Behavior Modeling & Design, Life, Social business, User Experience

It’s that time of the year again when we make resolutions for newer and better things. While some of us vouch to take the route of a healthier lifestyle, some others may opt to being more productive at work. New year resolutions are indeed a nice trigger for behaviour change. At an individual level, people themselves initiate changes in their behaviours, being driven by their own goals.  However, businesses also attempt to change the behaviours of their customers and users. In this post, let us look at what behaviour change really is and how to define correctly the target behaviours.

What is behaviour change

Behaviour change can be defined as acquiring new behavours, increasing or decreasing or stopping altogether the existing behaviours. It can result from the motivation to change and the simplicity in adopting the new or changed behaviours. Sometimes these behaviours, over a longer term, can result in the formation of new habits or cutting down on the current habits.

 

Habits and behaviours

Behaviour change can happen when you attempt one of the following:

  1. Do new
  2. Do different or do more of the existing
  3. Stop or do less of the existing

For instance, a change in the existing behaviour can be to wake up from bed 30 minutes earlier. Whereas a new behaviour can be to learn ice-skating, a decrease in existing behaviour can be a resolution to cut down on eating high-fat food every Thursday.

What are behaviours

It is important to understand what target behaviours are and how we can make use of them to our advantage. First, let us look at the common misconceptions and myths about behaviours. Please note that behaviours are not

  • About tasks or processes alone
  • Those that effect people in a short term
  • Always linked to the attitudes and personalities

BehaviourChange_Texavi

This brings us to the question as to what behaviours actually are. I would like to highlight the key aspects of a behaviour in the following points:

  • Can be about actions and their outcomes – personal, professional or both
  • Spread over a longer period, potentially leading to habits
  • Involve creating new ones, changing or stopping the existing ways
  • Are purely about the actions or behaviours

Defining the target behaviours – the right way!

Before you attempt to change the behaviours, an important step is defining the target behaviours and defining them correctly. When defining the behaviours ask the following questions:

  • Am I defining a behaviour, in the first place?
  • How crisp is the behaviour definition?
  • Can I make it any crispier?
  • Who are the target people for this behaviour?

An example of a good behaviour definition that I recently came across is the “Get London Reading” campaign. Launched by the Evening Standard newspaper, this campaign is aimed at increasing the literacy levels in schools. With a crisp definition of the objective, this campaign  is an example of defining the target behaviours well.

Here is how to define behaviours

After defining target behaviours, let us look at what makes a good behaviour definition. I give below a few simple rules that you might want to keep as a reference checklist:

  • Start the behavior definition with an action word/verb
  • Use simple words and terms. Eg., get, make, do etc.
  • Be brief and specific. Verbose statements don’t help anybody
  • Focus only on behaviour – leave out attitude and personality
  • Ignore the process or implementation. Aim at the end result

As they say, “Well begun is half done”, by now you have completed the most important thing in behaviour change.  After this step, we need to identify the ways and means of how we are going to achieve the target behaviours. Let us look at this topic in the upcoming post. Hope the new year 2013 brings in joy, peace and success to all of you.

Agile Development, Information Technology, Life, Product Development

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change”.  When I pondered over this popular quote of Charles Darwin, the other day, it occurred to me that ‘change’ is a profound phenomenon that impacts the way we live, work and do virtually every task. Change affects to a large extent, every human being in every phase and walk of life…young and old, rich and poor. Not only people, but organizations too have ‘change’ staring in their face and they have a greater responsibility to manage it and use it to their advantage. In this post, I will touch upon the key aspects of managing change and how organizations need to respond effectively.

The writing is on the wall

When they say that change is the only constant in this world, they meant it to the letter and spirit. Understand that everything is bound to change one day or the other in one way or the other. Don’t think that change is a negative thing and that we need to avoid it, evade it or confront it, to the least. On the contrary, change is for the benefit of all of us and take it as a positive factor that drives us in our lives and careers. Change is inevitable, be prepared for it and embrace it with all the preparation you can.

