Tag Archive for folksy wisdom

Build It and They Will Come…NOT!

NEXT logo

There’s a common misconception — a folksy wisdom, a p-prim, if you will — that in our many years of product design led many entrepreneurs astray: Build it and they will come! Oh, if only it was so… While this is a wonderfully optimistic world-view, it just doesn’t work out that way in real world. So rather than just say it isn’t so, I will give a few examples where I was personally involved either in the design of the product or the workings of the company. Please keep in mind that all of these examples were EXTREMELY well-funded, had a lot of design resources, and ALL believed that they were changing the world for the better. NEXT We all remember NEXT, right? If not, let me jug your memory… After leaving (or being forced out of Apple), Steve Jobs started NEXT — a computer hardware company to rival Apple. Even with Jobs’ charisma, talent, deep financial resources, access to the best minds in the business… he couldn’t make this work. Some say that NEXT is now part of Mac DNA, but it still stands that as a company is was a failure… Steve built it, and no one ever…

Do you remember Gardol?

Colgate Gardol Ad

Do you know what Gardol is? Unless you are close to retiring, probably not… So here’s a bit of background: Gardol is sodium lauroyl sarcosinate — not a very harmonious sounding chemical. I’m guessing Gardol was a clever marketing trick of combining the words “Guard” and “All”, relying on the phonetic combination to drive home the idea of protective quality of this chemical compound. In our society, chemicals don’t sell — we have an aversion to chemicals, we only want natural products! The common Western p-prim (or folksy wisdom) is that chemical are bad for us, and products created from natural ingredients are good for us … never mind arsenic! Gardol might have disappeared from the drug store ads, but the chemical sodium lauroyl sarcosinate didn’t — today it goes by the name “Advance White” and is part of a very well respected for its natural and health-consious products, Arm & Hammer toothpaste! Oh, and we don’t like the word “dental cream” — it’s toothpaste now…

How Do You Know When Contractors are Lying to You?

Do you sometimes get that sunken feeling that your contractors are flat out making up statistics about your users on the spot? I do get that a lot…but until just a few days ago, I didn’t have the indisputable evidence. Slide below is from a Russian contractor Power Point deck explaining the user demographic breakdown for different forms of payment awareness among the 18 to 45 year-olds. The logo of the company which made this slide is blurred… But for those of you who don’t speak Russian, let me walk you through the slide. Horizontal variables are: Knowledge of the type of payment and Usage. The columns are: Credit Card Payments; eMoney; Internet Banking; non-Internet Currency (aka cash); and payments via SMS. 79% of the population of Russian cities with population of over 800,000 people (really?) know about SMS payment systems and 22% use them. While only 93% heard of “offline” cash!

Cultural Differences or Child Abuse

Russian parents Aleksander and Anna prepare to bathe their 2-month-old Viktor in icy water in St. Petersburg, where the air temperature was 27 degrees. Viktor obviously prefers hot baths. Photo: Dmitry Lovetsky, Associated Press

We view the world through our own personal and cultural filter. We can’t help but do that. But put us in another cultural frame or time period, and we might be horrified at what we might witness. Consider this image: This baby is only two months old. And the people about to dip him into the freezing waters of St. Petersburg’s lake are his parents. I’ve been to this lake. I saw my own dad do the dip. He was a grown man at the time, and I still thought it was crazy. In Russia, the folksy wisdom is that such dips are good for you. But here, in U.S., the parents would be arrested, their son taken away by child protective services… It’s all relative! And here’s a few examples: http://www.interfaces.com/blog/2011/01/cultural-differences-or-child-abuse/

Same Desire, Cultural Shift in Solution

Give cigarettes for christmas

Over time, some desires have stayed constant: an aversion to pain, a wish for health, a longing to be loved, and a craving for wealth, power, and youth. But desires are susceptible to cultural shifts, and so they shift with the whim of fashion: the need to be thin, the hope to fit the norms of current beauty, the yearning for popularity, an aspiration for fame. Each generation comes up with solutions for their desired that are based in the cultural soup that nourished them. What is a cultural soup? Well, it’s a heady mixture of the following: anxiety — each generation has their own issues that they loose sleep over. In addition to the ones that their parents experienced, each generation can choose and pick and invent their own worries. affordances — affordances are available actions that are mired in context and situation. As context changes, affordances evolve. Each generation sees a unique subset of problem solutions. emotional design — each generation is stirred by issues and fashion that are uniquely their own. Emotional design is by definition tied to a particular group of people, be they joined in time, cause, or geography. Social value, user satisfaction, and emotional…

Designing an Optimum Nudge

Tornado Exhibit at the Exploratorium

I’m sitting by a window looking out at a rainy Paris street, thinking of cultural differences between Paris and San Francisco, taking advantage of bad weather to do some writing. Over two decades ago, I did some ethnographic research a Exploratorium, looking at how different visitors interacted with the museum’s hands-on exhibits. I was looking for ways to improve the visitors’ experience, raise understanding of the phenomena they were observing. What I saw was different ways in which visitors experienced failure: p-prims that got in a way; folksy wisdom that caused confusion; lack of affordances that led to bottlenecks; permission giving that set up strange expectations; etc. The results of this study turned into a Master Thesis for UC Berkeley. Now, I would like to explore some of the ideas that surfaced during my Exploratorium research and apply them to design of nudging — carefully crafted affordances and perceptual cues that manipulated users into acting a certain way while maintaining the illusion of freedom of action. Let me start with a bit of history — a quick summary of some of the results of Exploratorium study. Permission Giving Two decades ago, “hands-on” exhibits were still novel in the museum world.…

Cultural Barriers to Success

Tim Buton Exhibition at La Cinémathèque in Paris

Man-made Disasters in a Wake of Tsunami This month, The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission issued its final report on the disaster: It was man-made! Here’s a quote from the report: What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster “Made in Japan.” Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the program”; our groupism; and our insularity. Had other Japanese been in the shoes of those who bear responsibility for this accident, the result may well have been the same. The last sentence is particular insightful — the blame was not rested on the shoulders of a particular individual, as tempting as that might be, or even on the shoulders of some manager. The fault was places on the cultural context in which the incident played out. Museums in Paris We just got back from seeing a Tim Burton exhibit at the La Cinémathèque, in Paris. The content of the exhibit, as one could imagine, is quite wonderful. But there were many, many human failures in making the visit an enjoyable experience. And yes,…