Digital Divide in Customer Service

digital divide in customer serviceYesterday I had a very bad customer experience with Telecom Italia Mobile, the main telephone service provider of Italy. The detailed story is available here.

GIVE YOUR CUSTOMERS THE IMPORTANCE THEY DESERVE

What got me frustrated the most was their incompetence in doing customer service on Twitter. The TIM operator’s replies to my tweets were always the same, so that at one point I even thought it was an automated profile. It wasn’t, but, still, as a customer, I felt treated like a number that wasn’t making a difference in TIM’s budget. Well, indeed, that is true, but today every smart entrepreneur knows that customers engagement and loyalty is crucial to any company. Also, I would say, it is important in particular for telephone service providers, because as soon as customers are unhappy they move towards another telephone company, don’t they?

That’s why, just to stay on topic, my UK telephone company, O2, rewards loyal customers with prices and discounts. Their online presence is absolutely awesome, and their efficiency and creativity on Twitter is exemplar. For instance, here’s the promo video of their #TweetServe campaign, just to give you an idea of how they constantly innovate their customer service.

OPERATORS SHOULD ACT AS PEOPLE

Speaking more generally, other examples of efficient and customer-centred replies of customer service operators on Twitter can be found on a post of The Drum, dated 2012 — we are in 2015, and TIM still doesn’t get it. The article shows how O2, Sainsbury’s, East Coast Trains and Smart Car personalise their tweets in relation to the style of the customer, they make clever use of slang, write hilarious comments and just reply as they were real people — which, ops! They actually are! Operators aren’t machines, are them?

USE EMPATHY AND PERSONALITY

This is actually my point: doing customer service on Twitter — well, on any platform, but on social media even more — means first of all listening to each customer’s problem (listening= reading carefully and especiallyempathically), then trying to solve it or at least providing them with the moreinformation available. Finally it means giving real answers, not pro forma, and adding a little bit of personality.

…AND SAY SORRY.

Be patient and have a nice day, the TIM operator’s reply to my tweets (the same for 3 times, by the way) was cold, impersonal and, frankly, it just made me feel like an idiot. As I wrote in my previous post, not a sorry, not an apology for the inconvenience. @telecomitalia tweets were even worst: they asked me what was the problem, and once I told them they just replied we know that a TIM operator was already in contact with you, ask him for info.

This post was previously published on Medium, here.

8 Women can help me to solve my Enigma

Joan_Clarke_(cryptanalyst)I just watched “The Imitation Game” by Morten Tyldum.

I am not going to positively or negatively criticise it: we all know that it doesn’t tell the real story of Alan Turing. Or, it tells it in a soft and cinematic way.

However, it made me think of Joan Clarke and how women can be smart, great problem solvers and still feminine at the same time, how their working behind the scenes is often fundamental. So then I started reflecting about my past couple of weeks.

I subscribed to Ada’s List about a month ago. After a couple of days that I lost my job, at the beginning of February, I wrote a message to the googlegroups, telling my story. It was about the second ever message I wrote to the group, after the introduction post. The message was short, as my intention was only asking if someone knew someone else who was looking for a digital strategist or entry roles in marketing and community engagement.

In 3 weeks I didn’t find a full time job: I found much more.

I found strong, smart, competent and powerful women ready to give me a hand without knowing me, not even virtually.

katKat Farrants is the founder of Movement For Modern Life, a platform for yoga lectures in streaming. She was also the first lady that welcomed me into the list, and the first who wrote me after reading my message. She gave me some freelance graphic design work to do (I am not a “professional” graphic designer, and also I know that on Fiverr she could have found someone cheaper for sure) for her communication campaign.

euniceEunice Ball, founder of Africa Technology Business Network (forum designed to build a bridge between the tech communities in the UK and Africa) was the second lady that sent me a message after my first introduction, and the second to reply to my unemployment message. She got me a free ticket for her event “Unlocking opportunities in Africa through business and technology” and also asked me to speak at “Learning From Your Mistakes #FounderStories” , a meetup of The Pulse next Tuesday.