“Change, for your good
Change to take the lead
Change to be the best!”
 
Ride on the waves of change

In the context of product development and management too, change does play its role to a large extent and leaves its rather heavy imprints. Here, it does touch and signify its presence across all the strata starting from stakeholders, to customers and from partners to the development team. And to manage this change at various levels, organizations need to rely not just on their traditional abilities such as reputation, market capitalization, production capacities etc. To stay ahead in this game of managing change and lead the pack, organizations need to be nimble-footed, flexible and embrace change and act swiftly. Don’t fight change, you may not win the battle and it is not worth the effort. Instead try and ride on the waves of change and you will potentially have a joy ride.

Factoring for change – external and internal

The most important reason for success is to aspire for and be prepared for it. I like the Scouts movement started by Robert Baden Powell and the motto with which the cadets are trained. Every Scout lives by the motto “Be Prepared” and is ready to face, come what may. The Scouts go through a series of training sessions, equipped with the right tools and techniques to be prepared all the time. Similarly, organizations and especially product managers have to follow a few things to do as a precursor and warm up to the game of managing change effectively.

Identify all the potential factors that could affect your organization and products. Categorize them into external and internal factors for easy listing. Some of the external factors that are possibly candidates for change are the market forces, competition,  out-of-control factors related to demand and supply dynamics, Government policies etc. The internal factors could be the capabilities of your own development teams, their skill sets, organizational set up, company policies and politics, to name a few. Of course, these factors could vary from industry to industry and also depends on the nature, size and type of the product you are developing or managing.

To be and to do 

The most important thing is to know what you want to be and what you need to do to reach that stage.

  • Identify the strategic vision of the organization
  • Put together the long term, medium term and short terms goals for the business
  • Identify the key stakeholders who directly influence or influenced by these goals
  • Get all stakeholders aligned and seek their commitment

After you are done with listing the ‘to be’ goals, map them with the internal and external change factors that you identified earlier. The next immediate step is the creation of a ‘to do’ list which is derived from the mapping of ‘to be’ and the internal and external change factors. Often this list of action items is all you need to kick start a movement in your organization. I can’t prescribe the ‘to be’ points as they vary to a great extent based on the industry, domains, your own organization goals, products, people and processes. When you have this list by you, your product can be said to be put on the track. Once on the track, it is entirely up to you as a product manager to drive it in a way to meet the ‘to be’ goals.

Making elephants dance

What among the two items do you think makes it to breaking news- a dancing hyena or a dancing elephant? You are right, its the dancing elephant that makes it to the rolling marquee. It might be for various reasons, but sticking to the subject of the post, I wish to focus on the abilities of a dancing elephant such as its size, presence, and respect that make it a head-turner along with its newly acquired talent of dancing. The combination of agility with the abilities such as market presence, strong brand, talented workforce etc., would work wonders for your organizations and products. It is this healthy blend of the critical success factors and better change management tactics that make successful companies and products.

When I was doing my MBA, a few years ago, I read a book written by Louis Gerstner “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? – Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround”. I loved the way that a company of the size and presence of IBM could be successful despite its size. IBM today is a 100 year-old organization which has seen itself grow from a company making ‘adding machines’ to a pure-play services company that it is today.

   

Everyone would have been surprised when IBM (I guess in 2005) announced that it was selling their PC business to Lenovo. I still remember some people questioning the decision to move out of the business which the company had grown out of as bread and butter for almost 50 years. Even Mr.Gerstner would not have imagined that IBM would rewrite its own History in such a bold way. But, IBM stood by its decision, after reading the writing on the wall, assessing their own strengths and heading up the path of action. A classic case in managing change, using the agility as the key over abilities as the key differentiation.

Agility is the key 

Think of something that could work. Try it for sometime and check if it  is working or not. Adapt it to suit your goals and continue the process. This is the only way to manage the ever-changing landscape of products market. To be able to manage change on a continuous basis, it is not enough if you do the above things once and leave them there.

Here are my tips for making agility as your all-weather friend!

