PRSD at the European Innovation Academy

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This week we are proud to announce that I’ll have the pleasure to mentor startup teams on Design at the European Innovation Academy, the largest and boldest acceleration program in Europe (http://inacademy.eu).

PRSD goes to #Play14

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Our personal take on the most eclectic unconference about serious gaming. This is the 2nd year we attended #PLAY14 and it’s uttermost deceiving how deep is its impact on our everyday work.

Afterthoughts, Codemotion Rome 2014

This past weekend, I was in Rome attending as a speaker the Codemotion 2014 event [ rome.codemotionworld.com/2014/ ].

How good was that?

It was surprisingly a very big conference and honestly I didn’t expect that: 2 days packed with workshops plus 2 days full of talks with a line up of more than 100 speakers, divided into 6 tracks and a huge room devoted to the Makers movement.

The number of people scattered around the building was simply amazing.

The quality of the talks spanned from “truly impressive” to “some kinda of meh”, but with a so wide range of attendees (students, professional, startups and even investors) I really believe that anybody could have found for sure something suitable for their taste.

The conference was held in the faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, and this really brought me back to my student time, when I was studying at the University of Bologna… There were a lot of students eager to learn something new and, nowadays, this is definitely a good thing.

I had a good time

The overall event organization was good, even though some hiccups now and then were totally preventable: meal times were a mess and the choice to serve water in plastic glasses at the desk instead of giving the canonical half liter bottles was absolutely a disaster.

In the end, the people of the staff are efficient and kind.. actually I don’t recall how many of them I saw, but there was a plenty of ‘em.

It was a big great conference and I enjoyed it very much, especially because it was the perfect alibi to get along with old friends and to meet incredible professionals with incredible stories and you all know how much I love stories.

I found myself zipping up and down like a child in a toystore.

About my Talk

It was nothing special or new, I just collected some stuff about ergonomics that I really loved when I was attending the master class, things that I totally banked up with my competences and use everyday in my work.

I presented some cool models and theories about the categorization of the Human Error, something that help us understand why we err and why we keep taking the wrong decision even though the reality in front of our eyes suggests otherwise.

Bk85xBrIcAAgSEj

My talk was scheduled in the last Friday’s slot of the UX track, last but not least I should say!

Nevertheless, it was great and people had a lot of fun!

Unfortunately not all the talks were being filmed, and obviously mine wasn’t 🙂

Ohh well, maybe next time!

Here’s the slide of my talk

[slideshare id=33438686&doc=huynh-youwrongyoudie-140412032743-phpapp01]

YAY! Vive la Jam!

Hi guys! Here cometh the new Month and so a new blogpost.

I was pretty busy lately, but forgetting about you folks is totally unforgivable. So, what was up with all my stuffs?

February and March were hell of a months, so little time and too many things to do, but the main dish was, nevertheless, the incredible and beautiful event that me and a bunch of friends (Federico, Chiara, Alessandro, Valeria and Francesco), have organized in Bologna, the Bologna Service Jam!

Ta-daaaaaan! a Jam?

A Jam it’s not like the one you spread on bread and butter, it’s a Jam in a Jazz sense: where people from around the world, with different instruments (in this case, skills and competences), gather in one place and start playing their own instruments to create something new together, spiced by a delightful improvisation swing.

A Design Jam is a event/workshop format invented by two consultants, Adam and Markus, which gained a lot of traction in the later years, because it is a very easy, fun and super satisfactory educational format. You can learn more about here on Planet Jam.

It’s not a competition nor a startup weekend, it’s a learning experience.

I’ve been involved in the organization of a Design Jam three times in the city of Rome, and some of my colleagues, in Milan. This year we decided altoghether to give birth to the first Design Jam hosted by the city of Bologna.

What’s all about?

Think about a coordinated event held in the same week end all around the world in more than 100 cities. One secret theme disclosed for all the sites at the same time (with a timezone embargo) and 48 hours to “save the world”.

Take some crazy people, put them in a room divided in teams and give ’em purpose, means and the right kind of knowledge. The target of a Service Jam is, guess what, to design Services not products and actually having fun from it, by using co-design and design thinking techniques.

