andrewlb notes

Hidden in Plain Sight

Hidden in Plain Sight

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Metadata

Highlights

  • Every new technology put out on the market is introduced with assertions and assumptions about how it will be used, but it’s only through actual experience that “use” is defined, shaped by any number of factors including context, personality, motivation, and income. (Location 89)
  • Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie of Vodafone UK, with seed funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, (Location 158)
  • emergent behaviors, essentially things that people have only recently started doing and that might, if the conditions are right, become widespread. (Location 167)
  • situations—people whose situation or context pushes them to make the most of what is currently available regardless of existing social or legal norms. Call it innovation by necessity. These people are often called “extreme” or “lead users.” (Location 173)
  • If you used your sense of “why” to uncover the truth about what low-income people want by talking to the people who know best—those people themselves—you’d find that they are in fact some of the world’s toughest customers. (Location 200)
  • The Nano still has tremendous potential, since a $2,900 car—a functional one—can be a disruptive force of change in the marketplace, just as a $100 laptop or a $20 mobile phone can. These objects can be powerful tools in people’s everyday lives, if they actually help people overcome the fundamental obstacles they face—transportation, education, communication, and so on—and are designed as desirable objects that convey a positive image of their owners. (Location 204)
  • It starts with the scouting process, looking for the neighborhoods where the team can get a sense of the denizens’ everyday lives. (Location 224)
  • Cruising through the city on bikes doesn’t feel like work, but it gives us a chance to rapidly engage with the environment on a human level. (Location 238)
  • One of my favorite ways to do this early on in the study, and one of simplest, is to wake up with the city. Gather the team before dawn, find an appropriate neighborhood, then cruise around together while the shopkeepers are lifting their shutters, as newspapers hit the pavement and locals step out for their morning constitutionals. The morning rush for essentials—from coffee or chai to fresh pastries to rice porridge—is a ritual virtually everywhere, making it ripe for cross-cultural comparisons. If there’s a long line, all the better: our job, after all, is to strike up conversations. (Location 241)
  • My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time thinking about touchpoints—the times and places where users would likely be interacting with the product or service we’re designing—and triggers that would prompt users to act in one way or another during those times and in those places. These factors can highlight new opportunities to serve unmet needs, or to better tailor products (Location 322)
  • To a client or outside observer, design ideas that aren’t presented within a research-based, real-world framework can seem arbitrary. For organizations that were weaned on quantitative market research, it’s not enough to be inspired—they want to be able to trace that inspiration back to its source. (Location 341)
  • Data, like milk, is best consumed fresh; the longer we take to analyze it, the more likely we are to lose the thread that connects it to its original meaning. At some point in the day the team heads back to our “mission control,” most often a room in a hotel, guesthouse, or home, where the walls are papered with notes and ideas. Before leaving the city, while we still have access to our local team, we like to spend a full day sifting through the data. (Location 346)
  • If there’s such a thing as a default framework in corporate research, it’s the customer journey map, which provides detailed information about each event in a customer’s typical day, diagrams how she moves from one event to another, and identifies all the touchpoints where she may use the product or service we’re designing. (Location 358)
  • Threshold mapping allows us to map out “default” conditions—the normal state a person experiences a majority of the time (for example, most people feel clean enough throughout the day that they won’t drop whatever they’re doing and hop in the shower if it’s available)—and then understand what happens when a person crosses the line into an alternative condition. Often, the feelings that people experience as they approach or cross a threshold lead them to think and act differently. (Location 365)
  • plot the different places that you go during the day, and the time you spend there: (Location 385)
  • The vertical axis, in this case, indicates your level of hunger. Now plot three lines along the timeline: your level of hunger, as it varies throughout the day; (Location 387)
  • The area between the two thresholds is your comfort zone, and in normal circumstances you’ll do what it takes to stay within that zone. (Location 389)
  • It’s a simple exercise but one that can deliver a large payoff, revealing both a richer understanding of what people are and are not doing, what triggers them to go outside their zone of comfort, and more important, why. The format also allows an audience to rapidly absorb the basics, and supports an incredible level of depth and storytelling, particularly around the exceptions. (Location 408)
  • In my experience, companies have a reasonable understanding of what is normal but struggle with the extremes, which means they don’t understand the tensions that pull normal in different directions. Just think: (Location 417)
  • Understanding the exceptions and the behaviors needed to bring you back into the comfort zone often reveals little things that might turn out to not be so little: (Location 421)
  • They all took steps to stay within their own desired comfort zones, but the dimensions of those zones looked very different when we plotted them out. (Location 455)
  • “comfort zone” loosely to describe the area where a person maintains the status (Location 457)
  • quo for everyday life, going about business as usual, which typically means not engaging in the behavior we’re studying. (Location 457)
  • This qualitative data suggested that the trough threshold for grooming exists at the point where someone is unwilling to engage in any social interaction (or some specific interaction at that point, like a meeting or a date) without first freshening up somehow. (Location 464)
  • sociologist Mark Granovetter. (Location 493)
  • each individual in the crowd makes a personal decision to riot or not, based on perceptions about the benefits of rioting (a cathartic release of anger) versus the risks (the possibility of arrest). (Location 502)
  • designers first have to establish that a threshold exists, then (Location 524)
  • pinpoint it, figure out how to maintain it, and try to expand the comfort zone. Consider the ways people have managed thresholds of sleep over the course of history. (Location 525)
  • An empty wallet is a strong and very concrete feedback mechanism for cash transactions. (Location 563)
  • On the less tangible side, psychologists have found that people with any hint of miserly tendencies use a feedback system in the area of the brain known as the insula, which generates feelings of disgust when we encounter an unpleasant odor, a horrid picture, or, it seems, a budget-shattering pair of (Location 563)
  • Bruno Magli shoes. But when we use credit cards, debit cards, and mobile wallets, we don’t get to peer into the void of a wallet, and we can’t always count on our insulae to steer us right. This is where good service design comes in. (Location 565)
  • In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, sociologist Erving Goffman’s seminal analysis of social dynamics, Goffman describes interactions in terms of dramatic performance, in which every individual involved plays dual roles of performer and audience. (Location 615)
  • rudeness is simply a matter of staging the wrong performance in the wrong scene. (Location 622)
  • The “Veblen effect” was coined in 1950 by economist Harvey Leibenstein, who pointed out that consumer demand depended not only on the functional utility of goods but also on certain social factors: a desire to be “in style” (the “bandwagon effect”); a desire to stand out from the herd (the “snob effect”); and a desire for “conspicuous consumption,” a term (Location 649)
  • introduced a half-century earlier by sociologist Thorstein Veblen. (Location 652)
  • You could say it’s the market force of superstition, but at heart it’s the force of impression management. (Location 698)
  • it’s good to understand why we don’t break unwritten rules, instead of just assuming that we can’t, I decided to try a little experiment. (Location 711)
  • In Kate Fox’s book Watching the English, she notes a curious arc in class preferences for “bogside reading,” the books and magazines that the English strategically place in their bathrooms for, ahem, extended visits. (Location 724)
  • Fridges and kitchens are the low-hanging fruit of (Location 752)
  • in-home research: they’re generally considered neutral for guests to wander into, and the hosts usually assume that there’s not too much that can be revealed. (Location 753)
  • One of my favorite examples of masstige is the Apple earbuds found in-ear or dangling from the necks of commuters in cities all over the world. They cost about half as much as the cheapest iPod, and perhaps one-tenth as much as an iPhone, but for someone who can’t afford the core technology products the earbuds are a gateway into the Apple ecosystem. As former Apple marketing executive Steve Chazin put it, “Wear white headphones and you are a member of the club.” Who cares if they’re plugged into a cheap knockoff phone in your pocket? It’s what’s outside that counts. (Location 773)
  • This seems to suggest that as society becomes more hyperconnected, the ability to disconnect and stay disconnected will become a more significant sign of status. If (Location 783)
  • technology amplifies behavior. It helps those who are trying to do good do more good, and it helps those who are trying to do bad do more bad. (Location 785)
  • Another consequence of miniaturization is that as devices move away from visual interfaces and become strictly audio, the only element of the interface that can be flaunted for status purposes will be the conversation itself. (Location 795)
