Method’s CEO Eric Ryan, On Building a Business With a Social Mission

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Date: 31 de marzo de 2011 07:33:01 a.m. CST
Subject: Method’s CEO Eric Ryan, On Building a Business With a Social Mission

Method’s CEO Eric Ryan, On Building a Business With a Social Mission

Eric Ryan

After ten years in business and hundreds of innovations, we can still confidently say that our proudest achievement at method remains our first: launching a company with a social mission to do good in the world. It was the right thing to do for society and the planet, and we’ve proven that it’s the right thing to do for the bottom line too. The rapid expansion of media transparency is producing increasingly well-informed and discriminating consumers. Similarly, the influx of socially and environmentally conscious Gen Yers into the workforce is redefining the war for talent. These two shifts challenge most established businesses — but they’re also significant competitive advantages to mission-driven companies. See More







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“User driven Innovation” Stuart Karten, en el “Kicker Studio’s 2010 Device Design Day

La tecnología hoy en día hace posible prácticamente lo imposible. EL reto que los diseñadores de nuevos productos afrontan, es el la implementación de esta tecnología a soluciones que realmente cubran y faciliten las necesidades de las personas. En la industria de los aparatos auditivos para la sordera, la tecnología actual permite hacer un dispositivo cada vez mas pequeño y abre la posibilidad de mejorar la interfaz de uso. Karten nos cuenta como a la compañía Starkey’s hearing aids junto con el equipo de SKD su compañía consultora en innovación, logran desarrollar la tecnología en una familia de dispositivos auditivos que cubran necesidades latentes para personas entre 65 y 85 años. 

En esta plática Karten comparte la metodología (herramientas y estrategia) que emplearon desde la investigación hasta el proceso de desarrollo del producto hasta su interfaz final.

Herramientas y procesos
Me parece importante que den un vistazo al proceso que explica Karten, y denomina “User driven innovation” y comparen como se asemeja al proceso de insitum, que hemos estado revisando en clase, para los que no sepan de lo que les estoy hablando copio este diagrama a continuación.


Empieza con un “challenge” o reto, continua con lo que el denomina fundacional research que en realidad es conocer bien a la industria y hacer un buen análisis comparativo “landscape analysis” luego van a hacer entrevistas contextuales con los usuarios en riesgo (demographic), que quiere decir aquellos que por tener características específicas en un momento dado (edad, disabilidad, ocupación, genero etc.) pueden tener mayor problema con la interacción del producto.

Estas entrevistas contextuales buscan descubrir barreras y encontrar insights, y la observación del producto en el contexto. Para le análisis de información introducen un concepto de “mode mapping” (una herramienta visual que enganche a los diseñadores en la investigación) la analogía es que con esta herramienta se vuelven topógrafos donde “mapean” la información para descubrir un “design driver” .

Estas claves basadas en diseño ayudan a la innovación. Una vez que el equipo descubre claves de diseño idean una especie de “emocional borad” que en SKD llaman, Emotional innovation lo que lleva a construir la estrategia para llevar acabo el desarrollo e implementación de producto.

Stuart menciona aspectos de funcionalidad del producto y en explica el concepto de rapid prototyping al introducir evaluaciones constantes antes de entregar un producto final, explica el término de Evaluate 360 que son pruebas constantes de los prototipos, con 22 participantes que ya usaban el producto y otros que nunca lo habían usado, todos probaron el dispositivo donde el equipo exigían que el producto fuera funcional –a pesar de poder aplicar tecnologñia de punta– para el grupo en riesgo. Menciona tambien olo que denomina “perceptual testing” donde los usuarios calificaron a estos dispositivos de acuerdo a varios conceptos un tanto mas abstractos com:  (Comfort, Reliability, entre otros)  y los constantes ajustes que surgen a partir de etas pruebas, finalmente llegando al producto final y a 27 especificaciones que recomiendan a los usuarios.

Para terminar nos muestra un video que aunque fue realizado en las etapas medias del proceso engloba lo que lograron desarrollar.

