Blog is on pause, but please do enjoy my tweets :)

Keeping finnish industries competitive by design thinking - Herrmans

As a bicyclist I was thrilled to see a Finnish bicycle part manufacturer Herrmans seeking for a industrial designer the other year.
Not only that at some point I had spotted that the company might use some design thinking, but in the end because my good friend and extremely talented designer Mikael Heikkilä got the position.

I have been eagerly waiting to see the results of his design efforts and it really starts to have an effect on the brand previously known for OEM manufacturer.

I just replaced original Specialized grips with these Endorfin 3D grips.
I love the tiny detail and the caring thinking in how he has marked the left and right as well as the up directions. Marking these directions means that I can push them with ease and confidence to the bar and that just makes me feel good. -A feeling that is sometimes hard to justify in the R&D meetings, but makes a significant effect on the customer.

Design story - Gässling underwear

Marketing sometimes fails to deliver the original design intent to the customer. Since the contradiction between design and marketing has been intriguing me, I was really exited when I had the chance to discuss with Joakim how a garment that now supports a whole new underwear brand Gässling was designed and is now marketed.

I wish all the best for Joakim and I just checked that you can still order some treats for christmas ;)

The name
In short, Gässling is a Swedish underwear brand that makes premium eco underwear for style conscious men. From the very beginning we wanted to create a brand based on Swedish values that was primarily focused on an international market.
We knew that we wanted to use organic cotton and that they should be manufactured in a responsible manner and we needed a brand name that could reflect this as well as look Swedish. The name should fulfill these criteria; be Swedish but not look strange in English, speak of nature, have a local connection to Malmö where we’re based and to be easy to remember.

We started to analyse different traits of nature and eventually we got hooked on the goose. We thought it was a good animal for us because there are lots of geese in Malmö and it has very sympathetic traits. For instance if a goose gets injured during flight, another goose will stay behind until it gets better or dies. It took about 1.5 months and a lot of debating to come up with the name Gässling, which means gosling in Swedish (goose baby).

The product
It’s usually said that in order to break into a saturated market your product need to outperform the competition tenfold.
I wouldn’t say that our underwear is ten times better than other underwear but we have done our very utmost to create some killer garments. We tried to list all available pain points and address them one at a time. Some details that are worth mentioning are that we don’t have a care instruction tag inside, but they are instead printed for better comfort. The waistband is covered in fabric for a smooth feel and there are no seams in the back or sides of the garment to make it as clean as possible.
Our second - more aspirational product is the first ever (as far as I know) tight fitting boxer with an openable waistband. To give it an extra exclusive look we used fabric covered buttons that were all custom made to match the color of the main fabric.

What’s next
We have now been online a few days and even though we are still very far from sold out we can see that the main traffic is coming from outside of Sweden and predominately from the US. This tells us that we probably made some correct decisions when creating the brand. Now we need to turn those page views into purchases but if we succeed with that is another story. 

Introducing oneself

Sitting in a meeting - listening what people have done and how experienced they are. Does it feel waste of time for you?

Listening people introducing themselves as experienced and noteworthy in meetings or seminars feels more or less useless. Instead of retrospectives, it would be more interesting to hear what people have on their desks right now or what are they interested in. That information might tell more about the personality of the person. But the personality is unfortunately sometimes our best kept secret. That might be the reason to rely on list of experiences.
The fact is that a person might turn out to be incompetent despite the long list of experiences. Next time you introduce yourself, make a decision do you want to turn this into your advantage or play it safe ;)

GrapePeople held an training that I participated for facilitation of creative work and they had a nice idea to do the introduction by telling a short story or incident from that morning or from the way to work. Even that can tell more about the person and the way of thinking. -Try that next time you facilitate a meeting.

Negative criticism = Opportunity to engage

While learning about contemporary marketing theories and consumer goods touch points from Hanne, I ran into this video where Avinash Kaushik from Google discusses how seizing negative critisism can be turned into opportunity.