anaAna Alberts is the founder of Charub.org, an app that lets users select businesses to advertise on their personal social profiles; for each click on the advert the businesses give money to the charities chosen by the user. Brilliant, isn’t it? Ana offered to fund my ticket for the +SocialGood UK Summit by Mashable, as I couldn’t afford it but I was very interested in the event; in exchange for the huge favour I will help her with Charub’s content strategy (and I am excited about it!).

iramIram Quraishi, the Project Manager of Loop Labs, got in contact with me through another amazing list member, Katz Kiely. Loop Labs create digital solutions to city challenges through Experience Design, and since a week I am their part-time intern. They got me on board even if they knew that I will go on with my job hunt. It’s really impressive. I am working on the content strategy and community engagement with Kabelo Thomo and Graham Brown-Martin of a very challenging and innovative project which will bring science and innovation into local communities through Experience Design. Follow us to know more 😉

Ada’s List is really an amazing network full of AWESOME ladies. I receive the Daily Digest and, trust me, I open it every day. I have never done it before with any other Daily Digest.

In addition, during the past week I got in contact with other four young, multitasking and professional ladies that demonstrated me attention and care, even if they didn’t really know me: Silvija Jordanovska of TechMeetups (a global network of Tech Startup communities), Sinead Mac Manus of Fluency*, Yasmin Desai of Monkfeet** and Erika Brodnock of KarismaKidz***.

silvija

I dropped Silvija an email about a week ago, telling her that I was willing to give her a hand for the event she was organising last Thursday, the “TechStartups Jobs Fair” (#TSJFair), even if I could have only helped her during the event, because during the afternoon I would have been at another event (see below). When I arrived on location she welcomed me with a big smile, the same smile that said “see you later” to me when I left 🙂 . Letting me tweeting about the event got me many contacts and followers, so, in a way, it’s actually Silvija that helped me.

sinead

*One of the participant to the Tech Startups Job Fair was Fluency, which offers four-week courses to young people in areas like social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, web analytics and more. Its founder, Sinead, is also part of Ada’s List. I presented myself saying that I was Francesca from the list, and she remembered my email about my lost job. She was extremely kind and empathic, even if she never met me before as well. Impressive.
Yaz D**Monkfeet offers high quality courses, workshops and meetings about business, corporate, startups, SEO and other professional topics. About a month ago I participated to “How To Make A Professional Corporate Video With Your iPhone“. After the lesson the instructor uploaded some resource materials and I got an email from Monkfeet, but there were some issues with the interface, so I tweeted to Monkfeet just to warn them about that issue. They were very grateful and kind to me and also told me that they were willing to help me in any ways, as an exchange for a tweet! People are amazing. Last Tuesday I went to their (+ Rainmaking Loft‘s) “Investors On Stage with Federico Pirzio-Biroli of Playfair Capital“, another very interesting event, and I was so happy to find out that behind of Monkfeet there was actually a woman, Yasmin! She was super kind and told me to send her my CV, so if she will hear about startups hiring she will contact me. Again: she doesn’t really know me. It’s incredible how women can be so open and welcoming.

Erika_cropped-300x300

***Finally, on Thursday afternoon I went to KPTG‘ s “Best of British Mobile Startups“, where I found out about Karisma Kidz, a fabulous app aiming at developing emotional intelligence in children aged 3-9. I saw the presentation by its founder, Erika, and immediately felt her confidence an power, as well as her femininity and kindness. I went to speak with her to congratulate with her, and she asked me my contacts for future collaborations. It might not end with anything, but for me it was a honour.

So, yeah. I am still looking for a full-time job. My Enigma to solve is how to find a job before the beginning of March, and I am starting to be worried.

Nevertheless, all those women of different ages and at different stages of their career gave me a great strength and inspired me to go on and do not give up.

Thank you, beautiful ladies.

FROM A PASSION TO A BUSINESS

The beginning

In January 2012 I moved to London. I had a flexible contract as a sales assistant with a minimum wage salary. I barely had enough money to pay the rent and the transport expenses. Ergo I could never eat out.

It was the official start of my baking experimentations. I occupied all my spare time to cook, thus I became more and more expert and, with my surprise, even creative at baking: I had ever thought that who was creative at such a mysterious art should have been born like that. Finding myself under the same definition made me really passionate.