Most of the times, inside our professional field of expertise, we have to relate with people who are deeply focused and wise about the things we use to do, but when you are so deep and involved into something, you inevitably narrow your vision, your openness and become blind to stimuli. It’s a very natural process and in order to avoid this your brain always needs “fresh air”.

In a jam you have to work with a variety of roles and professionals who know nothing about you or your field.

Multidisciplinary teams are able to create true innovation because they can suspend all the boundaries and the constraints (technological, political or whatever) of a particular task. The team, as a living being, actually doesn’t know anything about all those issues, so it is able to shift all its energies from a solution focus point of view, to a problem focus one… instead of thinking in terms of “We want to build this, make it feasible”, the creation model can be more like a “We found a need, here’s 1, 10, 100 solution to fulfill this need”.

Powerful stuff, it’s creation for the creation’s sake.

And it’s all working because, there are no hierarchy that can restraint your free speech (like in structured companies or organizations) and an environment of collaboration between peers is really fostered.

What was the purpose of all that?

To learn a new way of tackling problems and face discussion, by clearing your mind from misconceptions and open up your professional self into listening instead of just commanding or just following.

To meet people with amazing stories, people very different from you but armed with the same energy and will to change the world as you.

To believe that the world can still be your playground, even after a boring day of work or a life of unfortunate events. Never stop learning, gaining knowledge, playing, teaching… do whatever you can because it will always worth it.

Did You learn all these from the Jam?

No, of course. Not from the Jam itself, but from the people you will meet here. 🙂
When we started the organization of this event, we had no clue about how it could be ended up: we knew nothing about the potential participants, about their number and competences, we knew nothing about their expectations, desires, needs.

Every jam site in the world has a different schedule and program, so we tried to build our own, making a huge gamble.

What lies behind the curtains…

Let’s take a look to ours 48hrs Jam and the techniques and the principles we tried to enforce during the event.

The overall model of a creation process always follow the infamous “double diamond”.

dd_start

As you can see it is a model shaped in a double diamond form and it is used by several companies and institutions to describe the four phases of a creative process: Discover, Define, DevelopDeliver.

Since we are not able to do the reasoning all at once, following this model can give you structure, focusing on what matter most at the right time.

dd_explained

On friday we took care of the idea generation, then on saturday we tray to close in the concepts and define our requirements and constraints. Then, inside this space we delimited, we developed the ideas until, on sunday, a prototype is delivered.

Cool, huh? A whole process condensed into 48 hrs 🙂

You can find mode info about the Double Diamond and much more in this document here:

We started on friday evening in one location different from the one we will be using the following days. The reason is because “places” (loci) are important to frame your state of mind. Imagine your brain as a baby: babies always have a strong relationship between places and activities, for instance the bedroom is the place where you sleep and it has a color/material/scent association. The place where you play are usually bright colored, less comfortable and more “usable”.

The first day for you jammer is the “creation day” and in order to help you transition to the “define” phase without keeping you creating in an endless loop, a change of scenario is required.

In your Discover phase we start scribbling down ideas, without any kind of constraint. There were a lot of impractical, unfeasible ideas, but this doesn’t matter at all. The goal is to let your creativity flow.

Do you know the story about Disney creativity ceremony?

When Disney design team have to create a new concept they use a very strict 3 phase ceremony, called the Dreamer, the Realist and the Critic.

In each phase they move the discussion room using three rooms with three different setups:

In the Dreamer they use a free flow room where you can jolt down ideas without restraints. The idea is placed in center of the room and everyone can take inspiration from it from any position. Pure creation.

In the Realist room, they put the idea in the center of a horseshoe setup, like the one you naturally create when you are all looking at the post-it wall. Here you start thinking about make it real.

The last room is the Critic room, where the idea is placed on a stage and all the people is position in line in front of it, like an execution army or a presentation stage. Here, and only here / then, critics are allowed.

To know more:

Can you see the analogy with the jam?

A lot of people complaint about the short pace of the generation phase.
Well it was planned and it was part of the “game”: time boxing is a powerful technique to help you focus on what matter most.