  • Take a few tasks and stick to them religiously. Discipline is paramount for success
  • Be always on the lookout – learn, apply and share the learning
  • Look, observe, listen and understand what is happening around you
  • Revisit your change factors, to be and to do items continually
  • Assess where you are, where you need to go and re-plan how you can reach there
  • Restructure your teams to suit the ever changing demands
  • Try new and different ways of doing things
  • Don’t be too rigid with products, processes and people

Hope you have some useful takeaways from this post. Try the tips I gave here and see if it works for you. Let me know your views and ideas. Till the next post, ciao!

Business Analysis, Innovation, Life, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

You might be slightly intrigued by the title of this post. Yes, you are correct in that the focus of any innovation almost always happens to be on customers and end-users. It ends up delivering value to users in some way or the other and that the most significant benefactor in the process of innovation is the user. No denying that truth, however, in this post I wish to look at innovation being driven by users and their needs. Let us look at a few instances which triggered the users to innovate and what it takes to nurture this user-centered innovation.

Defining innovation

From whatever I have learnt from my experience, I would define innovation as an approach to deliver value to customers and users, using the existing resources and working under the constraints. It could be a powerful combination of bringing in some simple ideas, adding some imagination and creating value.

This value-creation process can span across multiple industries, verticals, domains and market segments. Innovation is not restricted to products alone. Innovation can happen in the way you deliver services to your customers or even in the way you improve the internal processes within your organization.

Whose problem is it anyway

Innovation starts with identifying the right problems and can be said to be successful when the ‘right solution’ is created. What is a right solution? It is that which works for customers and users! But whose problems are you trying to solve? Its the users’ problem and if its their problem, who is best equipped to find a way out? Well, the people who have the problem did find the solutions too in some cases and in this post we shall touch upon a few of them.

   

 

Quality and process improvement initiatives such as Kaizen, TQM (Total Quality Management) and Quality Circles have been evolved in the later part of the 20th century. These initiatives came out after finding that the people who are close to the problems are the people are working on the shop floor and are working on the assembly lines. Many companies in the automobile industry have successfully leveraged Quality Circles to identify the problems and also soliciting solutions from the people who are working on the shop floors.

Improvisation vs. innovation

Innovation need not always be ground-breaking and involving rapid changes to the existing ways. It is not about big or small, high or low, but it is about the ability to deliver value in the first place. As the saying goes ‘necessity is the mother of invention’, it is necessity and not needs alone that drives people to innovate and invent. Note that the user is the person who has the problem or the need and he/she has the best ability to determine the scale of impact or outcome from the process.

A case in point is the video clip that you can view by clicking on the link below. I came across this small video clip being shared in the social media. I am really fascinated by the way the gentleman in the video found out a way to satisfy his need to look better in the eyes of the onlookers, when driving his car. Sometimes, its the urge to look better that makes us think for better way of doing things leading to innovation. This proves that innovation or the ability to make things better need not always be on a large scale nor involve massive machinery.

Manual Power windows_innovation demo_Video Clip

Innovation is not expensive

User-centered innovation need not be a huge investment involving millions of dollars. It need not be even be seen as an investment in some cases. It is more a process of improving the things or merely doing the same things in a different way to bring about the value.

I am reminded of the story during the cold war space programmes by USA and the USSR. NASA invested millions of dollars to invent a pen which writes in zero-gravity space conditions. They invented this space pen ( also called as Fisher’s space pen) after a lot of effort, time and cost of research. The Russian Cosmonauts on the other hand, used a cheaper and smarter way…they used ‘pencil’! My friends in India might recollect the famous scene by actor Amir Khan in the popular movie ‘3Idiots’.

    

I saw this Fisher space pen (also called as Bullet Pen) when I visited the Smithsonian’s NASM (National Air & Space Museum) in Washington D.C. Of course, the above is just a story and not completely factual, as the NASA did not develop the space pen but acquired it from the company that manufactured it and later the Russians too started using the space pen. However, the moral of the story is that innovation need not be expensive all the time.

