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A Review of “The Next Era of Human Machine Partnerships”

May 9th, 2019

“Given the pace of industry disruption, now is the time to strengthen individual and organizational capabilities to engage actively in human-machine partnerships.”
– The Next Era of Human Machine Partnerships

The conversation around human-machine partnerships is valuable to everyone. Organizations and digital leaders are working to operationalize digital transformation and set themselves up for a successful future. While the article written by Dell Technologies and the Institute for the Future, “The Next Era of Human-Machine Partnerships,” may seem outdated (written in 2017) it continues to provide great insight into these fast-emerging trends that will remodel society, transform the workforce, and ultimately impact how people will work. This review highlights valuable concepts that the article lays out relative to organizational transformation and the impacts on future work design.

Advancements in robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, and cloud computing will be significant by the year 2030. What are currently seen as curious technologies will soon be embedded into our everyday routines. These technologies underpin the formation of future human-machine partnerships.

The following three key takeaways from “Partnerships” frame the future of work design:

  • “Digital Conductors” is a term the writers use to define the role people will play in the future. As technology becomes an extension of people and woven into everyday lives (even implanted), there will be a suite of tools to manage, orchestrate, and automate many daily tasks. The knowledge and experience we acquire in our relationships with technology will form the foundation for our partnerships with machines in the workforce. Although we do not yet have the insight to define those work roles and relationships today, our ability to “conduct” digital transformation will be key to these partnerships.
  • Organizations will experience great impact in talent acquisition, team management, and support of professional development. Data, smart analytics, and reputation engines will seek the best talent for the job. Instead of workers competing for roles, organizations will be able to match job skills to those of the ideal candidate regardless of location. “Partnerships” defines this as “work chasing people.” As we think about this idea in the context of future work design, personal brand identity is now more valuable than ever before. Simply catching up on new skills will not be enough to keep momentum in future careers. Reasoning and problem solving, purposeful participation, and adaptability to emerging digital counterparts will all help elevate a person’s talent and value to an organization.
  • The future workforce will need to learn faster to meet evolving tasks and business needs. “Around 85% of the jobs that today’s learner will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.” How does one prepare oneself for a job that doesn’t exist? — new infrastructures to acquire the skills and knowledge to perform work. Individuals will need to be flexible, collaborate through peer-to-peer value exchange, and shift focus to creativity and critical thinking to develop new ideas and find solutions. “Partnerships” defines this “in-the-moment learning” the most valuable knowledge an individual can acquire as organizations move toward more nimble structures.

As we move full steam ahead into the future of human-machine partnerships, we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact technology will have on people in the workforce. While “Partnerships” focuses on transformation by 2030, it is crucial today to strategically rethink and adopt new ways in which we conduct work. When focusing on our careers, we need to value our strengths and cultivate a strong personal brand so that when automation of talent searching becomes the new norm, we will have a favorable position. As we think about technology in everyday routine, we should be nimble and integrate automation in our own work and home lives to achieve automated literacy. We need to think as entrepreneurs, with contextualized intelligence, to get the job done. The key to digital transformation will lie in the ability to derive meaning from human-machine partnerships.

As we look to the future and leverage thoughtful articles such as “Partnerships” to imagine our future work design, our preparation and participation for human-machine partnerships will create new value and opportunity. This is an exciting time to prioritize the foundation of these partnerships and pave the way for a more favorable future for everyone.


Related links:

IXDA NNJ Event: Visualization practices with Philip Bakelaar

January 10th, 2019


Visual facilitation practice is simply helping people “See what you mean.” Together, systems thinking and visual practice help us model and communicate about complex ideas and structures.

Image source: www.debaoki.com


Using visuals and the practice of graphic facilitation to capture ideas is an engaging and succinct way to communicate complex concepts. By capturing the flow of information and ideas in real time, participants’ comprehension and retention increases. The approach frees people from the conventional way of thinking and inspires people to approach challenges in new ways.

Image source: IFVP Facebook


Visualization practices have the power to create change and inspire innovation. In today’s organizational landscape, teams are made up of people with many different styles and backgrounds of communication and learning. Images are a universal mode of communication that can foster collaboration and improve comprehension. This practice works well when the outcome isn’t crystal clear, and the team is able to decision make and build consensus around ideas as a group. The information that is discussed in a visual session can often take weeks of back and forth digital communications.

