Category: design thinking

behaviour changedesign thinkingeducation & learning

Amazing Stuff: December 14th Edition

It’s final paper and exam time at the university so that means one thing: procrastination.

Procrastination also yields a lot of unusual thinking so with a nod to the serious and the silly, I’ve managed to whittle down the many amazing things sent my way to just five:

1. 1000 Awesome Things. Rather than be amazing, this blog captures awesome. Although not so much the amazing like mind-blowing or novel, what this blog does is remind us of the little, everyday kind of things that happen in life that make us smile, pause, or even contemplate enough to go “wow, that’s awesome”. AWESOME!

2. The Art of the Idea: 8 ways to Light a Lightbulb Above Your Head. Fast Company’s Sheryl Sulistiawan presents a visual pictorial based on John Hunt’s insights collected in his new book. It is a creative, artistic way to imagine new ways to visualize the creative process. It’s a lot different than the usual pictogram and got me thinking.

3. Yes, Bottled Water Really is That Bad. Another gem from Fast Company and their infographics: A look at just how awful bottled water is for the world. Where I live (Canada) we have more clean, fresh water than almost anyone in the world yet we fill our buildings with bottled water when its cheaper, healthier, and sometimes tastier to drink it from the tap.

4. The New York Times Magazine 9th Annual Year in Ideas issue. I look forward to this every issue every year for a highlight of the most innovative — and sometimes also ridiculous — inventions, social trends, and novel solutions to problems big and small. I’m  quite intrigued by the growing interest in zombie attack science.

5. World Food Programme’s Fight Hunger campaign. When you think of innovators and integrated thinking, the UN isn’t the first place that comes to mind. But the UN’s WFP has shown that it can out-campaign even the slickest corporation with its multi-channel social media campaign using Facebook, Twitter, crowd-funding and micro-donations to stimulate awareness and solicit donations to affect a problem that is big and getting bigger everyday. A great ‘101’ on the program is available in this CNN International profile.

behaviour changecomplexitydesign thinkingeHealthpublic health

Benchmarking Success in Times of Change

 

Successful evaluators know the power of benchmark. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the act ‘to benchmark’ as “evaluate or check (something) by comparison with a standard. The Wikipedia definition of Benchmarking is:

Benchmarking is the process of comparing the business processes and performance metrics including cost, cycle time, productivity, or quality to another that is widely considered to be an industry standard benchmark or best practice. Essentially, benchmarking provides a snapshot of the performance of your business and helps you understand where you are in relation to a particular standard.”

From an evaluation standpoint, a benchmark provides us with a comparator to help assess how well (or poorly) a particular program is doing. From corporate leaders to university presidents to healthcare administrators benchmarking serves as the referent and focus for programming activities and the foundation for ‘best practice’. But what if best practice isn’t good enough? Or put another way, what if following the leader means going the wrong way?

In the world of consumer or behavioural eHealth much of what we use as our benchmarks are derived from a type of healthcare model that is institution and often technology-centred rather than patient-centred. It is more often something tied to medical treatment of specific problems and technology focused using a highly linear approach to treatment.

Yet in the age of Google Wave, these linear models don’t look to fare well. The future of healthcare, as Frog Design recently opined, is social. What are the benchmarks when your eHealth intervention is not a single technology, but a suite of interacting tools that are online, collaborative and mobile in different measures at different times within a diverse context of treatment and preventive behaviour? How do we measure success? What happens when the ‘effect’ of an intervention is social in nature and supported by multiple tools working in different combinations each time?

In evaluation, we often look for the most likely cause of a particular effect. Yet, what is the effect of any one wave in an ocean of influence? While it is impossible to deconstruct the influence of that wave, it is possible to anticipate what a wave might do under certain conditions and, if the timing is right, it might be possible to get on top of that wave and surf it to shore.