<p>User-driven Innovation from Kicker Studio on Vimeo.</p>


Como reflexión o pienso que la importancia de hacer ese “mode mapping” que -por cierto ganó un premio- es un aspecto de vital importancia para el proceso de innovación y el descubrimiento de “insights”, La visualización de datos como herramienta, no sólo para enganchar a los diseñadores en la investigación, sino para comunicar y comparir conocimiento, es un aspecto que quiero explorar a fondo.

De alguna manera, insitum está haciendo esto con sus explicaciones visuales y con los vídeos que vimos hace poco del equipo en brasil, me gustaría documentar un poco mas el uso de estas herramientas y reforzar el proceso para que se convierta en una herramienta vital para la empresa.

El último aspecto que les quiero mencionar es que durante esta plática Stuart  menciona algo que permitió que este proceso y metodología se llevara acabo, me refiero a cuando dice el comentario del CEO de la compañía, quien es un “Design Advocate” es decir es un abogado defensor del siseo a quien ya no tenemos que educar respecto a la idea de que el diseño o “pensamiento de diseño” junto con la investigación centrada en el usuario, puede incitar a la innovación. Y si me preguntan los diseñadores tenemos que volvernos unos abogados defensores de estas herramientas y metodologías aun y cuando no los hayamos experimentado en carne propia.













Seleccionando las características de un producto | Studio Notes

Selecting the right features for your product is a tough topic that defies any clear explanation. The fact is, you could read a hundred books on innovation and play brainstorming games until you’re blue in the face and still launch with the wrong features. The hard truth about deciding on the right product features is that formulas and methodologies can only take you so far and that the rest requires a bit of magic. If this weren’t true, we would have more people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs.

The problem is there are simply too many angles to assess when deciding on a product’s feature set. Some of those angles include the messiness we call human emotions which have a tendency to be fickle and be influenced by social forces we only notice after it’s too late.

Why does it require magic? Because magic is what it takes to predict the future and innovate after you’ve done everything humanly possible to understand the issues. The magic comes from a team or individual who has a vision—who can immerse themselves in the issues, fly above them for a bird’s eye view and come out the other side with the “right” solution.

Having a vision is a special and rare talent that just because you’ve earned a Harvard MBA doesn’t qualify you to possess it. It’s why we celebrate people like Steve Jobs and his accomplishments. Sure, Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook (perhaps, a little by accident) but it’s Jobs who hits it out of the park over and over again and it’s only Jobs who has enough credibility to call his latest creation the “post-PC device.”

Many CEOs of startups already sense and envy this magic. Where they get in trouble is when they naively believe all it takes is gut instinct to arrive at the right product. They skip the homework and go right to the exam, failing terribly. Not only do they lose by not understanding their customers, but they may not possess that special ability which allows some to make keen observations, feel empathy for their users and stitch together conventional elements to invent something different and delightful.

So, arriving at the right set of features for a product is a combination of both process and magic where one is a tool for learning and the other for predicting a future state. Fortunately for us, the first part is something that can be learned and put into practice. The other one involves genius and maybe more luck than we’d like to admit. (After all, who could have guessed that a micro-blogging tool with a 140 character limit would be such a hit.)

The following covers the part we can learn and outlines a method for arriving at an initial set of product features that can then be designed and tested for perceived value. Each phase builds from the previous one and while it may seem like a lot and take a few days to get through, it’s a necessary process for approaching the problem at many angles. To complicate things further, every product and situation is unique but by covering a multi-vector research plan (looking at customers, trends, technology, competition, etc.) we begin to strategically narrow down the list of possible features for our product and find room for innovation.


Before we can begin to talk about our product’s feature set, we need to envelop ourselves in what we’re about to examine. An immersion phase provides the knowledge foundation for making educated guesses that we can then test, revise or throw out. Immersion give us insight into what the issues are in the first place and exposes the different angles to the problem. As you can imagine, skipping this important phase is just like showing up to the exam without studying. Do your homework!

