Culture, Lenses, Systems, Uncategorized

Game Design for Culture Design

The average age of a “gamer” is rising. Current research puts it around 34 years old. That means there is an increasing chance that any team you are part of is made up of self-identifying gamers. They’ve trekked across Skyrim. They’ve launched a blue shell in Mario Kart. They’ve flung an Angry Bird or two.

If this engages them, gets them in the flow state, and keeps them coming back… why would we not look towards game design when designing our team culture? Cody Royle, in his book Where Others Won’t, posits that we can borrow talent acquisition strategies from sports.

“A well-designed game is a guided missle to the motivational heart of the human psyche.” – Kevin Werbach

MDA Framework

We’re going to keep this simple for our analogy. For deep details on the MDA Framework, there are loads of articles on it. But here’s the basics:

90823As you can see, the game designer and the game player approach the game differently.

The designer can only control the mechanics so they build their game by creating mechanics, which impacts the dynamics, which influences the aesthetics.

The player comes at the game in the reverse order. The game is chosen because of the aesthetics they want (looking for “fun”), which they get from the dynamics, which is created by the rules. You never pick up a game because of a rule. You buy, play, and keep playing because of the feeling.

“Many of the traits, habits, beliefs and actions that teenagers and young adults pick up playing electronic games and working with handheld gadgets will help them as they enter the ever-changing global workforce.” – Karl Kapp

As a Lens for Culture

Like the game designer, we can really only control the mechanics of our culture. Mechanics are not your mission statement or your vision, but they are part of it. It’s more the rituals and operationalized mission. But instead of establishing rules we like and force the aesthetics we want, why not start with an end in mind?

We can think of culture design as game design, with a design thinking twist. Backwards by design. We’re going to start in the endzone, and figure out how to get there.

Granted, there are organizations that try to establish culture at the aesthetic level first. But they are trying to control the aesthetics as designers, which can’t be done. This will run in opposition with the established mechanics or clash with the personal narratives of the staff.

We can’t control the end, but we need to start there. If we work backwards, we can increase the likelihood of the aesthetic we want in our culture.

  • What feelings do we want our team to have?
    • Not only when they are “playing the game”, but also when they are at home or in their community.
  • What interactions can our team have to promote these feelings?
    • Interactions within the team, with the work, with the clients. All the interactions.
  • What rules of play can we establish to encourage those interactions?
    • These mechanics need to have boundaries that allow a little wiggle room but includes the interactions.

 

 

 

Empathy, Ideation, Lenses, Tool, Understanding the Customer

You, Me, and Jon Snow: The Power of Knowing Nothing

Shaken, but emotionally under control, Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson) picks up the phone and talks to his daughter’s captor.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don’t have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career.” – Liam Neeson, Taken

Like Liam Neeson’s character, I don’t have all the answers. It’s actually very cathartic to admit. Let’s say it together. Ready?

“I don’t have all the answers.”

In creative or innovative work, we sometimes feel like we should come up with new and interesting solutions on the spot. And if we can’t, no one is harder on us than ourselves. But we don’t have all the answers, nor should we.

We should have are all the questions.

Ok, maybe not ALL the questions, but a pretty good list and the skill to keep asking. At least we can channel our inner child and ask “Why?” over and over. Seriously, that’s a proven tactic. So if asking questions is the fast track to empathy, why do we feel compelled to know the answer ahead of time?

I don’t know.

youknownothing

Anticlimactic I know, but it’s true. I’ve asked myself many times, so I’m beginning to know why for me. But this is a personal quest. A side quest to be sure, but a personal one.

Let me give you some starter questions:

  • Do I feel like I need to prove my innovative spirit or creativity by readily spouting out solutions?
  • Do I feel others are expecting immediate and ground-breaking ideas?
  • Do I feel like my value drops if I have to “figure it out” in the conversation?
  • Is it related to stress, anxiety, impostor syndrome, and my fight or flight reflex?

Sherlock Mode

One of my favorite shows is Sherlock (the one with Benedict Cumberbatch). Sherlock Holmes is a character that seems to have the answer to everything, even to problems we didn’t know existed. But the show does a masterful job of showing how Sherlock’s mind (albeit fictional) works.