I couldn’t imagine that such a passion could have been so strong to drive me and my team into my first business experience.

In October 2012 I was admitted at the MA Creative Economy at Kingston University; we had just formed the Young Enterprise teams, and we were actually registering each team on website.

Solve a Need from The LeanEntrepreneur.co

As business teams we were supposed to create something which could solve a problem we encountered or observed in our living context.

A couple of days before, I was preparing the dinner. I was about to struggle trying to stir the risotto and then putting the spoon in the balance on the border of the pot, in order not to smear the kitchen surface. I failed: the tool stayed in its position for a while, but then it fell every time.

I thought that maybe many women like me had the same; therefore I sketched a spoon hanger which could be attached to the border of a pot. I showed it to my team mate Maria: she found it a clever idea, and push me to speak with the others, Lucy, Natalie and Angelika. They liked it so much that as soon as I proposed to call ourselves “The Spoonist” they eagerly agreed.

The observation

During our first meeting we started discussing about the brand. We decided to change our name in QB- quanto basta, which means just as much as needed, and is a typical kitchen unit used in traditional recipes.

That was the same day of our first “observation”:  I was cooking for all of us, and the team examined the difficulties I encountered.

RESEARCH-FIRSTWith hindsight, if customers experience is what shapes all perceptions and value of the brand, as Bernd  Schmitt and David Rogers underline in their “Handbook on Brand and Experience Management” it would have been better to observe external people cooking, ask them questions and not even name our idea of the product. Just afterwards it would have been appropriate to start to brainstorm ideas about the brand, embracing a “holistic view of costumer value that encompasses rational and emotional benefits” (SCHMITT, ROGERS, 2008).

After a couple of weeks we found many competitors, and we realized we couldn’t effort the costs of the materials as well- that was another conceptual fault: we wanted to make a product made by expensive wood, but the reason we wished that was justified just by our perspective, without any proper market research.

Since we were already so immersed into our brand, we found more difficult to adjust our product rather than restart from the beginning, even if this is exactly what a startup should expect most of the times. As Eric Ries sustains, “instead of making complex plans that are based on a lot of assumptions”, exactly like what we did, we should have made” constant adjustments with a steering wheel called Build- Measure- Learn feedback loop” (RIES, 2011). We didn’t didn’t apply Ries’ validated learning at all, and this is probably why therefore we repeated the same error.

 A New Idea

When I was a sales assistant I had a minimum wage salary; as I was also attentive to eat healthy, I started to cook my own lunch at home. Being an environmental friendly person, I hated wasting the plastic bags I used to carry my lunch: so with my boyfriend Aldo I designed a lunch bag. Since QB was in need of a new idea, I proposed it and the team was enthusiastic.

I was sure there was a need of the product in the market. I noticed that almost every Londoner used to buy meals around. I made some researches online and luckily I found many statistics regarding a high amount of expenses per capita for lunch out, other than alarming articles on the dubious healthiness of take away and fast food meals.

We started brainstorming about product development. Lucy made a model out of fabric: by the end of November we were the first team which had a prototype. Nevertheless we repeated the same mistake: we didn’t follow Steve Blank’s Customer Development. We didn’t “get out of the building” before creating the brand and defining our persona. We should have tested our product from the very beginning with just a sketch, to find out whether our lunch bag was “a vision or a delusion”. (RIES, 2008).

Blue Ocean and Experience Design

Ask Your Market from The LeanEntrepreneur.co
As long as we didn’t create a new product- there were already different lunch bags on the marketplace-, from a first sigh it couldn’t have been told we developed any Blue Ocean strategy.

Actually, I noticed that people liked the idea of bringing their own lunch, but many of them were not capable to cook or were lack of meals ideas. The Internet was already full of blogs about food and recipes, nevertheless I saw an opportunity. According to the case of the Cirque du Soleil, which, “breaking through the boundary traditionally separating circus and theatre, made a new and profitable blue ocean from within the red ocean of the circus industry”, I realized that we could act in little like a Blue Ocean company by matching the food-blogosphere with the bags market. (KIM, MAUBORGNE, 2004)

I proposed to publish on our website simple recipes not for every visitor: just for our customers. Following the rules of the Experience Design Manifesto, our aim was to make people more confident of their capability of cooking, to inspire them and feel better. We wanted to transmit them the importance of a healthy and environmental-friendly lifestyle, but also make them have fun while baking. Last but not least, our recipes sharing community was aimed to “strengthen relationships between people that live the same experience” as well. (PEREIRA, 2008)

 Design Thinking

It was Natalie who insisted on “less is better”. She was really pragmatic. I was the exact opposite, I wanted to add dozens of features to our lunch bag. While exploring Design Thinking, I discovered how much what Natalie sustained made sense. We followed her.

