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Trendwatching.com Live Trend Event in London

Some time ago I had the privilege to participate in a massive trend event organized by a trend agency called Trendwatching.com. You might already be familiar with their free online content and monthly briefings (if you are not, check it out!), and in addition to those they provide a subscription based premium service packages and live events all around the world. After using their premium content for some time I was eager to see how they would put together a live show!

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I was most eager to hear about their methodologies in collecting data and analyzing and forecasting trends, and these were all presented first thing in the morning. Trendwatching.com has an army of trendspotters from around the world who spot exiting new innovations and report back to the trend team. The team then matches the new innovations to their existing trend framework to analyze which way the trends are moving and how to update the framework itself. About 90% of spotted things fit this framework, but with the 10 % it gets exciting. Whenever there of these oddballs are found and if they can easily be grouped together, a new trend is created! Even though forecasting is not always simple and straightforward, I quite like this mechanical approach. It can be easily adapted to any organization wanting to find a way to do a little forecasting themselves.

kuva2A simple Venn diagram can be used by anyone to find the sweet spot between needs, drivers and innovations.

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NBF16 – my takeaways

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Last year I attended Nordic Business Forum 2015 thru the live stream and it was an amazing experience. I was so stoked that had to buy a NBF16 seminar pass right away –  I wanted to experience it physically, to hear the keynote speakers live, meet people and be part of the buzz.

Now, after digesting the whole experience for 2 weeks, I’d like to share some of my learnings with you. The four things that are still on my mind are:

Do, do, do =  Only action makes inspiration come true, execution is everything

Choose to matter = Everyone of us is the change, don’t wait for it to happen

Attention on solutions = Solve a problem, don’t concentrate on egos

Values & Trust = Employees 1st, customers 2nd

The main themes at the Nordic Business Forum 2016 (NBF16) were marketing, digitalization and culture . Two days, almost 6,000 people, tens of nationalities – the event was bigger than ever. And well worth the investment in time and money. Full agenda can be found at NBF16.

On marketing and change

Marketing is a service, an emotion and about making a connection. Today mass anything is dead, even niche groups are big enough to target. Scott Galloway continues:

  1. The young and healthy have left the building (=tv). 74% would cancel Netflix if there were ads. The price of freedom – adfree world – is a couple dollars.
  2. Store is the number 1 factor influencing the purchase decision – next come search, CRM and social.
  3. Ratio, heart and genitals drive the decisions. Technology helps reduce pain when you’ve first identified the actual pain points.
  4. Car is a service, Google is a spiritual guide and FB’s for love, empathy and sharing.

His final words were that “lots of things are happening that are not good for us”. Privacy issues and tax evasion are threats if you’re not transparent.

Peter Diamantes asked which problem do you want to solve. Solve and share it – like Uber. Everybody has potential to become extraordinary problem solver with latest tools around like sensors, 3D printing, virtual & artificial reality, genetics etc. But how to the unlock passion to do this?  Unfortunately our governments are the slowest to change as they are the most linear organizations on the planet. But even they can’t regulate against change in the end. We – the people – are the change, in the past citizens have started the biggest changes. And what’s not possible today, will be possible tomorrow.

Gary Vaynerchuk started his keynote stating that we’re still grossly overspending on stuff that we’ve done before. For example by using tv ads to interrupt storytelling. Everything should be about creating value. Communication drives everything and you can only learn by doing. Only action creates results, not inspiration. Do, do, do – test, test, test – and do it again. Try out all the new stuff and think how this could help your business. Create a culture where your employees are better than the competition and figure out a firing policy as well.

This was the first time I heard the godfather of creativity, Seth Godin of the Purple Cow, live. For him marketing is all about creating experience. So are you’re creating something worth mentioning? He focused on the value of teamwork, building trust, co-creation and sharing ideas – a connection economy. Sounds familiar to a service designer.   A few phrases of his that resonated with me:

  • There no such thing as a writer’s block – just bad habits and reluctance to dance with fear.
  • It’s all about creating marketing together, being fully human. Sow ubana – I see you.
  • There are not enough bad ideas to find a few good ones.
  • Do you want to make art or be a copycat?
  • Will you to choose matter?

And of course I have to share his picture of bats having a cocktail party. Certainly made me think of these creatures in a different way.