Measuring innovation

A true measure of innovation is the value delivered to the users. But I would not measure the value as high, medium or low. I would not even quantify the value delivered because that would defeat the purpose of innovation as a continual or should I say continuous process of making things better.

Native intelligence and improvisation

Innovation does not require high end technology nor using huge number of resources. Some times , as they say at grass roots level, this can be witnessed through using native intelligence and improvising in a small way. A small example to prove this is the case of mobile vendors of vegetables who went innovative in the rural areas of Vijayawada in India. I witnessed one such instance in a remote area, Gollapudi in the outskirts of Vijayawada. This area has a few colonies which came up recently but they are too inside the town to be closer to any everyday things such as vegetables and groceries.

  

Their application of native intelligence and innovation starts right from the vehicle they use for moving from one house to another. The local vegetable vendors hired a truck, took a few select vegetables in bulk and went about advertising the arrival of their truck. The truck is customized to suit the needs of the vendors. They announce that they have come onto the roads using a microphone. The lady who uses this microphone seems to be more comfortable with a telephone, than a microphone. Also, considering the comfort factor too, the mike was remodeled into a telephone receiver using which interactive and sensible announcements are made by the vendors. Now, that’s what I call user-centered innovation. :-)

Hope you find this post informative. We will touch base in the next post, till then ciao!

Business Analysis, Life, User Experience, User-centered Design

10.4  Saeed Ajmal to Tendulkar, no run, lbw! Ian Gould raises the finger and Tendulkar wants a review. There’s only one review left. That pitches in line, hits him in line but the replays show that it is likely to miss leg stump. And listen to that roar in Mohali. That looked close. Tendulkar bats on …

The above was an excerpt from www.espncricinfo.com on the commentary of India vs. Pakistan cricket match. It was the crucial do-or-die semifinal match in the Cricket World Cup 2011 played at Mohali, on 30-Mar-2011. A billion hearts would have skipped beat but thanks to UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System) which uses the predictive ball movement technology, the God gets a breather and so do the billion fans around the world. And at the end, India won the match with Tendulkar scoring invaluable 85 runs, contributing to India’s victory!

To use or not to use

There has been a perennial debate about use of technology in sports and games, especially in popular ones such as Football, Cricket and Tennis. Most recently in Cricket the UDRS and Hawk-Eye technologies came under the scanner and ignited the debate. While there are a few who would argue against it, some people do favor the use of technology. I, for one, would not take sides and certainly not in this post. I wish to touch upon how technology and more so, better user experience have brought about changes in the way sport, particularly Cricket, is being played and viewed over the last few decades.

 

For the sake of clarity and simplicity, I would like to classify my thoughts on usage of technology and usability into two different perspectives – one that dwells on their usage while the game is played – to help players play better and umpires take decisions effectively. And the other perspective touches upon the perspective as to  how technology has evolved to help show the games to spectators and audiences in a better way, enhancing their viewing experiences of the game.

The evolution of  Gentlemen’s game

There has been a sea change in the way the game has been played and viewed over the last few centuries. From the days when it was played only by men, the ‘Gentlemen’s game’ had undergone quite a few modifications in the rules, format and duration of play.

I cannot recollect the days when technology started making in-roads into the game of Cricket. I don’t intend to trace that in this post any way. Technology and usability had made their presence felt as the game transitioned from white-flannels to fully logo-ed colored jerseys, red cherry balls to white balls, 5-days test matches to one-day matches and now the popular 4-hour Twenty-20 games.

All through these transitions, technology and the better use of it only enhanced the playing of the game and made viewing the game a pleasure too! Well, there are some things which neither technology nor usability could help change, one of them being ‘sledging’ and the other one ‘match fixing’  :-)

Playing the game

First, let us look at how technology in the game had evolved over the years and how it helped play the game better. By and large, these technological advances helped umpires and referees take the right decisions in the most tricky or difficult situations. Often times, there were quite a few fumbles and mumbles in deciding run-outs, leg-before-wickets and stump-outs, because they required the umpires to look at the instance of the ball and bat from awkward angles.