  • umbrella of categories, courtesy of evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller: physical attributes, including health, fertility, and beauty; personality traits, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to novelty; and cognitive ones, namely general intelligence. (Location 823)
  • Think about the cumulative sum of all traits, positive and negative, a person displays through objects and appearances—what Goffman would call “performance equipment”—at any given time. (Location 826)
  • Japan boasts a tightly integrated high-tech manufacturing base and, perhaps more important, established relationships between people and companies that allow even further integration. (Location 858)
  • benefits of adoption are promoted through another message: that you are less likely to inconvenience others. (Location 865)
  • economist Joe Bohlen and sociologist George Beal, (Location 882)
  • Beal and Bohlen called the “diffusion process,” breaks down into five discrete stages that an individual goes through on the path to adoption. (Location 884)
  • breakdown of the “adoption curve”: who adopts first, last, and in between. (Location 897)
  • innovators possess a large amount of risk capital—they can afford to try out new things without worrying too much about losing money or prestige if they fail. (Location 899)
  • When Beal and Bohlen published their hybrid corn seed adoption studies, they claimed they were only focused on two main ideas that were more or less obvious: that adoption is not a spontaneous decision but rather occurs in stages; and that not everyone adopts at once. (Location 924)
  • adoption behaviors offer a wonderful lens into the tensions and pressures that people—and societies—face when confronted with something new. (Location 929)
  • “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” (Location 937)
  • What Beal and Bohlen only hinted at, and what I believe qualitative, in-context research can fundamentally tap into, are the social pressures that contribute to that segmentation, and how those pressures cascade along the curve as adopters exert their influence on those who have yet to adopt. (Location 950)
  • That “future shock,” as futurist Alvin Toffler once called the psychological effect of “too much change in too short a period of time,” is a phenomenon that has existed throughout the lifetime of every living person on earth today, but the dynamics of how this plays out, the speed at which it occurs, and the consequences of adopting or not adopting in the face of it are constantly changing. Around the same time as I (Location 978)
  • That influence can come from mass media, but most often it comes from peers. To borrow the old adage about politics, all adoption is local. Well, almost all. (Location 997)
  • Thomas Valente, (Location 998)
  • Network Models of the Diffusion of Innovations, he theorized that adoption behavior could be predicted using a threshold model (sound familiar?) of networks. The key factor in adoption, he argued, is the number of one’s peers who adopt an innovation; when that number reaches the individual’s threshold, that individual will in turn adopt the innovation. (Location 1000)
  • one, that the adoption curve timeline only tells part of the story, and people who adopt at the same time are not necessarily influenced in the same way; (Location 1013)
  • some people, regardless of whether they’re early adopters, in the majority, or laggards, are immediately influenced by their peers while others will monitor their peers’ behavior for some time before making a decision; (Location 1014)
  • that people who may be considered laggards relative to the greater social system could be early adopters within their own personal networks, or vice versa, depending on how their networks are externally connected to the social system. (Location 1016)
  • But because their traditional ways teach them to remain separate from the rest of society, they thus have to stay off the electricity grid. “The Amish noticed that when their homes were electrified with wires from a generator in town, they became more tied to the rhythms, policies, and concerns of the town. Amish religious belief is founded on the principle that they should remain ‘in the world, not of it’ and so they should remain separate in as many ways as possible.” (Location 1087)
  • In person, you can gain insight into the social barriers unique to a culture, and whether adoption is purely driven by reflective appeal (status), behavioral appeal (usefulness), or the relative importance of one over the other. If you do the research right, it will allow you to tap into the sentiment of adoption, which you’ll never get from looking at quantified data. (Location 1093)
  • One technology already making waves, but for which the biggest disruption is yet to come, is near-time facial recognition: the ability to capture someone’s face and accurately match it to their online identity (and everything attached to it), all within the time it takes to say “hi.” (Location 1125)
  • On one hand, it’s comforting to think they’d have a tool to sniff me out and discover my intent; on the other hand, if they were the type to be suspicious of any foreigner with a corporate background, I wouldn’t be able to conceal that connection from them. (Location 1146)
  • But just as all things have an adoption curve, they also have an abandonment curve. (Location 1153)
  • Hints to behaviors past lie all around us: people holding up virtual lighters on their phone screens at concerts; nomenclature like glove compartment, pen pal, and disc jockey; and even the iconography on our computers that points back to the physical objects we’ve since abandoned in favor of the applications those icons represent—notepads, envelopes, paper clips, and fountain pens. (Location 1157)
  • the things we carry, the things we absolutely need when we go out into the world, are the tools that help us survive. In more than a decade of research on this topic, I’ve found the keys-money-phone triumvirate to be consistent across cultures, gender, economic strata, and age (Location 1185)
  • minute or two. When she realized this, she was visibly upset with herself that she had let her guard (Location 1213)
  • the range of distribution, the distance that people are willing to let physical objects stray when they’re out and about. (Location 1218)
  • When risk and convenience factors are low, objects are allowed to spread out; when convenience is high, they stay close by; when risk is high, they stay somewhere safe, which could be very close, very deep under lock and key, or even somewhere completely intangible (we’ll come back to that last one later). (Location 1221)
  • The ability to project status in the form of tangible objects depends on their (momentary, at the very least) visibility but also highlights an inherent tension: the desire to show off one’s property versus the desire to keep it safe. (Location 1246)
  • To counter this natural tendency to forget important objects, one of the simple, widespread (Location 1262)
  • behaviors people exhibit when leaving one space and heading to another is what we call a point of reflection, that moment when a person pauses in order to run through a mental checklist of what they’re carrying and what they may be forgetting. (Location 1263)
  • technique—literally sifting through and documenting the contents of people’s wallets and/or bags, and asking about the stories behind each object—is that people often do things to compensate when things like fare cards aren’t designed with adequate points of reflection. (Location 1273)
  • In 2010, mobile telecom provider Roshan and the Afghan Ministry of the Interior set up a pilot program to explore paying police officers’ salaries via a mobile banking system called M-Paisa.* Instead of receiving bundles of cash from their commanding officers, the police who participated in the M-Paisa program were notified by text message that their salaries had been credited to their accounts, which they could cash out through any Roshan agent in the country. To their surprise, many officers found that they had received “raises”—sometimes as much as a third more than they were accustomed to getting. In fact, they were getting their full, actual salaries for the first time, as the money digitally slipped through the sticky fingers of the higher-ups who had been skimming off the top. (Location 1399)
  • Entrepreneur and author Lisa Gansky calls this “the Mesh,” a model for consumption based on network-enabled sharing, providing access rather than ownership. (Location 1429)
  • Over the next few years we’re likely to see more points of reflection designed into objects that are increasingly connected to one another. (Location 1453)
  • When you want to know how and why people do the things they do, the best people to learn from are the doers themselves, and the best place to learn is where the doing gets done. (Location 1482)
  • “rapid cultural calibration”—not only putting yourself in the local mind-set but also putting local phenomena into global perspective, implicitly and sometimes explicitly. (Location 1495)
  • Rapid cultural calibration can take the form of a stroll at dawn or a rush-hour subway ride; a visit to a barbershop, a train station, or the local outpost of a global chain restaurant; or even a slight pause for contemplation at the sight of signage. (Location 1498)
  • Used in conjunction with more structured techniques such as in-depth interviews, surveys, and home visits—and when applied in multiple neighborhoods, cities, or countries—rapid cultural calibration can help deepen your understanding of a new culture and compare it with your own and others you’ve visited. Each calibration session can take as little as thirty minutes, or stretch as long as half a day (though if you were so inclined, you could do them ad infinitum, but in that case they wouldn’t be particularly rapid). (Location 1499)
  • You can never understand the stresses and pains a city’s inhabitants feel until you’ve felt the worst of its commute. (Location 1546)
  • It turns out being able to plan ahead for a predictable commuter experience is a big part of quality of life, even if it means planning ahead for sitting in traffic. (Location 1556)
  • These are the sorts of questions that come up when our teams venture into the melee of the daily commute, and the answers are incredibly important in understanding research participants’ lives. In the span of most in-depth interviews, the discussion of commuting might last only a minute or two, but by experiencing a city’s commute for yourself you gain a better sense of the mental and physical state in which people arrive for work or school in the morning and back home in the evening. (Location 1561)
