Creativity and Design Thinking in the Age of Robots

In the past weeks, we’ve been learning more about the role of creativity and design thinking in our world, and the ways to increase the amount of creativeness and designers around us. The more design thinking is happening around us, the easier it is to attach wicked problems.

Please see the video made for this assignmend here.


This story happened in 2097 in LaCountry. Group of scientist invented robots, who were able to do everything or almost everything. There was no need to work for anybody else and the government of LaCountry paid equal amount of money to all its citizens. The President of LaCountry by the way decided to keep his position and not give it away to the robots.


Citizens of LaCountry were very happy for several years. They enjoyed clean streets, delicious dinners and new houses. There was no homelessness anymore.

The life was perfect… Until they forgot what they live for. Without jobs, without any work to do people lost sense of their lives. The amount of suicides went up so drastically.


The President of LaCountry gathered the best scientist who worked on robotization and asked them to find a solution to saving people from losing their minds in the new reality. Scientist were coming up with more and more logical ideas, but nothing really worked. The country was dying.


One day, Mr. President was sitting in a park thinking about what he did wrong and how to save the country. He saw someone familiar walking around – it was Edward de Bono, the psychologist who worked with him a while ago but moved out of LaCountry before the robots took all the jobs.

They were so happy to meet each other. Edward told that his is just visiting his old friends in the country. Edward immediately noticed sadness in Mr. President’s eyes and asked if he wants to talk about it.


Mr. President told about all problems the country has got because of robots and that scientists with their novelty ideas make everything only worse. Edward said:

Oh, Mr. President. If everything was so easy. Novelty is not enough, idea must make sense and work. Your people try to be more logical, but really they should be more creative. Sometimes people can come up with great, creative ideas from ignorance, but not often – so don’t hope on it. You need truly creative people. And creativity is unnatural. Creativity is a skill that can be learned, not the result of serendipity or logic. But cutting across patterns is not natural behavior. However, since creative ideas always seem logical in hindsight, people tend to think that you could come up with them just by being ever more logical. To come up with creative ideas, you should not use logical thinking, but lateral thinking (Cutting across patterns is what I have called lateral thinking); you should provoke your mind out of its existing pattern by forcing yourself to come up with weird alternatives to the status quo. Then you should take those weird alternatives seriously and play out their implications. This allows you to approach problems in an innovative way. Really, Mr. President, with all due respect to your team, logical scientists and engineers won’t make it work; you need to hire designers to work on this type of problems.

Mr. President wasn’t sure what to make of it.

But what type of problems is it? What is so special about it?

Edward said:

I have a friend who can tell you better than I do. Let’s facetime him. His name is Horst Rittel.


Edward called his friend who lived in another country (and whose job wasn’t taken by robots). He described him the situation and how Mr. President is trying to deal with it by giving all the power to hands of scientists.


You are definitely having a wicked problem there. Edward is right: Making solutions to social problems cannot just be left to a faceless group of professionals because social problems are not like Math or Science: there is no universally agreed upon formulation of any one social problem, and even if there were, there would be no set of steps that could be used in every case to solve that problem. Every social problem is unique. Neither, however, should we abandon the social arena to chaos.

You should let people in your country to participate in finding the decision of this problem. Co-design with the people affected by this wicked problem. But what does “wicked” even mean? Wicked problems cannot ever be totally solved because they are too complicated and they are caused by humans, who keep changing. Furthermore, wicked problems never have just one right solution; there are always many solutions, and they can only be judged as good or bad. Judging a solution, though, is sticky in and of itself because there is no value-free way of assessing whether a solution is good, and solutions have such far-reaching consequences that it would be practically impossible to figure out their value in the short run. Also, wicked problems are all mixed up together.

But let me aware you: don’t hope to find a solution which will work forever and for the whole country. Social problems can’t be solved – only resolved over and over again. Humans change, and they are complicated. So there can’t be a simple solution. Wicked problems are never done. You will resolve one and immediately get another one. There is no objective measure of whether solutions to wicked problems are right – only good or bad. No way to know if you have identified all possible solutions to a wicked problem. Every wicked problem is unique – no matter how similar a problem looks, can’t be certain ahead of time that the same solution will work again.


