For decades, companies from Cisco Systems to Staples to Bank of America have worked to embed the basic techniques of Six Sigma, the business approach that relies on measurement and analysis to make operations as efficient as possible. More recently, in the last 5 to 10 years, they have been told they must master a new set of skills known as “design thinking.” Aiming to help companies innovate, design thinking starts with an intense focus on understanding real problems customers face in their day-to-day lives — often using techniques derived from ethnographers — and then entertains a range of possible solutions.
I was asked to give this talk to invite you to think deeply. For those who don’t know me… I'm an ethnographer. I study how social media has become a part of daily life. I'm also an activist, driven to making the world a better place through the production and dissemination of knowledge. And I'm also a geek and a blogger. I've been blogging for 13 years, determined to communicate to the world what I've had the privilege of witnessing. I love technology but I also love to be critical of technology. What keeps me up at night is trying to make sense of how social media transforms society and, more importantly, what it helps make visible about humanity. Technophobes love to talk about how technology is ruining everything and technophiles obsess over how everything is radically different. I like to wade through the extremes to see the subtle inflection points. Reality is always in the details. My goal today is to invite you to step back and ask: what hath we wrought?
Google announced on its company blog that Chinese hackers had attacked its users and as a result Google.cn may leave China due to the security breaches. While unfortunate that Google.cn may be shutting down, my ethnographic work in China revealed five things that aren’t being told in the current story.
How many design icons were developed based on consumers' stated needs? We've researched this question, and think we've found the answer: none. Celebrated examples such as the iPod, Walkman, Dyson Cyclone, Formway Lifechair and Fisher and Paykel Dishdrawer all have one thing in common-a strong team of designers who ignored focus groups and ended up shaping markets to their advantage. Although it's tempting to attribute this success to lone genius, analysis reveals that these products are underpinned by design-led cultures.