  • For the price of a cut or shave, that seat is as much yours as any local’s, and once you’re in it you have as much right to steer the conversation as anyone in the room. Gender aside, almost anyone can walk through the doors and be served. (Location 1602)
  • A firsthand exploration of the line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” can be both nerve-racking and intellectually rewarding. It’s also a great tool for uncovering issues that might negatively affect adoption of a particular product or service, and to test the malleability of the social norms in question. The greater the affront caused by a small act of impoliteness, the harder and faster the unwritten rule. (Location 1616)
  • breaching experiment (Location 1619)
  • Stanley Milgram and his Yale students, who tested the unwritten (Location 1619)
  • “first-come, first-served” seating rule on New York subways by approaching (Location 1620)
  • passengers and asking them for their seats. Surprisingly, 68 percent of passengers obliged. (Location 1620)
  • much empathic understanding to be gained from breaching, and there are many ways to test the impact of crossing a line, from role-play within the team to staged situations out in the field to small impromptu interventions when you sense the possibility of an enlightening experience. (Location 1628)
  • The mere existence of a sign reveals that whatever issue it pertains to is important enough for someone, presumably an authority on the matter, to invest time and energy to discuss the possibility of a formal or informal ban with other people in the know, commission production of the sign (or urge someone else to rubber-stamp it), and have it installed. (Location 1674)
  • In most instances, these signs aren’t put in place to issue firm directives and control behavior (much as authoritarian urban planners might fantasize); they’re there because the person(s) who wants to control behavior lacks the power or presence to do so and believes an authoritative-seeming sign can serve as enforcer. (Location 1678)
  • increasingly prevalent (Location 1693)
  • sign conflicts with a nuanced understanding of the demand being made. In Tokyo I came across a “no cycling” sign that took the classic posture of a fixed-gear enthusiast, whose silhouetted bike revealed keirin geometry, bullhorn bars, and no brakes—little details that a trained eye would notice, and which were clearly used intentionally by an in-the-know designer as a subversive wink and nod to fellow cyclists. (Location 1710)
  • In many ways a sign can be a last resort, a footnote to a space whose purpose could and perhaps should have been planned better for intuitive use, sans written directions. Urban planners, architects, and designers have created a whole vocabulary of uncomfortable addendums—urban forms with cues to influence behaviors—such as rows of small spikes to stop people from sitting on ledges or low flat walls; metal bobbles welded to rails to keep skateboarders off; and starbursts of spikes on pigeon-prone surfaces. (Location 1732)
  • platzgeist, a gestalt sense of the spirit of an environment, whether a neighborhood, city, region, or country. All of the above techniques can help you gain that sense, both consciously and subconsciously, but by capturing it through sensory stimuli, you can create a veritable mood database. And after your sense of platzgeist has faded over time, this database will be your return ticket to that place and its spirit. (Location 1745)
  • Macro tours, capturing imagery around an environment through a macro (extreme close-up) camera lens, allow you to think about the little things, literally: the textures, colors, geometry, and patina that make up an object or space, capturing and experiencing things up close. A macro lens allows you to isolate things from their context, but the images you capture can later be viewed in clusters to give a sense of cumulative effect. (Location 1749)
  • Back at the office, audio tour recordings can be played during synthesis sessions and workshops to re-create the environment where the data was collected and jog the team’s sensory memories, and can also be overlaid as audio tracks to add depth to concept movies. (Location 1764)
  • directly and visit their homes, the commute and any of these other contextual activities will only serve to augment your understanding of the things they share with you, in a way that assumptions based on demographic characteristics simply can’t. (Location 1777)
  • There’s no such thing as too much learning (although novice teams often overcollect data), but there is always a point of diminishing returns, and the smart (and often brave) choice is to step away and focus on methods that will yield richer results. (Location 1781)
  • I call this “finding the optimal surface area” and it’s one of eight principles of design research I’ve listed in an appendix in the back of this book. (Location 1786)
  • Our ability to imagine what-could-be stems from knowledge, amplified by experiences, and ultimately our ability to understand which of those experiences can be applied to the task at hand. (Location 1788)
  • trust ecosystem—the context in which we make each trust-distrust decision, characterized by the surrounding environment and all its players, from the local (or hyperlocal) crime rate to the sights and smells at hand to the friendliness of strangers—shapes each and every interaction that takes place within it. (Location 1828)
  • There is no simple formula, and trust decisions can be based on anything from a vague sentiment—something seems shady, hinky, or amiss, or it just feels right—to a heuristic, or simple psychological shortcut. (Location 1833)
  • six general dimensions on which we evaluate trustworthiness: (Location 1842)
  • authenticity, fulfillment, value, reliability, safety, and recourse. (Location 1842)
  • Fulfillment, in the immortal words of the British wood stain and preservative brand Ronseal, is when a product “does exactly what it says on the tin.” We trust those things that live up to their claims and distrust those that fall short. (Location 1848)
  • Value can be defined as a level of quality commensurate with price relative to alternatives; in simpler terms, we trust things that don’t feel like a rip-off. (Location 1850)
  • Reliability is similar to fulfillment, but it also means a product does what it’s supposed to with enough consistency that we can count on it performing in those moments when we need it the most. It will still be around tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that. (Location 1851)
  • Safety is an easy one: we don’t trust things that we believe will cause serious physical or psychological damage to ourselves, others, or the environment. (Location 1854)
  • recourse is a sense of assurance, either explicit or implicit, that if a product fails or breaks down, the manufacturer or retailer will deal with the problem in a timely and courteous manner. Explicit recourse could be a warranty, a customer service lifeline, a replacement policy, or a money-back guarantee. (Location 1855)
  • Obviously consumers in high- and low-trust ecosystems operate under very different default assumptions, respectively: either that things are trustworthy until red flags are raised, or that things are untrustworthy until fears are allayed. (Location 1867)
  • As for the coffee you’d be pouring it into, you could mull over its authenticity (is it really fair-trade?), fulfillment (will they serve you decaf if you ask for decaf?), value (are you getting your $3 worth?), reliability (will it taste as good as that cup you had yesterday?), safety (will the cup lid stay in place as you walk to the car, or will the contents spill and scald you?), and recourse (can you get a fresh cup or your money back if it happens to taste like charred dirt?). (Location 1890)
  • But because Starbucks is generally considered a trusted brand in terms of these metrics, the name on the door becomes the heuristic that allows you to save mental energy and take the leap of faith. (Location 1893)
  • Edelman’s Trust Barometer index, when a company is trusted, 51 percent of people are willing to believe positive information about the company after hearing it once or twice, while only 25 percent will believe negative information the first couple of times they hear it. (Location 1900)
  • value, because when you’ve paid, say, a dollar for a bottle of Coke in the past, it creates a lasting impression that your next bottle of Coke will be worth a dollar to you, thanks to the cognitive bias known as the anchoring effect; (Location 1907)
  • We all have sniff tests in our lives—things we do to reassure us at critical stages of consumption or interaction that a product or service (or person) is worthy of our trust. (Location 1950)
  • The biggest transactional difference between eBay and Taobao is that Taobao created a dedicated chat platform, so buyers and sellers can negotiate and sniff each other out in real time. Second, they allow customers to put payments into an escrow account until they’ve received the product and are satisfied with (Location 1975)
  • Lastly, there’s the matter of trust at the end of use, and the design elements that indicate when a product expires, wears out, or loses its efficacy. Like the student who sniffed his milk, we can sometimes rely on our senses to tell us when things have gone sour (not always quite so literally), and many built-in warnings add some sensory element, like the sound of car brakes’ wear indicators or the smell added to natural gas to help us detect leaks. (Location 1994)
  • Pirated copies are both an awareness- and literacy-building exercise, which is especially valuable for something as technically challenging to the average user as a computer operating system. (Location 2035)
  • people situated at the bottom of the economic pyramid, I’d argue that they of all people can least afford to assume the risk of buying a product that doesn’t live up to its promise, since they can least afford to replace it. (Location 2049)
  • whether companies are better off investing in marginal antipiracy efforts—antipiracy theatrics as it were—or in developing new products and services that can still earn a profit despite being ripped off. (Location 2060)
  • entire shadow industry devoted to copying and counterfeiting, but this industry—known as shanzhai, translated as “mountain fortress,” but also derived from the word for “bandit”—has developed a culture of manufacturing and innovation around reverse-engineering and then superseding the genuine articles. (Location 2065)
  • Everything you take for granted in your typical gas station experience has been stripped away. All that’s left is a bottle of fuel, sitting slightly higher than the fuel tank it aims to fill, a hose to transfer fuel from the container to the tank, and an agent for collecting payment. It’s so rudimentary, and yet so pure—it would be impossible to take anything away and still have a functioning gas station. (Location 2102)
