Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Design by Committee

 COMMITTEE”   — Sir Alec Issigonis

Most people don’t like to work on projects that are Design by Committee.  The road ahead suddenly looks dim when there is a realization that a group of people will be convening to give their subjective opinions.  

How many times have designers dropped off a proposed plan that was well received in the initial introduction; however, received the call the next day with a critic that was made by a family member that isn’t even involved in the company project?   

From my personal experience, it has can be challenging working on Design by Committee projects that have little to know structure.  Having worked on multiple projects that incorporate creative thinking, creative solutions, organizational dynamics, communication skills, and artists from all mediums, I designed a system that is easy to use and works well for groups that are working together to develop creative solutions.

If you use this organizational tool, please give me feedback on ways to improve the process by commenting or emailing.

Another similar resource using a different approach to navigate a design-by-committee including the history and how and why they fail can be found at How to Navigate Design by Committee by Andrew Follett.

1.       Identify the committee’s charge or objective.
It is critical to take the time to define the necessary objective that the committee members will be responsible for achieving.   The initial charge, responsibility or duty of the committee should be clearly defined and limited in scope.  If there are multiple objectives, they should be addressed separately so the committee can focus acutely on each initiative.   

Example 1:  Healthcare design committee is charged with the task of art selection for patient’s rooms.
Example 2: The committee is being charged with developing a mission statement.
Example 3:  The committee is charged with developing creative solutions to increase member donors.

“The brain constantly receives new inputs and needs to store some of them in the same head already occupied by previous experiences.  It makes sense of its world by trying to connect new information to previously encountered information…present knowledge can bleed into past memories and become intertwined with them as if they were encountered together.  The typical human brain can hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds!  If something does not happen in that short stretch of time, the information becomes lost.”  Brain Rules by John Medina   
1.       Identify all the end users: 
The committee should identify the end-users. Good behavioral design should be human-centered, focusing upon understanding and satisfying the needs of the people who actually use the product.  

 In Example 1 above, the primary end-user would obviously be the patient; however, patient’s family and friends along with clergy will also interact as an end-user.  Identify the characteristics of your end-user using statistics where possible such as demographics, psychographics and lifestyle segmentation.  

“Our broader culture tends to prize L-Directed Thinking more highly than its counterpart, taking this approach more seriously and viewing the alternative as useful but secondary.  But this is changing – and it will dramatically reshape our lives.  Left-brain-style thinking used to be the driver and right –brain-style thinking the passenger.  Now, R-Directed Thinking is suddenly grabbing the wheel, stepping on the gas, and determining where we’re going and how we’ll get there.”  A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink.
1.       Identify the fundamental function:
What is the purpose of the project, product or services being designed?  Compile relevant information that will enhance the end-user experiences. 

In Example 1, it is the intention of the artwork to enhance a patient’s recovery process.  It may also need to meet the design standards of the hospital using Evidence-based art practices. 

“Many design professionals focus on appearance, in part because this is what can be appreciated from a distance and, of course, all that can be experience in advertising or marketing photograph or print illustration  Most designs fail because designers and engineers are often self-centered.  Because most people are unaware of their true needs, discovering them requires careful observations in their natural environment.  The trained observer can often spot difficulties and solutions that even the person experiencing them does not consciously recognize.” Emotional Design by Donald A. Norman  
 A university was expanding the campus with new facilities.  When it was time to decide on where to place the sidewalks, the university president was reluctant to make a decision at the frustration of many of the contractors.  After the buildings were built and the students had an opportunity to use the facilities – he allowed the sidewalks to be poured and instructed the contractors to follow the paths the students had already made on the property.  

1.       Identify current challenges and obstacles:
Ask why is there a need for a new system, product, program or service?  Identify the problems or challenges with the current situation or identify what is missing that needs designed.  A bucket list or punch-list of items will be helpful when reviewing alternative and creative solutions. 

Example 1, challenges and obstacles may include budget restraints along with intrinsic functions such as cleaning the artwork in a health care environment, securing the work so it is safe.  Additionally, the challenge may be in finding images that meet Evidence-based art practices.  

“When we analyze a big, complicated problem -- like malnutrition in Vietnam, or a married couple nearing divorce, or a business on the verge of bankruptcy -- we seek a solution that befits the scale of the problem. If the problem is a round hole with a 24-inch diameter, our brains will go looking for a 24-inch peg to fill it. So, naturally, the experts on malnutrition in Vietnam wanted to talk about poverty and education and sanitation systems.