Oh, it all sounds very depressing, but I think this is my only hope! But where I can find designers to work on it if nobody is willing to work?


Designers are always working, even when they don’t have to. I’ll help you to gather the team of the best professionals.

They met each other again in a week in the White House. There were The President, Edward de Buno, Horst Rittel, Nigel Cross, Chris Pacione and Tim Brown.


Nigel Cross gave his advice first:

Mr. President, let me tell you what you should expect from us, because we are going to work very differently from your team of scientists. An engineer wants to test and measure, this is not something we are looking for in our process right now. We need to be creative because “the solution” is not always a straightforward answer to “the problem”. We need to use sketches, drawings, and models of all kinds as a way to exploring problems and solution together, and making some progress when faced with complexity of design. Yes, that’s right, I urge us to go and work with people outside of White House on resolving this wicked problem.

Design ability is inherent in everyone, we need to dig it up and show the people their natural power! Design ability is a multifaceted cognitive skill, possessed in some degree by everyone. If we help people to get it back – they will be happy again!

Mr. President responded:

And so, what is your job is going to be? Are you going to make people’s ideas look beautiful? Tell me more about it.


Mr. Brown and Mrs. Wyatt helped Nigel respond to that:

Design in fact extends beyond making things pretty, it comes into a series of techniques we call design thinking. Design thinking is a way to work at the strategic level that involves techniques such as ethnographic research, ideation, rapid prototyping. Designers also have the ability to be intuitive, recognize patterns, express themselves in graphic media, and persuade others using storytelling. Everyone has these capacities to some extent.

I believe that we should teach people to do it first to work efficiently together.

Our approach is based on some foundational things:

Design thinking process is inspiration, ideation, implementation.

For inspiration, don’t just listen to what people have to say – look at their behavior to see opportunity areas. In ideation, come up with as many ideas as you can; great ideas will rise to the top. Then implement, prototype, use storytelling to communicate solution to all stakeholders.

And so, collaboratively the designers has created a research plan, and went into the world to talk and co-design with the people.


Shortly after, they stopped trying: they were in complete shock. The vast majority people around them has completely lost their creativity! That skills has gone away because there was nowhere to apply it.


More than anybody was touched Chris Pacione.

Folks, design is a new human literacy. Today we must all be designers. Design is too important to be left to designers. Design will have its greatest impact when it is no longer perceived to be in the hands of people who are professional designers and it is put back into the hands of everyone.  Design should be one of the basic skills we teach to everyone, like writing or math, because the Information Age, with all its complexity, automation, etc., demands that. So much more of our lives than ever before is designed, so it’s important for everyone to have some familiarity with inquiry, ideation, sketching, and prototyping so that they can engage in strategic thinking and evaluate the designed elements around themselves. So, people will be able to solve their own problems and call us when they meet really big challenge. Professional designers, then, would be left to tackle the truly difficult design problems, engaged in strategic thinking.

But how we can do that? How we can bring creativity into people’s heads? Mr. Cross and Mr. de Bono will agree with me that creativity is not a magical process but a learned skill that can lead to innovation and real problem solving.

Edward de Bono had a real suggestion to helping people become more creative.

Let’s integrate the 6 hat system – a mental tool that I have created to allows people shift their perspective whenever needed. There 6 metaphorical hats, and when you “put” them on, each of them encourages the person to use a different type of thinking. Here are all 6 types: data gathering mode; intuition & emotion; logical negative, judgements and caution; logical positive and benefits; provocation, alternatives and creativity; and, finally, overview and process control. I’ve helped people in large corporations get used to wear a specific hat at a time, and change hats when a change of perspective is needed, and noticed a significant rise in productivity, idea generation, and overall creativity.

So, let’s choose a town or a village and teach this technique to the people in that place, and see whether it changes anything.

They went on and over 12 months applied the concept to every citizen in LaVillage, a small village that had an increasingly high rate of suicides, and an extremely low rate of creativity.

And it was a great success! Suicide rate went down; people found the meaning to their lives, even when they didn’t have to work and robots were doing everything for them; they were applying their creativity and design thinking to improving their life in a variety different and unexpected ways that were not destructive, overall making LaVillage one of the best places to live in LaCountry.


