Users

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…

Cuteness Inspires Violence Research and Angry Birds

cheek pinching

Have you ever felt the urge to hug someone too hard? Squeeze a baby? Pinch a cheek? Even when you knew it might hurt the other person? If you have, you are not alone! Last month, Scientific American published an article Cuteness Inspires Aggression on the study done by Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon of Yale University, documenting the intense response to cuteness. Cute aggression’s prevalence does not mean that people actually want to harm cuddly critters, Aragon explains. Rather the response could be protective, or it could be the brain’s way of tamping down or venting extreme feelings of giddiness and happiness. The scientists are currently conducting additional studies to determine what drives the need to squeeze. So this research led me to think of the success of the Angry Birds game. Originally, I thought that it was the juxtaposition of the cuteness factor and violence that made the game so irresistible as a sales effort (once people started playing it, the puzzles were good enough to sustain engagement with the game without the cute + aggressive factor). Would the game be just as fun to talk about (or to wear t-shirts) if the birds weren’t so damn cute?…

User Roles and Governance

2013-06-09 Role vs Governance Diagram for NIH Citizen Engagement Think Tank

One of the areas of discussion at the NIH Citizen Science Engagement Think Tank meeting last month was how to categorize the roles (and thus rules of engagement) for citizen scientists. There was a continuous pressure to call individuals who “donate” their medical data to scientific research patients. Let me start by saying that I find that unacceptable — aside from the fact that every human being on Earth has been or will be a patient at some point in their lives; the label patient implies a lower level on the hierarchy than doctor or scientist. The whole point of citizen science initiative is to break down the barriers to entry — we are ALL scientists! Being a scientist is not measured by the number of years in school or diplomas on the wall. It is the willingness to do science that is key. Thus we can all be scientists. With that said, what follows is the discussion on group dynamics — how do people work in groups and how we can support productive scientific endeavors through good design and social engineering. Think Different Collective Groups of people are not made up of homogeneous people — we are all idiosyncratically…

Intended and Unintended Consequences of Social Design

Baby Fresh Air Cage for High-rise Apartment Buildings

Nudging is a form of social engineering — a way of designing system constraints and support structures to encourage the majority of people to behave in accordance with your plan. Here’s a famous-in-my-classroom example of nudging: Opt-in versus Opt-out Consent Solutions There are many examples of such social engineering. During our breakout groups at the NIH think tank on the future of citizen participation in biomedical research, I raised the difference between opt-in versus opt-out option results for organ donation. In some countries in Europe, citizens have to opt-out from donating their organs in a case of a tragic accident — they have to do something to NOT donate their organs. As the result in Austria — which has an opt-out system — the donation rate is 99.98%! While in Germany — which has an opt-in system — only 12% will their organs for transplants. This is a huge difference in consent between very similar populations of people. Unintended Consequences of Social Design Not all social engineering efforts go as well as opt-in/opt-out organ donation systems. To reduce pollution for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese government established the even/odd license plate law: cars with even license…

Daniel Kahneman, Customer Service, and Perception of Quality

Last week, we went to listen to a talk by Daniel Kahneman and by coincidence I’ve just finished reading his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, just a few months ago. The ideas in the book are amazing and worth a read (it would be great if the two academic papers included in the back of the book and for which Dr. Kahneman received his Nobel Prize in Economics were printed in a font larger than 8 points!). And a few days after the lecture, I was struck by an obvious application of his ideas, or more to the point, how his experiential self versus remembering self concepts help explain the customer service phenomenon. It has been known for a long time that politeness of error messages and civility of customer service play a strong roll in how the experience with the product is remembered. Above a small portion of the Google Image Search results for “error messages”. The internet is full of these because people get so irked by such messages that they want to share their bad experiences with others. The results are just as illuminating for “bad customer service stories”. Again, a good bad story has legs! But…