Peripheral capability – the way towards better product development?

Last summer I attended a class at Wharton Business School about Peripheral Vision – it was part of a Leadership Development Program arranged by LinKS here in Denmark.

The visit was great for several reasons, and one of the outcomes from my stay here was some great learning points about acting on the unexpected.

My teacher was Paul Shoemaker – GREAT authority in the field of strategic planning.

In my daily work I advice clients on how to cope with uncertainty, creating innovation cultures and helping them to understand how they can use multidisciplinary approaches towards better product- and business development.

Since my posting here at CPH127 back in the early 2006 I’ve been struggling with how I could link design thinking to the use of social software. In Connecta we are heavy users of Social Software as part of our problem solving process

But few months ago I got it – I think. Like the design-thinking ingredient I began to realize that social software provide several aspects which I believe is crucial for good development processes:

  • Multi disciplinary input
  • Open processes
  • Ability to prototype
  • Democratized dialogue 
  • Rapid development
  • Improved timing in product launch

And by seeing that I think I got the reason why start blogging here at CPH127 again :-)

If you know about Social Software, innovation and design-thinking which similarities do you see - if any?

Alive and kicking

Dear all

Since the beginning of 2006 I've been busy - together with Jacob - creating a new Company, Connecta. In Connecta we cope with uncertainty, complexity and innovation. A lot of the thoughts put into the company is created from my writings here at CPH127, but also the perspective you have been giving me all along - THANK YOU all for that :-)

I have to admit that the energy here at CPH127 has been low thr last 6 months. Plenty of reasons - no excuses....

During the past weeks I've been thinking about how I - together with you of course - can re-vitalize this "sense-making"-initiative. Any suggestions?

After LIFT, here's SHIFT

For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of going to LIFT06 in Geneva last February then, I would definitely tell you to go to SHIFT, in Lisbon on the 28th and 29th of September. With a very similar lineup of speakers, Shift is about Social and Human Ideas for Technology.

I might try to go to that and will live-blog once more if i can. Anyone going?

Design Leadership Series

In the long stream of my conference posts, here's something interesting (never mind that they are sponsored by Microsoft : P).

The design Leaderships series are online 1 hour-long seminars and the next one is on a subject that really interests me and very much related to the "experience economy" idea and by extension service design.

The Post-Industrial Economy: Design for Sustainability & Profit
Gianfranco Zaccai, President & CEO, Design Continuum
"We are well into a post-industrial age and it is becoming ever clearer that sustainability is not only a moral imperative, but good business. In fact, companies such as General Electric and British Petroleum have identified sustainability as a core mission. The field of Industrial design is also in a moment of transition into a post-industrial design era where the expression "less is more" is taking on more than a Bauhaus mantra. In the future, truly inspiring design will be that which provides users and consumers with greater experiences, while taking away unnecessary material and complex information."

It's on September 12th , 1pm EST

Details at DMI via Dexigner.

Missing the Breaking Point

I had high hopes for Giles Slade's Made to Break after reading a positive review of it that promised more than the doom and gloom critique of mass manufacturing by adding interesting back-stories of the development of a range of every day objects. Unfortunately, Made to Break didn't live up to this billing. It never really does get beyond the doom and gloom, mixes it with a heavy does of conspiratorial paranoia, and applies this formula to every product it looks at. Even more unfortunate, Slade missed a chance to do a much-needed update to the time-worn critique to highlight the real issues we are facing today.

The author's fascination (horror actually) with planned obsolescence (designing products to intentionally fail prematurely or fall out of style on schedule) follows in a long trail of critiques of the concept. Let me say that there's little I find likeable about the idea of planned obsolesence - it's a cynical, underhanded method of getting people to buy more products, more often. I'll take Slade's word that it was practiced as widely as he describes in the first half of the twentieth century. And let's also agree that the early generations of industrial designers - Slade calls out Brooks Stevens for particular scorn for his invention and promotion of planned obsolescence - were instrumental in facilitating it.

At the same time there were also designers who truly tried to create long-lived, durable products that would have a timeless style. Charles and Ray Eames and Dieter Rams come to mind.

Scheduled style obsolescence was honed to perfection by the stylists of Detroit, led by Harley Earl at GM. But to imply this mentality is in place today, unchanged, is completely false in my experience. Never in all my years of practicing have I had a client tell me they want a product to fail after a certain number of months - without exception mechanisms are designed to last as long as we can make them (often designing under a number of constraints such as size, cost, material usage, etc. which perhaps gives the impression they are designed to fail after a certain time). I've never had a client say "Make this look good, but not too good. Leave some in reserve for next year so we can get people to buy it all over again." Everyone wants to make the best damn product they can at the time. Hyper competition won't allow anything less.