Our brain is very limited in many ways: we are not able to generate ideas and evaluate them at the same time, these two process just take two different route inside our brain. When we are young the creation path is like an highway, very easy to take, instead the evaluation path is no more than a dirt road. Growing up we slowly change: social imposition, culture, fear to be judged, and social conventions widen our evaluation path… they make it growing bigger, as an highway much easier to take, and suddenly our creation path becomes narrow, less appealing. “It’s not feasible”, “it doesn’t make sense” are just common thoughts that reflect this kind of state.

When we are adults, we always tend to overthinking, judging our ideas with our evaluation path even before completing the whole idea generation.

Timeboxing forced us to think straight to the target without leaving room to overthinking about anything. This cannot ensure the creation of better ideas, but it can push the chance of having true innovation.

We ended up on friday with very good ideas, to narrow them down to 3 or 4 wasn’t a practical task: in order to create affinity with the ideas to create the teams, each participants must be part of the selection process.

Avoiding the syndrome “Whatever, it’s not mine” is very crucial to establish a good working mood.

We used a variation of the Dot Voting: each of you had 5 dots to dish every round of voting. The Dot Voting technique is the fastest way to create consensus among peers when there are a large amount of option to considerate.

Here’s some info on the Dot Voting:

Fast Forward to Saturday

On saturday all the teams worked on defining their initial concepts and the main deliverables were the Elevator Pitch, the Empathy Map, a sketch of Personas and the Experience Map.

The term Persona always has a wide range of definitions depending on the field where it is used:

In our specific field, it has a more empathic and personal spin.

We started roughly and wrongly define our Personas as the “target of the service”, but this is how low professional define things… Since we are top notch professionals, we did a much cooler activity called… RESEARCH.

IMG_20140308_173505

Personas cannot be designed upfront only because our services demands them (I know, this is how the market use to work), instead it must be all the way around: we have to design our services upon personas and personas MUST be created using real datas.

Our teams went out in Bologna, gathering insights with interviews to validate their assumptions. There were also some unexpected results and that’s what we always looking for.

“Do you know Dads don’t have vivid memories of the first year of their newborns?”

The organization and the collection of all the insights was done with an empathy map, a communication deliverable used to create empathy between the designer and the user.

IMG_20140308_173537

The Empathy Map is a beautiful deliverable to make some cluster analysis on the data and distill some featured traits and characteristic to finally create the base of our Personas.

Since we were in shortage of time, I made the group create the personas directly on the Empathy Map and Valeria, my colleague, DID BASH me for taking the shortcut. So, note it down that the Personas creation step should be much more complex than what we did during the Jam 🙂

BTW, everything went smooth as butter, so far so good… until the Experience Map came.

The concept behind the Experience Map and all its variation (Customer Journey, Emotional Map, Service Blueprint etc) is to track down the “journey” of your user through out the service and its touch points.

Do you remember what a touch point is?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touchpoint

Accordingly to what aspect of our service we need to make it relevant to discuss, we can stress different kind of visualization: for instance the Emotional Map hilites the mood of the user and the Service Blueprint defines (on the organizational side) what resources are needed to implement the service from a front office and back office point of view.

Journeys and Maps are indeed difficult and long deliverables to understand and create. We streamlined the map in order to make it simpler to complete, however we made it harder to understand and we, as a staff, missed the point.

Lesson learned for the next time 🙂

And Finally Sunday

Sunday is the “Critic Day”.

After an awesome icebreaker with our actors team (5 dita nella presa) to loose up our improvisation skills, the whole day was devoted to critic and validate the ideas.

The teams started to work on their presentation with awesome results.

The Impro staff really helps with the enactment of the ideas to spot critical points the prototype creation and the second out of building to test with real users.

Conclusion

This Jam was totally a blast! I was blown up by the response of all the participants, the positive comments and the incredible load of fun I had with all of you.

The thing that really strikes me, is the huge amount of followups that we are having: teams are stayin in the loop with a facebook group, they keep meeting each other and probably one or two projects will really start in a couple of month.

Amazing!