According to Adam Richardson, creative director at Frog, immersion brings together a multitude of factors:

  • Competitors (direct and adjacent)
  • Comparative companies and products who can provide useful lessons
  • Your company’s own business, capabilities, brand and values
  • Broad cultural and economic trends
  • Technology enablers available internally and externally

It may be added that the tools for arriving at these factors include:

  • Competitive and comparative analysis
  • Surveys
  • Customer/partner interviews
  • Ethnographic studies
  • Persona creation
  • Scenario/task exploration
  • Usability testing (current product or competitors’ products)
  • Researching new and available technology

A competitive/comparative analysis helps us understand where there’s room for differentiation, what conventions already exist, and what available technology there is. While our user research and documentation helps us understand who we’re selecting the features for and in what context they may be used.

Setting Product Goals

Once we’ve set up our knowledge base we take a day or two to educate all the stakeholders and next, begin the ideation phase. But before we dive into a brainstorm session we need to discuss and list the goals surrounding the product. This will help us not waste time on ideas or concepts that are not in the current interest of the business.

Some examples of project goals include:

Business Goals
e.g. drive foot traffic to locations, educate, register users

Product Goals
e.g. longer user engagement time, provide online support, ease of use

User Goals
These typically come from the created personas which in turn, come from research

Short-Term Goals
e.g. launch for upcoming event, register users, mobile presence

Long-Term Goals
e.g. make money, launch enterprise version, charge for business services

e.g. maximize revenue, provide full-featured app, satisfy all customer types


To begin the ideation phase, we place on a wall or whiteboard four labels. A moderator will use sticky notes to write down any proposed features and place it under a label. Some areas will already be filled with product feature ideas gathered from our Immersion Phase (i.e. business requirements, user goals, features most competitors already have, etc.)

The four designated areas act as catalysts for product feature brainstorming and put both the “known” (gathered from research) and “unknown” (future-predicting innovation) side by side.

The objective isn’t to restrict ideation to confined containers, but to ensure we’re considering all the major product angles. To keep the session free-flowing, ideas may be duplicated under one or more areas and/or combined. Using sticky notes makes it easy to swap ideas from one category to another. Participants then add to the existing pre-populated ideas and debate and discuss additional ways to innovate.

The four areas include:

Features based on business requirements
This area includes pre-populated features (sticky notes) based on stakeholder interviews from the immersion phase. However, additional requirements may be added as the product discussion widens. This typically includes features like user registration, optimization, login, etc.

Features based on best practices
Includes pre-populated features based on competitive and comparative analysis. Features may include the ability to upload images, search, offline support, sync between multiple devices, etc.

Features based on user goals
Includes pre-populated features based on customer research and personas. This essentially shows what users are wishing for but also leaves room for brainstorming unmet user/customer needs and desires.

Features based on innovation
This is the only area without any pre-populated feature ideas. The previous three areas help ensure we’re covering the essentials. The ideas generated for the innovation area come from discussion surrounding competitive differentiation, market opportunity and emerging technologies and typically make room for any ‘blue sky’ thinking.

To capture what was gained from the brainstorm session, pictures are taken of the whiteboard display, summarized in a document and shared among participants.

Narrowing the Feature Set

Brainstorm sessions are for idea generation, not for deciding feature sets. This is sometimes difficult to communicate to impatient CEOs who wish to walk out of a four-hour brainstorm session with a fixed feature set they can hand off to their engineers. One of the objectives of a brainstorm session is to shoot for quantity and so it’s the nature of these sessions to produce more ideas than you need. For that reason, we need a process for narrowing the number of ideas or run the risk of feature bloat (producing a product with too many features). All experienced product managers know the problems associated with feature bloat:

  • Unrealistic product schedules that stress team members
  • A focus on quantity over quality of experience
  • A user experience made cumbersome and complex by too many options
  • The burden of providing support for every new feature
  • Wasting resources, time and money

In an effort to provide an elegant solution for your users and customers, you need to decide which features really provide value to them. And for first version launches, it’s best to plan for a minimal viable product. That is, the balance point where a product fulfills the necessary user goals with the least amount of features.