What if we took a wave model and, like surfers, read the seas to determine the appropriate time to dive in, acknowledging that the break will occur differently, the velocity might vary, the height of can’t be predicted, but through activity and practice we can enhance our anticipatory guidance systems to better select waves that might lead to some fine surfing? My research team at the University of Toronto has begun working on these models and methods because as anyone in public health can tell you, the tide is high and with complex problems like chronic disease, the waves are getting big. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, iPhone apps big and small are all collectively influencing people’s behaviour in subtle ways and through acknowledging that these collective tools are the cause and consequence of change can we begin to develop evaluation models to make sense of their impact on the world around us.

design thinkingeHealthfood systemsscience & technology

Amazing Stuff: November 14th Edition

It’s been another busy week filled with lots of ideas, but little time to post them. Expect a lot more on the blog in the coming weeks however as there is too much going on not to discuss.

Thankfully, the rest of the world was still Tweeting, blogging, You-tubing and sharing all kinds of amazing things with us and here are the top ones that captured my attention this week:

1. I love food from all kinds of sources and certainly those that come from animals are the ones I spend the most time thinking about. A new book by Jonathan Safran Foer looks at the ethics and industry of eating animals. I haven’t read the book, but a detailed and insightful review in the New Yorker suggests that I might be thinking a lot more about this in the days and weeks to come based on the arguments that Foer puts forth. Natalie Portman is one who also has thought differently because of this book — this time about vegetarianism and veganism — and she writes her review in the Huffington Post. Read any of the reviews and you’ll know that this is a book making buzz and adding to our already considerable array of options when considering the merits of what we choose to eat. Tofu anyone?

2. Keeping with the contrarian perspectives: have you thought about how healthcare might actually be unhealthy for the planet? This week Ariel Schwartz posted an interesting article in Mother Jones (and replicated in Fast Company ) questioning the carbon footprint of the healthcare industry and whether we ought to be working harder to consider how green our care facilities are. Could a sick planet be coming from healthy humans?

3. While we’re on health care, The New York Times published a story about text messaging for teens as a possible way to engage young people more in health care using mobile phones. Seems like a no-brainer to me, but will it fly in the face of most healthcare organizations, which are a little slow to adopt technologies like this into practice?

4. The international social innovation leadership group, Ashoka, announced the winners of this year’s sustainable food (GMO: risk or rescue?) contest. The blog biofortified was the grand winner. There are some novel ideas and certainly opportunities to expand the dialogue on food safety and security in some new ways through this initiative. GMO good or bad? The answer seems to be: yes.

5. Lastly, Mobifest is coming to Toronto and I was captivated by some of the novel and creative films on display as the finalists in this year’s competition. Mobile filmmaking is getting bigger, better and more creative all the time and I’d encourage anyone interested in looking at one of the futures of film to check this mini and mobile film fest out.

design thinkingenvironmentpublic healthscience & technologysocial media

Amazing Stuff: November 6th Edition

A year ago something that truly is amazing happened: Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. This week there were some far less amazing things that I found — but some amazing stuff no less.

1. Wired Science published some of the newly released photos of islands from space. It is a stunning collection of visual images of our planet from thousands of metres into space. They provide a remarkable perspective on our world.

2. Are you better off owning a dog or a Toyota Land Cruiser in terms of the planet’s health? According to a New Scientist article published this week (and commented on in Fast Company) owning a pet might be worse for the environment than a gas guzzling SUV. True? It’s not clear, but it does provoke some interesting discussion on what really influences carbon emissions and the health of our world.

3. Visualization of data is one of the ways in which we can make complex information accessible to more people. A newly published TED talk by JoAnn Kuchera-Morin provides a stunning representation of some of the ways in which visualization tools can aid our understanding of our planet and our brain.

4. The New York Times has a new innovation portfolio site. For those interested in new ideas and design, this is a must-visit on the tour through the Internet.

5. Amazing or not, H1N1 is causing a lot of distress around the world. This week, Fast Company (their second mention this week!) reviewed some of the ways in which people can get on top of tracking and preventing the disease using iPhone apps. Mobile public health has never been so interesting.

complexitydesign thinkingpublic healthscience & technologysocial media

Amazing Stuff: Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween everyone,

Halloween is a rather important day. It’s not only the day that dentists fear, but also the end to my favourite month and the end of the busiest period in the academic calendar when the last of the mid-terms have been graded (round one, anyway) and most grants are in (for now). Tomorrow, retailers will be rushing out the Christmas stuff in North America (at least those that didn’t have it out after Labour Day in September). But as these dates come and go, the amazing stuff continues to find its way into my inbox, Twitter feed, Facebook page, web browser and Google Reader feed. Here’s the neatest and most interesting things I discovered this past week:

1. How to Organize A Children’s Party (or how complexity science can help your work). Interested in complexity science, but don’t really know what it is or how you’d use it in everyday life? This very brief and entertaining video from Dave Snowdon (@snowded) at Cognitive Edge consultancy  explains the difference between ordered, chaotic and complex systems and how they might look from the perspective of organizing a party for 11-year old boys.