The following criteria is a good gauge as to whether visual practices are right for you:


Anyone can pick up the skills to facilitate and represent concepts visually! There are several tools and techniques available to build and practice using a visual vocabulary. There are also Visual Practitioners and Graphic Facilitators available for hire.

Image source: Pinterest

Image source: Visual Facilitation Cookbook

and lastly,


Learn more about the event and IxDA Northern NJ

Design for good: Trends that emerged in 2018

November 18th, 2018

It has been an eventful year in the world of design. As it comes to an end, we would like to take the opportunity to reflect upon what we learned from everything that has transpired over the year. Instances of evil design ranged from subtle dark patterns nudging users to buy products to full-blown deception around the use of personal data. Collectively, these transgressions have taught us a lot about designing for good versus evil.

We recognize five key trends that have emerged in 2018 that will become the center of good design strategy moving forward:

1. Design for trust

We saw several breaches of trust in 2018 by widely used products and platforms. Among those, the revelations about data breaches at Facebook have arguably had the most impact on us.

Despite these events, the conversation about designing for trust rarely seems to move beyond specific tactics and features. What we fail to acknowledge is that firms like AirBnB have succeeded in building trust because they started doing so from the beginning. Trust guided everything from business strategy to the design of their products and services, and they have clearly differentiated themselves from the competition. It is impossible to take an evil business strategy and fix it through good design.

Interesting reads:

2. Design for transparency

Transparency is crucial for building trust. When we learned that some models of iPhones and iPads were designed to slow down in order to nudge users to upgrade to a newer model, Apple started to lose the trust they built over the years.

As technological advancements bring new capabilities for design, designers need to ask the right questions and think about long term social effects. For example, we can no longer afford to shy away from designing for artificial intelligence and machine learning, deeming them to be black boxes. A tangible first step is to ask the right questions about risk and how these technologies would impact the user. It is important for designers to keep in mind that, although many emerging technologies may function in the background, they have a huge impact on the overall experience.

Interesting reads:

3. Design for inclusion

The definition of inclusivity expanded well beyond the boundaries of accessibility in 2018. It focused on those who are disadvantaged simply because they were in the designers’ blind spots. Products that use AI have been plagued by the problems of inclusivity. For example, most of the digital assistants on the market today have a female voice by default, skewing the perception of women’s role in society. Also, algorithms, in general, have a tendency to propagate biases that are part of the data they use.

The conversation around inclusivity has shined a glaring light on the need for a process that designs with – and not for – the users. Every organization needs to make a conscious effort to define what inclusivity means to them and enable teams to develop and implement their own inclusivity toolkits.

Interesting reads:

4. Design beyond Design Thinking:

Since the focus has shifted towards the design process itself, business leaders have started to acknowledge that Design Thinking for innovation has often been used to create a false sense of security in the organization. Ideo, the firm that made the Design Thinking process scalable and accessible to everyone has finally broken its silence on why that alone cannot be the magical solution to an organization’s innovation problems.

Design needs to be baked into the organization’s culture, systems and structures. Every organization needs to find a process or platform that works for them; there is no-one-size-fits-all option for design.

Interesting reads:

5. Design for the organization’s personality

There is no escaping that an organization’s collective character and personality comes through in every aspect of its products and services. While the wrong name got the NYC startup, Bodega in trouble, Facebook’s virtual reality tour of Puerto Rico drew backlash for trivializing a natural disaster.

The channels of engagement are becoming increasingly anthropomorphic, changing everything from packaging design and interactive displays the way Coca-Cola uses them to how Amazon has embedded Alexa into our lives. It is important for design to communicate and establish this collective personality for all the touchpoints inside and outside the organization.

Interesting reads:


At first glance, one might say that these are age old principles and that there is nothing new to learn from these trends. However, 2018 showed us that somewhere along the way, we lost sight of the importance of these principles – or didn’t evolve them in keeping with the emerging technologies and our social landscape. Many organizations paid the price for this. Once we recognize evil design and its ramifications, we can learn from it to reframe and reprioritize our design values and principles and use them for the greater good.