Our focus, in times of change, goes instinctively to the problems at hand. What's broken and how do we fix it? This troubleshooting mind-set serves us well -- most of the time. If you run a nuclear power plant and your diagnostics turn up a disturbing signal once per month, you should most certainly obsess about it and fix the problem. And if your child brings home a report card with five As and one F, it makes sense to freak out about the F.

But in times of change, this mind-set will backfire. If we need to make major changes, then (by definition) we don't have a near-spotless report card. A lot of things are probably wrong. The "report card" for our diet, or our marriage, or our business, is full of Cs and Ds and Fs. So if you ask yourself, What's broken and how do I fix it?, you'll simply spin your wheels. You'll spend a lot of time agonizing over issues that are TBU.
When it's time to change, we must look for bright spots -- the first signs that things are working, the first precious As and Bs on our report card. We need to ask ourselves a question that sounds simple but is, in fact, deeply unnatural: What's working and how can we do more of it?”  Switch: Don’t Solve Problems—Copy Success by Dan and Chip Heath

1.       Enter a brainstorm  session:
Creative types like to introduce their ideas.  Each member of the committee should have the opportunity to speak independently without interruption.  The facilitator should determine the length of time given to each member when they have the floor and discourage any cross-talking or “conversation”.   Interest should be given to provide a “safe” environment for members to expose radical ideas and concepts without negative feedback.  Every idea and concept should be validated and recorded. 

“Human decisions can be about outcomes as large as whether to take a job, or as small as what to have for dinner.  In such situations, our brains are called upon to integrate extremely disparate types of information.  Unfortunately, our brains are not naturally equipped to do a good job at integrating complex quantitative facts, probably because they evolved primarily to negotiate social situations and survive natural threats, not to do quantitative puzzles.  Classical economic reasoning assumes that individuals are able to evaluate costs and benefits rationally, but the brain’s methods of estimation are not good at making such valuations.  The payoffs of extremely low-probability events, such as winning the lottery, do not appear to be represented accurately in the brain.  If we don’t have any intuitive idea of what it means when a probability is below, say, one in one hundred, then the incredible unlikelihood of a lottery payout is not scored rationally.  Even though long-term losses are virtual certainty, just one anecdotal story of a big winner remains a motivating factor that is weighted out of all proportion to any reasonable expectations.  So people persist in buying lottery tickets, a fact exploited by financially strapped governments everywhere.”   Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt

1.       Select the top optimal solution from the brainstorming list and evaluate the outcome through the Design by Committee process assessing the possibilities through steps 1 through 4.

The committee should collectively select the top optimal solutions or concepts generated from the brainstorming session.  Process the prospective solutions through the same process by evaluating the potential outcomes and how they measure up against the identified objectives as they relate to function and end-user needs.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Designing Consumer Experiences

We're approaching the holiday season and consumers have already spent more than 17.5 billion, a 12% increase over the same period a year ago. 
"The accounting and consulting firm [Deloitte LLP] forecasts that overall holiday sales will increase just 2% over last year, while non-store sales, about two-thirds of which occur online, will jump 15%. The rest are sales from catalogs and TV shopping shows."  “We believe that the retailers that have integrated marketing messages where their apps, Facebook pages, web site and in-store presences share a common campaign or theme will be the big winners this holiday season,”says Alison Paul of Deloitte’s retail practice head. Read the full article from Internet Retailer
Considering that only 18% of TV ad campaigns generate positive ROI and 14% of people trust advertisements, it appears the key to good marketing practices seem to be moving online.  But just having a virtual presence in social media isn't enough.
"By the time you are 60 years old you will have seen over 2,000,000 commercial advertisements.  Astonishingly enough a recent survey from ACNielson found that the average person could only remember 2.21 commercials of those they had ever seen, ever, period (Buyology, Lindstrom 2008). This proves a point that you can flood a marketplace with advertising and marketing, but if you never penetrate the mind of a consumer you will fail."
Businesses have well learned the value of integrating and designing experiences for their customers.  Social media has opened up a new ways of communicating and that includes a new way of finding and buying things. At the end of the day, good marketing revolves around good communication (word of mouth) and satisfying needs; however, if people don't really know what they want, then how is the best way to satisfy their need?
"Creating successful consumer experiences requires shifting the way companies think about innovation and how they are organized to deliver it. Companies need to give up trying to be everything to everybody, discover their authentic DNA, be willing to take a stand for something and deliver on it. Companies need to understand that myth, metaphor and theme create real value and that there are rigorous methods used to identify the right meaning-creating devices. They need to develop new research tools that unearth deep consumer insights, rather than just scratching the surface by asking the consumers what they want; new decision making methods that don't water down ideas; and, different organizational structures and values that embrace the consumer experience, not just organizational efficiencies."  Fast Company.

