UX & Service Designer for Connected Products

“Convergence Culture”, Henry Jenkins

Category : Blog Post, Book Reviews July 11, 2009

It is hard to remember the days when consumption of information was passive. Anything that is worth anyone’s attention today are expected to be openly discussed, dissected, re-interpreted and remixed with other bits of other things. The commoditization of computing power, accessibility to user-friendly tools, 24 hours connectivity and the ability to narrow-cast to specific audience have made participatory user experiences the way of information consumption in the 20th century.

Jenkins’ book discusses the signs and implication of this new movement. A great deal of focus on was placed on phenomenons in entertainment where most of the information convergence has taken place – Dedicated fans of TV Show ‘Lost’ systematically gathered and analyzed information online and on-location (using satellite images) to predict outcomes of the contestants. The Wachowski brothers planted entries in their ‘Matrix’ trilogy and scaled the story across comic books, animations and an online game to bring transmedia storytelling to a new height. In the cases of Harry Potter and the Star Wars, fans and movie studios play tug-of-war over the boundaries of core stories and fan fictions.

While these phenomenons help to illustrate the possibilities and issues faced by regular consumers, grass-root contributors, creators and distributors of media, Jenkins also pointed us to the ramification of convergence of media in a much larger context.

First of all, this and future generations can no longer maintain engaged with one-way distribution of information that is typical of the traditional mass media, politics and religion. Institutions that are behind those outlet have no choice but to adapt. Secondly, with all information dissected and re-tuned for niche groups, the Internet induces self-selected mental myopia. Like Charles Eames said, “Beyond the age of information, is the age of choices”. We no longer need accept differing opinions. We can choose what we want to listen and tune out the rest. Last but not least, in culture of convergence, skills to rally peer support, gather information from unrelated sources and deliberate with others are critical to success. Our education system must tool our children with these skills so they can remain competitive in the future.

Innovator’s Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen

Category : Blog Post, Book Reviews April 25, 2009

innovators_dilemma The Microsoft DOS, TiVo and the iPhone. All of these product are commonly agreed as disruptive and game-changing in their respective industries. It’s not difficult to notice that all of them, like most disruptive products in fact, were not created by established players of their industries. With all the resource and power, the establish companies seem to repeatedly fail to conceive and compete with disruptive products. Some of them even go out of business. Most of us point to arrogance, bureaucracies and general incompetent as the reasons of establishes companies’ demise. Research from Clayton Christensen, a professor of the Harvard Business School, reveals just the opposite — establish companies characteristically fail to response to disruptive products because they are well managed, listen to their customers and good at what they do.

Christensen characterizes disruptive products in “The Innovator’s Dilemma” as those that initially under-perform when measured with the existing metrics in the market. Their market are also small and have very lower profit margin at the beginning. They are usually made out of existing components and technologies that are accessible and proven to be reliable.

Big companies habitually invest in what Christensen calls ‘sustaining technologies’, which are improvements of the existing products along the known metrics and reach upmarket for bigger market share and wider product margin. It is therefore illogical for an established company, under constant pressure to maintain growth and support their cost structure, to a conceive product that their customers don’t want, for an small market that offer comparitively miniscure amount of product. In fact, even if a dominant company can create a disruptive product, their customers would reject it because it will not fit their own offerings!

Christensen gives ample samples across a variety of industries to support his argument. He also offers a number of frameworks to help his readers to identify when disruptive product typically emerge, how to monitor shifts in a product cycle, and how an established company can nurture and create disruptive products of their own.

“Innovator’s Dilemma” sheds a much needed light on a subject that has plagued product managers and design planners. It is a recommended read for those who want their companies to stay ahead of their industries, or to create brand new ones.

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Category : Blog Post, Book Reviews March 19, 2009

After years of hearing about Csikszentmihalyi’s “Flow”, I finally brought a copy and read it during the flights of a recent trip. The framework work that Csikszentmihalyi laid for enhancing a person’s experience in daily life is comprehensive, concise and brilliantly straight forward — flow, or a state of enjoyment, is attained when a person is deeply focused on an activity in such a way that his sense of time and self(-inferiority) is lost. Csikszentmihalyi also observed that the type of activity that fosters flow usually have a well-defined goal and provides immediate feedback. People who frequently experience flow are those invest their attention (or psychic energy) to such an activity over an extend period of time, over which the enjoyment from the activity and the commitment of the participant form a virtuous cycle, resulting in a continuously deeper and rewarding experience.

How rare are those who can find flow in their daily work? Too many of us wander into our careers after series of random choices. When we do feel motivated, it is because of money, prestige, peer-recognition and other equally frivolous matters. How often can we stand in front of a mirror can tell ourselves that we drive to excel in our careers out of pure sense of enjoyment?

Flow serves as a wake-up call to us. Every moment not seeking enjoyment out our daily lives is a moment that we willfully discard.

Review cross-posted here.