Here’s Another Design Thinking Video For You

A few weeks ago I was a guest of the Soaring to Excellence program. For those of you unfamiliar with Soaring to Excellence, it is a national library teleconference program to which many state library systems subscribe. Many thousands of librarians tune into the three programs that are held each year. This year the program theme is “Mapping the Library Landscape: Every library worker a trendspotter“. I am pleased to have had a role in developing the content for this season’s series of programs. I also had the opportunity to be a featured guest on the first program of 2007-2008 which was about “Finding the Trends That Matter: Get Your Environmental Scan On“.

One of the trends I discussed on the program, from the world of business, was design thinking. The folks at Soaring to Excellence were generous in providing me with the nine-minute video segment (you’ll see the link to the video on my design web page) from the program that covers design thinking. It includes the showing of a “vignette”, a short tele-scenario related to the topic, in which two librarians discover design thinking. Then I have the opportunity to share some more insights into design thinking, doing my best to help the viewer to grasp the basic concepts. I am not quite sure how effective this presentation was – developing sticky messages about design thinking is a work in progress. But you can decide for yourself. Please take a look at the video, and share your thoughts as a comment to DBL. Oh, and by the way, keep in mind this was live television – there are no “do overs” in that situation. So it is what it is.

The Latest “IN” Is Now Out

IN, otherwise known as Inside Innovation, is a regular supplement included with BusinessWeek. It is a good source for keeping up with recent trends in design and companies that use design thinking for competitive advantage. The November 2007 edition of IN is included in the November 26, 2007 issue of Businessweek, but it is also available online. If you happen to skip this particular IN you won’t miss much. This one is a bit short on articles about design; the focus this time around is on innovation. Two companies, HP and Yahoo, are profiled about the development of an innovation culture within their organizations. You may want to find out more about how companies are using software mapping to organize their intellectual property and information content. While it’s not a “must read” issue, if you have a chance take a look – some of the charts may catch your eye.

Libraries Need To Deliver The Wow Factor

Do libraries, particularly academic libraries, have loyal customers? Do our library users come back again and again to use the library building, and if so, why? In every academic library I’ve worked in I’ve gotten to know the regulars, and beyond that are students and faculty you see again and again – if not frequently enough to gain “regular” status. But I have to ask if that loyalty is earned or if it’s because those library users have no choice. While academic libraries, and even public libraries to some extent, have a captive audience by virtue of being the only game on campus (well, there might be a Barnes & Noble in the vicinity) it doesn’t mean our users – even the repeat ones – are making use of, let alone being aware of our resources.

One characteristic of delivering good user experiences is that it typically results in return business. Whatever that experience is, it is something the user wants to experience again. The idea of the Wow Factor is another way of describing a good user experience. According to Brandon Schauer, an experience design director for Adaptive Path, the Wow Factor (or Long Wow as he refers to it) “is a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty through systematically impressing your customers again and again. Going a step beyond just measuring loyalty, the Long Wow is an experience-centric approach to fostering and creating it.” Looking at it from that perspective I do think librarians are capable of providing that impressive experience again and again. He also points to the importance of empathic design:

Deep customer insights and empathetic design pave the pathway to wow moments. By diving deep into a customer’s life and closely observing their behaviors, you can wow your customer by addressing needs that they’d never be able to articulate. By immersing yourself in the customer’s wider world of emotion and culture, you can wow them by attuning the offering to practical needs and dimensions of delight that normally go unfulfilled.

As a profession we appear ready to accept that much more information is needed about our user community. More librarians are getting interested in ethnographic methods that can provide more detail about our users and how they make use of or ignore what the library offers.

Even if we don’t yet know our users as well as we should the opportunities to provide the wow factor are available to us. While we have loads of folks that never come into the library, some who only use our resources online, others who just use the building as a shortcut or a place to grab a quick nap, librarians are making great impressions every day. Just recently I found a document for an administrator that he didn’t think could be obtained in time for his meeting; he had a PDF version of it in his e-mail within 15 minutes. Think about the many students who come to the library expecting that getting a research project started will be a truly painful experience, only to find a librarian who has them sailing smoothly in no time at all; you know they are impressed by the totally unexpected ease of the process. An unexpected level of service, like when the Nordstram sales clerk offers to carry your packages to the car for you, is one way to provide “wow” user experiences. You just didn’t anticipate getting that much help and personal attention. I don’t doubt that we have the capacity to wow our users, but I am concerned that it doesn’t happen often enough.

What we could use is a more systematic design approach to delivering Wow experiences. Schauer recommends these four steps:

1. Know your platform for delivery. Recognize the palette of touchpoints that you can combine to deliver wow experiences.

2. Tackle a wide area of unmet customer needs. Find an area of the customer experience that has long been overlooked and is teeming with potential for new insights.