Our idea was respecting almost all of the 10 rules of Design Thinking. It was innovative: it matched the food blogosphere and the bags market; useful: well, at least we assumed that; aesthetic: it was functional and beautiful at the same time; understandable: it reminded the paper brown bag of the childhood, so it was “already seen”; honest: it was what it seemed; long-lasting and environmental- friendly: it was washable, reusable and an alternative to plastic bags; simple, with the pleasure of Natalie: our final design was just a sack with a ribbon to close it. (RILEY, 2013)

Fail

Never Force the Market from The LeanEntrepreneur.co

As we assumed our target was composed of students, considering they have to eat lunch at University and usually they have little money to spend, Natalie and Maria went to interview some of the potential customers. The result of our first official market research was a disaster: almost every people declared they weren’t interested neither in our product nor in the community. Some others said they weren’t willing to pay the price we set.

Many startups like us are mistaken at this step.  They “fail for lack of customers”, because they don’t “attempt to learn about their customers (or potential customers) until it is too late”. (RIES, 2008)

Luckily we were not that late in the process- it was still December- so we completely changed our target into female office workers between 25 and 40. For the third time we didn’t go out of the building before going on with the plan. We assumed. We didn’t clearly understand that customer development wouldn’t have been “an excuse to slow down or change the plan every day” but “an attempt to minimize the risk of total failure by checking” our “theories against reality”. (RIES, 2008).

Challenges

In December Lucy left us due to personal reasons. She was the leader not because she was the official Manager of the team. As Diego Rodriguez wrote on his blog, she “made the difference by acting”. Since the beginning she acted “on what she knew”– branding and product design- and “felt it was right”. (RODRIGUEZ, 2013) She was the only member who was already working in a business. As a startup, we were living in a state of “extremely uncertainty”, and this meant that the entire project could have easily failed. (RIES, 2011) Lucy was willing to risk her personal reputation for the good of QB. That is why we got lost for a while after her departure.

Angelika became the new leader. We had two urgencies at that time: getting both the product and the website done. Lucy had already found a manufacturer who apparently was interested in making our lunch bag, thus Angelika, Maria and Natalie tried to contact him and had a long journey in the Warwickshire to visit the factory.

Since I was the only team member who knew something about graphics and webdesign, I decided to take care of the website. I bought the domain, installed wordpress and started creating my own child theme during my spare time- I had already a full-time job. Although the huge number of forums, tutorials and communities of developers, it has been an extremely hard work. I assumed to publish it in 3 weeks: it took 3 months. The final version was online at the end of March.

In the meanwhile our manufacturer disappeared. Angelika and Maria tried to call him many times, but in the end he wasn’t interested in our business any more. It was February. The first trade fair we were supposed to attend was at the end of the month. That meant we had to sew the bags ourselves. From a Blue Ocean strategy point of view it wasn’t that bad: by sewing the bags on our own we managed to make the product low-cost.

Angelika went to Lucy’s to learn how to sew, and took her sewing machine. We passed entire days sewing all together at Angelika’s – she spent even more time -, and for the end of we had almost 20 products done, and finally started to sell.

Personal Epic Fails

The extreme delays of both the manufacturing and the website availability postponed our social media presence. In other words, to get our product and service done in the best way, we diverted our attention from the relationship with customers to the design and production. Instead of accelerating the feedback loop Build-Measure-Learn of “The Lean Startup”, we retarded it.

As a consequence, our sharing community actually never worked. It was mainly my fault. Even though I was supposed to be the most expert of the team in Social Media, I lost myself designing the website. I wanted it to be perfect.