Overall, customers are willing to pay more for an experience that is not only functionally rewarding, but also emotionally rewarding!  Here are some highlights from Forbes' The Elements of aGreat Shopping Experience:

  • New Wharton research finds that 35% of shoppers have had an extraordinary retail experience in the past six months. But in order to hit that mark, retailers must deliver on as many as 10 different elements of the shopping experience simultaneously.  
  • Top response was related to engagement, with 63% of those reporting that during their great shopping experience, store employees were "very polite and courteous." Salespeople who were knowledgeable about the product in the store got the second-highest response at 55%.  
  • Brand experience includes store design and atmosphere, consistently great product quality, making customers feel they're special and the sense that customers always get a deal.
  • The ability of a retailer to resolve a problem once it crops up is another key factor in determining whether a shopper will have a great experience. One in four respondents mention that a store representative stayed with them until their problem was resolved. Fewer than one in 10 said they were compensated for a store error.
  • Younger consumers, aged 18 to 30, were most likely to recall having a great shopping experience. Those over age 50 were more likely to mention store representatives who seemed genuine and caring. Younger shoppers' retail experiences are colored by greater comfort with multitasking and familiarity with the Internet, making them more transaction-oriented than relationship-oriented and less tied to brick-and-mortar stores.  
Hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday experience!

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Palomino Restaurant: Our Pals

    Chef Amanda Bucher

    We have to come clean.   We have been cheating.    The affair started about 14 years ago, right here in Indianapolis, at the corner of Illinois and Maryland.   At first, the attraction was superficially motivated by looks; we admit this.  Soon, however, the relationship deepened into an abiding love that remains to this day.

    Everyone who knows us understands our commitment to quality and over-the-top service and style.  So it would be hard to fault us for stepping out on our office space, delightful as it is, for our alternative office space:  Palomino Restaurant. 

    Seriously, we don’t go to Palomino because it’s a great restaurant; we go because it’s a great experience.  We jokingly say, “You can go there if you want a Steak-N-Shake hamburger because they will run across the street to get if for you.”  Hyperbole?  Of course, no one would make such a request, but is shows the length at which the staff will go to meet customer satisfaction.   

    They have recently taken on a new look; however, it could have easily gone unnoticed.  It was a subtle facelift with its signature sienna, burnt reds and cream that happened right while we were dining.  Such a remodel, slight as it is, could easily have been disruptive at other eateries, but Palomino is the kind of restaurant that would see such interruptions as unacceptable.  This speaks to the way they go about their mission, providing the best dining experience in Indianapolis. 

    We heartily recommend Palomino.  Chef Amanda Bucher has just overseen the implementation of a new menu that focuses on freshness, flavor, and fine ingredients.  An already estimable wine list has been supplemented with some fine new additions.   The all day Happy Hour is a Q7 staple and the best deal in the city.

    They've welcomed our clients, helped us celebrate business deals and have been the home of many creative concepts.  Whether it’s a drink after work or dinner with friends, I am always confident my experience with Pali’s will be a good one.  It’s the type of place that knows my name when I sit down.  Where the bartender already knows my favorite drink.  And where everyone says goodbye as I leave…not as a forced formality, but more like the feeling of saying “see you later” to an old Pal. 

    Photography by Zach Dobson Photography

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Social Marketing in Travel and Hospitality: Consistent Engagement and Accessibility are Essential

    SEO for the travel industry

    "Social marketing is a very engaging process that requires skills and consistent engagement with the travel consumer."

    This very important point was stressed in a blog piece by Max Starkov, Chief eBusiness Strategist at Hospitality eBusiness Strategies, Inc., the hospitality industry's leading full-service hotel internet marketing and direct online strategy firm. He continues, "If your hotel cannot allocate bandwidth and resources or cannot afford to hire an external social marketing firm, do not start with social media initiatives such as Facebook fan page or Twitter profile. The social media battleground is full of "corpses" of abandoned hotel fan pages and profiles that do more harm than good to their owners."