Time slows. We enter Sherlock’s mind. We see him call out the wet spot on the sleeve of a woman’s jacket. He internally questions how her sleeve got wet.

I try to engage my own Sherlock mode; slow it down, ask the questions.

Silence is Golden

We don’t have to shout out answers immediately. Amazing things happen when you listen and offer your ideas last. Check out this video where Simon Sinek talks about being the last to speak.

It doesn’t make us less valuable to say “I don’t know, but I want to. Help me understand.” Asking questions improves our learning. That’s why schools are promoting critical thinking and project-based learning (which involves lots of questions).

So we need to take a cue from Liam Neeson and create our own Taken-inspired,  problem-facing monolog.

“I don’t know what your problem is. I don’t know what your jobs to be done are. If you are looking for a solution I can tell you I don’t have one… YET, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very amazing career. Skills that make me a nightmare for problems like this. If you will answer my questions, that’ll be the start of it. I will look everywhere for insight, I will pursue each hypothesis, I will create tailor-made solutions for you, and I will go forth and be awesome.”

Being Awesome, Lenses

The Friction of Innovation

Innovation needs movement. Paradigms shift, viewpoints redirect, and new ideas flow. But anytime there is movement, there is friction.

Friction is the surface or environment resisting the movement. Rub your hands together, they get warm. You have friction to thank for that.

Ok, don’t run from the science. Stick with me.

To create acceleration, you need to push on an object with more force than the force of friction. So if we can figure out what makes the Force of Friction, we can learn to overcome it.

Friction is the Coefficient of Friction (µ) times the Normal Force.

The Coefficient of Friction (µ) is specific for the surfaces interacting and the higher the coefficient, the more friction generated. Carpet = high coefficient, icy driveway = low coefficient.

The Normal Force is the surface pushing back up on the object and can be thought of as the counterpart to gravity. Your laptop doesn’t accelerate down through your desk because your desk pushes back up on the laptop. For the sake of the analogy, the Normal Force is equal to the weight of the idea.

We know have some great components for our analogy. If you’ve stuck with me this far, you’re almost to the payoff.

  • The Coefficient of Friction
    • This is the culture of your organization. How open to change is it? How accepting of new ideas are they? Do they give you resources to make new things happen?
      • If you get told “But this is the way we’ve always done it”, chances are your location has a high Coefficient of Innovation Friction.
  • Weight
    • This is the disruptiveness of your idea. If it is going to keep people up at night, you’ve got a large disruptive weight. If it builds on existing ideas with existing customers, then you’ve got a small disruptive weight.
  • The Force of Innovative Friction
    • This is equal to your Coefficient of Innovative Friction multiplied by the Disruptive Weight of your idea.

It’s important to point out that there isn’t a right or wrong here. I’m not going to tell you to have smaller ideas to reduce friction, or that a culture is bad if it has a high coefficient. This just gives you a model to evaluate how hard you need to push.

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it to happen, others MAKE IT HAPPEN.” – Michael Jordan

You want an innovative idea to pick up speed? You want to make it happen? You’re going to have to push on it MORE than the Innovation Friction around it. And if we know that in innovation you have to be prepared to learn from failures.

Sometimes what you learn is that you should’ve pushed harder.

 

 

 

Brainstorming, Ideation, Lenses, Tool

Light Rays, Toothpaste, and Ideation [100 Word Challenge]

Jon Acuff used only 100 words to restrict a recent post.

Restrictions can drive creativity like toothpaste channelled through a narrow opening. You can concentrate your brain squeezings onto a precise AND ACTIONABLE solution.

Toothpaste everywhere doesn’t help you brush your teeth.