In many of his speeches about customer development, Steve Blank underlined that the unfortunately diffused approach “build it and they will come” is largely wrong, because “issues are customer acceptance and market adoption”. (BLANK, 2008)

Social Media is today’s most effective channel to speak with potential customers and to test assumptions in order to accelerate the feedback loop. Nevertheless I moved it completely to the background.

Working on the website made me forget the impulse which should drive every startup: passion. Passion and Love are the first two secrets of success. I had both of them at the beginning. The story I told you speaks for me. Before developing  the website, I used to create many recipes and took pictures of them. After that I just wanted to get rid of it, because I was working hard, yet I wasn’t enjoying it. (JOHN, 2005)  

My team could felt that my enthusiasm was lowering, and that effected it as well. I wasn’t the leader, but I was the core: the lunch bag was my creature. I didn’t motivate my team; I became even negative and dubious about the future of QB.

Lessons for the future

QB was my first startup experience. It was the first business project I have ever been involved with. I never learned more from a University project than at MACE. To be sincere I wasn’t so used to fail. Thanks to Quanto Basta I became able to accept my faults. Moreover, it’s not all about admitting mistakes.  The best learning I am putting in my pocket is the 8th rule of success: persist. Persist to failure and to Criticism, Rejection, Assholes and Pressure (CRAP). And never give up.

References

(BLANK, 2008) Steve Gary Blank, “The Customer Development Methodology”, slideshare presentation for Stanford Technology Venture Program’s Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education, published by Venture Hacks, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://www.slideshare.net/venturehacks/customer-development-methodology-presentation

(BLANK, 2008) Steve Gary Blank, “The Four Steps to the Ephiphany- Successful Strategies for Products that Win”, Third Edition, 2006, pdf file published by Lulu.com

(BRAZ, 2008) Andre Pereira das Neves Braz, “Experience Design Manifesto”, 2008, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://www.brazandre.com/manifesto/

(JOHN, 2005) Richard St. John, “8 secrets of success”, February 2005, published by TED Talks in December 2006, last access 23/05/13, available at http://www.ted.com/talks/richard_st_john_s_8_secrets_of_success.html

(KIM, MAUBORGNE, 2004) W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne, “Blue Ocean Strategy”, Harvard Business Review, October 2004, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://hbr.org/2004/10/blue-ocean-strategy/ar/1

(LANDBERG, 2003) Max Landberg, “The Tao of coaching: boost your effectiveness at work by inspiring and developing those around you “, Profilebooks, 2003

(RIES, 2011) Eric Ries, “The Lean Startup”, Portfolio Penguin, 2011

(RIES, 2008) Eric Ries, “What is customer development?”  , Startup Lesson Learned, 8 November 2008, last visit on 22/05/13, available at http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2008/11/what-is-customer-development.html

(RILEY, 2013) Wells Riley, “Startups, this is how design works”, 2013, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://startupsthisishowdesignworks.com/

(RODRIGUEZ, 2013) Diego Rodriguez, “The heart of leadership”, Metacool- thoughts on the art & science of bringing cool stuff to life, 01 May 2013, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://metacool.typepad.com/metacool/2013/05/the-heart-of-leadership.html

(SCHMITT, ROGERS, 2008), Bernd H. Schmitt, David L. Rogers, “Handbook on Brand and Experience Management”, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013

Bibliography

Babak Nivi, “Customer Development: How to develop your customers like you develop your product”, Venture Hacks, November 5th 2008, last access on 23/05/13, available at http://venturehacks.com/articles/customer-development

IBM, “The new collaboration: enabling innovation, changing the workplace”, IBM Corporation, 2008

Mirko Pallera, “CREATE!”, Sperling & Kupfler Editori S.p.A, 2012

Sheryl Sandberg, “Lean In”, WH Allen, 2013

Steve Blank, “Embrace failure to start up success- An ambitious US programme aims to turn scientists into entrepreneurs.Go on, says Steve Blank, unleash your inner capitalist.”, NATURE International weekly journal of science, World View, A personal take on events, 8 SEPTEMBER 2011, VOL 477, 133, Macmillan Publishers Limited, last access on 23/05/13, available online at http://www.nature.com/news/2011/070911/full/477133a.html

Theodore Levitt, “Marketing Myopia”, 1960, in Best of HBR, July-August 2004

Tony Robbins, “Why we do what we do”, TED Talks, filmed February 2006, posted June 2006, last access 23/05/13, available at http://www.ted.com/talks/tony_robbins_asks_why_we_do_what_we_do.html

Tuesday Sunny Tuesday

Last Tuesday I had an interesting journey through the heart of London, between New Bond St, Marylebone High St, Tottenham Court Rd and Piccadilly St. I was lucky: it was a reallly sunny and windy day, so I could walk between the various stages, and I even ate outside like the Londoners!