What we have learned is that customer can become even more loyal when errors are corrected promptly and smoothly.  Having a personal presence in social media can be a huge asset.
Instead of being worried about having negative content on the web, one can have negative content AND show how well complaints are taken care of and criticism is used to develop the service.

Use the link for the right spot (1m42s), or watch the whole clip.
Winning the Zero Moment of Truth - Ratings and Reviews: Word of MOT

There is a side track here also. You might remember the Talisker case. -The story took new turns after my post.
It actually makes a good example here, since we you all could already know how things are if their media policy would include the presence in the blogs.. 

Work of Art?

Valio (Finnish dairy producer) has a ongoing campaign where famous Finnish artists designed prints on milk jugs standing on Finnish tables.

Finnish design legend Eero Aarnio was also asked to do his magic. I was pretty disappointed when the result turned out to be just an add for his previous designer furniture and not much else.

This makes me wonder about the situation when somebody in Valio has realized that the delivery was something else than ordered and how could it be rejected..

Complaining makes you fail?

Somebody starts complaining and hesitating in the middle of action. Wanting others to know that there lies a risk in the activity. And more the complaint is overlooked, the louder it gets.

I remember a trip to Chamonix, which ended up me wondering that do I really complain. I though I was just making notions on the circumstances.
Complaining and negativitity spread from people to others. Although the intention might be neutral, the effect might be that somebody else starts focusing on cold feet insteads of good skiing.

Hesitation and negativitity grow from fear. A fear that something is getting worse and not having control over it. -Withdrawing while still able might feel like the rational thing to do.

Working in organizational environment and extreme sports have much in common in this. Going to the mountain and making strategic decisions contain risks. In both cases the missunderstood fear can lead to not getting the run planned or failing in business. Sometimes even to fall of mighty organizations.
-Do we have the skills? What do other think if I can't?
-Are we strong enough? Can we make it in time?
-Do we have the right gear? Have we covered all the risks?
-Am I able to take care of myself? Is this getting worse?

Both in organizational environment as well as in extreme sports there are times that you to make leaps of fait. Have the confidence on yourself and on what you are doing.

There are three good anti-dozes for fear:
Experience creates confidence, that all the challenges can be tackled and all the needed skills and gear is with you.
Positivity makes you focus on the solutions - not the problems and make sure you don't spread the hesitation to others.
Finally, if there is a fear behind a complaint, treat it as such and discuss through to diminish it.
-Monsters are as frightening even if they are put under the bed.

In both environments, not keeping noise about real problems can be lethal too. Good question is that how to recognice the serious stuff? -Mutual trust maybe?

Better service through accepting mistakes?

Just like people reveal their fundamental characteristics under stress, so do services. Giving feedback to service provider creates a conflict that reveals how well the service culture is understood and cultivated in a company.

Being passionate about services I usually tell if there is something wrong - because I care. Regular customer do not usually care - they just change company. Giving feedback has offered a front row seat in observing how is feedback taken. Companies operate through individuals and their defence mechanisms usually determine how feedback is received. -This is where service culture steps in.

If a company does not take a stand on 1) how feedback should be received, 2) how and within what limits the situation is settled and 3) how the feedback is eventually processed, the employee falls back on ones own defenses or in best case builds on the self confidence, wits and positivity.

Katja Okkonen writes in Helsingin Sanomat about poor service in the article Saitko surkeaa palvelua? Tästä se johtuu.  She points out that following rules and regulations diligently and being afraid of mistakes often creates poor user experiences:
-Tuulikki Juusela calls finnish culture a culture of regulations, which could be interpreted as bureaucracy. Hiding behind rules and regulations has become common and common sense is used less and less.
- It is easy for me to agree when Juusela assumes that finnish people have gained a significant fear of mistakes. We are highly cautious for our manager or coworker to give negative feedback. Current economical turbulence has also made the fear of losing one's work very real. When customer gives negative feedback, the fear of mistake and fear of losing one's work is combined and that can create a strong need to be right.
-Janne Löytänä has written that the best way to receive negative feedback is to response promptly and personally. Löytänä further reminds that compensation is actually cheap marketing for a company. If a company is able to turn negative experience to a satisfactory, the customer becomes a 15 times more loyal than a regular customer - and that must create a lot of good reputation.
-While Juusela mentions that Finland is a true self service culture with all possible technical innovations to support it, Camilla Reinboth takes another perspective reminding that engineering culture might also lead thinking that errors in product can be fixed when they occur. With services employees need to know how to deal with mistakes before they occur.

