Thursday, 2 July 2015

Design Thinking and Big Data

"What can we do ‘to’ Big Data with Design Thinking?"

First you need to have a little more background on the way design approaches a problem.

Designers come from a place of collaborative style with recognition that it’s about dialogue.

Dialogue with the client, with the user and with each other and in that approach we always maintain the attitude of “let’s try it, let’s prototype it and improve it.” We use intuitive thinking, a knowing without reasoning.

One of the biggest things designers have going for them is the ability to be comfortable with moving forward when they are only reaching out to to a solution that “might be”.

One that they can’t prove that it is or will be, but only that it may be.

This dominant attitude of “nothing can’t be done” is the only thing we can say we know for sure in a design studio.

We give status to those who solve the toughest design problems, tackle tough mysteries we don’t understand and come up with elegant solutions.

I believe the whole analytics and big data space is going to get turned inside out by Design Thinking. Design Thinking will be primarily attached and engaged with the science around "prescriptive analytics." It will be less about the data itself. Why not descriptive or predictive analytics when it comes to the most powerful partnership with design thinking? Because they are rooted in the past and design works best reaching for the future.Which brings us to: "Prescriptive Analytics". I think this combination of Design Thinking and analytics will tell us what action will be taken, and then help us to take it. The real innovation I think is going to come from small shops, untethered by legacy, and who see how real-time data (Big, but not the grand-unified IT perspective of big data) will be generating the kinds of innovation that design thinking can help open up. I believe that the power of Big Data is that it is information about people's behavior instead of information about their beliefs. It's about the behavior of customers, employees, and prospects for your new business. It's not about the things you post on Facebook, and it's not about your searches on Google, which is what most people think about, and it's not data from internal company processes and RFIDs. This sort of Big Data comes from things like location data off of your cell phone or credit card, it's the little data breadcrumbs that you leave behind you as you move around in the world.

What those breadcrumbs tell is the story of your life. It tells what you've chosen to do. That's very different than what you put on Facebook. What you put on Facebook is what you would like to tell people, edited according to the standards of the day.

After we have worked out what something means, then we can do design. For me, the significant connection then between design thinking and Big Data, is that Big Data reveals human behaviour. And that has always been a significant raw material for design.

Design relies heavily on Empathy, and Design Thinking helps to move this into strategy and make intent real.

There are few examples of large companies that use Design Thinking at the top level and are defined by it. Companies that have it etched into their vision statement and are not just paying lip service to it. 

P&G where ” a dedication to common and well-understood data displays shows what is possible when senior managers are able to stop spending so much time discussing whose data is correct, what data should really be used, and how it should best be displayed. They can spend that much more time devising ways to address the problems and opportunities. It's the creativity that is exercised on those fronts that really drives the success of businesses.”

Eastman through its  Innovation Lab website which I strongly suggest you spend a bit of time. Two more that come to mind are;

Target and McLaren. The first where great design ‘simplifies your life, makes you feel great and is affordable to all’ and the second where the CEO is annoyed about a cracked floor tile that when replaced won’t match the rest and to him it reflects directly on every aspect of the company.

I know about half of you are dying for me to say Apple.

I’m going to speculate here for a few minutes but this is what is looks like to me.Apple used to be innovative, used to lead, used to inspire people and companies... and used to have a visionary at the helm. It doesn’t any more and I for one am going to wait and see if it’s next cycle brings about the same level of innovation as we have seen in the past.Their analytics haven’t changed. But from where I stand, the way  they interpret them seems to have.

With the latest iteration of their phone, someone at the top seems to have interpreted the analytics as “People seem to be moving towards bigger screens...”, so what did they do?

They made an iPhone with a screen that had room for an extra row of icons…

Since writing this Apple has come out with the iPhone 6… well, they made a bigger phone…

The old apple, the apple with a Design Thinker at the helm would have said “WHY?” Why do people want bigger screens? Why are they doing what they are doing on their phone? and What are they really trying to accomplish by doing it that way?... How would they do it if we started with a blank slate? The old apple would have created a new paradigm. Created a new interface, but the new Apple added more icon room.

But, I am going to wait and see what they do with the iWatch or iGlasses, if they go that route, then I will say whether or not they innovate or use Design Thinking in interpretation of their analytics.

They have also just come out with the iWatch… I for one am watching this with great interest because after a very strong lead up and launch it has, after about 2 months, completely fallen off the front page radar.

Big data and design thinking are valuable allies if they are used to pull out the "exceptions" and not the largest denominators which most seek.

Big data reveals the marginal changes at the edge which are "very small but recurring, and these are potential trends (positive and negative) as a segment that is emerging".
It  can reveal "small dips in majority segments".
One of the things Design Thinking does is ask you to frame the "right questions";
and not consider big data to be the one to answer questions.

As an example, there is lots of talk about 3D printers right now. One day you will be able to print your running shoes... Or a hand gun. Which too has come to pass recently. Right now companies are looking at the viability of the market for them to manufacture 3d printers.

Design thinking makes you ask what difference does it make to us?

So lets quickly follow a train of thought.

3D printers now are akin to the crappy dot matrix printers with the perforated paper from days of yore…

But like those printers the quality will get better exponentially.

Like those printers, they will have an effect on another industry... In the case of printers, photo developers got the short end of the stick…

With 3d printers, I think manufacturers will... So you will now have a 3d printer that can do multiple materials and colours so what? Well if you are a manufacturer of lets say clock radios you no longer have to manufacture the case... you just design it and sell the internals…

Let the customer print their own case, in whatever material they can afford, or colour they want... If they want the Tom Dixon or Phillip Stark designed cases that fit your components, they can just purchase the file and print one of those instead... you manufacture internals... not cases... 

Fringe trend? Perhaps, but it is framing a question that no one is currently asking.

"What is a solution to protect ourselves by being proactive in designing the vernacular we are heading towards?"

Big Data in the future will come to us. Design thinking will invert the typical "search" approach and instead, "design thinking tools", somewhat organic and alive, will bring the right data to us, when we need it. Those nuggets of information will come out of the vast Big Data ether we call the cloud, through a new class of prescriptive systems. We will not search for it, it will come to us, preemptively. We are already seeing this on mobile devices where the 4 parts of contextual search; location, relevance, push and security/privacy, are starting to make a big difference in search results.

I think that Big Data is static without analytics, and Design Thinking as a tool will help make it dynamic, as well as enable us to invert the "look behind us" approach to Big Data, and develop tools that drive big data to us, in real time.

Design thinking  brings a balance of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking through generative reasoning. It offers a respect for exploitation and exploration and the ability to integrate the future with the past while designing what should be. This helps to provide the requisite reliability and validity that maintains a competitive advantage.

This brings us to the question, “What are all the support functions we need to design to help Big Data become something of use to the way organisations think about and design products and services for their customers?”

At the beginning of my article I stated "What can we do ‘to’ big data with Design Thinking?"

Design Thinking will invert this paradigm. We will think about "What can big data do 'for' us, with Design Thinking."

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