Tim Brown, IDEO, says that leaders need to define Purpose (goal), Challenges (stepping stones to get there), and Vision (defines constraints because some stones wont lead to the goal).Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 9.19.31 AM

Like light rays, our brainstorms and rambling thoughts can also be focused by passing through constraints.
If light rays can be focused, so can bright ideas!
Only 97 words!
——–
CHALLENGE
Constraints are sometimes imposed upon the innovator. Try this challenge for your next ideation session.
Roll one six-sided die, and based on the roll, apply the following constraint to your ideas.
1: No new technology; use what exists.
2: Focus on only untapped customer segments.
3: All solutions must start with a person-to-person interaction.
4: The idea must not include any training; intuitive at its highest power.
5: You can only use print material in your solution.
6: Your solution must have playable game elements.
OTHER RELATED POSTS
Being Awesome, Innovation, Lenses, Uncategorized, Understanding the Customer, User Experience, UX UI

Poetic UI UX Design

“I’ve got so many MBAs, but what I need is a poet. Poets are the original systems thinkers.” -Max DePree

Poetry uses “condensed or compressed form to convey emotion or ideas to the reader’s or listener’s mind or ear” as defined by Poetry.org. Which felt like the perfect site to define poetry at. If we re-word it a little, we get “the shortest path that gives a desired feeling to the user”. Just extrapolate that “feeling” out to include usability a perception of value, and good poetry becomes good user interface and experience design.

poetry (1)Now, this is a new analogy to me, something that I am going to try on my next prototype. I am going to design the user interface and experience through the lens of poetry. I will link to my findings here (when they exist). However some key components of poetry feel ripe for picking when designing.

Imagery

Imagery in poetry actually relates to the five senses (not just relying on images). What are ways that a good user-centered design uses imagery? The friction felt when moving components around that gives it a real feeling. The audio cue when an action is triggered. Even the icons selected play a part in the overall imagery scheme.

Rhythm

Poetic rhythms range from the famous iambic pentameter to the unknown by name (but you totally know it when you hear it) anapestic tetrameter. Rhythm plays such a huge part that a lack of rhythm is used to create its own feeling. What kinds of rhythms do we create in our designs? Can we keep the user in a good flow state? Do we break the rhythms to call their attention to important pieces? I envision a UX rhythm being the user experiencing the entirety of the innovation, with each major beat striking true.

Word Association & Connotation

In an effort to be concise, poetry uses what the read brings along with them to add extra meaning to words. Each word chosen by the poet is specially selected to bring across a bouquet of feeling to the reader, without writing the bouquet in. This is the “show, don’t tell” writing advice. Clearly a UX can use an envelope to signify email, and a disk to represent saving, but what other rich connotations can we bring? One word of caution here: this requires some strong empathy and knowledge of your core user if you are going to rely on the baggage they bring to tell your story.

Enjambment

First of all, its just fun to try to say “enjambment”. Enjambment is breaking up a line in poem across two lines to create a sense of anticipation and intrigue.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and asleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

Endymion by John Keats

Notice that the three middle lines can’t even stand by themselves. The line break pauses the reader in extracting meaning from what they are reading. How can we use enjambment in great UX UI design? Where do we need to create pauses or breaks that are beneficial to the user? Can we leverage that anticipation into a positive feeling while using our product?

Repetition

This is used over and over and over to drive a point home. Poetry uses it to call out the important stuff or bring certain images back into view. A good design uses repetition to make sure the user is comfortable knowing when and how to take action. But when does repetition lead to boredom? Maybe this has some parallels to rhythm?

I don’t have the answers yet. But I’m willing to try to find them. Like I said, this is a new lens / analogy for me and one I’m eager to test out. If you test it out or already think of it this way, let me know! I’d love to start a conversation around Poetic UI UX Design.

Brainstorming, Going Forth, Grand Canyon, Ideation, Innovation, Lenses, Prototyping, Systems, Tool

The Donkey Stuck in the Status Quo

Once upon a time, there was a donkey. This donkey, with all other conditions being the same, would eat from the hay closest to him. Kind of an easy win strategy. Well one day the donkey was walking down the road and his hunger grew immensely. There was a bail of hay up ahead, and an equal sized bail of hay, the exact same distance behind him. With neither being closer, the donkey stood still, not choosing one nor the other until he died.

The end.