  • If you know what you’re looking for, seeing something in its purest possible form is inspiring, but what does it mean to find the essence? How do you know what you’re seeing? And what do you do with that “bottle-on-a-brick,” so to speak, when you discover it? (Location 2110)
  • if we start stripping things back to the bare essentials, we can build or rebuild our understanding of services from the ground up. We can also take the same essence and use it as a starting point for designing variations of the same service for different markets, developed or developing, so that the front ends speak to the nuances of each market—to actual customers, on the ground, in their daily lives—while the back end leverages core processes and infrastructure. (Location 2115)
  • creeping featurism as “a disease, fatal if not treated promptly,” which can be cured with a heavy dose of organization, but “as usual, the best approach is to practice preventive medicine.” (Location 2125)
  • Reduce and Organize, (Location 2128)
  • hew as closely as possible to the essence, and at the very least make sure that the essence isn’t obscured by nonessential bells and whistles. (Location 2129)
  • The simplest is to systematically observe use; to ask questions around why people are doing things in a particular way. Almost every study involves spending significant time in people’s homes, where they’re most likely to do things “their way.” (Location 2148)
  • The reasons why things are done in a particular way are often told through personalities (or personas, archetypes, or actual consumers that match a particular market segment), drawing on the rich firsthand field data. (Location 2160)
  • A common workshop activity is to introduce lateral thinking exercises (such as those devised by Edward de Bono) that put the team and clients together in a room, incorporating a series of tasks to break down the team’s preconceptions and forcing them to figure out how to integrate something completely incongruous into that picture. (Location 2163)
  • What would happen if the essence of a gas station weren’t a bottle on a brick, but some currently peripheral aspect of the experience? Say you’re an alien checking out a gas station for the very first time: watching people pull in, head inside the convenience store, browse for a bit, stand in line to pay, and then at the last moment make impulse purchase decisions. What if your assumption was that the whole experience was created to trigger impulse-purchasing behavior? (Location 2191)
  • The other value in the exercise is to reconsider the core in light of the introduction of a new technology or standard. (Location 2210)
  • Once most people have access to this level of service they don’t spend very much time thinking about what they like about it, much less thinking about the essence of what it offers them. (Location 2249)
  • For many people living in developed countries, banking is woven tightly into the fabric of their lives and culture, so it can be hard to fathom what it means to lack access to banking and what the pain points of “banklessness” look like. It’s also difficult to study in our own backyards, without taking the highly unethical step of taking away people’s existing access and asking them to try surviving without financial services. (Location 2256)
  • All that infrastructure is just the shell, and it follows the same metaphor of technology adoption and abandonment that we see in other realms: we are all hermit crabs, wherever we live and whatever we do, and we inevitably migrate from one shell to another when we find one that better suits our needs. (Location 2273)
  • The sunk costs of existing infrastructure can greatly narrow the cone of possibility, but it may also narrow the cone of opportunity, especially when customers are ready to change shells before a business is. (Location 2300)
  • Past success, while no means an indicator of future results, is usually a sign that beneath all the accumulated layers of features and widgets and amenities lies a legitimate understanding of essence. (Location 2311)
  • If simplicity is akin to sanity, finding the essence is not a wholesale brainwash, but rather a reality check. (Location 2315)
  • Nokia owned the market for entry-level phones not only because they offered the right products but also because they had made an early investment in an incredibly strong distribution network, which proved critical in countries such as India, where 70 percent of the population lives outside urban centers. (Location 2375)
  • Yet, surprisingly (to us, at least), illiteracy didn’t necessarily prevent people from buying and using mobile phones. (Location 2380)
  • proximate literacy—essentially asking more literate people for help. (Location 2405)
  • In this sense, the strategy for some of the poorest members of society is the same as for some of the wealthiest: delegation. (Location 2406)
  • The Nokia study on illiteracy and mobile phone use turned out to be quite extensive, and the research on proximate literacy ultimately made it clear that a phone designed for illiterate users would have to be reframed to take into account this wider sense of competence. (Location 2417)
  • The barrier of difficulty that we once assumed would overwhelm illiterate consumers was actually as surmountable as the extent to which they were able to tap their extended social networks and the occasional stranger for help. Using the existing phone, albeit with assistance, was more important than having it optimized for their special needs. (Location 2432)
  • The social stigma associated with buying a device perceived as being designed for “disadvantaged” consumers would be a disincentive to purchase;* illiterates wanted the same device that everyone else had, because they aspired to be treated like everyone else. Furthermore, the costs of designing and testing a new device, getting it into supply channels, and educating sales and marketing teams versus the economies of scale of selling a few hundred million more of those that were already on the market risked making the price to consumers prohibitive. (Location 2436)
  • Although that outcome stuck in the craw of purists and ideologues who believed that such a device really would have been life-changing, the reality was that a notionally suboptimal device was good enough, and even superior to one that could have been engineered and designed better but at the risk of missing bigger-picture issues: a higher price tag, lowered social status, and the not-insignificant inconvenience of learning a new product. (Location 2441)
  • the illiteracy study offers a valuable example of the importance of timing, as well as the pitfalls of deep-rooted assumptions about consumers and their lives. (Location 2451)
  • reality is that the best way to do right by the people on the other end of the transaction is to understand how they tackle their own problems, rather than presuming to know how to solve those problems for them. (Location 2459)
  • Designers, problem solvers by nature, are additionally bounded by the “solutions mode” mentality. Always wanting to make things better has its altruistic qualities, but it can also come off as arrogant when a designer fails to respect the solutions that already exist, particularly those that have evolved from within a community. (Location 2469)
  • It doesn’t take much effort to find something about globalization to be incensed about: (Location 2477)
  • Make no mistake—governments, corporations, organizations, and agencies need to be monitored, held to account, and, in many markets where certain players hold a disproportionate amount of power, kept in check. But as consumers, employers, and employees, I/you/we/they are complicit in this relationship in the products we make and consume, in the lifestyles we aspire to, and in the moment-to-moment decisions we make in how the products we buy are used. (Location 2485)
  • Often these distortions are born from good intentions, but too often they stem from a failure to see people as they are, rather than as observers would like them to be. The list looks something like this: • Consumers living on very low levels of income are incapable of making rational or the “right” choices for themselves, and need to be protected from corporations trying to hoodwink them. • These consumers are bound by duty to only make rational choices. (In this case “rational” refers to those things that have an immediate benefit to their current socioeconomic situation, as defined by the person making the argument. For example, that it’s okay to spend money on medicine for a sick kid, but not on electricity that allows that sick kid to watch TV.) • Any time a consumer makes an “irrational” choice the “fault” lies with the company providing the products. • Companies that target consumers in countries with very low levels of income are inherently evil. (Location 2500)
  • Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, (Location 2516)
  • displeasing? (Location 2539)
  • Optimize surface area. Surface area refers to the sum of all touchpoints with the locale and the participants of our research. Cumulative properties of such touchpoints include both breadth and depth of research, pressure (effort dedicated in some spots more than others), layers (that is, backup plans), and texture (ethics, professionalism, formality, hustle, intensity). An optimal surface area offers easy access to data collection and both formal and informal touchpoints, finds the right blend of information and inspiration, and has enough flexibility to cope with contingencies when—inevitably—things don’t go according to plan. (Location 2590)
  • The journey from data (pure information) to insight (how to apply that information to the problem at hand) starts in the field. (Location 2613)
    1. Normal rules don’t apply. Every research project is an opportunity to create a new reality, and with it release the team from their mental constraints. (Location 2618)
  • than half the global populace: “Press Release: ITU sees 5 billion mobile subscriptions globally in 2010,” http://hddn.ps/1-ITU5billion; Richard Heeks, “Beyond Subscriptions: (Location 2636)
  • Addictive Sounds in the World,” Fast Company, February 22, 2010, http://hddn.ps/8-addictive-sounds; Martin Lindstrom, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (New York: Crown Business, 2010); Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond (Location 2653)

public: true

