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A Whole (Not So) New Mind December 8, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in A Whole New Mind, Uncategorized.
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I imagine that I would have gotten much more out of this book if I had read it in August when this class began, but tackling it in November after three months of a steady design thinking diet left me generally unimpressed. Maybe it’s the case that Pink’s ideas were so innovative and influential that they’ve been built upon and emulated by many of the other design thinkers we’ve read… but I’m biased towards the explanation that he’s aggregated the work of others without contributing too many groundbreaking insights of his own. Or maybe this class has done such a good job that all of this seems generally elementary.

For what it’s worth, Pink says that there are six key elements to R-Directed (Right-Brain) thinking: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning. I thought that the Story (importance of using compelling stories, especially metaphor and archetypes) and Symphony (ability to synthesize and manage complex elements) sections were the most compelling. One joke from the book for Symphony seemed to resonate with my group… the comedian Sid Caesar said, “The guy who invented the wheel, he was an idiot. But the guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.”

In sum, I think that this would be a good intro book for someone with little exposure to the concepts we discuss in this class… but for the rest of us I think it’s okay to skip it.

The Power of Three December 8, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in Why We Buy.
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I greatly enjoyed Paco Underhill’s Why We Shop and jotted down a ton of notes as I read through it. After I was done and went to synthesize what I read, I was drawn to something the author wrote at the end of book — that his life’s work of observing customer buying habits and making recommendations wasn’t always linear or straightforward, but was a blend of physical science, social science and art. I found this trinity to be a useful way of approaching a number of problems and something I’ve thought about since then.

For Underhill, the Physical Science of shopping concerned the type of work that we would encouter in a basic MBA Operations class: service/handle times, queueing theory, etc.  This work was quite tangible and generally easy to understand. Underhill also drew on social science disciplines such as psychology, anthropology and sociology as he sought to climb into the mind of customers and understand why they did what they did. Finally, he emphasized that there was a true art to what he did. At the end of the day, not everything could be quantified, easily understood or duplicated — it took singular creativity and touch.

Daniel Perl on Design Thinking September 27, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in Design Thinking.
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I struggled a bit with the “Innovation as a Learning Process” article with regard to the four learning styles and the various models presented. Reading through the frameworks and descriptions of the models/learning styles, I felt myself failing to grasp the most salient points – I wanted more examples and more stories/anecdotes that would more persuasively illustrate the concepts that were being described.

This is not altogether surprising considering that I recently learned that I am categorized as an “Accommodating” learner, who learns through experience and is more interested in practical examples than abstract concepts. When encountering something like a new framework, I physically want to walk my way through it and wrestle with it out loud — asking questions, probing the author, and restating it in my own words and with my own analogies to make sure that I understand it.

That being said, I don’t think that I’m a full-on Accommodater – I think that my learning style/preference changes based on the context of the assignment/task and the particular composition of the group that I’m working with. I think it’s critical that groups embrace dissent and have contrarian thinkers among them. As a result, I feel that I am able to slide around the “Innovation Framework” to fill a particular role that may be underrepresented. For instance, when I felt that my Haas study group was becoming too concrete and too goal-oriented, I found myself becoming more idea-driven and creative/open-ended in my thinking. Sometimes I feel like it’s almost as if I value going against the grain more than I appreciate any one particular style.

I’d like to think that this chameleon-style that I sometimes employ is ultimately helpful to the groups that I’m a part of – filling gaps and pushing for diversity of thought. However, I imagine it can detrimental to a group process if I am perceived by my teammates as being unpredictable.

Daniel Perl on As the Future Catches You September 27, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in As The Future Catches You.
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I was especially drawn to Chapter 10: “Revolution in a few Zip Codes.” In college I studied U.S. urban history and urban planning and I’m a sucker for any geography-related. As I read through the beginning of this chapter, I was struck by how severely countries in Latin America had been outpaced by Asian counterparts throughout the past three decades in areas such as patent development and technological innovation.

As the chapter continued, I kept thinking about how the same pattern was playing out in the U.S. as innovation clusters in areas such as Silicon Valley, Boston, Austin, northern Virginia were leaving many rustbelt cities and rural areas behind. Finally, the author rewarded me with data by identifying this same trend within the U.S (33% of all U.S. patents come from 10 cities and 52% from only 20 cities, pg. 158).

My mind began to wander to images of dilapidated factories and shanty homes in southern West Virginia, where my parents bought a small vacation cabin about five years ago. It’s only 100 miles from the booming Washington D.C. suburb in Maryland where I grew up, but to say it feels much further is a gross understatement. The terrain in West Virginia, near the headwaters of the Potomac River, is tough, but beautiful, yet feels wholly inhospitable to modern industry and innovation. Whenever I’m there, I think about the economic prospects for the locals there — increasingly scarce factory jobs, fast-food/Walmart retail jobs, and a handful of struggling mom & pop outfits. There isn’t any major University nearby to speak of, tourism is spotty, and the traditional industry, coal, is rapidly becoming archaic. Do locals here have budding business ideas? If they do, how they can be nurtured into fruition?

I quick search on Bing revealed that in 2004, West Virginia ranked 46th among the states in development of new patents, according to the Center for Enterprise Development in its Development Report Card for the States.” Clearly, this community in West Virginia is not alone as many low-income areas, be they rural or urban, struggle to compete with other more prosperous regions in our knowledge-based economy. In my mind, how to create lasting economic development in struggling communities around this country is a wicked problem in need of many able thinkers and policymakers.

Sketching User Experiences September 27, 2009

Posted by Daniel Perl in Sketching User Experiences, [Books] Visualization & Presentation.
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Buxton’s Sketching User Experiences was packed with information, so to help me synthesize what I was reading, I began writing down interesting paraphrased quotes and thoughts. I’ve reprinted some of those below, to provide a flavor for how I interpreted the book:
– Design should be human experience-centered and context is king
– In terms of stifling innovation, good ideas are far more dangerous than bad ones
– Periodic failure is good
– Sketching, as we come to think of it today, is thought to have begun in the 15th century during the Renaissance
– Good sketching is about continuous movement and the flow and volume of ideas and typically occurs very early in the design process
– Team members on a design team must be just as happy to be wrong as to be right and must keep their egos and feelings in check in order to produce the best insights and innovations
– The kindergarten classroom is the ultimate design studio, where sketches and other representations of all types are thrown up on the wall. As designers, we shouldn’t get in the habit of only putting up attractive, finished sketches up for public viewing
– Design of a process is more important than the design of a product
– If you are going to break something, including tradition, the better you know it, the better you can break it. This means that if you want to innovate, you should make yourself extremely familiar with the history/context of the issue you’re working on.
-The following are attributes of great sketches: disposable, quick, distinct, timely, minimal, ambiguous, explorative, suggestive