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Vineet Nayar on culture

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On digital UX research

While navigating through our increasingly digital world, we desire smooth journeys and perhaps a few moments of delight. Our digital UX experiences currently range from visiting websites, making online purchases, using all kinds of apps on our phones and wearables around our wrists, to smart televisions and inbuilt car navigation systems. Over the next few years, technologies like gesture, eye, head and full body tracking, brain-computer interfaces, personalised interfaces, and other new kinds of both implicit and explicit interfaces will add new elements to our digitally powered, everyday lives.

UX researchers make use of our behaviour data collected through interaction with these new technologies  to offer services and products to us that really meet our individual wants and needs. However, transparency, e.g. how and by whom the data is used, is highly important or otherwise trust might be lost forever.

The digital environment

When designing digital environments one should first of all understand the digital media space. Part of this space is the content (what do we offer to our customers), the form (how do we offer it), the person (to whom) and the context in which the interaction takes place.  Depending on your own UX research one element might be in stronger focus than the others, but all of them should be considered when designing new or improving existing digital user experiences.

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Understanding your customers is key 

Designing for everyone is close to impossible. Therefore, you first need to know who your desired main audience is, and then get to know their personal preferences and, as well as possible, also their individual differences.

When conducting digital UX research, there are elements that can be measured. Those include observable behaviours, users’ attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and intentions, as well as patterns within and across consumer groups. Simple ways to find out more about those elements are, for example, observing users while they experience your designed UX and have them narrate the process while they go through it. Like this, it is easy to realise how complex the experience really is and what feelings arise on the journey. In addition, asking the right questions will help to improve user experiences. Researchers should therefore be clear on what they want to find out and if they really want to know the answer(s).

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Robot Ethics, Emphatic AI and The Importance of Multiple Perspectives

In her keynote speech in Interaction16 conference Mrs. Kate Darling from MIT Media Lab opened up a topic of social robotics. She started by reviewing common concerns that humans currently have – that robots will take over the world and eliminate human race. This concern was quickly dismissed by showing the state-of-the-art robots autonomously playing football. They cutely and clumsily stumble and fall even before reaching the ball to kick. That much about taking over the world, for now.

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Humans empathize easily with cute, physical robots

Social robotics has its background in fundamental human property of being able to empathize with nearly anything. Physical objects are easier to empathize with than virtual ones. If the extra effort is made to make robot move, be cute and give it big eyes, there is no way human can resist it. This is why people behave like robots would be alive, even though they know this is not true. This is also what makes it possible to use social robotics to provide obviously value adding services like cheering up sick children, helping autistic children, being company to elderly people and easing consequences of demention.

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Empathizing with a robot.

However, Mrs. Darling raised several ethical concerns and inconsistencies with the above use cases. Is it ethical to leave elderly in company of social robots and can that ever replace human to human interaction? And how it is different from leaving them in a company of a living animal? Will the people feel uncomfortable sharing personal data or undressing in front of a robot and will they feel like not having privacy anymore? And how is that different from satellites that can already take high definition pictures of nearly anything on earth? Is it really just the matter of design, i.e. making it hidden from people? Is it ethical to let people empathize with a robot and thereby leave room for emotional manipulation of human behavior?

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Participation, Narrow AI and Machines That Design

The opening keynote speech of Mr. Marko Ahtisaari in Interaction16 conference started with a piece of music. And not just about any piece but recently recomposed Vivaldi’s Spring part of the Four Seasons. How appropriate for any beginning, and especially at the time spring still needs some encouragement to show its face to the streets of Helsinki. It is not by chance that music is chosen to open the event. Mr. Ahtisaari is the CEO and cofounder of the Sync project whose aim is to untap the potential of music as a precision medicine. Yes, you read it right! Music as a highly personalized alternative to pills! A research has shown that music has powerful effect on our brain and can even unlock the people out of the motoric inability caused by Parkinson’s disease. The project is building a platform which will map music characteristics on their biometric effects. The machine learning will then be used on this set to create and deliver personalized music therapy for sleep, pain and movement disorders, to name a few.

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The Sync project

In addition to the above wonderful value proposition, Mr. Ahtisaari touched on several other topics and issued several calls for action. What resonated the most is call to shift our attention from User Centricity and Objects to Participation and Systems. We need to finally realize that we coexist on this world and any action we (do not) take impacts environment around us. As Mr. Ahtisaari pointed out, we are heading to the age of Entanglement, where we highly interact with each other. Being only user-centric and optimizing experiences for the (possibly selfish) needs and wants of a single persona might not be enough anymore. This only reinforces the importance of being actively present, connected and constantly learning. In other words, being now-ists and using effectual thinking at least as much as being futurists. Fellow service dominant logic enthusiasts, doesn’t this sound familiar?