Egolocical thinking as a strategy; Patagonia and Basecamp Oulanka

Some might say that Patagonia is crazy company when launching a campaign with the motto "Don't Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It".

For me, it made read through their values and find out that Patagonia is one of the leading companies in the world really finding ways to produce it's outdoor gear in the most ecological way possible.

Outdoor lovers use enormous amounts of different kind of synthetic fibres, plastics and composite products. It's about time that there are some leaders in making our consumption leaner so that we will not destroy our environment while enjoying it.

Another good example of ecological thinking in nature travel is Basecamp Oulanka in Kuusamo. They arrange a range of wilderness activities from extreme adventures to well-being holidays - all with high environmental, social and economical standards.
Seeing what modern wilderness tourism has done to many areas of Finnish Lapland, doing things really in the original way and minimizing operational footprint in every way is a refreshing, delightful and not a bit less fun.

Buy a Patagonia - if you really need one, and go to Kuusamo to enjoy some real experiences!

The moment of choosing a strategy

CityDeal launched itself in Finland about a year ago. It has offered quite good bargains of quality products and services, but now it seems that the revenue expectation has contradicted with the growth and the offers include items that would be more suitable for TV store.

This clearly presents a critical moment in how CityDeal builds it's customer base and who do they focus their marketing. -At least I will delete my account in near future if this starts to be another channel for the crap available from TV store.

Consumer complaint case: Talisker whisky with a fly

When I poured a glass of Talisker whisky last autumn and found a partly dissolved fly from my glass, I had a romantic vision about small distillery and scotts and I though that I'd better inform the guys in Talisker that some part of their process is not bulletproof.

After a long search for contact information I managed to get an email address through discussion group in Talisker Facebook group and I sent my mail with these pictures.
After three months of email discussion with Diageo (owner of Talisker) I was requested to send the sample with the fly AND the remaining bottle to UK to be studied.

I have to say that all the romance about Scotland and small scottish distilleries being proud of their products vanished: Diageo representative quite clearly implied that I had put the fly into my glass to hoax a replacement bottle. Any kind replacement was not even discussed, although I would have been happy for that in the beginning.

Conclusion: When you find a fly in your Talisker whiskey - don't even bother to complain.

Final report

Dear Perttu *******,

Thank you for raising your concern with regards to a fly in your 70cl bottle of Talisker. We have received a 4cl sub sample along with the bottle that you had sent back to our Technical Centre for investigation. On receipt we noted that the bottle was 40% full and the 4cl sub sample contained a fly, there was no labelling on the sub sample. We have now completed analysis with the following results: The strength measured = 45.8% (Label strength indicated 45.8%) Higher alcohol congener analysis indicated that the sample in the bottle was a genuine sample of Talisker. Higher alcohol congener analysis indicated that the sub-sample was a genuine sample of Talisker. Sensory assessment found the sample to be similar in character to the control sample of Talisker with no off notes or tainting detected. The sub sample was filtered and was found to contain a fly measuring 2.6mm in length. Conclusions: The sample was filtered and was found to contain a fly measuring 2.6mm in length. As the sample was received open it is not possible to determine when the fly entered the sample. We would like to thank you for taking the time to return these samples to us for analysis, although we cannot ascertain at what point in our process the fly could have entered the product, due to the bottle being received open. The pictures initially provided also showed the fly was in the drinking glass and not in the bottle, again we do not have any evidence to support the claim of the fly in the bottle. Unfortunately we will have to close this concern as we have do not have any conclusive evidence to support the claim.  
Kind Regards,
Customer Account Manager
To complete the story I paste here also my response.
It's quite easy to see how Diageo could have solved this smoothly and hard to imagine why they decided not to pursue user satisfaction.
I was waiting for further comments from you, but thanks for informing that you agree with my species identification.

