Tag: video

businesscomplexitydesign thinkingevaluationinnovation

Developmental Design and The Innovator’s Mindset

Blackberry Swarmed By Ignorance

Blackberry Swarmed By Ignorance

Blackberry, once the ‘must have’ device is no longer so and may no longer even exist. Looking back on how the mighty device maker stumbled the failure is attributed to what was done and not done, but I would argue it is more about what was unseen and not thought. Ignorance of the past, present and future is what swarmed them and a lack of developmental design in their culture.

Today’s Globe and Mail features the above-pictured story about how and why Blackberry lost out to Apple’s iOS iPhone and Google’s Android powered phones due in large part to their focus on their stellar enterprise security system and failing to consider what would happen when competitors yielded ‘good enough’ models.  It’s a tale years in telling and what may be the beginning of the end of the once globally dominant Canadian tech leader.

Getting out

Those I’ve known who’ve worked for Blackberry describe a culture devoted to engineering excellence above all, which emphasized technical superiority and attention to the technology over the users of that technology. Perhaps if more of those engineers got out a more beyond their own circles they might have noticed a few things:

  1. Facebook, Twitter and social media sites that all seemed fun at first were quickly becoming more than just pastimes, they were being used as communications tools for everything from family and friends to work;
  2. Cameras were being used to capture photos and videos, share them and edit them (like Instagram and now Vine) for purposes beyond social, but also to take photos of PowerPoint presentations at events, brainstorming whiteboards and prototypes;
  3. The rich media experience provided through other devices meant that the keyboards were less important — typing faster and easier was being weighed against screen dimensions for videos, photos and interactive content;
  4. Workers were passionate enough about these new tools that they would bear the cost of their own phone to use these tools and carry two devices than just rely on a Blackberry if they were required to have one.

I saw this phenomena all over the place. Embedded in this pattern were some assumptions:

  1. Email was the most important form of productivity. (This might also include learning);
  2. Email was fun;
  3. Email got people communicating

Few people I know like email anymore. We tolerate it. Almost no one who is in the work world gets too few emails. Email is a useful and highly embedded form of communication; so much so as to nearly be a form of dominant design in our business communications.

What a little anthropological research on RIM’s part would have produced is some insights into how people communicate. Yes, email is the most pronounced electronic method of communication for business, but it doesn’t excite people like a video does or engage conversation like Twitter can or enable re-connection to close peers or family like LinkedIn and Facebook do. These are all platforms that were lesser served by the Blackberry model. What that means is that email is vulnerable to those things that attract people.

In complexity terms rich media is an attractor; it organizes patterns of activity around it that stimulate creativity in the system. This meant that a lot of positive energy was being directed into these new means of engagement over others and that when given the opportunity to choose and use a device that supported this engagement better people (and eventually the firms they worked for) began to opt for them over Blackberry.

Ongoing innovation

Developmental design is a process of incorporating the tenets of design thinking with developmental evaluation, strategic foresightbusiness model innovation and contemplative inquiry. It means constantly evaluating, assessing, designing and re-designing your product offerings as things change and developing a constant attentive focus on where you are, where you came from and the weak and strong signals that indicate shifts in a culture.

This is a new way of doing innovation development, evaluation and strategy, but it is the necessary ingredient in a space where there is high levels of complexity, rapid churn in the system, and high demand for action. Increasingly, this is no longer just the domain of high tech, but banking, retail, healthcare, education and nearly every system that is operating in multi-jurisdictional environments. When we (the customer, patients, students…) were very much the same, we could treat our system simply. Now the ‘we’ is different and the systems are complex.

Developmental design is the praxis of innovation.

What would Steve Jobs do?

It is interesting to note that today is the day the bio-pic on Steve Jobs is released into theatres. Jobs knew developmental design even if he never named it as such. He famously ‘got out’ in his own, unique way. He went for walking meetings rather than sat in boardrooms. He watched what people did and channeled his own passion for creating things into a company culture that was designed to create things to help people create things. To that end, he was among the most outstanding innovators of the last 50 years.

Yet, Jobs and his team were good at paying attention to where things had gone (the computer), where they were (increasing bandwidth capability and demand with the Internet), and where they were going (decentralized production). Thus we had a number-crunching machine turned it into a suite for personal creativity (Mac), which spawned a music player (iPod) and online store (iTunes), which led to a multimedia communications handset (iPhone), which inspired a handheld tablet (iPad).

Apple is the most valued tech company in the world because of that vision, one that has been questioned in light of Jobs’ passing on and new leadership in place at the company.