Book Review: “Ends” by Joe Macleod

October 4th, 2018

In this book, Joe Macleod holds up a mirror to society and shows our collective social and psychological denial of endings. He assesses it through the lens of culture, religion and economics, and shows how much control we have relinquished in return for comfort, convenience and other short-term benefits. He explains that we often forget what we don’t see and we build elaborate systems that take responsibility and inconvenience out of our way. We treat our debt, our personal digital data and the material waste we generate the same way – remove it from our line of sight and out of our minds.

As he walks us through the journey that has landed us in massive global issues like climate change and economic crises, it is astounding to see that we are willing to repeat decisions and add more problems on top of what we already have. He establishes a strong argument that the challenges we face today arise from the lack of closure experiences. Joe does a great job of pulling out events from our history that could have turned out differently had they been ended well. Here are a few examples that stood out:

  • Financial Crisis of 2008 – Despite the clear understanding of the causes of the financial crisis of 2008 we, as a society continue to perpetuate the cycle and indulge in self-fulfillment that is built on large piles of personal debt.
  • Waste Management – Since the development of waste management systems we have lost sight of how we end our own cycle of consumption. This distancing from the important last step has resulted in us generating literal mountains waste that get dumped into the oceans or in landfills.
  • Personal Information – Most experiences today are designed to get users to share information at every turn. These systems now have “bomb proof storage and infinite memory” that seemingly hold the users’ information hostage. The burden of finding ways to un-share however falls on the user. This frustration has reached its tipping point and resulted in policies like GDPR.

This book provides good common design practices that we as designers can philosophically embrace as we own our responsibility to create designs that positively impact the lives of our users:

  • Designers, over the decades, learned to ignore and even deny endings. We need to create an awareness around our own biases and take proactive measures to counter them. Making closure experiences a part of our design processes and discussions is a key first step in that direction.
  • Designers need to acknowledge that users have the power to shape our economy. Research shows that closure experiences create a lasting impression on the users. This makes a strong business case to consider endings as a part of design.
  • Designers need to embrace an ecosystem approach and understand that everything is connected experientially. Short sighted and monolithic solutions that do not end well will generate massive amounts of waste upon scaling. This is something we can say about everything that generates value today.
The systems that we sometimes find ourselves entangled in feel like they are too big to understand or to deal with. This could be overwhelming to us, as both designers and users. What we need is a shift in perspective. Talking about the first time we saw what our planet looked like from space, Joe says, “Earthrise inspired self-reflection and, for a while, we all started thinking a little bit about who our neighbors were and what impact we might make on what suddenly looked like a delicate Earth.” Sometimes we just need to zoom out a little bit to be able to start asking the right questions on how to end things right.


Related links:

  1. Joe Macleod on LinkedIn
  2. Ends. on Amazon
  3. Why Your Employee Experience Needs Ethical Design : An LDS perspective

Evolving Enterprise Experiences

June 21st, 2018

The trajectory of organizational evolution can be traced through the experiences it comprises. Experiences are pervasive – we see them as collective moments of human perception, participation, and observation. They create channels for contributions that move business goals and are the mechanisms that monetize the business model. In a sense, they reflect what the organization aspires to be.

Today we can observe how digitization has influenced and created a new class of experiences inside mature businesses. Digital technology initially reduced inefficiencies and optimized individual processes. Its scope increased to cover processes across the organization and even the extended business ecosystem, leading to complex systems like ERP. These systems did more than optimize; they integrated, orchestrated and governed large, interconnected macro-processes inside the enterprise.

The impact of digital transformation

Today’s fourth industrial revolution ushers in an age of massive digital transformation and disruption. Traditional businesses, featuring a process core, face competition from transformative businesses that have a reliable, adaptable digital backbone allowing them to be nimble and disruptive. Instead of relying on predetermined operations and procedures, today’s transformative businesses continually sense and respond to events in the ecosystem.

In this context, we can observe that enterprise experience capabilities are quickly moving from orchestrating services and products to learning and predicting what the market needs. Looking to the future, organizations expect to deliver hyper-personalized services in the moment of need. We see several emerging technologies such as deep learning, IoT, machine learning and blockchain being integrated into the digital core to enable experiences inside the enterprise that drive future work.

Along with digital technologies, the emerging sharing and gig economies are enabling businesses to deliver new value to their constituents and customers. Delivered by new-age, platform-based business models, these experiences are setting the expectations for everyone else in the ecosystem. Businesses that capitalize on the exponential growth of digital technologies and apply the efficiencies of the emerging sharing economy are leading the way.

These macro-economic shifts also point to how people, both as individuals and as organizations, are evolving in step with the fourth industrial revolution. People evolve with the capabilities brought in by digital technologies. Our role, as humans, is moving away from being cogs in a wheel to becoming more socially intelligent, empathetic partners to digital technologies we create.


We are in a state of constant change. It is imperative that these changes are considered as an integral facet of enterprise experiences. We must re-imagine new, transitional experiences at every level of the organization to create ubiquitous, persistent systems that can both support and flex through all forms of disruption.

Designing Beyond the Organizational Level

June 13th, 2018

Having worked in the User Experience field for over 20 years, there still remains only a handful of folks that have influenced my career. I still remember attending Jared Spool’s UIE conference back in the 90’s, frantically trying to learn all I could about usability and interface design. On June 7, 2018, I found myself thinking about that moment as I said hello to him, the “maker of awesomeness”. My company, Logical Design Solutions, hosts events for the IxDA Northern NJ local group and we were privileged to have him as the speaker for our recent event.

His talk last night, entitled, The Evolution of a New UX Design Resolution, was about a level of design beyond the organization – ecosystem level design. He explored this new level with us, showing us how we’ll need to start designing beyond organizational boundaries, and what that implies. He introduced us to the pioneers of this new design area and explained the process by which designers everywhere will need to develop their expertise.

Here are my key takeaways:

Powers of 10

Similar to how we need different cameras and telescopes to zoom in and out of different image resolutions, we need different tools to look at different resolutions of design. Each resolution (screen, application, organizational, ecosystem) has unique problems and intents, requiring us to change the way we work, and the tools needed in order to solve these problems.

Now, if we look at some of the tough design challenges today (e.g., our healthcare system), there are multiple organizations involved in working together to come up with solutions. This means we need to pull the lens out wider beyond the single organization and this is referred to as the eco-system wide resolution. Since this is so new with really challenging problems, we don’t know yet how to design at this resolution.

We need to be designers that can work at every one of these resolutions which means we need to look at how to develop people design skills. To achieve this, we need to move away from developing people as T-shaped designers which are those that have deep skills in one vertical area with light skills across all other areas. The model that Jared recommends, called the broken comb model, develops designers that have lots of different skills at different depth levels, creating well-rounded designers.

This model of learning and development puts the focus on skills rather than roles allowing designers to work at any resolution. It will allow designers to work across organizational boundaries in this new eco-system resolution and help future-proof people, so they will be able to work at potentially wider resolutions in the future.

The influence never ends.

What a great informative and educational talk by Jared as he has once again opened my eyes to the ever-evolving landscape of User Experience design. Our society has created some complex design challenges, but this talk has definitely given me some new insights on how to think about them. Time to go and grow some skills!

AI May Change the World, but First – Ethics and Empathy

April 5th, 2018

It’s no secret that in recent years, SXSW has become more about what cool tech can do than why it should do it. That said, the absence of a substantive and actionable discussion around digital ethics was more greatly felt this year than years past because of how advanced and immersive the technology has become. By the time the first talk was done, it was clear that this year’s speakers no longer pondered the probability of human-machine symbiosis, but rather, when and how so.

AI, machine learning, and enabling systematic collective thinking in humans

One of the biggest arguments I stumbled across this year during SXSW was around differing models of the man-machine intelligence relationship. Traditional models tend to position humans and machines running in distinctly separate tracks that intersect at key points in time. AI informing human decisions through access to broader, more accurate data sets. Or, humans guiding AI analysis with insights and questions that align to broader human goals. For many, this model simply “feels” safe – human contribution in the future state is assured, as is our authenticity and autonomy.

Newer models (such as those encountered this year), however, present humans and AI fused together in a systematic idea of collective knowledge sharing. Often referred to as “swarm intelligence,” these models blur the line between human and AI contributions by having both humans and AI exist in a single, multidirectional and exponentially expanding grid. Images of the “Borg” from Star Trek come to mind for many; and while human participation is confirmed, human authenticity and autonomy are not.