I wouldn't have needed to ask you that though. I saw it carefully enough to know that it was not part of Finnish fauna.

I actually thought that you guys care and my input would help somehow the quality of your products. I'm quite shocked that you think I went through all the trouble just to hoax you.

I also want to remind you that I asked three times that do you really need also the bottle or would the sample be enough. And you requested to have also the bottle, causing me even higher shipping cost. -In future I suggest that you tell the policy in early phase and save a bit of customers nerves and your reputation.

It is understandable that manufacturing processes have flaws. But when policies and communication have flaws or intentional difficulties, that is totally something else than understandable.

After your latest mail, I'm relatively pissed off and I'm going to publish your response on my blog.
On the meantime, I assume that you send me back the 40% of the bottle that was left. -Not that I'd drink it, but still it's mine to pour into the sewer.

 Perttu ******* 

Couple of weeks after this I received a delivery. It was quite sad moment, but mostly because I felt so bad for the company I felt so strongly before. -Somehow the whisky just wasn't that good anymore..

Meaningful feedback resulting as motivation?

Finland is a country of self service. Where this is most imminent, is cafes and restaurants. Mostly, you need to get your orders yourself and even clean the table afterwards. In a bit better places you might get service, but often it's poor or unmotivated.

Despite few exceptions it seems that service is clearly better in cultures where waiters salary consists mostly of tips. For long I considered tip based salary somewhat bad deal, but I have changed my mind.

Compared to fixed salary, tip based salary creates immediate feedback channel between customer satisfaction and waiters behavior. Furthermore, the feedback is truly meaningful to the waiter. Skilled waiters can even make a career and climb up the ladder to better places with better tips.

The experience of the profession becomes this way totally different than in Finland, where common understanding is that anybody can be a waiter resulting in that nobody actually wants to do it nor be proud of ones profession.

How to train people incompetent

"Uusavuton" is a finnish term for younger generations who don't know how to make food or clean the house. Newly incompetent might be the direct translation. (According to natives, english does not have the term, since all UK and US kids are anyway like this. ;)

I happened to read two articles below and those made me do a following conclusion:
Finnish society and individuals are over achieving in fulfilling all regulations and creating a bunch of new details to follow. At the same time there is urgent need to support new entrepreneurship. We excel in byrocracy - when we should excel in enabling creativity and business.

Unfortunately articles are only in finnish :/
Taloussanomat: Keittiö, jossa ei saa leipoa – ja muut hullut kiellot
Gradutakuu: Opittu avuttomuus

User observation for better breakfast?

For a moment I was sure that I was a subject in a user study:

I was balancing on my left foot, with two plates on my left hand, trying to push slider door open with my right foot to place the milk jar from my right hand into the fridge. All this while the waiter observed.

Unfortunately this was not user study - they were happy with their service.

Exped Airpillow - instant classic

When hiking or traveling my weak spot is the pillow. Having a poor sleep can ruin a lot. After trying many versions from regular ones to high end down -versions I can say that I know guite a lot of pillows.

Exped has made a good job in ensuring excellent sleep in winter conditions with their Downmat. Now I dare to say that they have made a iconic travel pillow:
Airpillow M is extremely small, lightweight, has comfortable surface and is easy to fill and empty. Also it looks good. Only down side is that it's so popular it's hard to find at least in Finland. I found mine in Scandinavian Outdoor Store :)

Aging in style

I love products that age with style.
In fact I might not be the most careful user of products, since I want them to look that they've been used. Especially outdoor gear looks a bit newbie if it's brand new.

