Category Archives: smarter_planet

Of doors and telephones

Ever since I’ve actively started screening my twitter stream, I’ve come across a lot of great articles on usability and good design principles.

A very interesting and standard pattern these articles seem to follow is that in order to bring out principles of good design, they pick up real world examples of bad design and explain why the design is bad; how it violates certain usability guidelines and how you can apply a design principle to make it a good design.

Another peculiar thing that I noticed is that almost invariably, most of these articles end up using two very common everyday objects as  examples of “bad design” : telephones and doors

I can sort of understand and agree that telephones can get intimidating to users specially when they try to use the advanced features like multi-way conferencing or setting up auto redial on no response.

But I was pretty surprised to find so many doors being cited as examples of bad design. A door is a pretty straightforward simple everyday object with absolutely no advanced behavior. All you can do with it is Open it and Close it by either a pull or a push. Even simpler ones are the sliding doors, which i’ve never even bothered to think about because I don’t have to do anything to get them to open or close. I can walk by and be sure they’ll automatically open and shut and let me in or out. Thankfully, i’ve never had panic attacks being trapped inside closed unlocked doors not being able to figure out which way it opens!

Things are about to change though. those very same doors that i’ve walked through innumerable times are in for a close scrutiny when i pass them next time. Indavertantly, i’m sure i’m going to stop and take a second look at them, review their design and slot them into good design/bad design buckets!


Smart Design.. or designer??

Well, what would you do if you were asked to create designs for bears? I mean, apart from telling me that i’m probably out of my mind!

Would you give it a try?

Take a look at this slide deck which i came across  in my twitter stream:

Lucy Spence makes it look so easy

… and so logical!

Logical it is. Most usability folks will agree that observation is the most important step in getting to know your users; even if they’re bears! Observe them and you’ll know what they need to get their work done; making it easier for you to give them what they actually want.. rather than second guessing.

I loved the uncomplicated and to the point sketches that get the point across very well.

Enabling businesses to go social

For the longest time, I used to think collaboration is same as teamwork and they could both be used inter-changeably. For starters, both stand for “working together”. Also, both involve a bunch of people working together with the intention of getting something done. So, what’s the difference then? Is there really a difference?

Apparently, there is…

Teamwork is an organized division of tasks at hand. It’s when people are structured to work together in a particular manner to accomplish a common goal. This common goal is more important than individual opinions and in most situations, majority counts. The process is a formal one.

Collaboration on the other hand, is a more casual setup. There is no ONE leader. Everyone works in conjunction with another to accomplish a common goal. The process fosters creativity because the goal still needs to be achieved but the onus is on the individual players to share knowledge, understand working patterns and get things to work, while still holding on to individual values and opinions.

Collaboration can sometimes get you better results than a structured team.

So how do you decide which one works for you? Make a call. Assess the risks, look at your end goal, your time-lines and then decide.

Teamwork most likely utilizes proven methods and concepts to fetch results. Structure and discipline will make sure the job gets done on time. But there will most likely be no innovation. If you are trying to come up with something new, go for collaboration. Creative individuals will bring new ideas to the table. The lack of structure may initially account for some additional time to get things moving smoothly, but once the team dynamics are in place, the job will get done, probably much better than what teamwork could have achieved in a similar scenario.

Collaboration today has become fairly straightforward in the workspace given  a) people’s familiarity with the concept of social networking and their ability to utilize their networks to do things or get things done; and   b)the availability of many social and collaboration tools for enterprises in the market.

Social computing gives us a way to tap into each other and bring the combined talent of the network to solve business challenges.

The catch, however, is that using social computing tools at the workplace requires you to change your mindset about how you do your everyday work:    to understand where exactly collaboration and open communication fits in as opposed to the closed avenues of sharing information like emails, memos fliers and files; to utilize the social computing tools to solicit feedback, opinions and inputs from a the larger pool of employees rather than depend on the traditional organizational hierarchy for gathering required data; to accept the fact that none of us is as smart as all of us.