2. What Does Meaningful Mean? is an infographic developed by Frog Design to show how to design products and services that actually have meaning to people, not just tell people that they are meaningful. A good reminder to all of us who design things — which is most of us.

3. Brian Solis. OK, so this is not an amazing ‘thing’, but rather a website where Brian Solis, a marketer and PR consultant, hosts his blog and details his ideas and products for public consumption. There are a LOT of new media pundits out there (I won’t name names, but chances are you’ve heard of them) who are being raved about and followed by thousands who have very little to say when you actually listen closely. Brian isn’t one of them. Tour his site and you’ll see some interesting thoughts and insights on how social media can be used effectively by everyone to communicate, and not in some ‘jingo-istic’ manner, but in real terms.

4. Green Porno. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to my colleague Andrea Yip (@andie86) who told me about this entertaining, informative and very odd set of short videos hosted by Isabella Rossellini that combines nuveau performance art, sketch comedy, sex, environmental education and awareness into a funny and uniquely effective medium for communicating about the serious issue of climate change and environmental stewardship.

5. And lastly, Healthmap, is a health and geographic information aggregator that maps infectious disease outbreaks across the globe. Become your own Centre for Disease Control at home and watch where the hotspots are for the flu and other illnesses in your neighbourhood or around the world.

design thinkingscience & technologysocial mediasocial systemssystems thinking

Amazing Stuff

So far the Amazing Stuff I’ve shared seems to be a hit with some folk. Perhaps this is the week that you’ll find something that I found pretty interesting relevant to you.

This week’s Amazing Stuff post features some thoughts on design. I first thought the word ‘designer’ had to mean going to design school or something to that effect. Thankfully, the many brilliant design thinkers out there who are promoting that way of seeing the world have shown me the error of my ways and illustrated how we all can be designers — and how with some thought and creativity we can become good ones. I design public health programs and resources and find myself fascinated by the myriad benefits that design thinking (like systems thinking) has to offer our enterprise.

1. The Value of Empathy . The Design Observer Group has a great website for ideas on design and this they featured an essay by Andy Chen on the role of empathy in design. He also writes a sharp, sometimes biting, critique of the way in which designers (and marketers) play on emotions to stir empathy on one hand, while being totally oblivious at other times. His illustrations from advertisements such as the RED campaign really take this message home and provided me with one of the most inspired reads of the week.

2. Is Social Media the New Cigarette? Probably the most provocative read I had all week was this post from Bill Ives and his Fast Forward blog. Bill goes way out on a limb and points to some rather disturbing and sometimes humorous parallels between cigarettes and social media both in how we use it and how it gets regulated in society as a result.

3. The Book of Odds. Did you know that the odds of choking to death on a non-food object is about 1 in 92,950? I didn’t either — until I discovered the Book of Odds, which was launched this week. The ‘Book’ is a compendium of stats on all kind of things serious and, well, odd, taking odds-ratios to a level of prominence that we’ve never seen before. Entertaining and useful all in one well-packaged site.

4. The Democratization of Social Networks. A little more on the academic side of things, Amanda Lenhart from the Pew Internet & American Life Project posted a presentation showing how the landscape of social networking is changing rapidly. Almost half of Americans are now engaged in some type of social networking activity online, which is up from less than 10 per cent last year. If you think social networks are a fad, you might want to look through Amanda’s presentation.

5. The Chemistry of Information Addiction. Another science-based gem this week was a report in Scientific American about research that looked at monkeys and information needs and the neural basis for our ‘need to know’. It turns out that we just might need to know the answer. The research is laying the foundation for future studies looking at human information use and testing the hypothesis that, in some way, we are information junkies and, when given the opportunity, will do whatever we can to get more information about the things that are important to us and that this is a hard-wired part of the brain.