This is where you begin to ask questions like “Is it important we provide offline support out of the gate?” or “Is a chat widget something our users can live without?”. An MVP is a good, lean strategy that allows a startup or company to safely maintain costs while they confirm interest in their product.

In addition to thinking about an MVP, a checklist helps to narrow the feature list and cut some of the fat. Every feature idea should be examined by asking:

  • Does the feature solve a problem?
  • Is the feature feasible? In other words, can it be technically done now (not 5 years from now)?
  • Would the feature create more value for the customer or is it driven by selfish interests (e.g., using technology as an end rather than a means)?
  • Can it be done within certain amount of time?
  • Are there the resources?
  • What’s the risk of not completing it in time?

After putting your ideas through this rigor, it’s good to ask which ideas we should pursue immediately and which can can be deferred for later.

Often times, brainstorm sessions result in some brilliant ideas ahead of their time. Don’t throw these out! Save them for when the timing is right. For example, it took over 10 years for Wi-Fi to catch on with the public. In 2000, some of us had only one device connected to our home Wi-Fi. Now we have multiple devices that include everything from printers to cameras. Wi-Fi is now considered a standard feature with most electronic devices. Was 2000 a good time to introduce a Wi-Fi printer? Probably not, not enough people had Wi-Fi set up in their home yet. The point is providing a printer with Wi-Fi was a good idea, just not back in 2000.

Now that we’ve narrowed our feature scope based on business goals, knowledge and perceived customer value, we have a starting point for beginning to build a prototype. With the prototype we will layout the features to see if they make sense within the user flow and then, test the prototype to see if the features make sense to our users and customers. From there it’s an iterative cycle of design-test-refine until we have some certainty that the features we’ve chosen are the right ones.

The Magic

“Where does the magic come in?” you might be asking. The magic comes in deciding which features have the potential to be innovative. Innovation is the introduction of an invention to the broader public that improves the current state or condition of something. Just because you’ve launched a feature that nobody has doesn’t mean it’s innovative—it must be adopted by the public first! That’s why focusing on the right features is so important. Miss an upcoming trend or market insight and you could be toast. The visionary is the one who can take in all the information and predict the next thing—not because everyone says so, but because they see it coming from a mile away. That takes talent, not a learned process.

May you have both process and talent!


How to create an interactive iPad app prototype in 30 minutes using keynote | Amir Khella

How to prototype interactive iPad applications in 30 minutes or less using Apple Keynote

How long does it usually take to go from idea to creating a prototype that you can test with users? A month? A week? Few days? How about 30 minutes?

What if you can prototype your next idea quickly and cheaply without using any special wireframing or design tools?

What if you can send your prototype to friends to play with and give you feedback, without having to worry about uploading it to a server or making sure they have the right platform?

What if you can embed your prototype within your product presentation, and click through it to show your audience how it works, rather than overloading their imagination with bullet points?

And what if you can do all this without writing a single line of code?

The challenge with existing prototyping tools is that they require you to become a designer in order to create a good looking, interactive prototype. By taking design out prototyping, you can focus on simply placing components on a page, editing their text, and create links between components and other pages. And contrary to popular beliefs, a prototype doesn’t need to look ugly or rough, especially if you’re presenting it to a prospective client or investor.

The video below shows a sample prototype created using Apple Keynote and Keynotopia‘s iPad prototyping elements, without using additional graphics or tools. You can also see how I am testing the prototype on an iPad, tapping my way through different screens and dialog.

Here are the UI elements I use in that presentation, which were all created in Apple Keynote.







Keynotopia banner

Why use Keynote?

Keynote includes powerful drawing tools, smart guides, styles, locking, and grouping. Master slides make it possible to reuse interface components across multiple screens, hyperlinks add “clickability” to the prototype, and slide transitions create cool interface animations with a single click. Finally, it works seamlessly with Adobe CS apps, so copying and pasting graphics works seamlessly across.

How do you create a similar prototype in 30 minutes or less?

