"I didn't mean to cause this" (aka Unintended consequences)

I’m not sure if I’m more into the topic, just more aware of the issue, or that this is simply happening more and more often. Many tech solutions that have been developed around the world are facing some criticism because of the side effects they generate: addiction, jobs destruction, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, lack of face to face interactions, etc. We are, in fact, facing some (I hope) unintended consequences of solutions that perhaps started with the best initial intentions but ended up affecting people in different ways.

Companies such as Netflix have been open about their goals. Netflix CEO stated “we actually compete against sleep”. Despite it might sound creepy for many, at least, he’s being honest about how they see their business, and people, are still into it. On the other hand, solutions being tested such as driverless cars are being attacked in California as they are affecting jobs and other groups of people.

Is it the companies’ fault? Is it our fault as design/technology/business people? Is it our fault as users, that we are now becoming victims of our own behaviors?

I’m not sure if companies are taking the unintended consequences into consideration and how they might mitigate those consequences. I’m not sure if they are bringing ethics into the conversation and thinking how their solutions affect the whole system in the early phases of the development process.

Some good friends (Ana, Carlos, Javier, Marco, Oscar, Pamela, Paola, Rafa, Ricardo, Sergio) and I have been discussing how greed is making companies to lean towards more short term solutions. So we might need to go back to the conversation of purpose, business metrics and rewards systems.

Some questions that we could start asking: 

- How sustainable is our business in the long run?

- Have we applied the whole view approach and the potential consequences of our solutions?

- How might we redefine business success? In that sense, we might also be able to redefine what a successful career means.

- Are we contributing in the creation of healthy, non-greedy businesses? Is it actually possible?

- If we believe that people care about companies that care (not only in terms of their products and services, but also in terms of their employees and their lives), how might we give more visibility to those companies/firms that care? 

- How might we build companies that can help make this a better place and society to live and thrive?

As always, this is just a personal point of view and a conversation starter. Would you add more questions? Or ideally, do you have any answers? :)


Beyond the hype

I’ve been waiting for the Amazon Go hype to calm down a little bit to share some questions that I’ve been asking myself. I’ve been thinking in the (very basic) human factors framework (physical, cultural, social, emotional, cognitive) as a way to frame some questions.

For the record, I love the idea of Amazon Go. It seems like an amazing technological bet that shows us what’s possible and what the future can look like but do we have answers to questions like:


- How could this work without a mobile phone?

- Ok, no check-out lines, but a controlled access line (depending on the amount of people coming in) How could a check-in line be managed?

- Many people tend to make last-minute decisions to drop the stuff anywhere in the store, not in the precise aisle. And some pick them up from there. Does it still work?

- In what other kind of environments could this walk out technology succeed?

- Perhaps less relevant, but a question some people might ask: What’s the long-term effect of continuous radiation on food (and on people)?


- Regarding a larger adoption of this solution, how could we include the social aspect of grocery shopping? How could we consider the relationships people build in time in their traditional markets? (this can be very specific to some cultures: the fish shop, the butcher, fruit & veg, etc.)

- Together with the prior, how can we tackle the impact of technologies in terms of job creation? What are the new skills to be learned and how can we people be prepared for the next roles? How does education need to change? What other unintended consequences can show up?

- Could all these advancements lead to a stronger nostalgia and a real search for a slow-paced lifestyle?

As usual, this is a conversation starter…these have been just conversations I’ve had with my good friends here, so feel free to add or maybe, give some answers!

Luis Eduardo Dejo

Picture credits: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/dam/assets/180126023346-amazon-go-inside-780x439.jpg


Originally published on Medium

Random thoughts on the connected everything

In the last 12 months, I’ve been lucky to speak in some events in Ukraine, in Portugal and in Spain and to participate in some very deep conversations with Golden, Pamela, Bruce, Ricardo, Marco and some of my friends from my alma mater, the Illinois Tech Institute of Design and from work (Javier, Sergio, Paola, Paula, Carlos, Rafa, David). After talking about food and travel (probably the topics I’m more curious about) we have been discussing about how technology affects our life; the tech mindset; the smart-everything fever and, what IoT means, beyond the billions of connected objects that most tech reports say will exist.

I just wanted to share some thoughts about how we can help technology have a positive impact in people’s lives:

On Sensing vs Making Sense 
In this industry, many companies believe that this is all about sensors. Sensors everywhere, some connectivity and boom! The IoT is done. But hey, that’s just the sensing part. But what about the making sense part? And that’s data. We can’t connect objects without considering the data we get. What are we doing with the data we gather? How might we make people take action of their data? And more importantly, what kind of new services or solutions can we create to solve more human problems?