When I unscrewed these worn lock pedals I felt slightly sad, but on the other hand happy to be able to look what they've gone through.

If you try to find a material that ages with style - go with aluminum, but be careful not to overdo the finish since the phase between glossy surface and worn out style might be nasty.

Graphics work: theme for a homescreen clock

My strengths are on the product and services concepts and not so much on the graphical design. Despite the tendency I sometimes have artistic urges to fulfill.

Not so long ago, we realized a co-operation possibility with my ingenious colleague, who has coded a clock/timer application to Ovi Store on his spare time. I had a vision to work with fonts covered by paint or dirt and he could use a theme for his application. As in design work generally - there was a feeling of magic in bring this -this time artistic- vision alive. Theme builds on the Symbian Anna software refresh.

Here's the preview of the theme, but you can as well download the whole application to your smartphone to get a better picture :)

Enhancing creativity and innovatio by doing mistakes

Have you ever felt that the success is must and you cannot fail? Did you feel stressed?

Most (if not all) people do feel stressed if failure is not an option. What we know about stress is that it limits the our creativity and our capability to see possibilities instead of threats. If your resources are low and solution is needed instantly - isn't it quite obvious that you try something that has been tried before and works for sure?

In organizations where jobs are in danger, showing that projects run smoothly and mistakes do not happen can feel important. Unfortunately this kind of thinking leads into several problems.
Organization stops learning from each other, ability to create new innovations drops and information of ongoing crisis or failures of larger scale can be buried. -And we need to remember that this happens in ALL levels of organization. -We all have somebody to report ;)

Sam Swaminathan tells a story in how one organization was changed by celebrating the Mistake of the Month.

Personalization using product printing and modelling interface

Nervous System is a magnificent company. They manage to combine three highly appealing trends and form beautiful products as end result.
1) Personalization: Enabling user to modify the design or make completely unique design to make product truly personal via intuitive user interfaces.
2) Biomimicry: Combining nature and digital by basing the designs on patterns found in nature. If you think about it Now - there's no better foundation to build algorithmically formed designs.
3) Using 3D printing as manufacturing method to accomplish all this.

Check some of their videos or try their modelers and enjoy :)

Growing a Hyphae Lamp from Nervous System on Vimeo.

Industrial design - fighting against windmills

Old colleague of mine left the company to continue her PhD in an academic project in metal industry. The main problem is the old one - how to get users needs and opinions better into consideration in product development.

The same issue continues to puzzle in all branches where R&D plays a role in success or failure of products. I see this area as area where industrial designers operate. We are supposed to be the answer to the very problem! -Why have we failed?

Industrial designers have learned the methods of user centered design, we can conduct user studies and usability studies, we can recognize behaviors and see the parts which could be improved. We can even improve service processes. Why majority of the industrial designers skip most of this and work only on trends, forms, surfaces and finishes?
-Could it in the end be the lack of competence?
-Could it be the strict organization models?
-Credibility in the eyes of management?
-One possibility is our own ambitions. Every industrial designer wanting to be a "Star Designer" - drawing masterpieces with just intuition.
-Or could the reason be the lack of terms and definitions for a industrial designer that not only makes an artistic interpretation of the actual product, but also finds and uses the user data to create a product proposition to this foundation?
-In the end, it might be just a matter of education and knowledge in the company management.

I have described the work of industrial designer as fighting against windmills. The management is slow, stubborn and resists change. All the little pieces of change and true needs of user that we can fight to the products are all little victories! -It's just to decide that which mills you want to fight against and by which means :)

Stupid users

The title might feel pompous.
After I add my motto; Never underestimate the stupidity of a human being - It surely sounds even worse.

My excuse is that I admit my stupidity also as a designer. We tend to overlook the challenges users have in their interaction with our designs. The issue is the same, the important thing is that we study the issue - what ever the point of view may be.
Demystifying Usability has some good thinking on How to deal with Stupid Users.