Richard Buchanan has moved into LaCountry from overseas and saw the progress made so far. He had a suggestion that took it to the next level.

I think that design should be considered the new liberal art to suit the modern age, there’s no denying. I believe that everyone should be educated the basic skill set of design when they’re very young, and all the way to the higher education. The improvement in human’s thinking process will make the lives of everyone around better and better.


And together, they made it work. Now every child has their own 6 hats and practice design thinking every day, bringing the value into people’s lives, and making everyone more happy.

A Neighborhood in Los Tangeles

In the past several days, we’ve been learning about one of the most challenging topics: poverty. There’s no easy and fast solution to it, and every country, every city in the world tries to find their own way of dealing with it. It’s a part of our society, it needs definition, and it needs to be addressed. Another topic in the readings – social entrepreneurship – comes in handy when discussing the topic of poverty and homelessness.


Ten years ago a group of scientists were coming back from a big conference about Social Entrepreneurship and Poverty in the city of Los Tangeles. Very famous people happened to be in the same bus: C. K. Prahalad, Christopher A. Le Dantec, W. Keith Edwards, Dean Spears, Roger L. Martin and Muhammad Yunus.

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They were on their way to the airport to fly home when their bus got broken. It stalled and wouldn’t start. The battery seems to be dead!

Scientists tried to use their phones to ask for help, but there was no connection.

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“How is it possible? We are within the city limits – and no connection?” – they asked the only local person there – the driver.

He answered: “Oh, yes, this is the poorest part of the town. 2 years ago the only wireless network operator left this area – because nobody could afford to pay phone bills, and this is not the area other people can happened to be on purpose. Nobody comes here, because everybody is scared of poor and homeless. But we need to find a way to fix our bus, so we have to ask for their help.”

Scientists looked around them. It was clear that the area is very poor and nearly abandoned.

Christopher A. Le Dantec, W. Keith Edwards didn’t want to go and talk with the people directly, they offered to try to find some kind of social organization to talk through them, but nobody listened to them, everybody wanted to just catch their flights and get home.

They were walking around for 15 minutes trying to find people to ask for help, and finally came to the local market with lots of people. Right, it’s Sunday – the market day. Everybody was looking at them, because they looked very different from locals.

It was clear that people here are actually hard workers, but are still were very poor. In the group, there was the scientist who did research on this interesting phenomenon. His name was Dean Spears. He shared his insights with everybody:

Can you imagine how many hard decisions people have to do here, shopping on this market? They don’t have much money, but they need to feed their families.

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Poverty appears to have made economic decision-making more consuming of cognitive control for poorer people than for richer people. Poverty causes difficult decisions, which deplete behavioral control.

Poverty is depleting because it changes the consequences of decision-making. The theory of ego depletion proposes that willpower is limited, and is consumed by resisting temptation or inhibiting behavior.

Economic decision-making had negative effects on performance or behavior when participants were poorer. This may be because for poorer participants, decisions required more difficult trade-offs, and were more depleting of cognitive resources.

If, as the lab experiment suggests, even routine food decisions are costly and difficult for the very poor, then their depleting effect is more inescapable.

“Bad” decision-making by poor people may undermine support for anti-poverty programs and policies for two reasons: deservingness and effectiveness. Understanding how poverty influences decision-making and behavior is important for both of these reasons.

Many offers of tempting purchases that are easily affordable for richer people require a poorer person to use willpower and save their money instead. If willpower is limited, and if a poorer person can afford less indulgence, then poverty will deplete self-control when the poor face expensive temptation.

Even a poorer person with the same amount of willpower as a richer person must resist temptation more often.

it is cognitive control — which is the process producing both inhibitory willpower and attention — that is the key limiting constraint.

Everybody agreed that this theory sounded right.

Right in the moment Mr. Spears finished his story they had reached the table where the owner of the Market sat. Scientists introduced themselves and asked for help. The owner made a sign to everybody. The whole market stopped doing what they were doing and agreed to help.

They came back to the bus and pushed it, and so the driver was able to start the bus and get everybody in.