title: Hidden in Plain Sight longtitle: Hidden in Plain Sight author: Jan Chipchase and Simon Steinhardt url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2017-03-22 type: books tags:

Hidden in Plain Sight

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Metadata

Highlights

  • Every new technology put out on the market is introduced with assertions and assumptions about how it will be used, but it’s only through actual experience that “use” is defined, shaped by any number of factors including context, personality, motivation, and income. (Location 89)
  • Nick Hughes and Susie Lonie of Vodafone UK, with seed funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, (Location 158)
  • emergent behaviors, essentially things that people have only recently started doing and that might, if the conditions are right, become widespread. (Location 167)
  • situations—people whose situation or context pushes them to make the most of what is currently available regardless of existing social or legal norms. Call it innovation by necessity. These people are often called “extreme” or “lead users.” (Location 173)
  • If you used your sense of “why” to uncover the truth about what low-income people want by talking to the people who know best—those people themselves—you’d find that they are in fact some of the world’s toughest customers. (Location 200)
  • The Nano still has tremendous potential, since a $2,900 car—a functional one—can be a disruptive force of change in the marketplace, just as a $100 laptop or a $20 mobile phone can. These objects can be powerful tools in people’s everyday lives, if they actually help people overcome the fundamental obstacles they face—transportation, education, communication, and so on—and are designed as desirable objects that convey a positive image of their owners. (Location 204)
  • It starts with the scouting process, looking for the neighborhoods where the team can get a sense of the denizens’ everyday lives. (Location 224)
  • Cruising through the city on bikes doesn’t feel like work, but it gives us a chance to rapidly engage with the environment on a human level. (Location 238)
  • One of my favorite ways to do this early on in the study, and one of simplest, is to wake up with the city. Gather the team before dawn, find an appropriate neighborhood, then cruise around together while the shopkeepers are lifting their shutters, as newspapers hit the pavement and locals step out for their morning constitutionals. The morning rush for essentials—from coffee or chai to fresh pastries to rice porridge—is a ritual virtually everywhere, making it ripe for cross-cultural comparisons. If there’s a long line, all the better: our job, after all, is to strike up conversations. (Location 241)
  • My colleagues and I spend a great deal of time thinking about touchpoints—the times and places where users would likely be interacting with the product or service we’re designing—and triggers that would prompt users to act in one way or another during those times and in those places. These factors can highlight new opportunities to serve unmet needs, or to better tailor products (Location 322)
  • To a client or outside observer, design ideas that aren’t presented within a research-based, real-world framework can seem arbitrary. For organizations that were weaned on quantitative market research, it’s not enough to be inspired—they want to be able to trace that inspiration back to its source. (Location 341)
  • Data, like milk, is best consumed fresh; the longer we take to analyze it, the more likely we are to lose the thread that connects it to its original meaning. At some point in the day the team heads back to our “mission control,” most often a room in a hotel, guesthouse, or home, where the walls are papered with notes and ideas. Before leaving the city, while we still have access to our local team, we like to spend a full day sifting through the data. (Location 346)
  • If there’s such a thing as a default framework in corporate research, it’s the customer journey map, which provides detailed information about each event in a customer’s typical day, diagrams how she moves from one event to another, and identifies all the touchpoints where she may use the product or service we’re designing. (Location 358)
  • Threshold mapping allows us to map out “default” conditions—the normal state a person experiences a majority of the time (for example, most people feel clean enough throughout the day that they won’t drop whatever they’re doing and hop in the shower if it’s available)—and then understand what happens when a person crosses the line into an alternative condition. Often, the feelings that people experience as they approach or cross a threshold lead them to think and act differently. (Location 365)
  • plot the different places that you go during the day, and the time you spend there: (Location 385)
  • The vertical axis, in this case, indicates your level of hunger. Now plot three lines along the timeline: your level of hunger, as it varies throughout the day; (Location 387)
  • The area between the two thresholds is your comfort zone, and in normal circumstances you’ll do what it takes to stay within that zone. (Location 389)
  • It’s a simple exercise but one that can deliver a large payoff, revealing both a richer understanding of what people are and are not doing, what triggers them to go outside their zone of comfort, and more important, why. The format also allows an audience to rapidly absorb the basics, and supports an incredible level of depth and storytelling, particularly around the exceptions. (Location 408)
  • In my experience, companies have a reasonable understanding of what is normal but struggle with the extremes, which means they don’t understand the tensions that pull normal in different directions. Just think: (Location 417)
  • Understanding the exceptions and the behaviors needed to bring you back into the comfort zone often reveals little things that might turn out to not be so little: (Location 421)
  • They all took steps to stay within their own desired comfort zones, but the dimensions of those zones looked very different when we plotted them out. (Location 455)
  • “comfort zone” loosely to describe the area where a person maintains the status (Location 457)
  • quo for everyday life, going about business as usual, which typically means not engaging in the behavior we’re studying. (Location 457)
  • This qualitative data suggested that the trough threshold for grooming exists at the point where someone is unwilling to engage in any social interaction (or some specific interaction at that point, like a meeting or a date) without first freshening up somehow. (Location 464)
  • sociologist Mark Granovetter. (Location 493)
  • each individual in the crowd makes a personal decision to riot or not, based on perceptions about the benefits of rioting (a cathartic release of anger) versus the risks (the possibility of arrest). (Location 502)
  • designers first have to establish that a threshold exists, then (Location 524)
  • pinpoint it, figure out how to maintain it, and try to expand the comfort zone. Consider the ways people have managed thresholds of sleep over the course of history. (Location 525)
  • An empty wallet is a strong and very concrete feedback mechanism for cash transactions. (Location 563)
  • On the less tangible side, psychologists have found that people with any hint of miserly tendencies use a feedback system in the area of the brain known as the insula, which generates feelings of disgust when we encounter an unpleasant odor, a horrid picture, or, it seems, a budget-shattering pair of (Location 563)
  • Bruno Magli shoes. But when we use credit cards, debit cards, and mobile wallets, we don’t get to peer into the void of a wallet, and we can’t always count on our insulae to steer us right. This is where good service design comes in. (Location 565)
  • In The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, sociologist Erving Goffman’s seminal analysis of social dynamics, Goffman describes interactions in terms of dramatic performance, in which every individual involved plays dual roles of performer and audience. (Location 615)
  • rudeness is simply a matter of staging the wrong performance in the wrong scene. (Location 622)
  • The “Veblen effect” was coined in 1950 by economist Harvey Leibenstein, who pointed out that consumer demand depended not only on the functional utility of goods but also on certain social factors: a desire to be “in style” (the “bandwagon effect”); a desire to stand out from the herd (the “snob effect”); and a desire for “conspicuous consumption,” a term (Location 649)
  • introduced a half-century earlier by sociologist Thorstein Veblen. (Location 652)
  • You could say it’s the market force of superstition, but at heart it’s the force of impression management. (Location 698)
  • it’s good to understand why we don’t break unwritten rules, instead of just assuming that we can’t, I decided to try a little experiment. (Location 711)
  • In Kate Fox’s book Watching the English, she notes a curious arc in class preferences for “bogside reading,” the books and magazines that the English strategically place in their bathrooms for, ahem, extended visits. (Location 724)
  • Fridges and kitchens are the low-hanging fruit of (Location 752)
  • in-home research: they’re generally considered neutral for guests to wander into, and the hosts usually assume that there’s not too much that can be revealed. (Location 753)
  • One of my favorite examples of masstige is the Apple earbuds found in-ear or dangling from the necks of commuters in cities all over the world. They cost about half as much as the cheapest iPod, and perhaps one-tenth as much as an iPhone, but for someone who can’t afford the core technology products the earbuds are a gateway into the Apple ecosystem. As former Apple marketing executive Steve Chazin put it, “Wear white headphones and you are a member of the club.” Who cares if they’re plugged into a cheap knockoff phone in your pocket? It’s what’s outside that counts. (Location 773)
  • This seems to suggest that as society becomes more hyperconnected, the ability to disconnect and stay disconnected will become a more significant sign of status. If (Location 783)
  • technology amplifies behavior. It helps those who are trying to do good do more good, and it helps those who are trying to do bad do more bad. (Location 785)
  • Another consequence of miniaturization is that as devices move away from visual interfaces and become strictly audio, the only element of the interface that can be flaunted for status purposes will be the conversation itself. (Location 795)
