Monday, February 17, 2014

How People Use Technology

One of the most important tasks many organizations have is getting a feel for how existing and potential customers/clients utilize technology.  In the age of smart whatever, Internet of things, robotic/AI interfaces, driverless cars, etc., trying to understand what the customer/client wants is "The" design function.  This is not just limited to the technology gizmos - - it also relates to our complex systems, especially those in the public sector.  Someone needs to be at the bus stop and on the bus as the world of public transportation becomes more about the app on the smartphone detailing schedules and the smart messaging board at the kiosk.

The New York Times had a profile of that someone yesterday - The Watchful Lab of Dr. Bell.  Dr. Geneview Bell is the corporate anthropologist at Intel and has the title of director of user experience research at Intel Labs (the department has 100 social scientists and designers that have really nice frequent flier accounts).  This notion of blending anthropology and engineering/design is an important one.  Sensing the market and identifying the emerging signals in the context of what really matters to the customer/client is job #1 in any organization.

I love the following paragraph from the article:

"At Intel, Dr. Bell started taking research trips around the world to see how consumers used technology in their kitchens and living rooms, at sports events and religious observances.  After she and her colleagues returned, they printed posters with the photographs and comments of people they had interviewed, posting them around Intel's offices.  Employees were so interested in the images, she recalls, that there were bottlenecks in the hallways."

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