The debate between these two models is less about their validity and likelihood to exist and more about their inherent ethics. The first model struggles with ensuring that bias is kept out of the algorithms and datasets. The newer models which focus on collective knowledge systems could solve this and create greater empathy because it is inclusive by design, however, these models can seem more daunting from a participation perspective. The burden to ensure that humans are ready to contribute to these new systems will ultimately fall on designers to solve. Unfortunately, this is where the conversation typically stopped.

As exciting as it is to imagine the future that might be, that is exactly how daunting the reality of achieving that future will be. There is an entire mindset change that will need to happen for people to be able to truly realize the value of a new system that values transparency and access for all over competition and hierarchical rewards. While only a few of the speakers took these challenges head on, all were confident that empathy would sit at the heart of not only the question, but also the answer. Coming out of SXSW, the key take-away for this future vision was that there is real work to be done – and it will require aggressive collaboration among us all to move things forward.

Human digital immersion in humane contexts

The other big topic at SXSW this year was about a class of new immersive experiences powered by AI that had the ability to change people’s perceptions of themselves and the world around them. For participants, these experiences feel so real that the line between where the immersion ends and reality “picks back up” can become unclear. They don’t carry with them a simulated experience when they exit immersion; they carry with them a very real and tangible experience that is theirs and will always be theirs. While this degree of immersion can create incredible opportunities for helping people to understand scenarios they otherwise would have no actual exposure to, there are very real concerns that go along with exciting new capability.

Similar to the discussion on collective intelligence, if we are not careful how we create these experiences – we risk losing our sense of self in the mix. In this scenario, however, the man-machine relationship has the ability to alter the perception of what is real, what is not real, and whether it even matters. These experiences also leverage data to make them feel authentic – data that can carry its own biases of the past it is based on. The bias becomes part of the “new” reality, informing the participant’s new understanding of that reality and becoming a part of his or her personal truth.

Absent from the discussion almost entirely was the need for AR/VR experiences to have a clearly articulated intent and desired outcome. If participants are unclear as to whether or not they have left the experience, how are they to know what the purpose was in their having experienced it? The value of the experience for participants is its authenticity – “tricking” the mind into believing its authenticity is what changes them so profoundly. However, this opens the possibilities of manipulation – either real or perceived – that can lead to a lack of trust in what was experienced and a loss of clarity about next steps. Instead of positive actions and behaviors resulting from the experience, emotional trauma can emerge.

While the idea of experiential transparency was sometimes hinted at, it wasn’t often clear if anyone had even a hypothesis about what that might look like and how it would be applied without eroding the impact and value of the experience. In addition to onramps, the experience needs to have clearly marked and smoothly designed off-ramps that transition us back to reality. Off-ramps that ensure we know where we are presently, where we have been (virtually as well as in reality), and where we should go next. One thing that was very clear leaving these sessions: this new crop of digital experiences need to be designed with limits that prevent us from losing our sense of self and experiential history.

In the end, perhaps the most startling thing to say about the AI conversation at SXSW this year, overall, is that there really was not anything new to say. Whether this was for the benefit of the audience – because speakers felt that there was still not enough foundational understanding to move the conversation forward – or, because there was not enough progress made overall, was unclear. But the omission of actionable discussion was felt.