I went in 4 of the most famous and cool store in London: Fenwick, Conran, Heal’s, and Fortnum & Mason. I tried to sign the locations on the GMap below.

maps ok

I didn’t started the journey for fun: it was an assignment for our team of the Young Enterprise Programme. After the Kingston University Fair last Thursday, we received some feedback from the judges, and they told us that our stand was too messy and that it was unclear what we were selling, which is a very weak point for our team.

Here I publish the photos of our stand, so you could understand and agree or disagree with the judges.

2013-02-28 15.03.04 2013-02-28 15.05.12 2013-02-28 15.05.24

On Friday Yash, who was one of the judges as well, suggested to all the teams to go in big stores, bringing some inspirations and some knowledge from them.

This is the reason of my Tuesday walking- journey.

I took many photos, you could find them at the end of the post.

While I was walking in the sun I thought about how in London most of the shops and the stores are really very original, every single shop window is well-finished until the smallest detail. They give so much importance to words and graphics, too, and to colours.

The famous stores I visited are really different from each other, from the products they sell to the way of displaying them. But what I found similar between all of them is their tidiness, their attention to the colour-matching in realtion to the message they want to deliver to the costumer.

Fenwick communicates luxury and fun, because of the colourful collections they show.

Conran is the most original store, and even if it sells particular products, it communicates quiet and light. I really appreciated their massive windows, which give a different breath to the rooms.

Heal’s is a furniture megastore, and what I loved was their use of multimedia – the store is full of screens where they project old movies – and the prevalence of the browns in the kitchen area. I spoke with one of the shop assistants, and she explained to me that they try to make the costumer feeling like it is at home, and every shelf or table is set up while keeping this in mind.

The last but not the least stage of my journey was Fortnum & Mason, in the tourist Piccadilly Street. I went there twice, the second time the morning after, because I wanted to take some pictures without the people inside the shop. The feeling I felt since my fist step inside the building was like being in a theatre: red carped, wood furniture, everything was so precious and antique.

I went to the ground floor, because I needed to see the fresh food department. The feeling there changed completely. It was like being in a local market of a small town in the countryside. The intention was for sure exactly to communicate that they sell fresh, organic, homemade food, but with the elegance which marks Fortnum & Mason.

After almost three days I guess that a selling point – a stand in a fair or a table in a store – has to be set up following a few simple but fundamental rules:

_ Firstly clarify the message which is wanted to be spread;

_ Secondly analyse which objects/ displayers could be used while not distracting the customers from the message;

_ Give the priority to recreate the environment of the product;

_ Communicate tidiness, order and cleanliness.

At the end yes, our stand wasn’t following those rules at all. We tried to do our best, but we mistaked. And it is good, because now we could improve our selling point, and learn.

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Follow the Mountain Bikers

AN ATYPICAL CASE-STUDY: THE MOUNTAIN BIKERS

Image

It could be normal to think that the word co-creation was born in the 2.0 era, when other words with the same root, like “creative”, started to be protagonists of the web and innovation scene. Nevertheless it was fist used to describe something else.

Gaurav Bhalla, in his “Collaboration and Co.creation: New Platforms for Marketing and Innovation” explains that the fist industry which benefit from the Co-creation was the Mountain Biking: “Mountain biking started as a fringe recreational pastime among a few teenagers in the hills and mountains of Marin Country, California, in the early 1970s. Today, it is an Olympic sport, a $ billion global industry, and a form of recreation for millions around the world.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

Bhalla says that it was the shared passion and the obsessive tinkering of lots of bikers who created a new market, because they needed something else from the daily bikes. The mountain biking pioneers experimented and tried different roads and paths with their old bikes; this drove them to figure out which problems occurred during their experiences, and finally brought them to the solution.  As a matter of fact, “In their willingness to network, collaborate, and share, the mountain bikers were acting as both customers and producers of mountain bikes.” (G. Bhalla, 2011).

