Latest IN All About INnovation

The latest issue on IN, BusinessWeek’s design supplement, is now available online. If you are into innovation, this is a must issue for you. The focus is on the most innovative companies. The report ranks the 50 companies that value creative people in good times and bad. This special report on “The World’s Most Innovative Companies” includes an interview with Jeff Bezos of Amazon, profiles of firms such as GE Healthcare, Nintendo, and Hewlett-Packard. Plus there are two slide shows on innovation tools and collaborative innovation.

So, which companies made the top ten? Try to guess a few before you check out the list below:


1. Apple

2. Google

3. Toyota

4. General Electric

5. Microsoft

6. TATA Group

7. Nintendo

8. Procter & Gamble

9. Sony

10. Nokia

Does it all sound too corporate for you? Hey, this is BusinessWeek. I don’t doubt there are a few lessons in innovation found within this issue of IN. That’s why I’ll be reading it, just as I do everytime IN is published.

The Applied Empathy Framework

Empathic design is an important part of an overall design thinking approach to designing better libraries. It’s all about understanding your users from their perspective – putting yourself in their shoes so to speak – as a way of rethinking how your library could deliver better products and services. If you want to explore the empathic design concept in greater depth I recommend a three-part series by Dirk Knemeyer on applied empathy. He describes it as a “design framework for meeting human needs and desires”. Part one of the series focuses on applying empathy to the design process and provides an introduction to the framework. Part two of the series explains the three dimensions of human behavior and outlines specific needs and desires to which products and services can be designed. Part three of the series shows how the framework can be put to practical use.

To understand the framework you first need to become familiar with the five states of being. About them Knemeyer says they:

reflect the increasing relationship between the power and importance of needs at each level and the degree of personal commitment and desire each level engenders toward a product or user experience. That is to say, even those who have not yet realized their lowest-level needs can identify the value and impact of, as well as tacitly desire, the highest-level states of being.

The five states of being are participation, engagement, productivity, happiness and well-being. While understanding the five states of being is important to appreciating the framework, Knemeyer’s three dimensions of human behavior are critical to the framework. The dimensions are the analytical, the physical and the emotional. Reading about the dimensions added to my thinking about how the overall library experiences need to be a totality of experiences rather than isolated ones. Great library user experiences need to be more than just an isolated experience at one desk or one person; they need to be delivered across the organization, not unlike reaching people on all three dimensions. All three are explained in greater detail in part two, where you can find a visual representation of these ideas, but of them Knemeyer writes:

Rather than simply considering a product and how customers will use it, be conscious of the fact that people ultimately need each of their analytical, emotional, and physical needs met…If we are cognizant of this and actively consider all three when planning our products, marketing, and experiences, we are much more likely to enjoy design success.

So how might a library experience meet the user’s needs on the analytical, physical and emotional levels? Meeting analytical needs is perfect for the library because it is all about the mind. Everything from a good book, a featured speaker, getting help with research and even getting involved in games can help to meet analytical needs and desires. The physical and emotional needs are a bit more challenging. Library activities are hardly physical, unless you count carrying books and bound volumes to the photocopier or circulation desk. But I suspect that most folks know that library work is a cerebral endeavor and don’t mistake it for a fitness activity. I’m on the border for emotional needs. For some readers, libraries can take on an almost spiritual quality. FInding the just right book or having a social moment can certainly elicit emotion in library users.

I’ll be thinking more about this and how the library experience could meet all three human dimensions of human behavior. Knemeyer’s ideas on applied empathy are helpful to me in seeing there is more to empathic design than just putting yourself in the place of the user. There are multiple dimensions in which an empathic understanding can develop. For now I’ve got to tackle a pile of good user experience articles that I’ve been meaning to read. More on that later.

Catching Up On Ideas For Better Innovation

Owing to a hectic week of travel, both personal and professional, I didn’t get to finish a post I’m working on, so I guess I’ll take my cues from the mass media. When it doubt, rehash old content. Well, maybe I can do slightly better than that thanks to a nice integration of some prior DBL content by Walt Crawford. In his role as leader of the fairly new PALINET Leadership Network, Crawford has arranged with various bloggers to mashup and re-post their content. One good example of that work recently appeared over at the Leadership Network.

In a piece titled Innovation and Control several different past DBL posts come together to provide a surprisingly coherent essay on creating opportunities for expanding or faciliting innovation and creativity in libraries. If you are fairly new to DBL and want to catch up on some of the past posts on innovation and creativity take a moment to give this a read.

Note – there is a possibility that you may need to register for the Leadership Network to get to this article though I don’t think it is necessary. Like many wiki communities registration may only be needed if you want to add your content. However, if you have any sort of interest in leadership and related issues, why not get registered for the PLN while you are there.

Encounters And Experiences

I was glad to come across the blog Design for Service recently because it helped me to better grasp and articulate the difference between what normally happens at our service desks and what could be happening. I had been referring to desk interactions as “transactions” which is not entirely inaccurate but it just sounds inappropriate. To my way of thinking a transaction is what happens when you conduct business at an ATM – something mechanical in nature. Consider checking out a book. I see people using our self-check machines, and for them it is a convenient transaction – much like using an ATM. When I observe people doing the same thing at our circulation desk it might be a routine transaction, or depending on the people involved in the exhange it might be more than that, quite possibly an encounter but rarely an experience.

In his post “The Experience Pledge” Jeff Howard’s point is that not everything – in fact most things – is not an experience. What are they? He writes:

Our lives are mainly composed of encounters, not experiences. The difference between an encounter and an experience is the difference between a gathering and a party. It’s the difference between eating and having a meal. It’s the difference between stepping and dancing; and between speaking and singing.

The difference between these encounters and experiences is that in the case of the experience we are recognizing that something special, unique or memorable is happening. You might not remember what you had for lunch a few days ago if you simply eat the same boring few things week in and week out, but if you had a fantastic dining experience some time ago it’s likely you still remember it well. But that’s not all. Howard points to three distinct feature of well-designed (they don’t happen by accident in most cases) experiences:

* It’s an encounter with a clearly articulated beginning, middle and end.
* It’s so compelling people would pay admission just to be part of the interaction.
* It’s designed so that people must be there directly to benefit.

Where Howard confuses me though is his distinction between a UX Designer and an Experience Designer. He believes that most UX Designers only design enounters, and that the people designing products and services that meet his three criteria are actually Experience Designers. That difference may be a bit too fine grained for me. I’d like to think that in our library environments a person or team that designs experiences can be called any number of titles, but what really counts is their ability to turn encounters into experiences.