Cognitive Blindness

Inability to really know how others think and how their cognitive processes are different from our own.

Matters of Trust

call center experience

In the last few months I’ve started several new relationships. One was with BlueShiled of California — a relationship that was forced on me by the changing health insurance laws. The other came about from trying to find a place to stay in United Kingdom for our family vacation. I didn’t actively want these relationships, but here I am. And I am not very happy. The basic problem comes from the flow of trust. I’ve never heard of anyone else talk about the directionally of trust, but it is a very important concept to understand for any customer service oriented company. I will illustrate the idea using my new relationships. BlueShield Customer Service Failure! Let me start by saying that I wasn’t overly fond of my previous insurance company. In fact, that relationship was very much like this new one with BlueShield — antagonistic. My story begins in October of 2013, when I created a spreadsheet of all my family doctors versus possible new health insurance companies. I wanted to make sure that which ever insurance I picked, my family doctors would take it. I spent the afternoon making phones calls and ended up with BlueShield of California as my…

Language, Culture, and Communication

Where we come from — our background culture: our country of origin and language, our heritage and religion (or lack there of), our family, our education, our friends, and where we live — has an enormous impact on our ability to communicate. What’s more, when people from different cultural backgrounds try to interact with each other, these differences can cause catastrophic failures. Direct versus Indirect Communication Styles Consider the following set of remarks about doing homework: Do your homework! Can you start doing your homework? Would you mind starting your homework now? Let’s clean the table so you can start your homework. Do you need help with homework? It’s getting late, do you have a lot of homework? Didn’t you say you have a lot of homework? Johnny’s mom said that he has a lot of homework today… Do you have everything ready for school tomorrow? Look how late it is — it’s almost time for bed. You have school tomorrow. Each of the statements above represents a progressively less direct command to do homework. In my family, I usually pick number 2 to communicate my desires for finished homework to my sons (although number 1 is perfectly acceptable, to…

Tools to Jump-start Product Design Process

product design proposal: user groups

I often encounter the Blank Page Syndrome among our clients. They have an IDEA, but find it difficult to translate the nebulous desires into plans and actions that become a business. I hear a lot: “I know what I want, I just don’t know how that gets translated into something tangible.” The problem though is that most times, these individuals don’t know what they really want. And my job as a designer is to do product design therapy to uncover the real needs and separate them from vague desires. There are a few strategies for this (cognitive scaffolding for the design process). From the point of view of the final product, it is important that the client buys into the ideas and makes them their own. When I hear my words spoken back to me a few weeks into the process, I feel more confidant that the final result will be the practical manifestation of my client’s desires. Define the Categories of Product Users When one runs a business, selling products or providing services, it’s important to keep in mind that in most cases it’s not about you (typical mirroring error). The products and services have to appeal to end…

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…

Extreme Hypocrisy

Gul Meena, 17, left her abusive husband in Pakistan for another man. Meena's brother hacked her friend to death with an ax, before turning on her.

On the same day as I read about Gul Meena — a 17 year old Pakistani girl who was almost killed and severely maimed by her own brother — I bought a pair of skinny jeans. When I got home, I noticed they were made in Pakistan. I think I don’t need to say more… Gul Meena, 17, left her abusive husband in Pakistan for another man. Meena’s brother hacked her friend to death with an ax, before turning on her. Skinny Jeans Made in Pakistan

Culture, education, language, and thinking

How we think about problems depends in part of how we are taught to do so. And that education is seeped in our culture and language. Metaphors, mnemonics, analogies, riddles, word choice for explanations are tightly interwoven into our language. Just like it was probably impossible for Romans to invent calculus given their numeral system, it is difficult to think clearly about some problems in some languages. I’ve learned advanced physics and mathematics in English and find it very difficult to express thoughts in those domains in Russian (my native language). But when I first came to New York, I marveled at how poor my cohorts’ geometry proofs were — their presentations took a lot of space and too many steps to achieve what I was taught to do in minimal configuration. I was taught to jump and bound from concept to concept (in geometry), while the students in America were taught to crawl through ideas. I found that maddening! But it was a different math language, and as such it allowed for a different set of affordances… It is difficult to easily show the differences in thought process that language makes in this short blog. But here’s a bit…

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: /blog/2011/01/cultural-differences-or-child-abuse/