If you are interested in the history of the mountain bike here is an interesting and useful video.

FROM PARTICIPATORY DESIGN TO THE BLUE OCEAN

ImageFirst of all it is necessary to understand what is the meaning of the words co.design and co-creation.

It is really difficult to find some definitions of those concepts in the search engines, even if they are also seriously discussed in academic design circles.

 

A comprehensive definition of co-creation could be found in an interview made by the IBS Case Development Centre  with Gurav Bhalla about his contribution to the article “Rethinking Marketing” for the HBR. Bhalladefines co-creation as a representation ofinteraction between one or more firms, and one or more actual or potential customersSecondly, the innovative thinker says that this interaction is willing, purposive, and intentional.  Thirdly, this interaction is managed, either by the firm, or jointly by the firm and its customers.  Fourthly, the output of this interaction results in value for both the firm and for its customers.  Lastly, the value created for customers may or may not be unique, and is derived through a variety of experiences, such as suggesting ideas, refining current value, designing new products, improving current designs, fixing defects, and consuming new products and services.

According to Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers and to what they write in their Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, Co- design could be defined as “collective creativity as it is applied across the whole span of a design process”, and it is seen as “a specific instance of co-creation”. Basicly its meaning is referred to the creativity of designers and people  who, even if they have not been trained in design, could work together in the design development process. (Sanders and Stappers, 2008)

The origin of co-design could be found in what for 40 years was named participatory design, which grew especially in the north of Europe: during the 1970s inNorway, Sweden and Denmark the Collective Resource Approach started to engage workers in the development of new systems for the workplace, with the intent that it could improve the value of industrial production. The approach put together the expertise of the systems designers/researchers and the situated expertise of the people whose work was to be impacted by the change. The approach, thus, built on the workers’ own experiences and provided them with the resources to be able to act in their current situation(Bodker, 1996)

ImageFor years many studies and researches about participatory design could be discovered: in September, 1971, was organized a conference named Design Participation, held by the Design Research Society in Manchester, England. Within the proceedings of the conference, in his conclusion Robert Jungk (futurist and social inventor) told that the participation had to be included not only during the moment of the decision, but it should be a part of the moment of the idea generation (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).

Last Friday at the Design Thinking lecture of MACE, we talked about the Blue Ocean Strategy, which “is about doing business where there is no competitor. It is about creating new land, not dividing up existing land.” (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy, HBR, October, 2004). According to that, what a better resort to explore and to create new markets than following up the needs of the users/ consumers by working with them?

As the guru Bhalla claims, the mountain bikers first discovered what Kim and Mauborgne underline: in overcrowded industries, differentiating brands becomes harder both in economic upturns and in downturns.and, as a consequence, co-design, and co-creation in general, should be the key.

Living the Experience Design

Finally we started working with our Young Enterprise teams.

As we are designing a very simple series of objects – I will not tell you which kind of they are, I will call them “k-tools” – we decided to have our first official meeting in a location which was perfect to have a User Experience. We are designers, but first of all everyone of us is a user. To be precise, in that case I was the user ^_^, and the other team-members were the observers.

I acted like I was at my home, even if I wasn’t, because as we have to be strong in problem solving, fist of all we have to see the problems to solve. In this spot we had to visualize which problems I had to face during the whole experience, and which k-tools I should need to simplify my experience and make it better.

We found the meeting really useful, and we came up with with many problems as well as many solutions for each of them.

I went home and started to find information about the Experience Design: I found a massive number of documents and slides.

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What is Experience Design? Here are some definitions.