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Call for action: Participation over user-centricity

Learning to live and co-create with intelligent machines is another must. As Mr. Ahtisaari puts it, we are destined to live in the world where machines will have power to surpass us and shape the world for themselves in a previously unimagined ways. This will mark the end of the era of Enlightenment.

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IoT service kit in action

Few days ago I had a great privilege to participate in the workshop sponsored by Futurice, the powerhouse of digital services. The workshop named “Creating tomorrow’s services, together” was organized as part of IxDA’s Interaction Week and Interaction16 conference, which is taking place 1.-4.March in Helsinki.

It takes a framework and toolkit …

The workshop hosts Ricardo Brito, Paul Houghton and Jane Vita kindly gave us an introduction of service design process in Futurice. The process is based around three fundamental pillars, namely Business, Technology and Service Design. The key ingredient of their success is Lean Service Creation, which has its roots in lean startup, lean agile development and service design. The process enables teams of T-shaped individuals to look at the service in a holistic way and thereby maximize chances of service success. At the same time it makes it possible to “succeed faster by failing early” and pivoting if needed.

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The three pilars of a successful IoT service design

While it only sounds logical, our hosts assured us that getting people of different background to talk to each other in a meaningful way can be a nightmare. Futurice’s IoT service toolkit is an attempt to attack this problem. Its purpose is threefold. First, it establishes a common language for people with different backgrounds. Second, it guides participants’ thinking and gets them used to the fact that nearly everything around us might be connected to the Internet. Last but not least, it enables team to work together and co-create.

… And getting hands dirty …

We were given a ready set of trend cards, well known tool of Futures Thinkers. Each selected the ones that resonated strongest with one’s own interests and the teams emerged around those. Our team focused on the smart cities and the future of mobility within them. We started divergence phase by ideating the most pressing mobility problems of the smart cities. After a while we converged and decided to focus on the problem of people with limited mobility. We identified two personas, “native digital” and the “old school”.

 

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IoT service kit in action

IoT service kit came into play to help us diverge again. With it’s ready set of cards and 3D printed models it quickly enriched our conventional thinking with urban connected furniture, wi-fi stations, beacons, drones, self-driving cars, assistive robots, kinetic suits, horizontal elevators and all kinds of connected sensors. After quick post-it brainstorming and clustering we converged again and decided on the core enablers of our service offering, i.e. autonomous cars and assistive robots. We moved on to create storyboards and journey maps for the key use cases. We did another quick round of divergence around the business model and relatively quickly agreed on the mixture of the private-public funding and related value network.

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The Network As a (Service) Design Material

The afternoon of Interaction16 workshop day offered the event named “The network as a design material: distributed systems UX for the internet of things”, which I had a pleasure of attending. According to the workshop hosts, Claire Rowland and Helen Le Voi, it is predicted that 33 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, three times as many as in 2014. The range of services that will be built on top of this enormous mass of devices will range from smart homes, over wellbeing assistants to emergency services and beyond. Some of these will be extremely critical and will be saving lives. Others will be less critical and simply making lives more convenient. One thing is common for all of them: they will require network connectivity to bring all the devices together into a seamless experience.

Can we assume that the network connectivity will always work as expected? Certainly not. Network connections in most cases involve a heterogeneous mix of complex protocols and technologies.

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A roleplay illustrating technological complexity of communicating over network

Outages, glitches and delays are part of network’s everyday. When they happen the digital service user might be experiencing unresponsive connected physical objects that were otherwise responding immediately in an unconnected world. This might be difficult for a user to accept, once it was taken for granted. Take an example of a light bulb, which is turned on and off by a physical switch in an unconnected scenario. In IoT world, that same light bulb might become unresponsive to the switch implemented as a mobile application. Reliability and latency of the network connection and limited power of the connected devices will translate into unreliable user perception of the real environment being sensed and controlled through these devices. The dimensions that should be understood and explored in the IoT case range from most visible like are UI/visual design, interaction design, industrial design, over medium-visible interusability and conceptual modelling to least visible like service design, platform design, and productization.

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