Sessions and resources

  1. Designing with Bias. (SXSW March 9, 2018). Erin Muntzert, Robert Murdock, Pam Scheideler, Ted Selker
  2. Evolving Responsive with Spatial Design. (SXSW March 9, 2018). Trista Yard
  3. Diangaster. (March 9, 2018). On SXSW2018 talk, “Choice Architects: Design for humanity”. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=%40dianagster&src=typd.
  4. ENCORE: Scaling Design Systems: Pixels to People. (SXSW March 9, 2018). Salih Abdul-Karim, Tim Allen, Hayley Hughes, Jane Makich
  5. Why Ethereum is Going to Change the World. (SXSW March 9, 2018). Joseph Lubin
  6. Beyond Design Process: Deciphering the Intangibles. (SXSW March 9, 2018). Carissa Carter
  7. Design in Tech Report 2018. (SXSW March 10, 2018). John Maeda
  8. Business on the Blockchain. (SXSW March 10, 2018). Amber Baldet, Brian Behlendorf
  9. SXSW Interactive Keynote Melinda Gates. (SXSW March 11, 2018). Melinda Gates
  10. AI: Ready to Disrupt Experience Design. (SXSW March 12, 2018). Yann Caloghiris
  11. Changing Minds: Behavioral Science for Designers. (SXSW March 12, 2018). Steph Habif, David Ngo, Matt Wallaert
  12. Crafting Conversation: Design in the Age of AI. (SXSW March 13, 2018). Daniel Padgett
  13. SXSW Convergence Keynote Nonny de la Pena. (SXSW March 13, 2018). Nonny de la Pena
  14. The Niche Guys. (March 12, 2018). Eddy Cue’s SXSW 2018 discussion on emerging tech trends. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/thenicheguys.
  15. When AI is Not Your Assistant: Meet Agentive Tech. (SXSW March 13, 2018). Christopher Noessel
  16. SXSW Convergence Keynote Whurley. (SXSW March 13, 2018). Will Hurley
  17. SXSW Interview with the Director of Engineering at Google, Ray Kurzwell. (SXSW March 13, 2018). Ray Kurzwell.
  18. SXSW Interview with the Director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab, Neha Narula. (SXSW March 14, 2018). Neha Narula
  19. What AI Reveals about our place in the Universe. (SXSW March 2018). Louis Rosenberg, David Eagleman, Shawn Carroll, Nikos Acuna. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lovOYBOfrY4
  20. Regulating AI: How to Control the Unexplainable. (SXSW March 2018). Andrew Burt

Designing Experiences for New Work

March 15th, 2018

It’s a pretty cool time to be a designer. With the advent of emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, AR/VR, and machine learning, the role of designers has transitioned from designing useful and usable interfaces for products to creating dynamic experiences that are meaningful and insightful for people. For those willing to try something new, it is a time ripe for imagination and innovation.

This past year, we worked on a project that challenged our role as designers. Partnering with an AI and drone services company, we designed an emergency response solution focused on new work practices for first responders (FRs) and their project managers (PMs). In addition to working with new technology and new partners, the timeline was tight. We were tasked to deliver our solution in four days so that it would be ready for the relief workers arriving on site for Hurricane Irma.

At the start of the project, it became clear that Hurricane Irma would have a dramatic and disastrous impact wherever it made landfall. Recovery support efforts would need to take shape quickly. Humanitarian efforts had to begin. Communications had to be re-established in impacted towns. And people would need to be able to contact loved ones and receive the support they needed as soon as the storm had passed.

Relief work is always dangerous. Between the unknown conditions of the work sites themselves and the hazards of traveling to and from them, the need to help facilitate quick and accurate decision making is an absolute must. Any new solution, would need to provide valuable information about the affected area such as damage to lines and towers, potential safety hazards in the environment, and connectivity to other members of relief team. It would also need to aid PMs in their decision making about team deployment, problem resolution, and FRs’ safety as they executed relief measures. It was work that mattered – for people’s lives!

With a week to design and deliver, a small cross-functional design team was assembled. To get started, we needed to examine the bigger picture of how FRs and PMs typically work together. How they navigate common challenges such as not being located in the same area, not being able to easily communicate with one another, and often times – not realizing what equipment they would need to complete the job, would be important insights for us to have as we moved forward. This new solution would need to empower FRs to confidently make more complex on-the-job decisions so that PMs could focus on the larger impacts and needs of the disaster broadly.

An interesting challenge confronted us, however. We had limited access to the subject matter experts and workers who typically provide those insights. We met this obstacle by leveraging our project sponsor as proxy for the workers. Through a set of highly focused working sessions, we were able to learn about how FRs and PMs collaborate, problem solve, and maneuver through the challenges of their job. We then applied those insights to create a set of initial solution hypotheses that we used throughout the process to test our designs.

Before jumping into the actual interface design, we defined the goals and outcomes of the digital experience through a set of experience design principles. We based our principles on our evolving understanding of workers particularly as it related to key concepts such as worker autonomy, efficient judgment calling, effective collaboration, and communication through a data-driven experiences.

The role of empathy in our design process for this effort cannot be understated. While we always believe our work should put humans at the center of the experience, for this effort, we needed to build empathy into the process of recovery work. For example, in the new experience, FRs would no longer be the only “eyes” on the disaster site. Drones would be able to capture fly-over imagery and feed it to an AI engine that would organize and prioritize work based on those images. It would be up to the experience to help facilitate a successful collaboration between man and machine so that good decision making and knowledge sharing would take place.