“Experience design (XD) is the practice of Experience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions.An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user exExperience design (XD) is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architecture and environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design, storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinkingperience and culturally relevant solutions. An emerging discipline, experience design draws from many other disciplines including cognitive psychology and perceptual psychology, linguistics, cognitive science, architectureand environmental design, haptics, hazard analysis, product design, theatre, information design, information architecture, ethnography, brand strategy, interaction design, service design,storytelling, heuristics, technical communication, and design thinking” (source:  Wikipedia)

I found many definitions of User Experience Design, referred to the digital design, which is not our issue for the Young Enterprise project, but it is necessary to know what it is to prevent some kind of misunderstanding.

User experience (abbreviated as UX) is how a person feels when interfacing with a system. The system could be a website, a web application or desktop software and, in modern contexts, is generally denoted by some form of human-computer interaction (HCI). Those who work on UX (called UX designers) study and evaluate how users feel about a system, looking at such things as ease of use, perception of the value of the system, utility, efficiency in performing tasks and so forth.” (source: UXdesign)

Nathan Shedroff wrote a book about Experience Design, and in its introduction he tells that “In particular, the elements that contribute to superior experiences are knowable and reproducible, which make them designable.” He also writes that “Many see it only as a field for digital media,” (but that is UX, AN) “while others view it in broad-brush terms that encompass traditional, established, and other such diverse disciplines as theater, graphic design, storytelling, exhibit design, theme-park design, online design, game design, interior design, architecture, and so forth.” 

Nathan also describes some rules about ED, which are Time/Duration, Interactivity, Intensity, Breadth/Consistency, Sensorial and Cognitive Triggers, and Significance/Meaning. (source: http://www.nathan.com/ed/)

I verily agree with Nathan, I found his words strongly instructive and formative. The Experience Design is the key to the Contemporary Design, if it is digital or not. Understand by the six steps the needs and problems of the customers/ users is the only way to prototype and brand.

But there is something more. By googling “Experience Design” I also found the Experience Design Manifesto , which is extremely interesting and innovative.

It declares that “The ultimate aim of all creative activity is to bring happiness to people’s lives. Happiness is an emotion that comes in result of positive experiences and affects human beings.” It gives also some rules sbout the Experiences which, to foster happiness, should:

  • Make people feel confident of themselves.
  • Make people feel they can do something better. Empowers people to do something in a better way.
  • Improve people’s lives helping to solve existing pragmatic problems
  • Make people have an enjoyable and fun time during the experience, thus making life worth to be lived.
  • Surprises people in a magic way, bringing delight to the eyes and making the mind wonder.
  • Create an emotional connection between everyone involved, the experience itself and the one supporting the experience (a brand or a person)
  • Make the world a better place to live
  • Strenghten relationships between people that live the same experience”

Admittedly it could be argued that those rules were not much related to reality, but the results of our tem meeting and my experience was indeed connected to many them:  “Improve people’s lives helping to solve existing pragmatic problems” is the one more appropriated, because we found a lot of practical problems, and our solutions are all bound for solving them; “Make the world a better place to live” could seem the more abstracted rule, but if it is considered that the new tendences of design are all leant to eco-compatibility, environmental preservation and recycle-sensitive solutions, it could be found as one the fundamental points.

If an “experience designer must love and care about people and the world in which we all live.” I am really proud to be it.

« Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. » (John Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn, vv.49-50)

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12.10.12.

Frieze Art Fair.

One of the biggest art fairs of the whole world.

Many thoughts passed by my brain while I visited it.

I was wondering why taking us (MACE students) to an Art Fair, instead of the Tate Modern or another Contemporary Art Gallery. Why a fair?

The art market assignes the art object a value for the materials which it is made of, for the technics which it is designed with, for the use which it could be made for, and for the idea which lies behind it. All those factors are connected to the social and historical background in which the art objects are put.

We work with the business and the creative market. We are supposed to manage with the design of new objects and products, which should be commercialized.

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Although what are we going to sell? Creative objects/ products or the arousal which they cause?

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As we are designers (of apps, clothes, websites, accessories, hi-technologies or whatever), first of all we sell our ideas, our concepts.

The ideas need communication to be spread.

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The art market suggestes us to contestualize our ideas into our society and contemporaneity, as we have to meet the needs and desires of the people of our society and contemporaneity.

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As a relative remark, the communication is the vehicle which gives us the possibility to listen, observe and analyze them, and, in the meanwhile, to spread our ideas/ objects/ products.

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