The main points to remember are:
1. Users who have trouble with designs and feel stupid lack a key behavior required in using most interfaces: Discovery and Exploration.
2. Users who struggle with interfaces and feel of incompetent do not notice or use features.
3. Users who struggle with designs that do not feel intuitive are not comfortable with interface elements that are too different.
4.Users who do not make interface design distinctions ignore complex or multi-step tasks.
5. Users that lack the confidence with computers have a thinner comfort barrier and a general helplessness.

How to lose leadership?

A friend of mine updated her status with wise words about not caring too much about the talk that goes on behind our back when we stand alone in the front line.

If you are few steps ahead of your peers or time, it might mean that you are leading. You usually have lot of people who are talking and shouting behind your back. All it takes at that point is to believe in what you are doing and enable people to follow you.

But what happens if you start listening the critics around, miss the focus or lose your belief? Sometimes it results in stress, pressure and hasty decisions in seizing funding or canceling projects.
-Decisions need to be made, but it is always good to analyze that what is my decisions really based on; peer pressure or analyzing the environment.

Following video is about gaining leadership, but to maintainit, leader needs the ability to trust your followers when they start to develop their own moves. -Unfortunately that is something what managers in big companies sometimes forget..

The third truth

The efforts to save Euro after the elderly bachelors along the Mediterranean have bankrupted the nearly whole EU is a hot topic. Hot topic also for the reason that anti EU discussion has raised it's head also in Finland.

In these discussions it's not our politicians who make the decisions, but abstract things like EU and Brussels, that have impersonated. People feel that they've lost their control and don't understand what is happening.

When doing decisions for other people it is natural to think how this law/system would be the best for the general audience and in theory. A lot of the decision making is not fixed into everyday situations, but instead in ideals and the Third Truth. -The truth we assume is the "right thing" for the general opinion, but might not be right for the creators of legislation nor for the people.

Similar  kind of behavior is visible in how culture is formed inside a group of people, nation or in religions. Even yellow press is a huge player on creating a third truth in their way of writing things in passive "A bank was robbed". -But in this case it has an active abstract actor; EU.

I don't blame people talking about EU like it was a person doing decisions. -In a way, EU is an impersonation of that Third Truth.

Design for errors

Example of Nielsens usability principle "design for errors" emerges in this "there I fixed it" -type of improvement of attached traditional finnish craftmanship.

Another good principle of "keep it simple" has failed in this case and there is some reported cases, when somebody has carefully closed the door behind - and locked a poor soul into the hut. Then again the repair (red string going inside the door) is kind of simple too ;)

Powerpoint organizations

2003 Columbia space shuttle was hit by a 760g piece of insulation with life threatening result. The threat was analyzed and presented to managers for decision making. Decision was to take shuttle down as planned. Seven lives were lost.

Data visualization specialist Edward Tufte analyzed the slide that was used to communicate the threat and pointed out several reasons why Power Point is a wrong tool to communicate complex information for decision making.

Similarly, PowerPoint can be dramatically wrong tool for creating organizations compared to any nodal presentation.
A human way to use PowerPoint is to pursue harmony, balance and clarity. This can result as over simplifying organizations into boxes with arbitrary amount of size eventually linked with solid or dotted lines.
After a few years of continuous experience of organizational changes, I claim that boxes don't discuss and further, cross discipline UX specialist don't belong to any boxes.

Conclusion is that, if you want to "use UX professionals in all levels of your organization", but you don't want to increase your headcount, stop lying to yourself and admit that your organization will not be a UX driven one. -Possibility that a rationally thinking manager in resource pressure would create a PowerPoint box for cross disciplinary UX specialists is expected to be quite low.

Facebook now showing clearly what information is shared to applications

Facebook changed the way they present the information shared to 3rd parties through applications.

Now the information shared to 3rd parties is listed in clear language and creates a feeling of trust through it's transparency.