    I think this is true across the business spectrum, not just for hospitality and travel. To initiate a social media presence is to engage with the larger on-line world. To utilize a social media site,  i.e., a Facebook Fan Page, is to make a commitment to a community of "fans" that you intend to engage them and interact with them, not leave them high and dry with unfulfilled expectations which can produce undesirable results.

    Mobile sites

    Starkov, speaking to a travel and hospitality audience (but the application can be used elsewhere), suggests a mobile-friendly site. 

    "An excellent first step is to create a mobile site, which by default is the "gravitational" center for all future marketing efforts: from text messaging and Google mobile ads, to mobile sweepstakes and applications. Budget limitations are no longer an excuse for not launching a mobile-ready hotel site. 

    Between 1% - 1.5% of visitors to hotel websites are from travel consumers accessing your property site via mobile devices.

    "Imagine the user experience of trying to squeeze your wide-screen hotel website, designed to fit screen resolutions at 1280x1024 pixels and above, onto the tiny screen of a mobile device. Our analysis shows that more than 90% of mobile users access the hotel website via mobile devices with screen sizes of 320 x 480 pixels. Accessing a "conventional" website via a mobile device, even the latest iPhone, often results in an undesirable user experience: the inability to find information needed, and a predictable outcome of abandoned websites and reservations."

    This is so important when it comes to making information accessible.  We know that smart-phones usage is only going to increase, so having a web presence that is basically useless for these devices is strategically disadvantageous.

    Image from:

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Blog It - Tweet It - Facebook It: It Depends On The Content

     A writer for The Guardian, Cory Doctorow, makes some great points about how content often determines which social media platform gets used. So, the perception that blogs are diminishing is not really the case. It's just that other social media venues are better suited to the specific content that is being delivered.

    From The Guardian:

    Reports of blogging's death have been greatly exaggerated

    A report last month in the Economist tells us that "blogging is dying" as more and more bloggers abandon the form for its cousins: the tweet, the Facebook Wall, the Digg.
    Do a search-and-replace on "blog" and you could rewrite the coverage as evidence of the death of television, novels, short stories, poetry, live theatre, musicals, or any of the hundreds of the other media that went from breathless ascendancy to merely another tile in the mosaic.
    Of course, none of those media are dead, and neither is blogging. Instead, what's happened is that they've been succeeded by new forms that share some of their characteristics, and these new forms have peeled away all the stories that suit them best.
    When all we had was the stage, every performance was a play. When we got films, a great lot of these stories moved to the screen, where they'd always belonged (they'd been squeezed onto a stage because there was no alternative). When TV came along, those stories that were better suited to the small screen were peeled away from the cinema and relocated to the telly. When YouTube came along, it liberated all those stories that wanted to be 3-8 minutes long, not a 22-minute sitcom or a 48-minute drama. And so on.
    What's left behind at each turn isn't less, but more: the stories we tell on the stage today are there not because they must be, but because they're better suited to the stage than they are to any other platform we know about. This is wonderful for all concerned – the audience numbers might be smaller, but the form is much, much better.
    When blogging was the easiest, most prominent way to produce short, informal, thinking-aloud pieces for the net, we all blogged. Now that we have Twitter, social media platforms and all the other tools that continue to emerge, many of us are finding that the material we used to save for our blogs has a better home somewhere else. And some of us are discovering that we weren't bloggers after all – but blogging was good enough until something more suited to us came along.
    I still blog 10-15 items a day, just as I've done for 10 years now on Boing Boing. But I also tweet and retweet 30-50 times a day. Almost all of that material is stuff that wouldn't be a good fit for the blog – material I just wouldn't have published at all before Twitter came along. But a few of those tweets might have been stretched into a blogpost in years gone by, and now they can live as a short thought.
    For me, the great attraction of all this is that preparing material for public consumption forces me to clarify it in my own mind. I don't really know it until I write it. Thus the more media I have at my disposal, the more ways there are for me to work out my own ideas.
    Science fiction writer Bruce Sterling says: "The future composts the past." There's even a law to describe this, Riepl's Law – which says "new, further developed types of media never replace the existing modes of media and their usage patterns. Instead, a convergence takes place in their field, leading to a different way and field of use for these older forms."
    That was coined in 1913 by Wolfgang Riepl. It's as true now as it was then.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    Experience-Based Design: Designing Experiences

    Experience-based design is, essentially, design focused on looking at the way the enduser engages or interacts with the design in question. Huh? Some may see it as simply "putting people first". I think that is a good way of seeing experience-based design - the human element. The UK's NHS (National Health Service), for instance, has instituted experience-based design, or service design, as its basis for innovation going forward. In doing so, the NHS can bring its focus in line with patients and the way they interact and experience the services they receive.