To achieve this level of empathy design, we needed to adjust our standard human-centered design methodology to be more fluid and forgiving. We borrowed relevant practices from both lean UX and atomic design to help us run more like a science experiment than a traditional design process.

Diving headfirst into research, we gathered insights into the needs of FRs and PMs, their work, interactions, and behaviors based on what we had access to: our sponsor, industry knowledge and best practices, and workers in similar roles, etc. We had multiple sessions to build a shared understanding from the research, generate and converge on ideas, and ultimately craft design assumptions to inform our experience design. We used additional working sessions with our sponsor to evolve our ideas, raise and resolve issues, and ultimately, validate our concepts. Rather than becoming sidetracked by deliverables common in a traditional process, we sacrificed documentation for collaboration.

In the interest of time, we moved away from detailed wireframing to create rapid “paper” prototypes that storyboarded key scenarios whenever necessary and tested them against our hypotheses. Working in constant cycles of sketching, sharing, learning, and revising our hypotheses were key to our process. We adopted a fast and nimble work style that had all of us wearing multiple hats, going beyond our comfort zones, and being willing to fail fast to get through design efficiently. One of the greatest benefits of this process was the deep sense of trust that formed among all of us, allowing us to really hear and explore each other’s ideas, debate our disagreements, and arrive at a common ground to quickly move forward.

In the end, one of the most significant learnings from this experience was that putting together a small diverse team with people from various disciplines as well as backgrounds, experiences, and interests was essential to our success. We communicated openly, were far more creative, and were able to converge on solutions quicker and more effectively. There was no stubbornness about ideas in the room – we all worked together for the benefit of the FRs and PMs who would be using this solution to help a community recover from a terrible disaster. The mutual trust and respect that we formed as a working team enabled us to continue to learn from each other during our post-project reflection as well.

While this is just one example of our how our work is changing, our learnings about the man-machine relationship and its potential to not just change our end-user’s worker, but our own as well, is something that we will carry onto future projects. Our success as designers is going to rest heavily on our ability to truly empathize with those who will be impacted by the experiences we create, not just those who use it. And our ability to appreciate the “bigness” of that impact will be at the heart of every design decision we make.

The Future of Enterprise Design Systems

October 26th, 2017

According to a recent enterprise UX survey of 3,157 designers, developers, and product managers conducted by UXpin, improving UX consistency was noted as 1 of 4 top challenges in the design industry. At LDS our design teams are currently evaluating our approach to building design systems and exploring areas where we can improve and streamline our thought process to address this challenge while factoring for future ideas of scalability and governance of design.

In our early assessment of what works and doesn’t work with our approach and factoring research across the industry, a few common themes emerged that we feel are critical to our thinking:

  • Future-state design systems will need to bridge and relate the areas of design such as information architecture, content strategy, data and integrations, and visual design to represent the logical structure of design
  • Elements of design need to become more common (e.g. patterns) to seamlessly care for experiential contexts and variability in a systematic way
  • Design systems will need to adapt over time to care for evolving design trends and emerging technologies

Let’s talk about each of these in more detail.

Defining the structure of a design system

As is typical when undertaking new design projects, we looked across industries (both consumer and enterprise) for emerging best practices. We found that design systems available in the industry are based on broad common visual design and behaviors, providing reusable front-end elements and visual style intended for mass use. Most often these systems espouse aesthetics of a design philosophy (e.g., Google material design).

We believe design systems developed specifically for the enterprise need to balance commonality with specificity and complexity. These types of design systems comprise of building blocks that make it rules based and logical in nature to ensure a coherent experience at any point in time. We need to factor functionality that is deeper and more specific with respect to content models, data, and integrations. And it all needs to align to the structural premise of design contexts and information architecture as a foundation.

Lifting context more commonly through design

Our work in designing employee experiences results in rich, variable, engaging, and branded designs that deliver personalized services, knowledge, and guidance based on meaningful contexts. In the past, we’ve designed for these highly variable and complex contexts with unique page patterns and components that were typically not useful elsewhere in the design. Reflecting on our earlier work, we’re discovering that this approach has exposed a new set of challenges and limitations in design reusability and scalability when thinking about the future state of the solution.