Download the iPad Prototyping template from Keynotopia , and install the file “iPad Prototype.kth” into <UserName> -> Library -> Application Support -> iWork -> Keynote -> Themes. Alternatively, you can double click the file to open it in Keynote, and choose file -> Save Theme. This will create a theme in Keynote that you can reuse to create new presentations, as shown below.


When you create a new presentation based on the iPad Prototype theme, you will see a single black slide. To access the assets, you need to go to the toolbar and click View -> Show master slides.


This will reveal the master slides panel above the slides panel, allowing you to click on a specific master slide and copy/paste assets into your slides.


Step 1: Sketching the user flow

To create your prototype, start by defining the different app screens that you will need and how the user will transition between them. I typically do this as a state diagram as shown below (Created on the iPad using Adobe Ideas).


It’s important that you get this diagram right because it will save you time doing modifications to your prototype later on.

Step 2: Putting together application screens

Next, you create a new slide for each screen, and copy/past components from the masters into each slide (Select a master slide > Select an object > Select target slide > paste object). Since all objects were created in Apple Keynote, they are fully editable (resize, change labels, change colors, add/remote elements, etc…). Each object is a group of building blocks that are grouped together. You can either double click on an object to select each sub-object, or ungroup using the Ungroup button on the toolbar, edit sub-objects, then group again. Grouping makes it easier to select and move objects.

Hint: After you’ve created each screen, you may find it at times easier to move the static components of that screen into its own master slide. That will save you time in making modifications in each slide if you decide to change something later.


After creating each screen, you duplicate (CMD+D) slides and add additional elements to them (pop-ups, fill text, …).



Step 3: Adding interactivity

Finally, it’s time to create transitions between screens. You do this by going through your state diagram, and for each slide, select the element that would transition it to another slide. For instance, clicking a picture shows the profile pop-up, so you’d select the profile picture (you can select all pictures in the slide), and in the Inspector -> Hyperlink select the target slide. Do this for every transition that you have in your state diagram. Keynote will add a blue indicator on each hyperlinked element in your slides.


Hint: Keynote is smart enough to know when you rearrange your slide, and will keep track of the right slide you link to even if you change its sequence order.

Test your presentation frequently to double check that you’re hyperlinking the correct slides.

That’s it! You now have an interactive prorotype within your presentation.

Test it on an iPad !

If you’d like to test this prototype with users and see how they’d use it, you need to export it as QuickTime as shown below (This will prevent screens from automatically advancing if the user clicks a spot that’s not hyperlinked. You then open the prototype in QuickTime Player 7, and interact with it.


If you’d like to test the prototype on the iPad, you need to export the prototype as PDF, email it to yourself or put it in DropBox, then open it on the iPad. In the video above, I use GoodReader to show the PDF file.

Hint: Unfortunately, the Keynote iPad app does not support hyperlinked navigation, so if you open this keynote file on the iPad it will only advance sequentially.

Bonus Hint: Keynote has an automatic tweening/animation feature called Magic Move. If you want to have fun by adding animated transitions, fading pop-ups in and out, you can do so by copying and pasting the shape across two slides, select both slides then selecting the effect as shown below. I found this feature to be unpredictable at times.


Final Words

Remember that a prototype doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to convey your idea better than your words do. Don’t over-engineer it, and don’t prematurely optimize it. Just put together something that users can see and play with. You will get many more insights than spending hours in focus groups, market research and surveys.

Next time you’re giving a pitch, remember to show more and talk less. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.

Creating prototypes is like doing magic: once you understand that all magic happens in the spectator’s mind, you can focus on bringing what matters to the audience. Everything else is a distraction.

If you think this tutorial is useful, or if you have any feedback or questions, leave me a comment below. I will do my best to reply to every single one of them.

Related Posts:

How to prototype like a pro

Are you working on your next startup idea? You can prototype it in 30 minutes or less, using nothing but your favorite presentation tool. No design. No coding. No excuses.

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Muy inetersante para hacer proptotipos rápidos

Una pregunta que nos estamos haciendo en la UAM-C

¿Pueden las escuelas enseñar a diseñadores como resolver problemas sociales?


Can Schools Teach Designers How to Solve the World’s Problems?