This heartwarming tale is called Buridan’s donkey and it is a paradox about free will. Often, we become the donkey. There are disruptive ideas out there to follow, but we sit in the middle, too afraid to give up one for the other.

Nassim Taleb, in his book Antifragile, says that “when some systems become stuck in a dangerous impasse, randomness and only randomness can unlock them and set them free.” The donkey just needs a little push; just one fly to land on its ear and nudge it towards one hay pile.

Organizations, teams, and people need that dose of random, unexpected, and different to get ideas moving.gonowhere

These little nudges can feel scary, but there are ways to minimize the risk and fear. Start by breaking down the problem you want to solve into its core pieces; boil it down to its base essence. Then start looking for small things to move the needle. If you were to solve this problem, what’s the first thing you need to figure out? Find a way to prototype and test that thing. Prototyping is great for keeping cost low and risks at a minimum (especially when it is with paper).

“Prototyping is one of the most effective ways to both jump-start our thinking and to guide, inspire, and discipline an experimental approach.” – Peter Sims, Little Bets

Regularly we will need to unstick ourselves. Each idea we naturally think of is a byproduct of your point of view, past experiences, skill set, and what you had for lunch. That’s why I am going to give you a tool to help, a tool forged in process-driven chaos. It’s called…

Donkey Dice

The rules here are very simple. In fact, there’s only three:

  • CARD: On a notecard, write down six lenses and number them.
    • Things like “How would WordPress do it?”, “How would I never solve this?”, or use a random word. (Random words should be generated before each use of Donkey Dice.)
  • ROLL: Roll 1 six-sided die and identify lens selected
  • THINK: Generate ideas with lens

It’s simple, but effective. As you get good at Donkey Dice, expand your card up to 12 lenses and use two six-sided dice. You can unlock the extreme level and list 20 lenses and roll a twenty-sided die. Soon your donkey will be making his way towards relief, instead of stuck in the muck of status quo.

“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” -Jodi Picoult, Handle With Care

 

Being Awesome, Brainstorming, Ideation, Innovation, Innovation Mindsets, Lenses

The Lenses of Awesome

When I back out of my drive, there is this one little spot that is really hard to see. You cant see it in the rearview mirror and you can’t see it in the side mirrors. The dreaded blindspot. And that, in variably, is where I’ve put my trashcans.

lens (2)In our everyday, there are hidden aspects of problems that we can’t really see. Thats why auto manufacturers added all those mirrors, cameras, and sensors. What do we do as innovators? We can’t walk through life with an array of mirrors strapped to us. No, this is when we use some lenses. Previously, we’ve talked on the surface level of lenses (see prior post) and in this one we’re going to get more into the how.

In the movie National Treasure, historian Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage), has some fancy glasses with multicolored lenses that reveal hidden clues on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Innovation lenses work in a similar way. By looking at your situation through different lenses, and different combinations of lenses, new solutions come into sight.

“Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.”

Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

Lenses allow us to look at problems and solutions in a new way. They get you out of your normal brain path and into some divergent thinking. Your first instinct is to resort to your habits, your known constraints, and your know resources. Lenses stop you in your tracks so that nothing is an automatic response. To find new solutions, you have to break your old cycles.

Lenses get you beyond the confines of you business model and into some adjacent areas. Out in the unexplored areas, the hidden coves, is where treasure awaits.

How to use a lens:

  • Boil down your problem into the very base mechanics.
    • What are the root causes of your customer’s pain?
    • What very base jobs are they trying to do?
  • Apply a lens to your base mechanics.
    • How would McDonald’s address these customer pains?
    • How could the customer accomplish the jobs they need if the constraint was a positive instead of a negative?
  • Translate a lensed solution to your industry.
    • Now that you have a divergent base, build it back into your environment.
    • How could you actually pull this divergent thought off?

Previously I shared these lenses:

  • How would I never solve this problem?
  • What is the worst way I can solve this problem?

Here are a few more of my favorites:

  • How can the pain points be sold as features?
  • What would [Insert popular company] do?

What are some of your favorite lenses? Comment or tweet them! #lensesofawesome