Sunday, November 27, 2022

A Trip to Egypt: Adventure Awaits at the Land of Pharaohs

If you're like me, then the allure of ancient civilisations is hard to resist. I mean, who doesn't love getting a little taste of history? And what could be more historical than a trip to Egypt?

Home to some of the most iconic ancient ruins in the world, Egypt is a must-see for any history lover. Not to mention, it's also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With its stark desert landscapes, towering pyramids, turquoise blue waters of the red sea, Egypt is a true adventure seeker's paradise.

To enjoy Egypt you need to have interest in history, as our tour leader said it very well

In Egypt everywhere it is - dekho to khandar, socho to wonder!
Which means, you will only see ruins, stones and rubble everywhere, but if you close your eyes and imagine what life would be in those times, it's mind blowing!

The Trip


We landed in Cairo and straight away we departed for Alexandria. It is a costal town towards the west of Egypt. It is also home to one of the worlds biggest library which has around 4 million books and is 11 floors!


This is the city from where Romans (including Pompey and Julius Caesar) came to Egypt. Naturally wherever Roman's went they had to build an amphitheater - there were no streaming services in those times :P

We were in awe as we approached the Great Pyramids of Giza. They were massive! As we got closer, the enormity of it all started to sink in. Pictures don't do justice to their awesomeness.


Egypt is famous for taking good care of their dead. Everywhere you will find elaborately designed tombs. For ancient Egyptian people, death is just the beginning of the after life. Pyramids are basically burial place for one person - mostly a King.

Inside of a pyramid looks like a tunnel which leads to treasure and burial rooms. You have to crouch to go to the room and no there is no more treasure left!


Another very famous thing, it's called the Spinx - It is a mythical creature with human face and lions body. It's supposed to protect the pyramids.


4500 years old - but they are amazing even today! 


Cairo is almost like Mumbai - And yes it has the traffic jams of Mumbai as well.


It is home to beautiful Hanging Church and Mosque of Muhammad Ali


Next few days we spend on a Nile cruise. 

Crew members were very talented - they cooked and danced very well but they folded the towels in the most innovative ways!



The lush green banks of the Nile are home to some of the most ancient and awe-inspiring temples in the world. Our favourite was the temple of Abu Simbel. When the Aswan High Dam was built, the entire temple was submerged into water. The entire temple was relocated to a higher ground in 1968. 


At Luxor we got an opportunity to do hot air balloon ride over the valley of kings. It was beautiful!





Luxor was once the capital of Egypt and is now home to some of the most famous Pharaohs in history, including Tutankhamun and Ramses II. Visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens, where you can see their tombs up close. The kings of new kingdom ditched the idea of building a pyramids because they were easy targets for robbers. 

Inside of the tombs are decorated with paintings and carvings which are very well preserved. The colours used are bright even today, imagine how nice they would have been when they were originally created!

Finally, it was time to take a dip into the Red Sea. My son got to do his first scuba dive here! 


We got to see beautiful corals and tons of fishes. We also saw a lot of dolphins too.


This was the first time we saw a sun rise on a beach!


Overall, we made many beautiful and unforgettable memories! 

My NPS score for Egypt is a perfect 10!


Saturday, September 24, 2022

15 useful tips from: Seductive Interaction Design

Here are 15 useful tips from the book Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson. This book will help you design 15x better user interfaces.






















Sunday, August 28, 2022

KGL - A Trek To Cherish For A Life Time

Today we have a guest blogger, please join me in welcoming Sapna Shah. I am a proud husband of Sapna. She recently completed one of the most beautiful treks called the KGL Trek - Kashmir Great Lakes. She is the first person from our family to venture into some serious trekking. Her experience was so spectacular and so special that it deserved a blog post. So here it is, KGL - The heaven on earth!

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Book Notes: Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services

We have been working on designing new UX for one of our products. Obviously I had no idea on how to design good UX, hence I decided to level up by reading the Laws of UX: Using Psychology to Design Better Products & Services by Jon Yablonski

Who is this book for?

This is one of the first books you should read if you are designing an interface that your customers will interact with. This includes UX designers, Product Managers, Product Designers etc. This book will add value to Product Engineers as well. 

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Jakob's Law

Users spend most of their time on other sites, and they prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. 

Users will transfer expectations they have built around one familiar product to another that appears similar. 

By leveraging existing mental models, we can create superior user experiences in which the users can focus on their tasks rather than on learning new models. 

When making changes, minimise discord by empowering users to continue using a familiar version for a limited time. 

The less mental energy users have to spend learning an interface, the more they can dedicate to achieving their objectives. The easier we make it for people to achieve their goals, the more likely they are to do so successfully. 

One of the primary ways designers can remove friction is by leveraging common design patterns and conventions in strategic areas such as page structure, workflows, navigation, and placement of expected elements such as search. 

A mental model is what we think we know about a system, especially about how it works. Good user experiences are made possible when the design of a product or service is in alignment with the user's mental model.

The process of design becomes more difficult when a design team lack a clear definition of its target audience, leaving each designer to interpret it in their own way. User personas are a tool that helps solve this problem by framing design decisions based on real needs, not the generic needs of the undefined "user".


The items common to most personas include: 

  • Info: Items such as a photo, memorable tagline, name, age and occupation. 
  • Details: This section helps to build empathy and align focus on the characteristics that impact what is being designed. 
  • Insights: This section helps to frame the attitude of the user. It helps further definition of the specific persona and their mindset. 