  • umbrella of categories, courtesy of evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller: physical attributes, including health, fertility, and beauty; personality traits, such as conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to novelty; and cognitive ones, namely general intelligence. (Location 823)
  • Think about the cumulative sum of all traits, positive and negative, a person displays through objects and appearances—what Goffman would call “performance equipment”—at any given time. (Location 826)
  • Japan boasts a tightly integrated high-tech manufacturing base and, perhaps more important, established relationships between people and companies that allow even further integration. (Location 858)
  • benefits of adoption are promoted through another message: that you are less likely to inconvenience others. (Location 865)
  • economist Joe Bohlen and sociologist George Beal, (Location 882)
  • Beal and Bohlen called the “diffusion process,” breaks down into five discrete stages that an individual goes through on the path to adoption. (Location 884)
  • breakdown of the “adoption curve”: who adopts first, last, and in between. (Location 897)
  • innovators possess a large amount of risk capital—they can afford to try out new things without worrying too much about losing money or prestige if they fail. (Location 899)
  • When Beal and Bohlen published their hybrid corn seed adoption studies, they claimed they were only focused on two main ideas that were more or less obvious: that adoption is not a spontaneous decision but rather occurs in stages; and that not everyone adopts at once. (Location 924)
  • adoption behaviors offer a wonderful lens into the tensions and pressures that people—and societies—face when confronted with something new. (Location 929)
  • “Google Effects on Memory: Cognitive Consequences of Having Information at Our Fingertips,” (Location 937)
  • What Beal and Bohlen only hinted at, and what I believe qualitative, in-context research can fundamentally tap into, are the social pressures that contribute to that segmentation, and how those pressures cascade along the curve as adopters exert their influence on those who have yet to adopt. (Location 950)
  • That “future shock,” as futurist Alvin Toffler once called the psychological effect of “too much change in too short a period of time,” is a phenomenon that has existed throughout the lifetime of every living person on earth today, but the dynamics of how this plays out, the speed at which it occurs, and the consequences of adopting or not adopting in the face of it are constantly changing. Around the same time as I (Location 978)
  • That influence can come from mass media, but most often it comes from peers. To borrow the old adage about politics, all adoption is local. Well, almost all. (Location 997)
  • Thomas Valente, (Location 998)
  • Network Models of the Diffusion of Innovations, he theorized that adoption behavior could be predicted using a threshold model (sound familiar?) of networks. The key factor in adoption, he argued, is the number of one’s peers who adopt an innovation; when that number reaches the individual’s threshold, that individual will in turn adopt the innovation. (Location 1000)
  • one, that the adoption curve timeline only tells part of the story, and people who adopt at the same time are not necessarily influenced in the same way; (Location 1013)
  • some people, regardless of whether they’re early adopters, in the majority, or laggards, are immediately influenced by their peers while others will monitor their peers’ behavior for some time before making a decision; (Location 1014)
  • that people who may be considered laggards relative to the greater social system could be early adopters within their own personal networks, or vice versa, depending on how their networks are externally connected to the social system. (Location 1016)
  • But because their traditional ways teach them to remain separate from the rest of society, they thus have to stay off the electricity grid. “The Amish noticed that when their homes were electrified with wires from a generator in town, they became more tied to the rhythms, policies, and concerns of the town. Amish religious belief is founded on the principle that they should remain ‘in the world, not of it’ and so they should remain separate in as many ways as possible.” (Location 1087)
  • In person, you can gain insight into the social barriers unique to a culture, and whether adoption is purely driven by reflective appeal (status), behavioral appeal (usefulness), or the relative importance of one over the other. If you do the research right, it will allow you to tap into the sentiment of adoption, which you’ll never get from looking at quantified data. (Location 1093)
  • One technology already making waves, but for which the biggest disruption is yet to come, is near-time facial recognition: the ability to capture someone’s face and accurately match it to their online identity (and everything attached to it), all within the time it takes to say “hi.” (Location 1125)
  • On one hand, it’s comforting to think they’d have a tool to sniff me out and discover my intent; on the other hand, if they were the type to be suspicious of any foreigner with a corporate background, I wouldn’t be able to conceal that connection from them. (Location 1146)
  • But just as all things have an adoption curve, they also have an abandonment curve. (Location 1153)
  • Hints to behaviors past lie all around us: people holding up virtual lighters on their phone screens at concerts; nomenclature like glove compartment, pen pal, and disc jockey; and even the iconography on our computers that points back to the physical objects we’ve since abandoned in favor of the applications those icons represent—notepads, envelopes, paper clips, and fountain pens. (Location 1157)
  • the things we carry, the things we absolutely need when we go out into the world, are the tools that help us survive. In more than a decade of research on this topic, I’ve found the keys-money-phone triumvirate to be consistent across cultures, gender, economic strata, and age (Location 1185)
  • minute or two. When she realized this, she was visibly upset with herself that she had let her guard (Location 1213)
  • the range of distribution, the distance that people are willing to let physical objects stray when they’re out and about. (Location 1218)
  • When risk and convenience factors are low, objects are allowed to spread out; when convenience is high, they stay close by; when risk is high, they stay somewhere safe, which could be very close, very deep under lock and key, or even somewhere completely intangible (we’ll come back to that last one later). (Location 1221)
  • The ability to project status in the form of tangible objects depends on their (momentary, at the very least) visibility but also highlights an inherent tension: the desire to show off one’s property versus the desire to keep it safe. (Location 1246)
  • To counter this natural tendency to forget important objects, one of the simple, widespread (Location 1262)
  • behaviors people exhibit when leaving one space and heading to another is what we call a point of reflection, that moment when a person pauses in order to run through a mental checklist of what they’re carrying and what they may be forgetting. (Location 1263)
  • technique—literally sifting through and documenting the contents of people’s wallets and/or bags, and asking about the stories behind each object—is that people often do things to compensate when things like fare cards aren’t designed with adequate points of reflection. (Location 1273)
  • In 2010, mobile telecom provider Roshan and the Afghan Ministry of the Interior set up a pilot program to explore paying police officers’ salaries via a mobile banking system called M-Paisa.* Instead of receiving bundles of cash from their commanding officers, the police who participated in the M-Paisa program were notified by text message that their salaries had been credited to their accounts, which they could cash out through any Roshan agent in the country. To their surprise, many officers found that they had received “raises”—sometimes as much as a third more than they were accustomed to getting. In fact, they were getting their full, actual salaries for the first time, as the money digitally slipped through the sticky fingers of the higher-ups who had been skimming off the top. (Location 1399)
  • Entrepreneur and author Lisa Gansky calls this “the Mesh,” a model for consumption based on network-enabled sharing, providing access rather than ownership. (Location 1429)
  • Over the next few years we’re likely to see more points of reflection designed into objects that are increasingly connected to one another. (Location 1453)
  • When you want to know how and why people do the things they do, the best people to learn from are the doers themselves, and the best place to learn is where the doing gets done. (Location 1482)
  • “rapid cultural calibration”—not only putting yourself in the local mind-set but also putting local phenomena into global perspective, implicitly and sometimes explicitly. (Location 1495)
  • Rapid cultural calibration can take the form of a stroll at dawn or a rush-hour subway ride; a visit to a barbershop, a train station, or the local outpost of a global chain restaurant; or even a slight pause for contemplation at the sight of signage. (Location 1498)
  • Used in conjunction with more structured techniques such as in-depth interviews, surveys, and home visits—and when applied in multiple neighborhoods, cities, or countries—rapid cultural calibration can help deepen your understanding of a new culture and compare it with your own and others you’ve visited. Each calibration session can take as little as thirty minutes, or stretch as long as half a day (though if you were so inclined, you could do them ad infinitum, but in that case they wouldn’t be particularly rapid). (Location 1499)
  • You can never understand the stresses and pains a city’s inhabitants feel until you’ve felt the worst of its commute. (Location 1546)
  • It turns out being able to plan ahead for a predictable commuter experience is a big part of quality of life, even if it means planning ahead for sitting in traffic. (Location 1556)
  • These are the sorts of questions that come up when our teams venture into the melee of the daily commute, and the answers are incredibly important in understanding research participants’ lives. In the span of most in-depth interviews, the discussion of commuting might last only a minute or two, but by experiencing a city’s commute for yourself you gain a better sense of the mental and physical state in which people arrive for work or school in the morning and back home in the evening. (Location 1561)