Scientists thanked the local people and jumped into the bus. All the way back home they thought about this accident, and they were very grateful to the people from this very poor neighborhood. Soon after getting back home, they jumped on an online call to discuss how they could help those people get out of poverty.

Christopher A. Le Dantec started:

Thanks everybody for sharing the desire to help those people with us. I am sure that it all needs to start with research. We have already done the research of the role of technologies in homeless people’s lives, and it’s huge and more important than one could imagine! Poor and homeless often struggle with technology, but they really need it.

Let me tell you a bit about our research. We were performing research on homeless population, but it still can be very insightful even if we don’t talk about homelessness exclusively.

We discovered a social phenomenon of information poverty — a dearth of access to useful information resources. But at the same time there is another problem – overwhelming by information.

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One of the main goals of using technology is staying connected to family members and friends. And mobile phone is the best way to do it. The cell phone is also a valuable identity management tool for the social value it provided. They talked about the desire to not appear homeless, about access to information, social networks. Can you imagine their lives without mobile connection?

We believe that thoughtful technological interventions can be deployed as a part of the larger effort to reduce homelessness and help the most at-risk members of our society.

However, every area, every community is very unique, and we can’t just extrapolate our knowledge. Let’s go there and see whether they’re having these struggles!

Keith Edwards continued the conversation:

We believe that co-design is the method we should use in this case as well. We also believe that we should bring interactive experience and technologies to a wider public for participation, expanding the boundaries of inclusion, and answering the siren song of technology as instigator and mediator of social and political revolution. Democratizing technology however, goes beyond simply increasing the role of technology users and involves bringing different social groups into discourse about technology, its place in society, and its potential for enabling actions, facilitating connection, and providing access to information. We believe that they need technology – but we need to think carefully how to create something they can easily integrate in their lives. To do that we need to design “with” them not “for” them.

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We should create for small homeless or poor communities and not for all the homeless in the world. Homeless DO understand mobile phones as a technology!

For example, one we have created a product for a homeless shelter – CRM (Community Resource Messenger) for better communication between 2 groups of people – homeless and care providers – and it was a great success.

Everybody supported the idea. Christopher A. Le Dantec, W. Keith Edwards and a group of other scientists came back to that same neighborhood in the city of Los Tangeles. They spent 2 months ideating and co-creating with the people of the neighborhood, and came back with the insights that they were able to confirm:

Yes, that’s true, they haven’t had cellular connection for more than 2 years! However, almost everybody has a phone there, even if it’s very old, but you can’t really do anything with it. They are familiar with the technology! It’s the wireless network operator who left; they were very traditional and couldn’t figure out a way to make a profit in this area.

  • Sure! – said Mr. Prahalad, he was very excited. He continued:

Guys, I know you all are very charity-oriented here and my idea will not be popular, but I have to say: stop regarding the poor people as victims and start eyeing them as consumers. For decades, corporate executives at the world’s largest companies have thought of poor people as powerless and desperately in need of handouts. But turning the poor into customers and consumers is a far more effective way of reducing poverty.

There are 2000 people in that area, it’s incredibly hard for them to interact with the global economy without their phones being able to connect them with others.

Perhaps the greatest misperception of all is that selling to the poor is not profitable or, worse yet, exploitative. Selling to the world’s poorest people can be very lucrative and a key source of Growth for global companies,even while this interaction benefits and empowers poor consumers.

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We need a way to sell them mobile connection for an affordable price for them! It requires some work, but I’m sure there is a way to make it still profitable. B-Mobile will cry!

Mr. Muhammad Yunus, the most experienced person in social entrepreneurship had something to say here:

I do have another plan. I believe this is an amazing area for social entrepreneurship, not for typical entrepreneurship. Research has shown that, if managed strategically, CSR (corporate social responsibility) projects can indeed pay off, both socially and financially. And I think we can make it work in this case.

Think about the social business concept: a self-sustaining company that sells goods or services and repays its owners’ investments, but whose primary purpose is to serve society and improve the lot of the poor. In organizational structure, this new form of business is basically the same as profit-maximizing businesses: it is not a charity, but a business in every sense.

There are some similarities with conventional business model innovation:

  1. Challenging conventional wisdom and basic assumptions
  2. Finding complementary partners
  3. Undertaking a continuous experimentation process.