Blackberry is not unique. The leaderboard in consumer mobile technology has changed from Motorola to Nokia to RIM (Blackberry) to Apple to Samsung (Android) in less than 15 years. That is enormous churn in a sector that touches over three quarters of the world’s population directly (more than toilets). While perhaps an extreme case, it is becoming a model to pay attention to for other industries on different scales.

Ask yourself: Are you Blackberry today or Apple yesterday?

If you apply developmental design to your work, you’ll have your answer.

knowledge translationpublic healthresearchsocial media

Knowledge Translation Lip (Sync) Service

Dancing for a Cure

Researchers and policy makers wring their hands and wrack their brains at ways to get people to take up the knowledge generated through scientific research and use it for social good and further invention. Some, stop doing this and just make it happen and YouTube and the Internet are showing us how.

Designer, strategist and broadcaster Debbie Millman, host of the Design Matters podcast, signs off each episode with a great quote:

We can talk about making a difference, we can make a difference, or we can do both

It seems when talking about knowledge translation, there is a lot of talk about how to do it better and then there are some who just do it better. McGill University and some of the researchers associated with the Goodman Cancer Research Centre have partnered up with filmmakers, volunteers and a medical supply company to ‘dance for cancer’ as a means of promoting their work and raising funds for cancer research. (The company, Medicom, has offered to donate per click so if you’re interested in donating and being entertained, click the link below).

Besides being catchy (Taio Cruz‘s club hit, Dynamite, is the song that these researchers and cast are dancing to) and well-produced, the video unscores the potential that video and some creative use of the arts can offer the scientific community in showing the world what it does and how it does it. The video shows what life is like (in a singing-and-dancing way) in a lab and showcases some of the people who do it, making them real humans rather than some mysterious “scientists off in the lab”.

They are designing a knowledge translation opportunity that (so far) has been viewed nearly 30,000 times as of this writing. I suspect that number will triple in the coming weeks. When some of the best, most cited research articles in the world are read (viewed) by maybe hundreds of people, the attention of thousands in such a short time should give pause.

Further, of the thousands that view the video, it is safe to say that most are non-scientists. For many, but certainly not all, of the studies we do in public and population health, the audience for this video is almost the same as ours — or at least includes many of the same people. Not all studies or research projects will yield the kind of data that are video-worthy or inspire photosharing, but some are. Many more than we acknowledge. And if we want the public engaged in science, if we want to reach practitioners and inspire policy makers and researchers alike to pay attention to the evidence being generated, this video might offer some suggestions for a way forward.

While you think of that, enjoy the choreography and lip sync skill of McGill’s brave super-translators and support a good cause in the process:

psychologypublic healthsocial media

G20 and Social Media Anarchy

Is this Democracy in Action?

It is a sad night in my city. Tonight, Toronto is facing a battle with a group of about 300 self-described anarchists called the Black Bloc. Stores are being vandalized, police cars are being taken over and lit on fire. It’s an awful mess.

All in the name of protest for the G20. The reasons for the protest are too many to mention. For some it is about human rights, others its’ the environment, social justice, spending, the G20 meetings themselves — you name it, there is probably some group trying to get its voice heard here.

Unlike any previous protest — even the G20 meetings in Pittsburgh last year — this one will be known for being televised.

And photographed.

And blogged about (like this).

And networked. A lot.

Indeed, I’ve never before seen such citizen journalism in action. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has both their own reporters and readers/viewers tweeting about what is happening in a live feed. The Torontoist blog has enlisted many of its readers as roving reporters as well.

Indeed, Torontoist represents the true social media perspective by asking readers to:

HOW TO SEND US UPDATES We want your G20 stories, photos, links, and tips. Email G20@torontoist.com, send updates to @torontoist on Twitter, or submit your photos to Torontoist’s Flickr pool.

Add to that Twitter and Facebook, and I feel like I’m right in the mix, and that is part of the problem.

I like the fact that I can know what is going on in my city without having to risk my health or witness the hatred, crime and injustice being committed by a small band of goons who are subverting the good intentions and genuine voice of the protesters. But then, it also means that I’m not able to stop them and, because so many others are busy capturing this on video or camera, they aren’t either.

Scanning through the video online of the protests I couldn’t help but notice how many people were getting into the middle of things with their cameras. They were, in some of the videos, clearly between a justifiably agitated police presence and an equally frustrated group of protesters who want to ensure that they communicate their perspective to the G2o leaders and the public. This new paparazzi culture can be seen across the videos, including this one of two police cars being ignited at the heart of the city’s financial district. In this case, the cameraman could at least appreciate that the cars might blow up, but he was one of the few.

