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? 

On finding purpose and creating meaning (aka "let's stop doing things because we can, let's start doing them because they solve a problem")

Published in October 25, 2015 here.

A couple weeks ago, I attended the first edition of Productized Conference in Lisbon. I was invited to run a workshop on understanding experiences and to give a short lecture on what's happening now. 

It was a very nice crowd. It’s always great to meet people who are also trying to create change and bring "the NEW"* to our lives. That also means that we are all struggling along the process.

I enjoyed all the presos and convos I could attend and get involved. In particular, I was happy to find that Lars Rosengren and I focused on similar topics: finding purpose and creating meaning

As a summary of the conversations I frequently have, I think most of the teams have little time to think WHY we do things and to search for deeper answers. We need to find more time to rethink what we are doing and why we are doing what we do. We tend focus too much on the WHAT.

We tend to fall in Maslow’s golden hammer idea of "if the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything as if it were a nail” and we forget the WHY and the problems we are trying to solve. For instance, I found out today that there’s an iPhone app that can help us relax. I wonder if we are focusing too much on the symptoms and not the root causes. A smartphone app to relax might be just a sort of ibuprofen that attacks a symptom, not a real problem. Maybe the real problem is that we are too tied to our smartphones.

Maybe this is the right time to think of other options to solve problems. Maybe it’s the time to find out what those problems are first. And together, we might really create the NEW.

I’d love to start a conversation, let’s get connected.

PS. If you have time, a link to my talk is at  where I share what we see is happening, our team's current explorations and the challenges we might face in the future.. All based in my conversations with some amazing people: AaronAitorAgustinAntonio,  Antonio, Carlos,  GoldenJavierKarolinaPacoPamelaPaulaQuinoRafaeland Sandra

* "The NEW" is a term I took from Kim Erwin's book "Communicating The New"

Take two: Human needs are not what most companies are tackling

Published on September 12, 2014

After my first post I got very interesting comments, funny messages, feedback and also some misunderstandings. For those who got a bit confused, I didn’t mean to say shampoo companies were wrong. It was just an example that I experienced in my past life as a marketer; an analysis of how human perspective is different than industry perspective; and how human perspective might open different opportunities for innovation.

I hope I can be more clear this time. I will bring a classic marketing example and an expanded interpretation that my good friend Marco and I presented at IE Business School in Madrid. We started quoting Thedore Levitt (author of Marketing Myopia):

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole”

For those manufacturers that want to innovate by adding more features to their products, or making more sophisticated power drills, we have bad news: people are not necessarily looking for your tools, they are looking for the work that is done by the drill (a quarter-inch hole!).

But we delved a bit more and said that “people might not want a quarter-inch hole, they might want to hang a picture of their family”. And then we went even deeper: “people might not want to hang a family picture, maybe they want to feel closer to their family”.

So, asking “what features should we add to our power tools to be more competitive?” vs “how might we make people feel closer to their family?” might take us to different directions and opportunities. And I think that’s the human approach. Unfortunately, the power drill manufacturer might not be able to answer the second question with their current product portfolio but it must be a good trigger to start asking “what business are we in?”

Have you asked yourself what business is your company in lately?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have a great day,



Take one: Are You also Working on Innovation?

Originally Published on September 1, 2014 at

Just ideas based on what I’ve been learning in these last years.

Innovation is an overused word these days. It’s also one of those words that we don’t know how to define. Just by quickly googling the word “innovation” I got almost 384 million results in a third of a second. That sounds like a lot. (As a reference, a search for “creativity” and “sustainability” gave me 197 and 39 million results respectively).

We look up to the googles, apples and ubers of the world; we want to be more innovative and we also want to have the word innovation on our business cards (yes, I’m part of that group, I know!). But how innovative are companies these days? And what are they doing to be more innovative?

From my experience, we are far from the ideal. But, is there an ideal when we still cannot agree on a single definition of innovation? My intention is not to define what innovation is, but to share some perspectives that I have experienced as I worked in innovation.

While working as a marketer in innovation for personal care brands at some CPG (FMCG) companies, we usually asked “what’s the next shampoo or haircare product we are going to launch?” That question led to some market and industry research, and let us prepare a clear product pipeline for the following years. We asked that question because 1. We knew how to make shampoo; 2. We had the resources and facilities to manufacture it; and not less important 3. We were good at making awesome marketing campaigns.

Following the shampoo example, we corporate employees tend to see users as shampoo buyers only. And we get even excited when we see our brands in someone’s shopping cart! Do you see my point? That’s the industry/company perspective. As Patrick Whitney (IIT Institute of Design) says, companies tend to see users as markets, not as people. And they tend to see innovation as product innovation only.

So, what if we asked a different question? As we were targeting 18–30 years old women, what if instead of asking “what’s the next shampoo we will launch?” we asked “What would make our users feel more self-confident and prepared for social interactions?” — I guess the answer would not have been “shampoo”. It would probably have included a whole system of solutions (products and services) that could have been out of the company’s current reach, thus leading to strategic partnerships and/or acquisitions.

But are companies willing to take that approach? I am not trying to make shampoo manufacturers give up their factories or other companies to get rid of their core assets. I’m just saying that if we start looking at our users as people, we might start asking different questions. And those answers, might open new opportunities for growth.

How to find the right balance for a user and a company perspective? I still haven’t found the answer, but we (our team and other user-centered designer friends) are working on bringing more user-perspective to companies. I don’t think there will be a single winning answer and we have to deal with that uncertainty.

As this is a conversation starter, what are your thoughts on innovation?