And some specificities of social business models:

  1. Favoring social profit-oriented shareholders
  2. Clearly specifying the social profit objective

I would not be so enthusiastic about possibility to hope on typical entrepreneurship in this strategical question. With our rich experience of social entrepreneurship we can do it by ourselves.

We should ask the opinion of our theoretical expert in entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and social activism, Mr. Roger L. Martin.

Mr. Roger L. Martin has shared his thoughts:

I agree with Mr. Muhammad Yunus, I think we should find a way for it to be social entrepreneurship. From 3 options we have: entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship or social activism – this is the best one in this particular case. Where entrepreneurs have money and extra-profits as a goal, social entrepreneurs are driven by altruism, while still keeping it profitable.

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We define social entrepreneurship as having the following three components: (1) identifying a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve any transformative benefit on its own; (2) identifying an opportunity in this unjust equilibrium, developing a social value proposition, and bringing to bear inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude, thereby challenging the stable state’s hegemony; and (3) forging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large.

The social entrepreneur should be understood as someone who targets an unfortunate but stable equilibrium that causes the neglect, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity; who brings to bear on this situation his or her inspiration, direct action, creativity, courage, and fortitude; and who aims for and ultimately affects the establishment of a new stable equilibrium that secures permanent benefit for the targeted group and society at large.

So we should find another, better way to bring the phone connection back to this area and make it in our unique way.

The scientists worked together and came up with an idea that had the poor population in the neighborhood in mind, but was still sustainable and didn’t need to rely on donations.

They used new technology – a self-sustainable hot air balloon that flows in the air and picks up the connection from the closest cellular tower, expanding the connection further, enough to cover the neighborhood.

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The hot air balloon didn’t cost too much and wasn’t hard to maintain, and the costs were easily covered by an extremely modest monthly payment that every person could easily afford.

They then tried this brilliant idea in other neighborhoods and towns that have little or no cellular connection, and it worked well! Then scaled it up to cover hundreds of cities, bringing this social entrepreneurship project to success.

Design Research: Getting Inspired and Immersed

Our Interaction Design Research and Synthesis class has given us an opportunity to research a very interesting field – something that we usually don’t think that much about – Animal Food Value Chain. The amount and quality of data we’ve gathered has been keeping us torn between different directions; we finally decided to focus on learning which factors influence consumers’ purchasing and eating of different cuts of meat. In asking consumers to describe how they make choices surrounding their selection, preparation, consumption, and disposal of meat products, we hope to find out how consumers make decisions about which parts of animals they eat, what can influence them to redefine which parts of animals are desirable as food, and what happens to those pieces they purchase but decide not to eat.

This topic touches the majority of people on this planet. It is something that most of the people have experienced, and deal with very often. It is also a source of huge amount of waste and damage to our environment. It is important, and the questions that pop up within this field isn’t something that can easily be answered just out of your own perception of the world. Getting information from other people, and turning it into insights, is critical in order to understand how non-singular this is, how much of a difference there might be in behavior and reasoning of different people. It is fascinating.

The amount of inspiration we get while interacting with people is incredible. We talk to people, we go grocery shopping with them, we cook meals together, we even cut meat together in a butcher shop!

We’ve applied the 5 different types and approaches of gathering information and getting inspiration from people, the 5 types we were taught in the class – and found them all useful:

  • Contextual Interview;
  • Contextual Inquiry;
  • Immersion;
  • Subject Matter Interview;
  • Participatory Research.

Research activities bring us into situations and environments that we wouldn’t otherwise get into. Last week, we were invited into a home of a young family of three to talk about their experience of purchasing and consuming animal-based foods. Our host Anna was home with her 9 months old son. And while an infant would often be considered a distraction in a situation like that, for us it was an incredibly rich source of information about what this woman’s days look like.

We did conduct interviews with people with kids before, and they mentioned how big of a deal, and how much of a struggle grocery shopping or cooking might be when the kids are around; but only after spending 2 hours in an environment like that we’ve truly understood our interviewee: context around her, with her baby being the largest part of it, changed the way she approaches grocery shopping, including the way she selects the meats in a grocery store.