Beyond the carelessness of these new ‘journalists’ comes the problems with a lack of training in journalism, which is un-critical self-expression to an audience. I was told that many businesses on Yonge Street (Toronto’s central street) were ‘destroyed’ by goons — at least according to many tweets and posts. After coming home from another event I read this and thought I’d see for myself what happened and it appears that these stores had their windows broken and that’s about it. Yes, they were damaged, but destroyed?

The whole thing was captured on film in fact! Yet, it gets reported badly. Regular journalists do this, but it seems that citizen journalists using social media do it badly — a lot.

I don’t know what this day means for social media and citizen journalism, but I know I am not happy with the way things have turned out. As you can see from the previous clip, there were a lot of people trying to ‘get the story’ or capture it on film and very few trying to stop the violence. Indeed, social media by way of making these acts broadcast and commented on so quickly by so many may have provided the very encouragement that these Black Bloc folk need and want.
But because so many were so quick to capture this, they disengaged from the very acts they hoped to capture and as a result, there is a lot of damage to a city in terms of its property, but also to its soul.

What I’m not sure is what about the events of this day upsets the most.


Amazing Stuff: The Inspirational Sound and Vision Edition


Occasionally this blog departs from the usual discussion and offers to share something that I find amazing (or highly notable) that has come across my ‘e’ desk or captures the wonder of social media, networks and the Web as a whole. Here is the first Amazing Stuff of 2010 with a theme fitting for a new decade: inspiration.

It’s the first Amazing Stuff issue of the second decade of the 2000’s and depending on how last week went, you might be thinking 2010 is really the start of something new and exciting (all New Year’s Resolutions aside) or that you’re in for the same thing, maybe worse. In the case that your 2010 has not started out as well as you wanted it to, I present a list of Amazing Stuff on video that just might help remind you how good the world is and what the power of a dream, an open mind, a kind heart or all of those things might do for you. And if you’re already in that space, then recommend something to 1000 Awesome Things to show it off to the world.

If you’ve seen these before, perhaps its time to view them again.

1. Free Hugs. The Free Hugs Campaign was started by Juan Mann in Sydney, Australia and began with the simple premise that everyone could use a hug now and again and why not spread a little cheer by offering them for free, at near random, to anyone who walked by and would accept one or ask for it. The story was captured in a great music video by Sick Puppies that is not only inspirational, but a great rocking song too.

2. High Fives Project. If hugs aren’t your thing, how about a high five? Colleen Smith has embarked a journey similar to Juan Mann and has decided that a good old high five is a pretty good way to get people smiling and thinking differently. And you know what? It does (at least according to the video of Colleen in action).

3. Benjamin Zander on TED. Benjamin Zander is part conductor, part motivational speaker and all enlightening or entertaining (or both). In his TED talk a few years ago he outlines the way to listen to classical music in a manner that inspires creative thinking. If you’re even marginally interested in classical music, you’re likely to get a lot out of your next listen after seeing this. If you’re not a classical music fan, you just might be after seeing this.

4. Fun Theory. Imagine Richard Simmons meets Tom Hanks (as the “boy” in Big, jumping on the piano in F.A.O. Schwartz) or consider health promotion if it were designed by an 8-year old. That’s what you get here. Seeing is believing and believing means that you’ll start to wonder why the stairs in your subways, malls and buildings aren’t a little more entertaining to take.

5. Anvil: The Story of Anvil. This isn’t a video in the same sense as the others, rather it is a full-fledged documentary. And a very good one at that. The touching, funny and curious story of one of the legends of heavy metal music, Canadian rockers Anvil and their unusual persistence in the face of rock obscurity and erstwhile fame.  You don’t even have to like heavy metal to find something in this connection between music and video something inspiring and showing the power of positive thinking (and perhaps reasons to have a good manager) in pursuing your dreams.

I hope that there is some inspiration found in some of these.

And if not, one bonus video is Warren Miller’s 2008 movie “Children of Winter“. It is a visual masterpiece and something that, when the weather outside gets frightful, is a delight to watch indoors to make you enjoy those moments outside even more.

complexitypsychologysocial mediasocial systems

Ushering In a New Phase of Social Networks


The term social was big in 2009. Whether it was social networks, social media or social context — this six-letter word had quite a year. It seems that public and academic discourse is shifting away from the lone, rational actor to the social being making decisions in consort with her or his peers. Whether it is offline, online, or some type of hybrid environment, social interaction has now widely been given its due by decision makers, researchers and the public. We see this in the rapid adoption of tools like Facebook, Twitter, and custom networks on Ning in business, health, and education sectors and by the use of video or photo sharing, citizen journalism, and reader/viewer comments into mainstream media. Even academic health journals from the traditional publishers like the New England Journal of Medicine with its use of podcasts and reader comments to the new Open Medicine, which has explored the use of wikis, are incorporating some social aspects to their online content.

