junior designer. – Gadi Amit

These words from Gadi Amit clearly show well what are the needs that we have to meet, and open the way to the discovery of our (un) competence.

Given this gap, in the skills of many of us, to face reality let us ask to ourselves:

What we need to learn?

How is our T shaped profile?

Which soft skills do we need to develop?

Did we learn something from what we have already done?

How do we interpret this? How can we transform our stories into meaningful insights?

Our portfolio should be about telling stories to express who we are and how we solve problems for whoever hires spend less time to view portfolios, and more time thinking about how we can contribute to the success of his team.

This is an assumption that we should always bear in mind and when we see an opportunity should therefore ask whether the portfolio represents the value we bring to the organization.

On the construction of our portfolio we need:

Understand people, their needs, constraints and desires.

Understand the markets and discover opportunities with origin in the understanding of needs.

Understand the technologies that are levers to create new experiences.

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Teams and …

Last weekend “Braga Sustainability Jam” happened alongside other 55 performed throughout the world. It were intense 48 hours of creativity, problem-solving, diversity and fun.

Excellent people formed groups that evolved into teams concerted and concentrated on innovation under the umbrella theme “Heart Beats”. It was indeed a memorable weekend and I am glad to have been part of the organization.

But when we talk about innovation, we also talk of a business strategy that we want to see succeed in the market, or more generally, in the society of which we are a part and to which we contribute with our creativity and commitment.

People talk about innovation some refer to strategy, organization, process, culture and many just think of toolkits and tactics.”

During those forty-eight hours of BragaSusJam and despite the intention to do more and talk less, talk emerged with ease and focus on the tools was a constant.

As always the difficulties in defining the problem, on the part of individuals and as a team, were the most prominent of all activity.

Teams should have heard the words of Idris Mootee:

“Rapid market changes and the need for growth requires a clear articulation of answers to the following three questions:

  • Is innovation part of out core business strategy or something we want to keep on the side to explore new opportunities?
  • Where (product scope and geographic scope) do we focus in terms of innovation efforts? What types of innovation do we need?
  • Product innovation; service innovation or business model innovation?”

To define clearly a problem is half way to its resolution.

Focus and possess the right tools are two of the main forces needed to lead the projects in which we are involved.

Interestingly during the Jam some (few) of the tools considered most effective in a survey conducted by Idea Couture: ETHNOGRAPHIC SHADOWING, PERFORMANCE AND PERCEPTION MAPPING, RAPID PROTOTYPING, CONSUMER JOURNEY MAPPING and VALUE MAPPING CURVE, were used by teams in the Jam.

Despite the real weight that the choice of the tools has in creating a competitive advantage and given the context of the Jam, the main barrier to overcome in order to achieve an excellent result is the lack of cohesion and balance of the team itself.


We have a ‘thinking’ system and a ‘doing’ system – and we’re generally only capable of using one at a time.”

It turns out that often under time pressure we confuse these two strands and put into play a third that approximates much of chaos.

We forget collaboration and we chose confrontation and conflict.

At certain times we must change the environment to leverage the motivation and focus on the problem to solve the problem.

Change your environment, and you will change the way you think.

We need to collaborate.

Collaborate with others often involves having to face opposing thoughts, but does not mean having to give up our for the benefit of another or vice versa.

Some people have experienced this challenge and sooner or later they realized that collaborate also means integrating in our world views that at first glance don’t seem reasonable.

Thinking in a integrative way, is to face constructively the tension of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, we must generate a creative resolution that contains elements of individual models, but is superior to each of them. Thinking in a integrative way is also to consider the problem as a whole.

We know that most of the times, to know how the other person feels and what he may be thinking is not enough to establish a collaborative process.

But to be in tune with the inner world of someone else leads to a deeper understanding and a great interpersonal skills development that with the help of our “mirror neurons” allow us to reproduce emotions detected in the other and have an instant sensation of shared experience.

A period of forty-eight hours means a date and time limit, and when that time comes it may happen that the closer the deadline, more our doing system works leaving the thinking in rest.

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