All these words: fast, simple, no thinking, no decision making, straightforward – now it all started to make total sense.

There is a lot of room to grow, a lot of room to improve for us as researchers.

If I was to go through this experience again, I would surely:

  • Make sure the group defines the focus of research as early in the process as possible. What we went through has proved that not having a concise and proper goal, that we all would be on the same page about, is a huge distraction from moving forward effectively. On the flipside, it allowed us to keep a somewhat open mind around the topic of our research.
  • Try to gain more empathy with our interviewees and people we interact with. Maybe even become “friends” with them, in a way, during the interview; and not necessarily trying to keep the whole interaction very “professional” and distanced.
  • Not be afraid to ask questions that I think are dumb – they, in fact, can bring some of the best and unexpected insights.

I am excited to continue this journey with our group, and can’t wait to get to Design Synthesis and generate Insights from all the information we’ve gathered.


With Or For? Design Research And Value

This is a story about a cosmetics company called Cosmetics Co.

Cosmetics Co is an old company; they were on the market for more than a hundred years and created a lot of revolutionary products, most notably the first compact lipstick that women could carry with them and comfortably apply. It changed every single woman’s lives forever! It was a long time ago. Recently their sales started to fall drastically. Customers were leaving negative reviews on their products and many people weren’t too happy.

The board of directors has decided to hire a new CEO – Leila, – who has to figure out how to make Cosmetics Co popular again and make sure it doesn’t just disappear in the history.

Leila was incredibly smart and experienced, but she knew she is not going to figure it out alone. She invited 5 experts who had different ideas and views on how Cosmetics Co needs to change their approach. They all sat in one room and gave their advice to Leila.

Leila greeted everybody and started the conversation.

The first person she spoke with was Jon Kolko.

  • Leila: Jon, I was going to do a market research about the lipsticks we produce, but then I found that our team has already done it a hundred times, and didn’t get an answer on what the best next step is. It seems like we should try something new; I know that you’re doing another kind of research, a quantitative type. Please, tell me more about it.
  • Jon: Leila, you’re right. What I’m doing is Design Research. The philosophy of design research is to learn from people and to emphasize people, rather than technology or business. Design research is very different from marketing research. The goal of design research is to find inspiration for design, whereas the goal of marketing research is to predict the behavior of a larger group. I think that inspiration is exactly what you need now. Qualitative research combined with creative thinking can lead to new and interesting ideas for products, services, and systems. But you still can use the results of your Market Researches – questionnaire data can indicate a set of statistically relevant predictions about what a larger population might do. Just remember that this data will not describe what to make, how to make it, or what the interactions and experiences should feel like. Remember, after you did Design Research, the next important step should be done: Design Synthesis. Design Synthesis is the link between the type of behavioral research — the potential for the future state — and the creation of something new.
  • Jon: Cosmetics Co once created an innovative product – lipstick, and it wasn’t just new, it was new and successful on the market. It got in hands of every woman on the planet. Now, together with your customers, you can make it even better. One way your team could accomplish it is hiring a Chief Design Officer, someone, who would be actively involved in your innovation processes and apply Design Thinking to solve problems and make strategic decisions.

Next expert who came to help was famous Don Norman.

  • Don: Leila, Cosmetics Co once created a new product – lipstick, – and did even more, as Jon Kolko has already mentioned, – the company was able to make it a successful product on the market, which happens pretty rare with new products! It’s incredibly difficult to invent a new concept that truly fits people’s lives and needs, but the company made it! 150 years ago people didn’t know about lipsticks and didn’t know they need it, but now every woman in the world has at least one! All thanks to the technologists who found a way to “pack” it into a case that makes it easy to use and carry it. Now, your design team can concentrate on small, incremental innovations to keep succeeding and be ahead of competitors.

Bill Gaver has spoken up next:

  • Bill: I think now there is no question about the necessity of Design Research for your company. But let me tell you more about the type of research you can do. When you are designing for pleasure demands (and you do) it is better when it’s done from within. “Cultural Probes” is a design-led approach to understanding users that stressed empathy and engagement. Probes are evocative tasks that allow people to elicit inspirational responses. Don’t try to rationalize the probes, don’t hope to get a result that is easy to analyze. And I can’t agree with Jon Kolko on a point of being able to predict customer’s behavior based on qualitative data: The Probe returns will allow you to predict with confidence which lipstick your client might prefer, just as you might predict which item in a shop your friends might like.