It seems that mainstream institutions have finally picked up what social psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists have always known: we are social beings and we’re more productive, creative and happier when we have opportunities to engage with others.

Lest we pat ourselves on the back for finally ‘getting it’, there is a long way to go before these tools, technologies and systems of working truly produce the dividends that we are looking for in public policy, health care, science and innovation.

What is missing is emotion.

In their new book, Connected, social network researchers Nick Christakis and James Fowler describe the importance of emotion in their exploration of the evolution of social activity:

The development of emotion in humans, the display of emotions, and the ability to read the emotions of others helped coordinate group activity by three means: facilitating interpersonal bonds, synchronizing behavior, and communicating information (p.36)

Our social media and networks have done a reasonable job of the third part (communicating information), but a relatively poor job at the first two. Yes, we can meet people online through social tools or dating sites, but my 15 years of work with online communities has shown me that these technologies are good at facilitating introductions and sustaining relationships over time, but they are lousy at growing relationships. Why? Consider the volume of emotional information that is exchanged when you meet someone and interact with them for even a short period of time. Whether it is a look, a smell, a touch, the tonality of the voice or some combination of them all, the sensory experience that comes from a personal encounter is something that can’t be replicated in our current tools for nurturing social networks.

The rise in the use of video, which provides many more streams of information than text, is one of the hopeful points for social networking. Facebook’s addition of video to its service and the already growing use of Twitter-like tools such as 12 Seconds and Seesmic video suggest that we could be seeing a new style of networking in 2010. Apple’s new iPod Nano also features simple video capture and upload tools. And as video grows in use, so too will the complexity of the messages that are communicated and the ability to express and share emotion within online and mobile networks. Once that happens, we may start to see social networking and social media live up to its full potential.

education & learningeHealthsocial media

Amazing Stuff: The Film and Video Edition


Last week my class on Health Behaviour Change was on the topic of eHealth. So to make the point about how information technologies can play a role in supporting change I decided to create a series of YouTube-sized bits of content for my students rather than give a lecture. The ‘lecture’ became a series of short videos starring some of my teammates at the Youth Voices Research Group and brilliantly shot and edited (with next to no time) by our uber-talented  resident health promotion videographer, Andrea Yip. This experience, plus exposure to a number of serendipitous videos over the past week had me thinking that a special film and video edition of Amazing Stuff was warranted. So to welcome the month of December, the darkest month of the year for us here in the North, I thought I’d share some sites to visit when you’re huddled inside looking for knowledge, inspiration or amusement:

1. TED. This is fast becoming THE site to waste time on and learn about amazing things from. Originally started as a meeting of artistic and creative types in Monterrey California in 1984, this annual meeting (now spawned into many international meetings) features some of the leading thinkers in such diverse areas as design, science, the arts, politics and public life. You’ll come for one talk and stay for a dozen. This is must-see Web TV.

2. Fora.tv. This newish web channel is another feed for the soul of those interested in science, the economy, technology and other issues that are particularly nerd friendly to us academics. There are some high-quality videos here and some insightful lectures.

3. Current.com is Al Gore’s digital cable channel. There are some interesting things on it, but nothing and I mean nothing beats Infomania; my favourite show on TV, or the Web, or both . Sadly, Infomania is taking a break this week, but the witty satire of the entertainment biz will return in early December.

4. The National Film Board of Canada is one of this country’s gems. It is a treasure-trove of high-quality material and insightful documentaries on a wide range of topics. Perhaps the one that has my interest most piqued is the Filmmaker in Residence program that Kat Cizek has held for the past few years. Kat and her colleagues have done some amazing work at highlighting the perils of homelessness, inner-city health, and the plight of new mothers living in poverty. This is really health promotion video at work and something that I’d like to see a lot more of.

5. And lastly, I came across Publicvoice.tv this past week as I attended the Ivey Centre for Health Innovation and Leadership’s first annual Global Health Innovation conference in Toronto. Publicvoice has a great set of speakers and interviews with people out to change the world and influence Canadian and international public policy. The entire conference and interviews with the key leaders are available at Publicvoice.tv or will be available at the conference’s ongoing Ning community of practice site.

Now if anyone can help me find the time to watch all of this…

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.