Like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney fighting a Cold war in a terrorist world long after the Iron Curtain has come down, Slade persists in a world view that is decades out of date. That world simply doesn't exist anymore.

(Slade doesn't help his case by riddling the book with small factual errors that add up to a sense that he didn't do his homework. In the chapter on the development of computer UI's I lost count of the number of basic errors: Alan Kay's Smalltalk is referred to as a networking method when in fact it was a programming method; the history of Jobs, Raskin, the Mac and the Lisa is quite contorted; Raskin named the Macintosh after his favorite eating apple, not because it grew around Cupertino.)

But a subtler point lost on Slade is that it doesn't exist because it doesn't need to. Another world has replaced it, that of voluntary obsolescence, which serves the economic purpose even better. Like the transition of Cold war to ad hoc terrorism, this shift is also one from top-down authoritarianism to decentralized action. The approach of planned obsolescence has so pervaded and framed our consumption mentality that we (as consumers) don't need to have products go out of style on a planned basis or have them fail on schedule for us to be more than happy to replace fully functioning products with new ones. This fact has saved Apple's bacon and made them the darling of Wall Street again.

Three major forces are driving this.

  1. Style: People are more aesthetically sophisticated and demanding than they used to be, and want more frequent sating of style fixes. When the first design shows were put together for the Museum of Modern Art in NY, the curators had to cast far and wide to put together enough well-designed products to make it worthwhile. Today an afternoon in Target would do the trick (well, perhaps a stop in Moss [LINK] wouldn't go amiss).
  2. Technological progress: Technology is obviously evolving rapidly, furiously, unpredictably, and at the same time becoming networked together in webs of products, services and software that were undreamed of in the 1950's. This leads to dependencies of performance within the systems that drives updates (ie, updates to replace products that are fine in isolation but obsolete within the network)
  3. Competition: The business world is far more competitive and complex than it was 75 years ago with many more players, and those players are more sophisticated. It is this hyper competition that is a major cause of ever more rapid product releases, particularly in the tech sectors, the antithesis of the conspiratorial tone that Slade relies upon.

Slade talks about style and technological obsolescence but doesn't connect them together into a modern framework, instead adopting the old-guard "save the poor public from being duped by the big bad corporation" trope.

I don't believe people are simple, unthinking "consumers" of all things provided. They (we) are thoughtful, discriminating, unpredictable, fickle, rational and emotional beings. If we were easy to push product to year after year, companies' lives would be a heck of a lot easier. But we don't just take what they give. Long gone are the days when companies could push the new tail fins and have the culture unanimously cry "And they are good!". Decisions now are more localized and individualized, thus less prone to predictability and more prone to churn.

Voluntary obsolescence has greatly sped up consumption from what it was under the days of planned obsolescence. This has led to a degree of ecological destruction (with much more coming from the wastestream yet to be made) that should be of major concern. Whereas the older critique of planned obsolescence was more of a moral crusade - prevent the helpless public from being duped out of its money! - the attention now needs to be on the ecological price we, our children, and our grandchildren will be paying for our current freedom to obsolete our posessions.

Which general was it that said "You always fight your last war"? Unforuntately Giles Slade is doing just that, and has missed an opportunity at an opportune time to critique the new world of voluntary obsolescence and the ecological damage that it is causing.

New interaction design school in Copenhagen!

A new school of Interaction design is being born as we speak: the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Simona Maschi and Heather Martin, 2 former Interaction Design Institute Ivrea staff members have started, with a team of graduate students and supporting staff, this exciting endeavor. They plan to begin research projects this fall and accept their first Masters students for the fall of 2007.

"This high profile design institute, which is small but dynamic interfaces with academia and industry. The institute will become an international setting for new thinking in design and technology in Copenhagen. The institute will encourage multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary learning, teaching and consulting in Interaction Design. We imagine that people both from the academic and the industrial world will come to Copenhagen to work with us on innovative products, services and technology for the future. The institute aims to become an international centre of excellence in interaction design and innovation by 2010. The uniqueness of the institute is that it will incorporate an integrated plan of teaching, research and consulting - all in the same building, at the same time allowing them to influence each other in their vision and philosophy."

Spread the word!