Here’s advice from Sandy Carter, IBM’s VP on how you become a social business:

and here is an example of how CEMEX, a global leader in the building materials industry, went about becoming a social business with the help of IBM social software like Lotus Connections:

“Social” is the future of your business…

The last couple of decades saw the ascent and peak of Web 2.0. It was the beginning of the era of Collaboration. People crossed all barriers of time, geography and culture and were connected to each other by common interests. People networks flourished on the internet in a never-seen-before way.

Twitter Addict

Anything that let people connect and communicate was in.  The “Social” trend was born. Interesting statistics emerged about how people used their people network and social connections to gain information which was of direct value to them. Online reputations took precedence in decision making and forming opinions.

Businesses and enterprises soon realized the vast potential that could be leveraged off of this new phenomenon. When people discussed what they liked and what they did not, it was an opportunity for identifying Market Trends and Business Opportunities.  By penetrating into people’s networks and becoming a part of people’s connections… by understanding their needs, making people aware of what they had to offer, why they were better and by managing good online reputations, businesses secured a loyal customer-base.

What started off as a trend is pretty much way of life for businesses now. Enterprises, however big or small, invest millions to put their best social foot forward. Direct interactions with customers to understand what they need and with business partners to better enable them have proven to be the key differentiators in the market today. According to the IBM 2011 CEO study, getting closer to customers was CEOs’ overwhelming top priority.

social enterprise
Obviously, this is taking it a bit too far.. but if done right, highly networked social enterprises are 50% more likely to be profit-consolidators in their industries.  In addition to their customers and business partners, providing a social collaboration platform for their employees to share and brainstorm ideas enables more fluid information flows, helps deploy talent more flexibly to deal with problems, and allows employees lower in the corporate hierarchy to make decisions.

The seriousness of it all can be gauged by the fact that social strategy organizations like Social Business Index, which ranks/scores the social performance of top global companies and provides analytics and competitive intelligence to improve social media performance has most stalwart organizations like Google, Samsung, Coca-Cola, Levi’s, Dell, Target, and even IBM listed on their site.

Social is indeed the future of all businesses. It has the potential to generate this vast amount of data to augment what’s already out there in the web. It is time to make sense of all that data. According to TheNextWeb, “That treasure trove of data and potential insight is ripe for analysis and insight to understand the impact and value of a particular activity. That insight can be immediately acted on to optimize the strategies of a brand because of the unique nature of social’s authentic, two way communication with the market. Not only does this provide the potential for superior marketing results, but creates the opportunity to test many messages with many segments and measure them individually ”

Notes or Connections?

I happened to listen in on a debate recently about why we keep going back to email when we harp about social tools to communicate.

The premise is interesting:

We have Connections that lets people share and collaborate via Activities, Blogs, File sharing and posting messages on your Profile board.

We also have Lotus Notes which is the traditional email that we’re so used to accessing every now and then to check if someone has something to say to us.

While most of us have Lotus Notes open and running the entire day, very few of us can say the same thing about being logged into Connections all day long. Email still is our primary mode of communication. Primarily, we all belong to the email culture. When I have some piece of information that I need to share with my team mates, the first urge is still to open a new email message and send it out. It is a habit that will take some conscious efforts to move away from.

I know a few who have successfully managed to move to Connections as their preferred mode of communication, but they are not very many in number.  They too, however, need to have their mail apps running all day. Reason? Communication is a two way thing. They may use Connections but most people they interact with are still email-first people.

While i’m an email person who knows i should be using more of Connections rather than Lotus Notes, i’d like to know about you:

Smarter marketing

This one is totally for laughs!!

Break Window for window repairs

Well, maybe not!!

This pic reminded me of the time we were driving on the highway and suddenly had a flat tyre.. only to find that the tyre repair shop was very conveniently located just a 100 mts ahead!!

Have you had a real-life experience that the above pic reminds you of?

A penny for your thoughts…

So, what do you think it is, that really makes a planet “smart”?

Smart people? Smart Technology?

I can go in circles 🙂

Without smart people there would be no smart technology.
However, the technology is not smart if it cannot be used easily by masses and not just by a handful of smart folks who created it…

Go ahead.. share your thoughts: