Archives For design for behavior change

proto_linkedin_580pxA prototype is worth a thousand words.

Although memories of my early formal education have started to fade, I vividly recall two distinct types of learning experiences: brainwork and handwork. The vast majority of my time in school was spent listening to lectures, taking exams, writing essays, and so on. On rare occasions, we’d roll up our sleeves and make stuff. Those few instances when talking gave way to making made a big impression on me.

For instance, when I was 11, while studying the history of the Roman conquests, our assignment was to build a miniature trebuchet—the medieval catapult used to break through thick city walls—and take it for a whirl on the playing field. Of all the history classes I’ve taken, that’s the one I remember most, because it made a remote, abstract concept tangible and real.

Shortening the distance between talking about an idea and prototyping it is key to becoming a successful design thinker. Ideas are of little use if they stay put as ideas. You can only assess their merits when you bring them to life and let others poke at them. The toughest part can be translating the idea into something more concrete. This is where your creative confidence can waver. You might be afraid to commit or worried that others will question your skills. Such obstacles can be overcome with a few simple, but powerful, tricks:

Start Small
Make your first prototype quickly out of whatever materials are at hand. Whether it’s a sketch, cardboard model, video, or improv of a service scenario, making your idea less abstract will help you improve it.

Fail Fast
You’ve probably heard this before. When you’re trying new things, failure is inevitable. Accepting that failure is part of the process is key. As IDEO founder David Kelley famously said, “fail faster to succeed sooner.” It also helps to tell people that what you’re doing is an experiment. That way, it doesn’t seem so precious that they can’t give you honest feedback.

Ask for Help
Don’t assume you have to do everything yourself. Just explaining your idea to potential collaborators will help clarify it and asking for assistance invites others to build on your idea.

The good news is that it’s getting easier for ordinary folks to make stuff. Handy smartphone apps allow you to shoot and edit videos in a snap. New CAD tools, scanners, and printers, which are this close to becoming widely accessible and affordable, allow anyone to make 3D objects in minutes. Even coding is going from geek to gettable, thanks to open-source components like Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Much like their medieval predecessors, these modern-day trebuchets are razing the walls between concept and creation. I predict a global renaissance in making over the next decade. Let’s hear it for thinking with your hands.

What happened the last time you stopped talking and started making?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Roshi Givechi is a calm, cool, design director and associate partner at IDEO. About a year ago, she uprooted herself from the San Francisco Bay Area and embarked on a nomadic year in Asia to support our growing locations in ShanghaiSingaporeTokyo, and Mumbai. When she proposed the idea of a one-year externship within the firm, it was an experiment for all of us. Recently, I checked in with Roshi to see how it’s going and what she’s learned over the past year. Here’s what she said.

What do you think businesses gain by letting their staff work abroad for a year?

I think there’s a lot of value in supporting cross-pollination within companies. For me, it’s not just about getting inspired about design in Asia, but also about understanding IDEO’s business role in China, Singapore, Japan, and so on. For our Asian clients, me being in the room represents a global background coupled with 15 years of experience: things that matter to them. Being able to work hands-on with IDEO project teams also brings a certain peace of mind to young designers—an added benefit that’s important for global businesses to keep in mind.

Change reinvigorates. It broadens your horizons. Besides, if you let people channel their creativity in ways that map to their own interests as well as the company’s, you’re likely to get more value out of the person in the long run.

Name one pitfall from a year on the road.

One pitfall, If you’re endlessly inquisitive like me, is taming one’s curiosity so you can simply recharge. Asia, in particular, has a plethora of things to explore. I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay to close the blinds once in awhile and tune out.I’ve realized that without time to “simmer” now and then, I won’t fully benefit from the creative inspiration this year has already given me.

Any personal revelations?