  • For the price of a cut or shave, that seat is as much yours as any local’s, and once you’re in it you have as much right to steer the conversation as anyone in the room. Gender aside, almost anyone can walk through the doors and be served. (Location 1602)
  • A firsthand exploration of the line between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” can be both nerve-racking and intellectually rewarding. It’s also a great tool for uncovering issues that might negatively affect adoption of a particular product or service, and to test the malleability of the social norms in question. The greater the affront caused by a small act of impoliteness, the harder and faster the unwritten rule. (Location 1616)
  • breaching experiment (Location 1619)
  • Stanley Milgram and his Yale students, who tested the unwritten (Location 1619)
  • “first-come, first-served” seating rule on New York subways by approaching (Location 1620)
  • passengers and asking them for their seats. Surprisingly, 68 percent of passengers obliged. (Location 1620)
  • much empathic understanding to be gained from breaching, and there are many ways to test the impact of crossing a line, from role-play within the team to staged situations out in the field to small impromptu interventions when you sense the possibility of an enlightening experience. (Location 1628)
  • The mere existence of a sign reveals that whatever issue it pertains to is important enough for someone, presumably an authority on the matter, to invest time and energy to discuss the possibility of a formal or informal ban with other people in the know, commission production of the sign (or urge someone else to rubber-stamp it), and have it installed. (Location 1674)
  • In most instances, these signs aren’t put in place to issue firm directives and control behavior (much as authoritarian urban planners might fantasize); they’re there because the person(s) who wants to control behavior lacks the power or presence to do so and believes an authoritative-seeming sign can serve as enforcer. (Location 1678)
  • increasingly prevalent (Location 1693)
  • sign conflicts with a nuanced understanding of the demand being made. In Tokyo I came across a “no cycling” sign that took the classic posture of a fixed-gear enthusiast, whose silhouetted bike revealed keirin geometry, bullhorn bars, and no brakes—little details that a trained eye would notice, and which were clearly used intentionally by an in-the-know designer as a subversive wink and nod to fellow cyclists. (Location 1710)
  • In many ways a sign can be a last resort, a footnote to a space whose purpose could and perhaps should have been planned better for intuitive use, sans written directions. Urban planners, architects, and designers have created a whole vocabulary of uncomfortable addendums—urban forms with cues to influence behaviors—such as rows of small spikes to stop people from sitting on ledges or low flat walls; metal bobbles welded to rails to keep skateboarders off; and starbursts of spikes on pigeon-prone surfaces. (Location 1732)
  • platzgeist, a gestalt sense of the spirit of an environment, whether a neighborhood, city, region, or country. All of the above techniques can help you gain that sense, both consciously and subconsciously, but by capturing it through sensory stimuli, you can create a veritable mood database. And after your sense of platzgeist has faded over time, this database will be your return ticket to that place and its spirit. (Location 1745)
  • Macro tours, capturing imagery around an environment through a macro (extreme close-up) camera lens, allow you to think about the little things, literally: the textures, colors, geometry, and patina that make up an object or space, capturing and experiencing things up close. A macro lens allows you to isolate things from their context, but the images you capture can later be viewed in clusters to give a sense of cumulative effect. (Location 1749)
  • Back at the office, audio tour recordings can be played during synthesis sessions and workshops to re-create the environment where the data was collected and jog the team’s sensory memories, and can also be overlaid as audio tracks to add depth to concept movies. (Location 1764)
  • directly and visit their homes, the commute and any of these other contextual activities will only serve to augment your understanding of the things they share with you, in a way that assumptions based on demographic characteristics simply can’t. (Location 1777)
  • There’s no such thing as too much learning (although novice teams often overcollect data), but there is always a point of diminishing returns, and the smart (and often brave) choice is to step away and focus on methods that will yield richer results. (Location 1781)
  • I call this “finding the optimal surface area” and it’s one of eight principles of design research I’ve listed in an appendix in the back of this book. (Location 1786)
  • Our ability to imagine what-could-be stems from knowledge, amplified by experiences, and ultimately our ability to understand which of those experiences can be applied to the task at hand. (Location 1788)
  • trust ecosystem—the context in which we make each trust-distrust decision, characterized by the surrounding environment and all its players, from the local (or hyperlocal) crime rate to the sights and smells at hand to the friendliness of strangers—shapes each and every interaction that takes place within it. (Location 1828)
  • There is no simple formula, and trust decisions can be based on anything from a vague sentiment—something seems shady, hinky, or amiss, or it just feels right—to a heuristic, or simple psychological shortcut. (Location 1833)
  • six general dimensions on which we evaluate trustworthiness: (Location 1842)
  • authenticity, fulfillment, value, reliability, safety, and recourse. (Location 1842)
  • Fulfillment, in the immortal words of the British wood stain and preservative brand Ronseal, is when a product “does exactly what it says on the tin.” We trust those things that live up to their claims and distrust those that fall short. (Location 1848)
  • Value can be defined as a level of quality commensurate with price relative to alternatives; in simpler terms, we trust things that don’t feel like a rip-off. (Location 1850)
  • Reliability is similar to fulfillment, but it also means a product does what it’s supposed to with enough consistency that we can count on it performing in those moments when we need it the most. It will still be around tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that. (Location 1851)
  • Safety is an easy one: we don’t trust things that we believe will cause serious physical or psychological damage to ourselves, others, or the environment. (Location 1854)
  • recourse is a sense of assurance, either explicit or implicit, that if a product fails or breaks down, the manufacturer or retailer will deal with the problem in a timely and courteous manner. Explicit recourse could be a warranty, a customer service lifeline, a replacement policy, or a money-back guarantee. (Location 1855)
  • Obviously consumers in high- and low-trust ecosystems operate under very different default assumptions, respectively: either that things are trustworthy until red flags are raised, or that things are untrustworthy until fears are allayed. (Location 1867)
  • As for the coffee you’d be pouring it into, you could mull over its authenticity (is it really fair-trade?), fulfillment (will they serve you decaf if you ask for decaf?), value (are you getting your $3 worth?), reliability (will it taste as good as that cup you had yesterday?), safety (will the cup lid stay in place as you walk to the car, or will the contents spill and scald you?), and recourse (can you get a fresh cup or your money back if it happens to taste like charred dirt?). (Location 1890)
  • But because Starbucks is generally considered a trusted brand in terms of these metrics, the name on the door becomes the heuristic that allows you to save mental energy and take the leap of faith. (Location 1893)
  • Edelman’s Trust Barometer index, when a company is trusted, 51 percent of people are willing to believe positive information about the company after hearing it once or twice, while only 25 percent will believe negative information the first couple of times they hear it. (Location 1900)
  • value, because when you’ve paid, say, a dollar for a bottle of Coke in the past, it creates a lasting impression that your next bottle of Coke will be worth a dollar to you, thanks to the cognitive bias known as the anchoring effect; (Location 1907)
  • We all have sniff tests in our lives—things we do to reassure us at critical stages of consumption or interaction that a product or service (or person) is worthy of our trust. (Location 1950)
  • The biggest transactional difference between eBay and Taobao is that Taobao created a dedicated chat platform, so buyers and sellers can negotiate and sniff each other out in real time. Second, they allow customers to put payments into an escrow account until they’ve received the product and are satisfied with (Location 1975)
  • Lastly, there’s the matter of trust at the end of use, and the design elements that indicate when a product expires, wears out, or loses its efficacy. Like the student who sniffed his milk, we can sometimes rely on our senses to tell us when things have gone sour (not always quite so literally), and many built-in warnings add some sensory element, like the sound of car brakes’ wear indicators or the smell added to natural gas to help us detect leaks. (Location 1994)
  • Pirated copies are both an awareness- and literacy-building exercise, which is especially valuable for something as technically challenging to the average user as a computer operating system. (Location 2035)
  • people situated at the bottom of the economic pyramid, I’d argue that they of all people can least afford to assume the risk of buying a product that doesn’t live up to its promise, since they can least afford to replace it. (Location 2049)
  • whether companies are better off investing in marginal antipiracy efforts—antipiracy theatrics as it were—or in developing new products and services that can still earn a profit despite being ripped off. (Location 2060)
  • entire shadow industry devoted to copying and counterfeiting, but this industry—known as shanzhai, translated as “mountain fortress,” but also derived from the word for “bandit”—has developed a culture of manufacturing and innovation around reverse-engineering and then superseding the genuine articles. (Location 2065)