On Why we should connect objects to the internet 
The other part of making sense is about what we connect. As in many of my previous posts, my natural question as a design researcher and strategist is WHY. Why should we connect or put a sensor of things? Many of the consumer products related with the internet of things are mostly created because it’s cool or because we can. As we are in the beginnings of this new era of connectivity, it’s great that we are testing and learning what's possible with this type of products. But I think, it’s time to start making sense of what and why we connect. Not only because we need to start solving real problems, but also because we have to start thinking of designing systems and platforms of connected objects that any company can build upon.

On the Nature and Purpose of products (or "let's let things be things") 
It seems it's all about making sense. We’ve also been talking about how objects should not change their essence just because they are connected. I brought the example of the connected suitcase that will give you GPS location, a charger for your phone, and many tech features you can imagine but…it doesn’t leave too much room for your clothes!!! Let's ask ourselves, what is it for and how can we improve its benefits? Let's not forget what's the job-to-be-done that the object help us accomplish.

On making tech less intrusive 
I believe that despite our attachment for certain objects, we can’t pretend to build human-like relationships with objects. More importantly, the objects we connect, should not become a distraction from our main tasks. Sometimes we tend to feel that the more we interact with our products/services the best, but what if we change the metric? Maybe, we are coming from the web industry where "active users" is a key metric of success. But should we keep the same metrics with the connected objects? What if not interacting with your product is a successful case? What can we, in the tech world, do to understand that if people don’t need to take any action is because everything is alright and working properly?

We are in the best moment to imagine and test new technologies for a better world. Let’s just keep in mind that we should aim at making technology more human instead of making humans more technological.

What if we start bringing different perspectives into the tech conversations? 

Are we in the middle of a design bubble?

This is a post inspired by Bruce Nussbaum’s post on Medium and Andy Hunter’s post on Linkedin 

Many times I heard and read that if a taxi driver or your hairdresser gives you advice on the stock market, it’s a sign of a financial bubble. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a taxi driver or a hairdresser (or a geologist, doctor, designer, etc) having interest in capital markets, but when everybody becomes an investment expert a market bubble could be happening and burst…soon.

A market bubble tends to be negative. However, in this case, I’m not quite sure if this is good or bad, but I feel something similar is happening now with Design. Many of us have been pushing a lot to get design into the main conversation, aiming at becoming more than the group of people that make things pretty. Many of us have pushed a lot to get design in the strategy table and in many cases, some of us have succeeded. Yay!

These days it’s very common to bring terms such as design, design thinking, UX, CX, innovation by design, etc. into different conversations. I’m glad there’s more access to guidance and education on those themes and I’m sometimes amazed how empowered people feel even after a 3-hour only course. Nothing wrong with that, but as Bruce says, the commodification of design is happening. This is when many of us get to believe that design is all about frameworks, canvases, personas and journey mappings, etc. and then... magic just happens? I think that can be a problem. Many people are starting to learn different methods but some people are taking the methods as an end, and not as the means to an end. - On top of this, I remember Larry Keeley telling us that frameworks are tools, we don't need to show them in a final report.

I feel something similar is happening with co-creation, which is part of human-centered design. Co-creation is even becoming part of advertising messages (I recently saw "The first co-created hotel"). Just like in the previous paragraph, I get the feeling that some of us are using co-creation as an end, that is taking direct inputs from users into solutions. I think (and I’ve exchanged some thoughts with Carlos, Javi, Jus, Karolina, Leticia, Marco and Reena) it should be taken more like a research technique. I mean, it’s not about users saying “I want it blue” (and making it blue), but about understanding why our users said that and what the values and motivations are behind that choice.

And this is my take: Maybe I’m also part of the problem. I’m one of those former business/marketing guys who changed his life after attending Design school and came out empowered with a different perspective. But don't get me wrong, I don't think this is as negative as a market bubble. Probably this commodification of design is just a natural cycle and it’s good. When I worked in marketing, I heard from many people phrases like “oh! this brand/product lacks ‘marketing' that's why it's not a top seller” so many times. What people meant was that those brands had not reached enough levels of awareness to be ordered by customers. But people called it simply ‘marketing'. And there were (are) marketing people and ‘marketing' people. So, there must be design people and ‘design' people. Hope I can fit in the non quotation marks type.

Anyways, I just wanted to share some thoughts that have been flying in my head lately. One of the things I told my students was to be humble. Human-centered design is one of many different approaches for problem solving. It’s not a magic bullet and it will not save a company if there’s no willingness and openness to try new things, to take some risks and to change. 


PS. I imagine this can generate discussion. This is just a point of view.