    This design concept certainly has other applications, and if we look at the environments we each create for ourselves, hopefully we have employed the principle liberally. For example, think of the objects in your home that, no matter what, you would never part with (aside from the ones that cost a blooming fortune, but maybe that's just the way you roll). Why won't you part with them? They have sentimental value, perhaps. I know that the items I am most emotionally attached to have definite, recallable experiences that accompany them.

    A friend and I were having drinks the other day when, in the context of a conversation about this very subject, he recalled the story of how he came about obtaining his and his partner's dining table. Said partner was shopping for a new dining table and found a fine one by Ralph Lauren, at an amazing price. It occurred to him that the table would be perfect in his parent's dining room, and they needed a new one. So he got the table for his parents, and decided to take theirs for his and his partner's (my friend) dining room. Well, it turns out that this table is the one his father, a very good artist of abstract painting, used as a work table. It's not a particularly gorgeous table, and it has intermittent splatters of paint all over it. Yet, as my friend pointed out, they love this table. Said partner's mother always finds it fascinating that they never cover it with a table cloth, and having dined at this very table myself, I can attest that to do so would be just wrong.

    Bringing it back to experience-based design, my friend's table is the factor around which any attempt to redesign his dining room has to revolve. In the same fashion, that memorable Kholer commercial where the woman tells the designer, after he has established his very impressive bona fides as a designer, to design her new house around a faucet, plays on this principle.There is something about her experience with the design of that faucet that practically makes it a prototype. Based on the experience she has derived from that piece of design, the designer receives his directive.

    A designer who intends to utilize experience-based design methodology must take into consideration: 1. The emotional value that the design will have for his client, very important in the area of healthcare, and 2. How will the design enhance their client's experience in living with it.

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    Process -vs- Contest: Bravo's Work of Art - The Next Great Artist.

    What makes a great artist? Is a great artist someone who creates consistent magnificence in one primary medium, or is greatness characterized by showing competence across a wide array of artistry? The newest contest show from Bravo Network, Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, explores this very question, though indirectly. The primary focus for the show's producers is to maximize the entertainment value. Where Bravo is concerned, this usually means "drama". Given the array of characters cast, drama will be among the primary things on display, along with the art.

    So what about the art? Off we go to the communal studio where the fun ensues. The first challenge for the 14 contestants, including a young artist with OCD (imagine that) and an overbearing, tactless performance artist, was to pair off and create a portrait of each other, loosely based on the self-portraits each artist produced. Seemed pretty straight forward, and for the most part, it was straight forward, with just enough of a glimpse of the artists' various temperments to intrigue viewers, allowing them to begin classifying characters along the usual lines: bitch, flake, freak, nicey nice, and general egomaniac.

    Most of the drama takes place as the artists begin to get into their processes, begin creating, and eventually begin freaking out. Then the snarking begins as the artists themselves begin reacting to each others' mode of operation. When that included the OCD kid, Miles, using power tools and generally making a lot of racket, the dead-pan looks thrown at him by the other contestants were priceless. This is one of the basic elements of conflict that is omnipresent with these shows; the head-on collision of uncomplimentary creative processes can be tragic, but as with most car wrecks, everyone cranes their neck to see if there is any spilled blood.

    When the judging commences, with the prerequisite coterie of heavy hitters as judges, the question that is the show's raison d'etre begins to get answered. But, it's only a beginning. Requiring a conceptual, abstract artist to produce a portrait is a trickier proposition than one might expect. As Indianapolis based artist and blogger of all things art, Scott Grow, observes, "I was left wondering, of all the abstract painters I know, how would ANY of them have faired in a portrait challenge and still remain true to their process and vision? How would an artist like Anish Kapoor or Richard Tuttle have faired?"