Safe Agua Project, SVA

When the first students arrive next year for the School of Visual Arts’ new MFA program in Design for Social Innovation, they won’t find themselves in any old classroom. As befits a program that encourages students to deploy design to improve society and the environment, SVA is investing in retrofitting one of its existing buildings in Manhattan into a LEED-certified learning space that features a playroom “where action, play and creativity reign” and an auditorium “wired to hear from and be heard by the world,” says Cheryl Heller, chairperson of the new department. “We want it to be a window into the world instead of a place in academia,” she adds.

Academia is the place, however, where a new generation of socially engaged designers is being trained at a time when the vaguely defined field is still in its infancy. That hasn’t stopped schools from joining the trend with certificate and degree programs that range from examining “wicked” problems like climate change at Portland’s Pacific Northwest College of art to focusing on “designing for social impact around communications, technology and public policy” at Art Center College of Design in California. Other programs can be found at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Parsons the New School of Design. For its part, SVA is hoping to attract up to 25 students for the inaugural two-year program that will cost budding social designers more than $67,000. 

What students get for their money is an immersion in society’s large messy problems (usually in collaboration with local organizations) and insight into how designers can help solve them. The programs are based on the kind of questions that Mike Weikert, director of MICA’s MA program in Social Design asks: “As designers we can wield a big stick, we have influence, and so what is our responsibility? What do we give back to society?” The answers center on “design thinking” and “human-centered design,” popular buzz phrases that underpin a new design process not only for commercial products but also designer do-goodism. 

That is, expanding design beyond the craft of creating beautiful and highly marketable artifacts to being directly involved in the process of change. Or as Jamer Hunt, chair of the awkwardly named Urban and TransDesign Program at Parsons, puts it, “We have evolved beyond making MP3 players out of bamboo.” If you’re a product designer, talk to rural Chinese about flat-screen televisions and design and market one with them in mind. If you’re a social designer, live in a Chilean slum and experience going without clean water—and then design a water delivery system (like the Safe Agua project, designed by Art Center students below.)

Social design education helps develop “character, empathy, cultural awareness and flexibility,” says Mariana Amatullo, vice president of Designmatters, a decade-old social design organization at Art Center College of Design that now has a concentration and an MFA in the field. The programs envision themselves as a sort of design Peace Corps, tackling real world issues like food distribution (a Parsons project) or engaging with local communities (as MICA is doing in its low-income east Baltimore neighborhood). 

But even an expensive Masters degree might not help you land a job in the field. The pitch to potential social design students is that they might find work at foundations, nonprofits, NGOs and design consultancies like IDEO and Continuum that are engaged with social design. Or perhaps at Apple in an emerging market, or in non-traditional design places like government agencies, boards of education, or in corporate responsibility positions. If not now then later, reckons SVA’s Heller, who believes that “opportunities will expand as awareness expands.”

One stumbling block for the future of social design is that nobody has figured out how to make it a profitable or self-sustaining enterprise. Many firms are experimenting with business models, including for-profits and nonprofits, foundations and hybrid formulations, but for the moment social design efforts play more to building a firm’s brand and reputation while pursuing the admirable goal of helping humanity. 

Still, students are gravitating to the field as social issues move to the top of their agenda. Becky Slogeris, a 22-year-old senior at MICA majoring in graphic design, is considering the school’s social design masters program because she wants to be a designer who “doesn’t just clean things up” with a new logo or brand but who makes organizations work better.

As the schools enroll their first students, it’s still unclear what social design programs can really teach and how effective they will be. For her part, Slogeris is weighing whether she could become a social designer on her own or if the MICA program, with its excellent faculty, connections, and commitment would accelerate that process. And then there’s the extra $30,000 in student loans.

Perhaps a better definition of social design is needed and a better way to evaluate the success of projects, suggests Sergio Palleroni, a professor at Portland State University and a senior fellow at itsCenter for Sustainable Solutions, which is launching a certificate program of its own in public interest design. “We have a clear idea of what a doctor or lawyer is,” he points out “but not for architects and designers and how they serve the public.” 

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