Paul Dourish couldn’t keep quiet either:

  • Paul: My colleagues have brought up some interesting ideas about how you can approach creating or improving your product. I’d like to bring one more word into the discussion. The word is context. Nothing exists out of context, and context mattersNow, you can approach it in two ways. You can see it as a form of information. It is delineable, stable. When you design a product, you define what pieces of information you’d like to consider as context. Now, the activity – what the customers do with the product that you’ve created – is separate and doesn’t directly relate to the context. It is the positivist view on context.
  • Leila: Interesting: I believe that’s exactly how our technologists have always approached creating new cosmetic products. That seems to be very straightforward, “mathematical” in a way.
  • Paul: The other way of thinking is called phenomenological view: context is a relational property that holds between objects and activities. It can’t be delineated beforehand and is constantly being redefined. Each activity, each action, each particle of an action, – everything has its own context; context arises from the activity.
  • Leila: Right, that makes sense. Lipstick is such a widespread product now, but every single woman uses it differently, with a different purpose, in a different situation; it’s always a different activity, each and every time. It might be hard to find two people, who would create exactly the same context around their relationship with lipstick at any moment in time.
  • Paul: It’s a great thing to think about – each of these approaches might change your processes drastically – and one of them might be something that brings the most value.

Liz Sanders has weighed in, focusing on the importance of co-creation with customers.

  • Liz: Bill Gaver has mentioned one of the interesting methods of Design Research. I want to bring in another one that I find very successful, called Co-Creation. People are seeking outlets for their creativity. Let them do it! Bring them to your company and work with them to create new products, a new lipstick! Be thoughtful about the value of Co-Creation: monetary, use/experience, and social. If your company’s work is all about earning money, or maybe just about creating products to better meet your customer’s needs – what are you trying to achieve in this world? The social value of co-creation is fueled by aspirations for a longer term, humanistic, and more sustainable ways of living. I believe that the social type of value provides a real opportunity for significant change. Are your cosmetic products bringing in something of a social value?
  • Leila: Lots of helpful information and food for thought – and surely many ideas to bring the company back to its success.

Thank you, friends!

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Fascinating Findings of Food Value Chain Research

“The one unusual thing I eat is Liver Pâté on bread because it’s something all children in Norway grew up on.  All kids in Norway eat liver Pâté.” 

Lene, immigrant from Norway


During the past few weeks, my team here at AC4D has been performing research on Animal Food Value Chain, focusing in particular on undesirable meats and other parts of animals.

It is incredibly fascinating to learn how, and why, people choose certain kinds of meat to purchase and to eat, and the reasons why certain parts of animals are not used in American cuisine.

For every interview, we tried to choose people from different cultural backgrounds to get richer data from different perspectives, since food is always something very culture-related. Cultural difference was never the main focus of our research, but it is something that gave us some really interesting and fascinating data on our topic.

Lene was born in Norway and lived there almost whole her life; she used to work in a restaurant back there. She told us about her experience buying and eating animal products when she just moved to the US. “When I moved to Houston and I went to HEB, I saw these big trays of chicken breasts, and they were so big and so cheap! I thought: “Wow! I can buy that tray and we’ll have dinners for a week! We can share one chicken breast with my husband, it’s enough for both of us. And then I started to realize that it’s not normal, the size of the chicken. They are too big, something is wrong with them, they can’t be 3 times bigger than chickens in Norway. And of course! I started to do some research and watch documentaries, it’s growth hormones they put in. It’s not good for anyone: not for your body, not for the chickens. I saw a documentary which showed how chicken can’t walk because their breasts are too big, they are falling forward. It’s crazy. It shouldn’t be allowed. It’s not allowed in Norway. And now I buy only organic and grassfed meat and only at Whole Foods.”

Something to think about, right?