You can find all the photos on the Jam Facebook Official Page and the videos on our Youtube Channel 🙂

If you are curious (and you ought to be!) about all the projects submitted around the world, don’t forget to check the international Global Service Jam Projects page!

Once a Jammer, Forever a Jammer

See you the next year!

Impressions from the 7th Summit of Information Architecture

The 7th Summit of Information Architecture has just ended, what can I say?

My first IA Summit was in the far 2010, I was professionally young, a “eager to learn” first year freshmen in the industry and the role of the information architect wasn’t really clear to anyone.

A bunch of years later, after 2 more summits and an EuroIA event, I can tell you without any doubt, this IA Summit was the biggest, the fanciest, the richest IA Summit ever.

This year the hosting city was the beautiful Bologna, I finally played at home.

The venue was good, not so far from the center of Bologna and with many car parking lots available. The conference room was just perfect in size, a tad small when divided into the three room canonical setup for the workshops.

The conference lasted two days, the first day was the “workshops day”, from a plenty of choices, people had to choose one in the morning and one in the afternoon, the second day, instead, was fully dedicated to talks.

I really enjoyed the variety of workshops: even if you didn’t have a clue about what to attend, You could always move freely in every room and freely decide in which workshop you preferred to stay.

The funny thing is that the whole process was totally improvised, since they didn’t expected so many people, they trashed all the workshops reservations lists and let the people flow.

It was genius.

How did it go?

I attended the workshop of Luca Rosati about “keeping the complexity of choices low”. The subject was interesting and appropriate, however the workshop was lacking of a proper closure: there were no clear takeaways or insights to take home and, unfortunately, it quickly degraded into a frontal lesson.

The second workshop I attended, the one from Pietro Polsinelli, had a misleading title: I expected some storytelling activity, but I ended up in a Game design lesson and storming.

It was a blast! Juicy, full of information and very funny.

The second day there were no tracks, only one session in the conference room, with talks and question times. The worst thing was the scheduled time, totally useless since there was no one keeping the speaker’s time.

There were a lot of interesting talks, from the TV and the second screen experiences, to service design tools, from the big open data gathered on Italian Parliament, to Semantics and Linguistics with machine learning capable engines.

Different subjects with a very barely visible leit motive: the human dimension in a ever evolving multi channel context.

I enjoyed myself very much: I met lots of people with different skills and job, I got along with many old friends and I learned lot of things.

As I said before, this edition was bigger, colorful, charming and overwhelmingly different from what I was expecting.

Was It for good?

I can’t say for sure: things change and even conferences grow up.

This year IASummit was definitely a 8 in my opinion, a very good conference about the digital, the future, the service design and the experience. A “Wired” one…

Unfortunately I left still looking for findability, categorization, taxonomies and information strategies… all the things I was told were about Information Architectures…

Impressions from the Better Software 2013

The BSW has just ended and this is my post of impressions about the conference.

This was my first BSW and I don’t really have a way to compare this one with older editions.

It was an emotional rollercoaster, indeed. I arrived the 11 early in the morning by train, jumped into the first cab I found outside the train station and checked in the hotel.

It was 7am and I was totally in awe, still worried from the evening before: 3 hrs to my talk and I didn’t had the time to rehearse properly. I slept 4hrs at most and I was a total mess…

After a very motivational introduction by Andrea Provaglio, the bar of expectations were already set a bit high.

Then It came my turn.

I had one big fear, I’m not really good at being polite or conventionally politically correct, so having to speak in front of a paying audience could be somehow tricky: you know, paying people usually wants a good value for their money, they want to learn something new, hopefully something they cannot learn by themselves.

I wasn’t really sure I could provide all these things.

I missed a lot of interesting points while speaking, my first concern was about rushing to the end to avoid exceeding my given time and I actually forgot to say a lot of things. BTW, in the end, a lot of people liked the talk and I was told that I even made them rethink about how they work everyday.

Mission Accomplished!

Here’s the slide of the conference. I also added today an audio track I recorded at home, just to give you an idea of what I presented… please forgive me the poor English.