    That question of staying true to process while adhering to what the rules demand will be asked over and over again of the artists on Work of Art: The Next Great Artist. Abstract artist and creative director for Q7 Associates, GK Rowe, points out that, " a good artist, when given rules to abide by, will immediately devise some way of bending the rules."

    Rowe adds, "At the end of the day, the show is more about entertainment than art. But, it does raise awareness, and for all of us in the creative world, that is only a good thing. It gets people talking."

    For me, I'm happy to see a program for mass consumption centered around art that is contemporary, abstract, and deserving of more exposure.

    Image courtesy of Bravo Network

    Monday, May 24, 2010

    Using Social Media: Why Would You Not? -or- How I Taught Stevie Nicks How To Use Twitter

    I find it remarkable when I am around professional people, especially people in the sales or business development realm, who do not use social media, and are even a bit hostile to the idea. It makes me ask, "What's really going on here?" I have conversations about this with a couple of associates/friends whose feelings tend to veer toward those of a Luddite, who feel infringed upon and, possibly, personally displaced. This is natural. We are still in that period when many are still processing how they define the parameters within which technology and media and modern culture, etc, may inhabit, within the greater context of their lives. I find that people rest all over the spectrum of possibilities, existentially.

    For some, the extent of the interaction with social media is their daily check-up on FaceBook, including the games they happen to play. That's better than those who filled out a page on either FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, et al, and then never went back. I interact with the social media world to a far greater extent than most, particularly people of my age, and older. I get that. It's my job. But, it is also my passion. For others, not so much.

    And yet, I wonder about the failure, by some, to get ahead of the curve and identify social media as a necessary component of professional life, a component that will become even more vital.

    I made an observation when the internet was just starting out about how important it would be to become one who is "connected". To be unconnected would eventually amount to residing in a kind of third world. So now, not be plugged into social media, especially as a professional, comes across as an obstinate dismissal, as if to say, "I can't be bothered by all of that."

    All the while, I'm thinking, "You're not being bothered is getting you passed by."

    I guess I'll say this, as I used to say to my dad when he remarked that he did not like fried chicken, "Good! More for me."

    I say all of this as someone who is among the converted. I used to pooh pooh FaceBook and Linked-In too, until I got into them. My business partner at Q7 Associates, The Right Rev. Dr. GK Rowe, experienced the same thing. Once I was into FaceBook, I kept urging him to do it, and he would condescendingly close his eyes and dismiss me, outright. "That was until I got into it, " he said, "then it was Balls to the Wall, total buy-in once I saw the possibilities."

    That's what I love, the endless, intriguing possibilities. Why, just the other day, I got to teach Stevie Nicks (@RealStevieNicks) how to use twitter. How many people get to say that?

    Monday, May 17, 2010

    Using Social Media: Remember - Great Content Never Goes Stale

    That line about great content appears in an article from Canadian site, Financial Post, and I immediately latched on to it because it speaks to a fundamental truth about content on the net. Great content is timeless and endlessly useful.

    But, many entrepreneurs, including the ones at an Ontario conference where a social media consultant was explaining how social media channels can help in the sphere of recruiting talent, are still skittish, fearing a lack of interpersonal interactions will turn potential clients off. Nay nay, the author reminds us:

    "Recognizing that many business owners are still shy about Twitter and Facebook, he suggested they look at these new channels as a recruiting tool.

    "Social media let you spark conversations with potential employees and promote your business as a great place to work. When you're satisfied with your results, he said, you can tackle more marketing-oriented conversations.

    "I found that suggestion sensible, and sensitive to many entrepreneurs' doubts about social media. So I was shocked when some delegates denounced the consultant's proposal. They said people are the most important part of business, and expressed fears that social media will wipe out face-to-face relationships.

    "The consultant adroitly responded that social media don't replace anything. Blogging, Web video, Twitter and Facebook help you build new relationships, by promoting and sustaining conversations with the growing numbers of customers who don't read your brochures or prefer interactive media."

    The article, by Rick Spence, goes on to tell the story of how a Vancouver entrepreneur, Michael Jagger, founder and CEO of Provident Security, has gained expertise in using social media to advance his business and provide better service to his clients.

    "Jagger uses all possible media to promote his company. So he's become an expert at public relations, public speaking, video, blogging and, most recently, Twitter.
    He believes in integrated promotion. When asked to make a presentation on security, he has the presentation taped. Edited portions of the speech -- say, talking about new security technology -- may be uploaded to his website and his blog. Then he'll tweet about the videos on Twitter.