3. Create and evolve your repeatable process. Discover the organization’s approach to delivering wow moments regularly.

4. Plan and stage the wow experiences. Developing all your ideas at once is a risky undertaking. Instead, organize a pipeline of wow moments that can be introduced through your platform of touchpoints over the long haul.

I especially like that last point. Many academic and public libraries will have a number of facility and technology developments in the pipeline. Instead of just making them available, we need to look at them as opportunities for wow moments. As in so many other areas of our profession that need change, another critically important one is to change our own ways of thinking about how to do business. We absolutely must pay more attention to how we can impress our user communities, and what must be done to leverage that to increase our visibility, community buzz and word of mouth about the library.

InformeDesign – A Designer’s Database

Many thanks to DBL reader Marc Gartler, Harrington College of Design, for contacting me to share a new design resource – well new to me at least. Marc pointed me to InformeDesign, which I would describe as a database of article on a spectrum of design topics. A good number of the articles are going to appeal primarily to architects or interior designers, but there are areas of content that are likely to have a more general appeal.

Marc also pointed me to a specific article he found in the database title “Closing the Research-Design Gap“. I would usually be less interested in an article that discusses design in the content of architecture, but this one has some interesting perspectives. It also discusses the concept of evidence-based design. The author describes it as “a deliberate attempt to base design decisions on quantitative and sometimes qualitative research”. This discussion of research as it applies to design may not appeal to all. But near the end of the article comes a quotable comment that does focus more on the mental process of design:

Good design, in the end, requires people with different experience, skills, and perspectives drawing on many forms of information in the pursuit of making creative and informed applications of knowledge as they generate and evaluate possible design solutions. Most important of all is a mindset that acknowledges that more information, including that generated through formally structured research processes, has the potential to generate plans and buildings that, as noted earlier, work synergistically on multiple levels.

I will be spending more time at InformeDesign. Thanks Marc for sharing this resource. 


I Wondered When I’d See This

Since its inception in February 2007, Designing Better Libraries has pretty much been a lone voice in the library blogosphere – or the profession itself - when it comes to discussing design thinking – and pretty much anything about design in any sense other than what it has traditionally been for librarians – designing buildings and interiors. As DBL readers know, our treatment of design explores it as a creative mental process that can be used to create better libraries and better user experiences for those who use libraries.

But I didn’t think that it would remain this way for long. There are more than a few ways to discover design, and I knew eventually I’d see someone else writing about it as well. That can be a good thing. Discussions of design is not the sole privilege of DBL, and it can certainly be helpful to have others sharing these ideas. So I was interested to come across an essay in Library Journal’s NetGen column that said “If we are going to look beyond librarianship for a professional model, we owe it to ourselves to study a discipline more akin to ours: design.” I think that’s just one theme we’ve been promoting here at DBL. In his essay “All Work and No Play” Terrence Fitzgerald advocates that what librarians can learn from designers is the value of play. He says that “Designers are taught to approach every problem with a sense of play.” I suppose there is some truth to that. If you’ve ever seen the Nightline segment called “The Deep Dive” you can see that there is a playful spirit at IDEO. There, toys litter the workspace.

While I agree that librarians do design things, such as instructional products, I would argue that there’s more to emulating the design profession than simply being playful. When I watch “The Deep Dive” I see some designers who are quite serious and even a bit competitive. I’m not suggesting that Fitzgerald’s take on the design profession is shallow. It may be that in the short essay he needed to dwell on just one element of the design approach, and thought that encouraging librarians to be more playful would be the best message to share about design work that would make for a sticky message. I certainly agree that we can potentially accomplish more through creativity and play, than simply following the “business as usual” methods that have been in use for…well, too long.

More Evidence That Design And Business Are Blending

I recall seeing a few BusinessWeek articles in the past about design education, but now BusinessWeek has rolled out a great special report  all about design schools, including a ranking of the world’s top design schools. It’s got articles about the schools, about the designers and about the companies that are incorporating more design thinking and practice into their business. I think my favorite read is the article “The Cross-Discipline Design Imperative.” It speaks more directly about design thinking than just about any other article in the special report. From the article:

The word “design” has different meanings in these different schools, and as these meanings intersect, design becomes bigger, something that sits well above vocational skills and techniques. Design is a set of principles and ways of thinking that help us to manage and create in the material world. It values creativity as much as analysis. It is a way of seeing and painting a new, bigger picture…Now business schools and other interdisciplinary graduate programs are entering the fray under the banner of “:design thinking.” They have recognized that the creative principles found in design can be used to develop new solutions for business—and they see this as the next cutting edge…There is a tremendous demand for design thinkers today. In industry and in consulting, those who can marry creative right-brain thinking and analytical left-brain thinking are at a premium. That’s because innovation often happens not in the center of a discipline but in the space between disciplines, and right now a lot of new value is being found at the intersection of design and business.

So grab the issue off your library shelf or take a look at what’s available online. There’s some pretty good reading here.