[slideshare id=28110873&doc=hhthankyouforcodingreduced-131111043759-phpapp01]

Well then…

If I have to give a rate to the whole conference, I will give a solid 8.

It was really a blast. I had tons of fun, which is always good, I met lot of people, friends and newcomers, and I taste the thrill of presenting an unusual talk to big audience.

Probably my vote is biased by two facts:

  1. one is that, as a speaker, I didn’t pay and I was in frenzy all the time
  2. the second is that I personally know a lot of people, so conference like these always looks like a family reunion

With a more honest take, it would be probably a 7 1/2 (with a plus mark, for the effort).

Things I didn’t like:

  • The lack of gadgetry, experiences are always good, but you always have a way of fueling the recall. The next year, T shirts for everyone.
  • The days, Mon and Tue are no-no days, maybe motivated professionals didn’t attend because it’s much harder to take a Monday off than a Friday.
  • Overlapping workshops and talks, me do not like
  • WTF, no ending words or a closing talk?

Things I do like:

  • Location Location Location, beautiful venue, but with an average conference room
  • New faces! Always welcomed, sometimes it gets boring to hear the usual suspects
  • Subjects were various, I like variety and the paradox of choices
  • Workshops, I attended one and It was well conducted and followed by an awesome conversation

Things in the Meh category:

  • Networking time and tools. It could use some improvements, eg: badges are not really useful to identify people’s interests and were not conversational starters.
  • The themes and the quality overall were good but the overall target audience of the conference wasn’t really well defined (historically system that tried to please everyone just failed).
  • The Information Wayfinding: I watched people and sometimes they just wandering around without knowing what to follow, without a clue on what to expect next. And I saw a lot of people changing conference room hopping around looking for something more suitable for their needs. Information scent didn’t work well.

Closing Notes

It was a solid good conference and I heard many friends saying that it was way better than the last year. The funny thing is I was told that the last year the event was much bigger and crowded, but on the opposite side it was less interesting, so many attendees of the last year did not show up this time, skipping the whole for good.

This year, with all the conference management changes, it was a sort of transitional kinda of event, yeah a good one, but do I believe that the next one will be the real big thing.

BTW, GG everyone!

Better Software 2013

Two days and I will open the UX track at the Better Software 2013, a great software conference in Italy, mon 11 and tue 12 of November.

What is the Better Software Conference?

It’s a 2 day event full of talks, workshops and other amenities totally devoted to the software workers community, and by workers I mean anyone involved in a software production, designers, developers, managers and salesmen.

The landscape of software and internet workers is changing with a really fast pace: people are evolving the mentality and the cultures of their own companies by developing new way of working or applying, in new contexts, methodologies already proven to have effective.

It’s a kind of a revolution from below, where people are regaining control and responsibility of their own role and job.

Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

We try to work better, in order to write better software, in order to run better products, in order to enable better services to improve our life.

We are not just cogs in a machine which must be oiled to work properly, we are thinking beings and everyday we have the opportunity to make incredible decisions.

Sounds crazy and awesome!

I am very excited, It doesn’t happen to everyone to have the honor to be the first speaker, break the ice and live up the expectations.

The main theme of my talk will be this “awesome situation” for sure, but I still have to decide the right format: I don’t want to tell you a personal story, it’s so personal that sometimes listeners are not able to feel it their own.

I want to inspire people in a way that a day, a week or even a month later, something will still clinging in their ears and whispering “C’mon, you can do better than this!

Are you curious?

I’ll talking about social responsibility, how our work can create an influence on our habits, our society, our culture.

As a designer, I always have to advocate for the user and his needs, but my colleagues don’t. They don’t have this kind of sensibility and their role, as manager or as developer, tends sometimes to relieve them from thinking about a greater goal.

I didn’t write “Greater Good” on purpose: It ‘s not a matter of ethics or morality, but about living our profession at its full extent: we need to rise the bar and do our job at the best, not for the sake of the project, but for the sake of our role.

You’ll be surprised how much is lost for a poor software … billions of money, years of time, even lives.

Can I change how you see your work?

Yes, I believe. It is just a matter of bad old habits.