    "A key advantage of social media is that content posted online may remain there forever -- and great content never goes stale.

    "One day last week, Jagger tweeted about "Disabling a burglar alarm."
    Clicking the accompanying link took you to Jagger's 2007 blogpost explaining how a clever thief in Kitsilano had broken into an office and disabled the burglar alarm before roving the office stealing computer parts.

    Jagger proves you don't have to be a professional writer to maintain an intriguing blog; he just writes about what he knows, using an even, "just the facts" tone reminiscent of Dragnet."

    Spence's closing thoughts should be embraced by all who want to move in the direction of Jagger, et al.

    "Social media don't replace relationships or marketing practices that are working for you. Social media provide new channels for getting your message out.

    "But before you can reap any of these benefits, you have to lower your natural defensive shields against new tools with silly names."

    Image by Sylvar

    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Indianapolis Social Media Breakfast

    I am attending the Indianapolis Social Media Breakfast in the morning. The subject of this breakfast, "Using Social Media in the Travel, Tourism and Attraction Industries", should be interesting. I'll be giving a full report tomorrow.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010 Set Your Presentation Free

    You can pretty much tell when something is under the radar when Wikipedia does not have an article on it. Nothing about social media site,, was there when I searched the open source, public, cyber-encyclopedia. allows users to post their slide presentations on their platform, freeing them for all the world to see. The stand-out beneficial aspect of a site like this is that the goal of the democratization of knowledge and information is well served in the using of it.

    Here is the stated raison d'etre of

    " is a safe secure online platform where Members can share and publish PowerPoint Presentations and Photo Galleries. Members can create a community where they can invite friends, family and colleagues to view and comment on their Presentations and Galleries. It's a perfect way to learn from others or just share your ideas."

    The site is quite easy to use, no technical wizards needs (we still love you guys, though!).

    I love the idea that an artist could potentially have a global gallery show via Artist, musician, front man for art-rock group, The Talking Heads, David Byrne, is famously producing PowerPoint art. He spoke of his process in a piece in Wired Magazine back in '03:

    "Having never used the program before, I found it limiting, inflexible, and biased, like most software. On top of that, PowerPoint makes hilariously bad-looking visuals. But that's a small price to pay for ease and utility. We live in a world where convenience beats quality every time. It was, for my purposes, perfect.

    "I began to see PowerPoint as a metaprogram, one that organizes and presents stuff created in other applications. Initially, I made presentations about presentations; they were almost completely without content. The content, I learned, was in the medium itself. I discovered that I could attach my photographs, short videos, scanned images, and music. What's more, the application can be made to run by itself -no one even needs to be at the podium. How fantastic!

    "Although I began by making fun of the medium, I soon realized I could actually create things that were beautiful. I could bend the program to my own whim and use it as an artistic agent. The pieces became like short films: Some were sweet, some were scary, and some were mysterioso. I discovered that even without text, I could make works that were "about" something, something beyond themselves, and that they could even have emotional resonance. What had I stumbled upon? Surely some techie or computer artist was already using this dumb program as an artistic medium. I couldn't really have this territory all to myself -or could I?"

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    The Social Media Transformation

    From just fun and games to business necessity, the world of social media has undergone a transformation. Actually, it's more of a maturation. A piece in Chicago's The Business Ledger , written by associate editor Sherri Dauskurdas, delves into this phenomenon.


    Social media a commerce-driven necessity

    Navigating the maze of social media platforms can be a challenging, if not daunting task, but as the Facebook revolution takes hold in our country, more and more businesses are finding participation online is not simply a benefit, but rather a necessity to survival.

    Experts and business professionals met March 25 at NIU-Naperville, to discuss social media and its implications for use in commerce as part of the 2010 Business Ledger Newsmakers’ forum series.

    “Social media is not about technology and tools, it’s really about people,” said Barbara Rozgonyi, principal at CoryWest Media, LLC. “You can use Twitter to listen, you can search, respond to people for customer service. If people have a problem you can get to it right away. You can ask questions and connect with people, and you can also spy on your competition.”

    If that still sounds overwhelming, don’t despair. Brian Tomkins, chief information officer for Boom Media, Inc., is seeing older adults taking the reigns on social media sites these days.