A New Scandinavian MA Programme in Sustainable Design

The ICIS/LUND project is a joint endeavour intended to create the foundation for a innovative new Scandinavian Master's programme in Sustainable Design. ICIS and the Department of Environmental Strategy of Campus Helsingborg (Lund University) are the principal founders in the creation of this educational programme. The Municipality of Helsingør, City of Helsingborg and Frederiksborg County are contributing financial partners to the Project. As such, this joint educational project is designed to elevate the level of sustainable design competence in the Øresund, Scandinavia and Europe.


The Top 10 Things They Never Taught Me in Design School

Design Observer has republished an article by Michael McDonough listing the top 10 things they never taught Michael in design school. Design is a fundamental capability in a complex world and I think you’ll find Michael’s list useful. Here are the bullet points. For the explanations I recommend you pop on over to Design Observer.

  1. Talent is one-third of the success equation.
  2. 95 percent of any creative profession is shit work.
  3. If everything is equally important, then nothing is very important.
  4. Don’t over-think a problem.
  5. Start with what you know; then remove the unknowns.
  6. Don’t forget your goal.
  7. When you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance.
  8. The road to hell is paved with good intentions; or, no good deed goes unpunished.
  9. It all comes down to output.
  10. The rest of the world counts.

I got it from Anecdote

UGC or the illusion of power?

There's an interesting opposition of ideas when it comes to customer service in an era of web 2.0. On one hand we have a ton and a half of "user-generatable" content and companies are understanding more and more how to leverage that content to the advantge of their brand, but then we face large industries with little to no customer service. Worse is we do very little about it as this Emergence marketing post discusses. Why do we feel that it's alright to use a companies APIs and customize it to no end, do cool things with the creative tools they give us, but then when we actually need something from them, the door is slammed in our face? I once heard that for every complaint that a person filed to a company, there are 1000 dissatisfied customers who have never complained.

If we have so much power as some would have us believe, how come we get so little in return?

Picnic 06

Another conference at the end of September, in Amsterdam this time around, Picnic has a stellar list of speakers. An "annual event for all those interested and involved in cross media content and technology in Europe, North America and Asia.

Under the theme "celebrating creative genius", PICNIC '06 will provide you with the opportunity to discuss major trends, see innovative content, formats and channels, and develop new opportunities."

This will surely be exciting, it's too bad it's so darn expensive... ill have to listen to the podcast then :-)


Mark Hurst has asked me to talk about this exciting conference coming up on September 1st in Copenhagen called GelConference which stands for "Good experience Live" and will explore good experience in all its form: business, art, society, technology, and life. I'm sure some of the pilots here would have great things to say or should definitely attend. : ) live blogging!!!

The roadblocks to a service economy

After reading this World Changing article via Putting People first I started to realize how much stands in the way of a service economy. The article in itself did not reveal that much about the innovative ways in which we could be considering our possessions for one. I find it a bit depressing that we are still talking about basic and impersonal services like car sharing, tool sharing, lending and renting services, things that Ezio Manzini has been talking about for the past 10 years.

Yes people like to own things, they socially define themselves by what they own, so services that would challenge and question our worldly belongings and the way we interact with them (Rentathing comes to mind) would be more useful to the whole discourse i think... especially when you read the types of comments that accompanied the article. I think that people seriously need to start considering what their impact on the environment is but also for designers to start getting a lot more creative about the options that we offer people. If some services have changed the face of video rental, air travel, music sharing, surely there is a fabulous design space beyond sharing your lawnmower with the neighbor! Club cards aren't the answer to everything.

links for 2006-06-04

How do you measure design?

It´s been a while since I wrote last time and while I am not about to start my own busieness, like Hans-Henrik the workload both at the office and at home have been overwhelming so far this year.

Nevertheless, the interest in design, innovation and leadership has not vanished - on the contrary - and so I would like to raise a relevant question in relation to design and business. How do you measure the effect of design from a business point of view?How do you know that design played a role in achieving business success?

I think that measurement is one of business primary decision-making tools and a cornerstone of the scentific world and since design wants to become as integrated into the business world as possible there is no way around it. We need to be able to explain what difference design makes and what value we create.

Perhaps you could look at market share, the turnover or profit, analyze percieved customer value, or customer loyalty or maybe the effect can be found in brand equity? Perhaps - and probarbly - the impact of design can be seen in many or even all of the above, depending on the type of design assignment.