  • Everything you take for granted in your typical gas station experience has been stripped away. All that’s left is a bottle of fuel, sitting slightly higher than the fuel tank it aims to fill, a hose to transfer fuel from the container to the tank, and an agent for collecting payment. It’s so rudimentary, and yet so pure—it would be impossible to take anything away and still have a functioning gas station. (Location 2102)
  • If you know what you’re looking for, seeing something in its purest possible form is inspiring, but what does it mean to find the essence? How do you know what you’re seeing? And what do you do with that “bottle-on-a-brick,” so to speak, when you discover it? (Location 2110)
  • if we start stripping things back to the bare essentials, we can build or rebuild our understanding of services from the ground up. We can also take the same essence and use it as a starting point for designing variations of the same service for different markets, developed or developing, so that the front ends speak to the nuances of each market—to actual customers, on the ground, in their daily lives—while the back end leverages core processes and infrastructure. (Location 2115)
  • creeping featurism as “a disease, fatal if not treated promptly,” which can be cured with a heavy dose of organization, but “as usual, the best approach is to practice preventive medicine.” (Location 2125)
  • Reduce and Organize, (Location 2128)
  • hew as closely as possible to the essence, and at the very least make sure that the essence isn’t obscured by nonessential bells and whistles. (Location 2129)
  • The simplest is to systematically observe use; to ask questions around why people are doing things in a particular way. Almost every study involves spending significant time in people’s homes, where they’re most likely to do things “their way.” (Location 2148)
  • The reasons why things are done in a particular way are often told through personalities (or personas, archetypes, or actual consumers that match a particular market segment), drawing on the rich firsthand field data. (Location 2160)
  • A common workshop activity is to introduce lateral thinking exercises (such as those devised by Edward de Bono) that put the team and clients together in a room, incorporating a series of tasks to break down the team’s preconceptions and forcing them to figure out how to integrate something completely incongruous into that picture. (Location 2163)
  • What would happen if the essence of a gas station weren’t a bottle on a brick, but some currently peripheral aspect of the experience? Say you’re an alien checking out a gas station for the very first time: watching people pull in, head inside the convenience store, browse for a bit, stand in line to pay, and then at the last moment make impulse purchase decisions. What if your assumption was that the whole experience was created to trigger impulse-purchasing behavior? (Location 2191)
  • The other value in the exercise is to reconsider the core in light of the introduction of a new technology or standard. (Location 2210)
  • Once most people have access to this level of service they don’t spend very much time thinking about what they like about it, much less thinking about the essence of what it offers them. (Location 2249)
  • For many people living in developed countries, banking is woven tightly into the fabric of their lives and culture, so it can be hard to fathom what it means to lack access to banking and what the pain points of “banklessness” look like. It’s also difficult to study in our own backyards, without taking the highly unethical step of taking away people’s existing access and asking them to try surviving without financial services. (Location 2256)
  • All that infrastructure is just the shell, and it follows the same metaphor of technology adoption and abandonment that we see in other realms: we are all hermit crabs, wherever we live and whatever we do, and we inevitably migrate from one shell to another when we find one that better suits our needs. (Location 2273)
  • The sunk costs of existing infrastructure can greatly narrow the cone of possibility, but it may also narrow the cone of opportunity, especially when customers are ready to change shells before a business is. (Location 2300)
  • Past success, while no means an indicator of future results, is usually a sign that beneath all the accumulated layers of features and widgets and amenities lies a legitimate understanding of essence. (Location 2311)
  • If simplicity is akin to sanity, finding the essence is not a wholesale brainwash, but rather a reality check. (Location 2315)
  • Nokia owned the market for entry-level phones not only because they offered the right products but also because they had made an early investment in an incredibly strong distribution network, which proved critical in countries such as India, where 70 percent of the population lives outside urban centers. (Location 2375)
  • Yet, surprisingly (to us, at least), illiteracy didn’t necessarily prevent people from buying and using mobile phones. (Location 2380)
  • proximate literacy—essentially asking more literate people for help. (Location 2405)
  • In this sense, the strategy for some of the poorest members of society is the same as for some of the wealthiest: delegation. (Location 2406)
  • The Nokia study on illiteracy and mobile phone use turned out to be quite extensive, and the research on proximate literacy ultimately made it clear that a phone designed for illiterate users would have to be reframed to take into account this wider sense of competence. (Location 2417)
  • The barrier of difficulty that we once assumed would overwhelm illiterate consumers was actually as surmountable as the extent to which they were able to tap their extended social networks and the occasional stranger for help. Using the existing phone, albeit with assistance, was more important than having it optimized for their special needs. (Location 2432)
  • The social stigma associated with buying a device perceived as being designed for “disadvantaged” consumers would be a disincentive to purchase;* illiterates wanted the same device that everyone else had, because they aspired to be treated like everyone else. Furthermore, the costs of designing and testing a new device, getting it into supply channels, and educating sales and marketing teams versus the economies of scale of selling a few hundred million more of those that were already on the market risked making the price to consumers prohibitive. (Location 2436)
  • Although that outcome stuck in the craw of purists and ideologues who believed that such a device really would have been life-changing, the reality was that a notionally suboptimal device was good enough, and even superior to one that could have been engineered and designed better but at the risk of missing bigger-picture issues: a higher price tag, lowered social status, and the not-insignificant inconvenience of learning a new product. (Location 2441)
  • the illiteracy study offers a valuable example of the importance of timing, as well as the pitfalls of deep-rooted assumptions about consumers and their lives. (Location 2451)
  • reality is that the best way to do right by the people on the other end of the transaction is to understand how they tackle their own problems, rather than presuming to know how to solve those problems for them. (Location 2459)
  • Designers, problem solvers by nature, are additionally bounded by the “solutions mode” mentality. Always wanting to make things better has its altruistic qualities, but it can also come off as arrogant when a designer fails to respect the solutions that already exist, particularly those that have evolved from within a community. (Location 2469)
  • It doesn’t take much effort to find something about globalization to be incensed about: (Location 2477)
  • Make no mistake—governments, corporations, organizations, and agencies need to be monitored, held to account, and, in many markets where certain players hold a disproportionate amount of power, kept in check. But as consumers, employers, and employees, I/you/we/they are complicit in this relationship in the products we make and consume, in the lifestyles we aspire to, and in the moment-to-moment decisions we make in how the products we buy are used. (Location 2485)
  • Often these distortions are born from good intentions, but too often they stem from a failure to see people as they are, rather than as observers would like them to be. The list looks something like this: • Consumers living on very low levels of income are incapable of making rational or the “right” choices for themselves, and need to be protected from corporations trying to hoodwink them. • These consumers are bound by duty to only make rational choices. (In this case “rational” refers to those things that have an immediate benefit to their current socioeconomic situation, as defined by the person making the argument. For example, that it’s okay to spend money on medicine for a sick kid, but not on electricity that allows that sick kid to watch TV.) • Any time a consumer makes an “irrational” choice the “fault” lies with the company providing the products. • Companies that target consumers in countries with very low levels of income are inherently evil. (Location 2500)
  • Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, (Location 2516)
  • displeasing? (Location 2539)
  • Optimize surface area. Surface area refers to the sum of all touchpoints with the locale and the participants of our research. Cumulative properties of such touchpoints include both breadth and depth of research, pressure (effort dedicated in some spots more than others), layers (that is, backup plans), and texture (ethics, professionalism, formality, hustle, intensity). An optimal surface area offers easy access to data collection and both formal and informal touchpoints, finds the right blend of information and inspiration, and has enough flexibility to cope with contingencies when—inevitably—things don’t go according to plan. (Location 2590)
  • The journey from data (pure information) to insight (how to apply that information to the problem at hand) starts in the field. (Location 2613)
    1. Normal rules don’t apply. Every research project is an opportunity to create a new reality, and with it release the team from their mental constraints. (Location 2618)
  • than half the global populace: “Press Release: ITU sees 5 billion mobile subscriptions globally in 2010,” http://hddn.ps/1-ITU5billion; Richard Heeks, “Beyond Subscriptions: (Location 2636)
  • Addictive Sounds in the World,” Fast Company, February 22, 2010, http://hddn.ps/8-addictive-sounds; Martin Lindstrom, Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (New York: Crown Business, 2010); Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond (Location 2653)