How can the solution evolve to improve the value of the experience and the way it is consumed without adding to the complexity of the framework? This is a perfect example of why our thinking must evolve to realize commercial grade design experiences inside the enterprise. Our focus now is on creating patterns and components that emphasize contexts, in a repeatable way, through reusable and modular patterns and components, leveraging content models and data structures.

Longevity and evolution of the design system

The biggest question for us is how can we extend the longevity of design systems as experiences evolve. While we don’t have the answer yet, we can certainly ponder the implications:

  • How will the design system extend to include additional design best practices and capabilities (e.g., channels, multi-devices, artificial intelligence, conversational UI, third-party apps, etc.) as the experience evolves?
  • What is the purpose and role of the design system in governing the design?
  • What additional elements of design would be valuable to incorporate into the design system (e.g., code snippets, directional content, etc.)?

Stay tuned for more information as we advance our thinking on enterprise design systems.

Using Digital Experiences to Create New Habits: Take-Aways From Nir Eyal’s Hook Canvas

August 7th, 2017

New technologies, more information, shorter attention spans and almost everything accomplished with the internet of things creates fierce competition for our attention from the digital experiences in our lives. To effectively navigate this constant barrage of beeps and buzzes, we must decide which experiences to pay attention to and which to ignore. Inevitably, some apps and sites become invaluable, while others fall by the wayside.

We recently attended a talk with Designers & Geeks which featured Nir Eyal. Eyal developed the HOOK canvas that focuses on strategies to create habitual products. The model draws on psychological research about how habits are formed and incorporates four essential elements—triggers, actions, rewards, and investments. These elements can be observed in successful consumer products, but are often lacking in enterprise experiences. According to Eyal, “The HOOK is an experience designed to connect the user’s problem to your solution with enough frequency to form a habit.”

Digital experiences which do not inspire regular use are missed opportunities for organizations which rely on them to influence behavior through the transmission of ideas of culture, representation of the enterprise brand, and provision of information and tools in support of work.

We believe that Eyal’s Hook canvas provides some good food for thought to the design of enterprise experiences. Here are our top take-aways from his presentation:

  1. Successful experiences have both internal and external triggers. Internal triggers are strong emotions such as boredom or loneliness which prompt us to act (think Facebook). They are the foundation upon which a digital experience provides value for its constituents.

    External triggers are the prompts that make constituents go to the solution. This type of trigger tells us that there is something to do. For example, the number of new items displayed on the Facebook app.
  2. For a person to act, they must be motivated, capable of acting, and experience something which triggers the action. (Eyal draws on B.J. Fogg’s work at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab for this.) Designs that consider these factors better support the likelihood of action. Anticipation or avoidance of emotions–people tend to seek pleasure, hope, and acceptance while they avoid pain, fear, and rejection—can increase motivation. Ability can be affected by time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social acceptance, and non-routine. Triggers which are designed to be easily perceived support successful completion of action.
  3. The most effective actions are simple and continue to reward us. Controls such as scrolls or swipes support actions that are easy to accomplish. However, each quick movement gives us huge results like the continuous feed of news on Facebook or the never-ending grid of cards on Pinterest.
  4. Rewards do not have to be material to be effective motivators, but they must be related to constituents’ problems to have value. Rewarding people only for the sake of it (badges, anyone?) won’t keep people coming back. Instead, rewards must be connected to the problem that the experience solves. These can be characterized in several ways including social fulfillment, hunt for self-satisfaction, and self-achievement.
  5. Investment is necessary for the experience to hold value over time. When we engage with a digital experience, our preferences become understandable–what we do, when we do it, and who we connect with all provide data that can shape the experience in the future. And when we act (for example, sharing, following, or commenting), triggers are created. Eventually, our participation in the cycle creates new a habit.

To remain competitive in this time of digital transformation, organizations must create digital experiences that enable their people to accomplish their work more efficiently, more effectively, and with greater satisfaction. The creation of these experiences requires considerable time and expense, and will affect everyone in an organization. Eyal’s HOOK canvas is a useful approach to ensuring that design for the enterprise pays off—we can leverage the concepts to create experiences that become invaluable and support happier people actively moving an organization’s goals forward.

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