Using multiple cameras in different positions definitely helped umpires view the same ball from  For instance, the stump-vision technology with the cameras fitted into the wickets helped with a newer perspective and helped them get to the other and often impossible side of the moment.  The same applies to the now controversial Umpire Decision Review System a.k.a UDRS. Of course, this system makes use of the Hawk-eye technology to predict the potential movement of the ball, based on the point of pitching.

And then add to this list other not-so high-tech stuff but which turned out to be a hit. One of the popular items is especially in the Twenty-20 matches, Microphone attached to the players, and sometimes umpires while the game is on. The idea is to have an interactive chat on their views and opinions, which will add some zing to the spectators interest in the game.

Viewing the game

A few years back, I could remember seeing the score only at the end of the over. But over the years, score is being displayed always-on. Also it used to take quite a while to re-play the previous deliveries of the ball. They used to only show replays for important deliveries such as a boundary or a wicket. But again, advancement in technology made more usable and pleasurable viewing of the game. Now if you miss a ball, you don’t have to worry too much. Thanks to the multiple cameras across the ground, now for every ball delivered, we have instant re-plays. Also, these replay not just in one angle, but multiple angles, and multiple formats and speeds to help get a better view of the same delivery.

Besides the above, more recently ultra-motion cameras provide that super slow motion videos of ball delivery, impact with the bat and subsequently its motion. These offer some stunning moments of the game for viewers – whether its that unbelievable catch by the fielder or the unimaginable angling of the bat by the batsman to score that cheeky shot. Also, speed guns are deployed to help determine the speed of the bowler’s  delivery which help show the speed of the ball almost instantaneously.

Cricket had been predominantly filled up with figures and statistics. This might be challenging for a lot of fans and sports personnel to follow, remember, analyze, interpret these mere numbers. To help reach out to these key users and stakeholders, technology and user experience had been pressed to better use. To help make sense of the raw numbers,statistics and unfathomable analyses, a smarter option was made available, that of  charts, graphs and other types of info-graphics.

Most of these widgets (short form for What-I-do-is-what-I-get) are helpful in the analysis of the game and the teams’ scores. These graphic  elements are used to compare and contrast the performance and progress of the players and teams as well.  Some of the widgets offer exceptional interaction and experience providing an easy-to-understand way of representing the otherwise mundane figures.

 

Not every widget is used in the same way to do the same thing. Each of them has a unique purpose, and usage mechanism. Some of the elements like the Wagon wheel, and Spider are used primarily to analyze the batting performance of the teams. A few others  such as the Manhattan and worm are used to analyze the scores of the teams, whereas some others such as bar diagrams and pie-charts are used to help present the bowling related figures in a better way.

A look at the above indicate that usage of technology and usability of it only helped enhance the experience of playing and viewing the games. With more ways of interaction such as the Mobil phones, Touch screens and Tablets coming in our way, I expect this to improve the experience of  sports and games. There is no doubt that these will help the players,umpires and referees focus on what they should do (i.e., play the game, enjoy and entertain) and leave the rest to technology. And, for the viewers and sports-admirers, it will only make their experiences more fun, immersive and delightful!

Disclaimer: Some of the images used in this post have been taken from live feeds from Espncricinfo.com, Ndtvcricket.com and so the copyrights for these belong to the respective owners. Also, a few images have been taken courtesy other sites. The author of this blog post, and Texavi Innovative Solutions do not own any copyrights for the images used and the copyrights are attributed to their respective owners.

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Life

I don’t recollect where I came across the inspiring note below, but found it really interesting and worth remembering. Since I do not know the source, I can only attribute it to the person who thought of this and wrote it originally and its definitely not me.

It’s not where you started, it’s where you are going that matters!

It’s not when you began, it’s within how much less time you achieved, that matters!

It’s not who you were, but who you have become now that matters!

It’s not what you did in the past, it’s how you can use it that matters!