    “The average age on Facebook is now 38 and the average age on Twitter is now 37, and it’s moving up,” said Tomkins. “You are seeing the demographic get older. It’s not for kids.”

    That is allowing for a sea change in social media, from the social and entertainment focus under which it began to a developed exchange of information and a more valuable asset to marketing than ever before.

    “It really comes down to using all the tools available to not replace traditional techniques but to supplement those,” Tomkins said. “We’re not replacing anything; we’re just enhancing them.”

    It’s a simple transformation to understand. Traditional medium – television, radio and newspapers – are one-way tools, while social media is interactive. It allows participants to engage, said Brett Flickinger, creative revenue expert for Next Level.

    “The power of social media is that so many people are allowed to participate in it,” said Flickinger. “With social media, we’re changing the rules as to how we as businesses communicate with existing customers, stakeholders and potential customers.”

    In fact, Flickinger added, about 1.7 billion people were on the Internet last year, and 72 percent of America was online. That’s a lot of potential customers, and major companies are responding to that captive audience.

    “Fortune 100 companies are now taking on kids right out of school at $30,000 a year to sit at a cubicle all day and tweet,” said J.D. Gershbein, president of Owlish Communications. “So we have arrived, and if companies aren’t in social media by now, they’re not only missing the boat, but they didn’t even know the boat was there in the first place.”

    Tomkins added that 79 percent of Fortune 100 companies are on Twitter, and there are 50 million Tweets per day.

    “So a lot of companies are spending money on this,” Flickinger said. “Some of these are probably your competitors. Think about that.

    “Studies have shown, time after time, people don’t trust advertising. They don’t trust the message,” he said. “But they do trust the words of their peers. That’s the strength of social media. Peer recommendations are a driving force to get business.”

    Yet even the major brands can only facilitate a portion of the discussion.

    “Over 75 percent of what’s on the Internet was not produced by them,” said Tomkins. “It was produced by people talking about them. So if you’re not online, 100 percent of the content about you and your company is produced by somebody else. Do you really want to put that power in their hands?”

    Instead, the experts suggest, companies should use social media to create positive brand association, enhance brand awareness, influence search results, support business development activities and enhance intent to sell. All these things can retain customers and shorten the sales cycle, as well as increase a company’s value.

    “Your social media presence, those online tools you use, those are online assets. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, that’s real estate that stays with you,” Tomkins said.

    Businesses must move quickly and understand social media and how it works, which is much different than other media. Online, it’s all about credibility, Tomkins said. You have to be credible online, back up what you say and be engaging.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    YouTube Redesign In Line With Google's Focus On Users

    I am an avid YouTube viewer, as are millions of others worldwide. A short while back I was taken aback by YouTube's new look, which I initially thought was a glitch. Silly Me. On Youtube's redesign, as Laurie Sullivan writes, in a piece for Online Media Daily, "The cleaner, stripped-down version, which comes after a year of planning, more closely resembles the style and design of pages from parent company Google."

    Here's more from the article:

    "The changes might seem subtle at first, but that's only because the site sports a cleaner look. Metrics from preliminary tests that YouTube ran earlier this year suggest that overall video playbacks with the redesign rose 6%. People stay on the site 7% longer to view and comment longer. The cleaner design also helps pages load faster.

    The combined features should give YouTube fodder to attract advertisers who long to engage site visitors more than the average of 15 minutes per session.

    That's the length of time people typically hung around and viewed videos, perhaps because the old page design became crowded. Features began competing against each other for the attention of the site visitor, explains Shiva Rajaraman, YouTube senior product manager.

    Rajaraman believes the redesign will change that, turning novices into power users though a variety of powerful, yet simple features and functions. For example, the search box has been positioned at the top center of the page. Site visitors can conduct searches as they watch videos."

    This is a perfect example of experience-based design. Google is a forwarding thinking company from the design aspect and they are completely engaged in enhancing the user experience as it applies experienced-based design principles to the functionality of all its various business models.

    Now as for YouTubers (those who provide content), one of the absolute best is Charlieissocoollike. I give you Charlie:

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    The Ongoing Conversation

    There is a great deal of talking "at" in our culture today rather that talking "with". Here at Round Table Talking, we will endeavor to have a conversation with our readers about modern culture and the interplay between the worlds of art, design, and technology how they manifest themselves in our lives.

    We hope to have a lively and informative exchange and encourage participation in the proceeding comment forums.

    Let the conversation commence.