To me, it’s necessary to experience the unfamiliar every now and then. What I didn’t expect, however, is thatliving in various countries in Asia where I don’t understand the local languages would give me a sense of calm. I can’t decipher the chitchat I hear on the streets. I can’t participate in certain client meetings in my usual way because of communication barriers. Because I have no choice but to downplay what I hear on the outside, for better or worse, I’m hearing my inner voice more clearly and I reflect more deeply and frequently. And with reflection, comes learning.

What noteworthy trends are you seeing in Asia that could inform how businesses innovate for growth?

I’m sure many have heard the term “Shanzai” used to reflect Chinese imitation, or pirated brands and goods. Shanzai 2.0 reflects a culture that has been learning for a long time, is beyond copying, and—one could speculate—is now innovating.

GooApple, for example, is essentially an Apple iPhone knockoff that runs Android inside. It combines two experiences people love, eliminating the need to choose between them. Not only did this clever“merger” offer a better camera and processor when it came out, its makers show no qualms about celebrating the originators (as seen by the Apple logo placed on top of the Android logo). There’s something good to be said about craftsmanship learned by copying. It’s like apprenticeships in days gone by.

And, of course, when we think of Asia, we inevitably think of speed and agility. Along with the boldness of Shanzai, what I’ve come to admire most is a fearlessness in going to market sooner, instead of waiting to perfect things. Anyone who’s worked in India, in particular, can attest to a willingness to try things out in-market earlier and more frequently than you see in North America. To me, the motivation is simple: if companies don’t innovate in-market, others will pass them by.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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According to a UN report on aging, the world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, the number of people 60 years or older will exceed the number of young people under age 15 for the first time in history. The effects of population aging are profound and impact everything from economic growth, labor markets, and taxes to healthcare, housing, and family structures.

Simply put, aging is a fact of life. Our parents, grandparents, friends, ourselves: we all will age. Whether we’re able to stay active, healthy, and retain our sense of autonomy as we age, well, that’s another matter. Which is why this question is so pressing: How might we all maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age?

This is the latest OpenIDEO design challenge posed by Mayo Clinic and it’s one I encourage you to contribute your creativity to. After all, staying mentally active is key to healthy aging.

What aspects of aging are you most concerned about?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Project teams and small groups need to easily congregate—and then just as easily wander into private spaces for design iterations, coding sessions, etc. The mix of project rooms, smaller conversational nooks, and individual phone booths makes this possible. Our studio also allows for the high percentage of casual transient spaces needed to let folks easily collaborate.

This is a photo (above) of a corner of our San Francisco studio. The space is meant to enable the fluid nature of creative work at IDEO.

Individual IDEO-ers reserve a new desk space every week—meaning you never know who you’ll be sitting next to. This constant flux makes it easier to get inspired by colleagues in other disciplines. You never know when you’ll be sitting next to me!

At IDEO, we continue to create new spaces and work arrangements that invite inspiration, collaboration, and serendipity. Our spaces are ever-evolving prototypes.

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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Great designers don’t just do design, they live design. Like them, we can learn how to practice design thinking principles both at work and at home.

As you start designing your life in 2013, here are five ways to begin:

1. Be optimistic, collaborative, and generative.
There’s something wonderfully gratifying about creating something new, whether it’s an award-winning design or a home-cooked meal.

2. Think of life as a prototype.
Conduct experiments, make discoveries, change as needed. Any process can be re-examined and tweaked. Look for opportunities to turn a process into a project with a tangible outcome.

3. Don’t ask “what?” ask “why?”
Instead of accepting a given constraint, ask whether this is the right problem to be solving.

4. Demand divergent options.
Don’t settle for the first good idea that comes to mind or seize on the first promising solution presented to you. Explore divergent options—and then set a deadline so you know when to move on.

5. Once a day, deeply observe the ordinary.
Make it a rule that at least once a day you will stop and take a second look at some ordinary situation that you would normally look at only once (or not at all). Get out in the world and be inspired by people.

Happy designing!

(posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

Artwork by Martin Kay / IDEO.