I don’t want to be smart, you?

Published in January 2016 - Originally published in Medium

These last months, I have been discussing with some friends a lot about this “smart” everything and “smart” everyone trend. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of semantics or basic human principles but I feel we are losing what makes us human.

Why do I think “smart” is wrong? First of all, because becoming “smart” assumes we were dumb before, which is so unfair and not true. Second, because I think that instead, we are becoming dumber and dumber. We have stopped enjoying a view, a concert or a meal just to twitter/facebook/instagram it right away. We have become less social in real life, to over share in the virtual life. We are creating fake images of ourselves, just to look cool or even worse, “smart”. I always say we live with contradictions, but this is getting worrying, don’t you think?

A smartwatch, with a battery that lasts one day (or five, for some «smart» activity trackers like my Fitbit) and that relies on a smartphone all the time (that is, our watch that is a smartphone’s notification center in our wrist) is not smart at all.

Learning how to speak a language that we developed to communicate with machines that WE created…is not smart. If we are the most “superior and smart” species, shouldn’t machines speak OUR language?

We are in this race of making everything “smart” (call it a phone, a city, a bed, a car, a thing) but we are not asking why things should be smart. We are connecting things because we can and not because that way they will become more useful and will solve our problems.

I just think we need to rethink what we mean and how we want the world to become. Not tomorrow, but today. As we found in our research, people don’t want to be smart, but to have good access to services, be happy, be safe, overcome hard situations, enjoy good moments, work in something that matters to them, etc.

We don’t want smart cities, but livable and lovable places. “Smart” has become just a marketable term that doesn’t care about people. “Smart” has become synonymous of efficient and cost saving, when our happiest moments are totally inefficient: When was the last time you had a nice chat with someone? Was it in a rush? Was there a plan and a critical path to make it efficient? Or was there just a chat because you care about that person? 

Maybe this is an idealistic and naïve point of view. Maybe I’m losing my business and market perspective. Maybe I’m too concerned about the world we are creating for the next generations. Maybe I’m becoming too human. Maybe, I’ve become too dumb.


PS. These conversations have happened randomly and in a very inefficient and not “smart” at all way with Javi, Carlos, Marco, Ricardo, Oscar, Rafa, Quino, Paula, Paco, Javier, Pablo, Sandra, Antonio, Antonio, Carlota, Manu, Victor, Golden, Pamela, Ane, Bert, Ana, Sergio, Bea, David, Alicia, Jose, Andre, Elena, Ana, Aitor, Paloma, Elvira, Nathalie, Jorge Luis, Daniel, Ramon, Pilar, and even mom and dad!

If there's an app for everything there must be something wrong...

Originally published on April 2015 here

A couple weeks ago I had a nice videochat with Golden Krishna, author of the book The Best Interface is no Interface. It was great to connect with someone who is in a similar path as many of us are; trying to make people understand that UX is not UI and also giving solutions that can make people forget their obsession for screens and interfaces. 

This obsession with screens, interfaces and apps (as Golden states “there’s an app for everything...”) plus some “successful*” startups are making us believe that all we need is an app. Some weeks ago I was interviewing some users regarding a food-related solution and one of the interviewees led to this dialog:

User: “it will have an app, right?”

Me: “should it have an app?”

User: “yes, it has to have one. Apps are really useful” 

Me: “do you use many of them? 

User: “yeah!"

Me: Can you show me those?"

User: “well, I only have one, and it’s because of my wife. But everything is an app these days"

So we are believing that everything is an app (or everything has to be digital). Many business schools are focusing on entrepreneurship (which I think it’s great!) but many of the solutions these venture labs are proposing are taking apps as the de facto solution instead of having clear answers to 1. What’s the problem we are solving? and 2. Why does this have to be an app?

I seriously hope, this bubble ends. Many of us are working on making technology more human, almost invisible. But many of us are also still too focused on the tech aspect instead of the human, perhaps more strategic one. I'm not saying that tech is not strategic, but some companies tend to start ONLY with technology to then ask what problems it would solve; as opposed to creating technology to solve people's problems. I think I need to mention Cedric Price's quote "Technology is the answer...but what was the question?"

What are your thoughts about this growing obsession with screens and apps?

* I mention “successful" with quotation marks as we have exposure mostly to those startups who got successful exits or crazy valuations. Those that make every corporation think “we need to work as a startup”. Unfortunately, most of us don’t get to see the tons of startups that fail and pivot or fail and die in their pursuit of success.


Sharing is caring? Or is "sharing" about making money?

Originally published on August 2015, here

This past week RafaJavi and I had an interesting lunch conversation on what the so-called “sharing economy” means and what “sharing” actually means in this context. We also discussed on the levels of disruption that the sharing economy is bringing to the market.

First of all, I agree with the idea that most of the examples of sharing economy (Uber, Airbnb, BlablaCar) are not a sharing economy. Let’s call it by its name: it’s more about taking advantage of unused capacity (in a manufacturer way of saying) to our favor. That is, making money* by using our assets to the full capacity: We have an extra room/house, we put it for rent. We don’t use our car while at work, we put it for rent. We don’t “share” it, we charge for it. And as Rafa said, it’s been the good old concept of renting!

So why was it so hot** and got people still talking and discussing about it? What has technology done in this change? How disruptive has technology been?

Technology, has not been disruptive. It offered options for booking (a car, a room, you say it) and that has been around us for many years. So where’s THE new? What has technology done? My answer can be too simplistic (and I can be wrong), but I think the disruption in this digital economy has been to allow people to become entrepreneurs (call them startup founders to make them sound sexier) and to have a larger, closer audience, given the reach of social media networks and their faster expected response.

So did Airbnb disrupt the accommodation industry? Yes, as it allowed ANYONE to become an entrepreneur by offering accommodation services. Is it putting the industry in risk? That I don’t know as I think the Airbnb option offers a different value than that offered by traditional accommodation services. My guess is that services like Airbnb are increasing the disposable income of families, and that translates into higher levels of consumption (which lastly, should translate into GDP).

So what are the challenges we have to face, or more importantly, the changes we must promote as corporate citizens? I think we need to allow people to become owners of their own change by providing them with the information, facilities and technology that will push them to move forward . I think we need to challenge the city/country policies so that we can promote fair and competitively healthy entrepreneurship. I think we need to push big companies to change their ways of thinking to be more open to innovate and listen to their users as people and not as markets. Lastly, I think we need to make companies (and their shareholders) feel comfortable with ambiguity and with being able to continuously challenge their own business models and structures as I think that in this “a la carte” economy disruption, cannibalization and change are the norm.

Do you have any thoughts to share? (or to care?) ;)

* The only exception that comes to my mind is Couchsurfing (I’ve been both host and guest).
** Just after this lunch discussion, we got this tweet from Paco.

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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rchhcsij--c  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"