This challenge becomes even more tricky if design is deeply integrated in the company and thus cuts across the organization to interact with different divisions. Do you individually measure the parts that design contribute with across the organization and add it all up?

On October 22-25, 2006 some of the worlds design managers and business managers will gather in Manchester Village, Vermont, USA for the 31st International Design Managment Conference to discuss this topic, but perhaps we can start talking about it here and now?

What is your view on measuring the impact of design? How could it be done in practice?

IDII in Milan final graduation show

The final graduation show of the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Milan and not only will this be the graduate show but also the last show of the school as it stands now.

The theme of the exhibition is "Limited Edition"

You are invited to experience 17 thesis projects from the final graduating class of Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

Opening: June 7th 2006 (18:30-23:00)
Exhibition: June 8/9/10th 2006 (noon-20:00)

Where: Galvanotecnica Bugatti
Via Gaspare Bugatti, 7
Zona Tortona
Milano 20144

More details:

And yes that means i will be exhibiting my work and graduating too :) so book a cheap flight and come and say hi!

links for 2006-05-23

Service design podcasts

This really good conference: International service design Northumbria in Newcastle took plòace last march and was on the subject of service design with a great collection of speakers and the podcasts to download:

Service Innovation through Design Thinking from Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Signposts for the Next Decade from Dr. Andrea Cooper, Head of Design Knowledge, Design Council

Live|Work - Pioneering Service Design from Chris Downs, Partner, Live|Work

Objects of Service - From Subjects to Objects and Back Again from Prof. Steven Kyffin, Global Head of Design Research, Philips Design

and much more...

via Design Council RED

Interaction Frontiers Conference in Milan

Matteo Penzo and Leandro Agro' put together a conference called Interaction Frontiers that will take place in Milan on the 16th of June 2006.

The focus of the conference is on future and emotion-based user experiences, both for the screen and through products.

"The adventure of Interaction Frontiers started by raising issues about user experience. This year it will take a step into the future of user experience, with presentations on avatars that enrich the windows of traditional GUIs, digital products with input devices and sensors that can collect information about users’ emotions, and user experiences that leave the screen and move around on wheels and robot legs."

At the Università Milano-Bicocca, see the conference's website for more details. If i go ill live blog it :-)

The Long tail

Tom at MediaA introduced me to this concept a few days ago. The Long Tail is defined as a statistical model where:

" a high-frequency or high-amplitude population is followed by a low-frequency or low-amplitude population which gradually "tails off". In many cases the infrequent or low-amplitude events can cumulatively outnumber or outweigh the initial portion of the graph, such that in aggregate they comprise the majority."

Coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson,the editor-in-chief of Wired, who is writing a book on the subject, it's interesting to hear about how this model applies to internet-based businesses such as Amazon and Google and how they compare to brick-and-mortar businesses.

He compares traditional big businesses like Hollywood who are really interested in just the first part of the curve in a way, ie. the first week of ticket sales and performance as a way to judge a film's performance vs. online businesses who might be more interested in the long run, how their business will grow from a short peak and gain momentum and interest from users through recommendations, word-of-mouth, etc. ultimately leading to a longer lifespan and growth through time.

Listen to this talk given by Chris, its definitely worth it.

Understanding the power of context in product innovation


Products and their Ecosystems:

Understanding the power of context in product innovation

Date: June 6th, 2006
Location: 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna St., San Francisco, CA
Schedule: 1-6pm
Tickets: $125 by May 19. After May 19th: $175

Moderator: Jessie Scanlon, BusinessWeek
Peter Rojas, Editor-in-chief, Engadget
Diego Rodriguez, Founder, Metacool
Steve Portigal, Founder, Portigal Consulting - PILOT HERE AT CPH127 :-)
Robyn Waters, Founder, RW Trend

"Products exist in a vast, often-messy environment of services, brands,
cultures and competitors. But successful companies are realizing that
deliberately and strategically designing products for the context in which
they live can result in more imaginative, better integrated, and ultimately
more humane offerings. From MP3 players and gaming consoles to kitchen
appliances and office furniture, this panel discussion will focus on how to
incorporate holistic thinking into product development, creating objects
that are not only sensitive to their surroundings, but often define them."

Full details at

About CPH127

CPH127 is a sense-making initiative. We aim to create a open dialogue around the profound understanding of the leadership, organization and strategy of creative business functions with the aim to create new value (for customers, employers and stakeholders.

Recent comments

Recent posts




Subscribe to this blog's feed


Enter your Email

eXTReMe Tracker