We’ve talked with people with different backgrounds: second-generation immigration from Mexico, who spent his childhood in a Mexican part of LA; an owner of a food truck serving halal food – he moved to the US with his family to avoid the Iraq War; a recent immigration from Norway and was a cook back home, mentioned earlier…. Every time we come back from an interview, we say: WOW!

Having a chance to see different points of view on a problem, from Americans and immigrants, we see how some things that seem very obvious in one culture, can be very unusual in another. It helped us to find problems we would never see or think about if we talked only to long-time locals.

Design In Society Through Out A Story Of Alice In The University Of Wonderland

In the past 2 weeks we studied 6 articles about Manipulation and Globalism wrote by Edward Bernays, Maurizio Vitta, John Dewey, Victor Margolin, Emily Pilloton, and Michael Hobbes.

In my story, I tried to express a point of view of each of the authors on the role of design in society the way it was presented in the articles. The story is about a young girl Alice who is a student the University of Wonderland, trying to find herself. The story contains 6 chapters, in each of them you can find the main points of each author position, adapted to the main storyline.


Chapter 1: Inspired by “The meaning of design” by Maurizio Vitta

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The first chapter of Alice’s story highlights Maurizio Vitta’s point of view on what’s going on with design in the modern world. Designers are used to adding frivolous and unnecessary features on top of the primary, problem-solving functionality of the product. With so much variability, people have gotten used to consuming those products to show who they are (their socio-economic status, culture, and general lifestyle), and not always because of the product’s primary function itself. Maurizio Vitta is encouraging designers to create products with a bigger purpose.

That is exactly what’s happening with Alice – she is attracted to certain things because they change her perception in the eyes of the society. Good for her, her new course of study will change the way she looks at it.


Chapter 2: Inspired by “The need of a Theory of Experience”  by John Dewey

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In this chapter, you will find the ideas of John Dewey about relationships between education and experience. Dewey says that a teacher needs to pay attention to where students are in the process, meet them where they are. The problem of old, traditional education is not that it doesn’t give experience, but that this experience doesn’t lead to the next experience. He believes that designers should design for personal growth.

Alice is very lucky to meet a professor who shares Dewey’s opinion. He will help Alice to find herself in doing great things for the world.


Chapter 3: Inspired by “Global Expansion or Global Equilibrium? Design and the World Situation” by Victor Margolin

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Victor Margolin compares equilibrium model (limitation of world’s resources) with the expansion model (innovations is everything) and talking about the inevitability of a fight between the two. The job of a designer, he says, is to make them work together.

He also mentions that design can be and should be applied to things beyond products.

Alice understands that the resources of the world are limited, and it changes her world view.


Chapter 4: Inspired by “Manipulating public opinion” by Edward Bernays

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Per Edward Bernays, public opinion, on one hand, is slow and reactionary, and does not easily accept new ideas. On another hand, anyone can manipulate with some preparation. Designers can help to identify current opinion and find the ways to change it. Alice has used a major event as the means to manipulating public opinion, while also helping the victims of that event.


Chapter 5: Inspired by “Stop trying to save the World” by Michael Hobbes

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In his article Michael Hobbes tells us about problems of current researches and innovations when designing for social impact. One of them is the tendency to extrapolate working ideas to the whole world without additional research – and gives examples of many failures of great ideas that happened because of that. When you improve something, you change it in the way you couldn’t expect. Elaborate design is the way for social changes, small and big. And it’s worth to make positive changes, even if they are not as big as you wish.

Alice makes the very same mistake Michael Hobbes describes – she tried to make students of all colleges of her Planet avoid purchasing gowns and donate money to the Neighbor Planet instead. Unfortunately, she didn’t perform enough research on the traditions and people of the other schools, and so it didn’t go well.


Chapter 6: Inspired by “Depth over Breadth: Designing For Impact Locally, and for the long haul” by Emily Pilloton

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In her article Emily Pilloton brings up some progressive ideas based on her rich working experience in the field of designing for social impact. She highlights the value of 3 lasting impact requirements: proximity (simply be there, be local), empathic investment (show your personal and emotional stake), and pervasiveness (create an ecosystem instead of a tree).

And this is exactly what Alice did in this story – she moved to the Planet that she wanted to design for, became a local, and helped them through well-designed and impactful social projects.