Fitts's Law

The time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target. 

Touch targets should be large enough for users to accurately select them. 

Touch targets should have ample spacing between them. 

Touch targets should be placed in areas of an interface that allow them to be easily acquired. 

As the size of an object increases, the time to select it goes down. Additionally, the time to select an object decreases as the distance that a user must move to select it decreases. 

The touch targets should be large enough that users can easily discern them and accurately select them. Touch targets should have ample space between them. Touch targets should be placed in areas of an interface that allow them to be easily acquired. 

According to research, people prefer to view and touch the centre of the smartphone screen, and that is where accuracy is the highest. 



Hick's Law

The time it takes to make a decision increases with the number and complexity of choices available. 

Minimise choices when response times are critical to increase decision time. 

Break complex tasks into smaller steps in order to decrease cognitive load. 

Avoid overwhelming users by highlighting recommended options. 

User progressive onboarding to minimise cognitive load for new users. 

Be careful not to simplify to the point of abstraction. 

Complexity extends beyond just the user interface; it can be applied to processes as well. The absence of a distinctive and clear call to action, unclear information architecture, unnecessary steps, too many choices or too much information - all of these can be obstacles to users seeking to perform a specific task. 

It's also important to consider when simplification can negatively affect the user experience - more specifically , when we simplify to the point of abstraction, and it's no longer clear what actions are available, what the next steps are, or where to find specific information. 

Miller's Law

Don't use the "magical number seven" to justify unnecessary design limitations

Organise content into smaller chunks to help users process, understand, and memorise easily. 

Remember that short-term memory capacity will vary per individual, based on their prior knowledge and situational context. 

Human short-term memory is limited, and chunking helps us retain information more effectively. When we chunk content in design, we are effectively making it easier to comprehend. Users can then scan the content, identify the information that aligns with their goals, and consume that information to achieve their goals more quickly. 

Postel's Law

Be empathetic to flexible about, and tolerant to any of the various actions the user could take or any input they might provide. 

Anticipate virtually anything in terms of input, access and capability while providing a reliable and accessible interface. 

The more we can anticipate and plan for in design, the more resilient the design will be. 

Accept variable input from users, translating that input to meet your requirements, defining boundaries for input, and providing clear feedback to the user. 

Anyone, regardless of device size, feature support, input mechanism, assistive technology, or even connection speed, should be served something that works. 

The more fields you require users to fill out, the more cognitive energy and efforts you're asking of them, which can lead to a deterioration in the quality of the decisions made - decision fatigue. 

Peak - End Rule

Pay close attention to the most intense points and the final moments (the "end") of the user journey.

Identify the moments when your product is most helpful, valuable, or entertaining and design to delight the end user. 

Remember that people recall negative experiences more vividly that positive ones. 

Instead of considering the entire duration of the experience, we tend to focus on an emotional peak and on the end, regardless of whether those moments where positive or negative.

Cognitive biases are systematic errors of thinking or rationality in judgement that influence our perception of the world and our decision-making ability. We attempt to preserve our existing beliefs by paying attention to information that confirms those beliefs and discounting information that challenges them. This is know as confirmation bias: a bias of belief in which people tend to seek out, interpret, and recall information in a way that confirms their preconceived notions and ideas. 

The peak-end rule is related to another cognitive bias known as the recency effect, which states that items near the end of a sequence are the easiest to recall. 

Journey mapping is invaluable for visualising how people use a product or service through the narrative of accomplishing a specific task or goal. 


Journey maps usually contain some key information:

  • Lens: It establishes the perspective of the person the experience represents. It usually will contain the persona of the end user, which should be predefined based on research on the target audience of the product or service. The lens should capture the specific scenario that the journey map is focused on. 
  • Experience: This section illustrates the actions, mindset and emotions of the end user mapped across a timeline. Typical information captured includes general thoughts, pain points, questions or motivations that originate from research and user interviews. Finally, there's the emotional layer, which is usually represented as a continuous line mapped across the entire experience and which captures the emotional state of the persona during the experience. 
  • Insights: This section identifies the important takeaways that surface within the experience. It usually contains a list of possible opportunities to improve the overall experience. It also contains a list of metrics associated with improving the experience, and details on the internal ownership of these metrics. 

It is inevitable that at some point in the lifespan of a product or service something will go wrong. These types of situations can have an emotional effect on the people that use your product and may ultimately inform their overall impression of the experience. 

Aesthetic-Usability Effect 


Users often perceive aesthetically pleasing design as design that's more usable. 

An aesthetically pleasing design creates a positive response in people's brains and leads them to believe the design actually works better. 

People are more tolerant of minor usability issues when design of a product or service is aesthetically pleasing. 

Visually pleasing design can mask usability problems and prevent issues from being discovered during usability testing. 

Contrary to what we've been taught not to do, people do in fact judge books by their covers. Automatic cognitive processing is helpful because it enables us to react quickly. Carefully processing every object around us would be slow, inefficient, and in some circumstances dangerous, so we begin to mentally process information and form an opinion based on past experiences before directing our conscious attention toward what we're perceiving.  

The positive benefits of aesthetically pleasing design come with a significant caveat. Since people tend to believe that beautiful experiences also work better, they can be more forgiving when it comes to usability issues. Asking questions that lead participants to look beyond aesthetics can help to uncover usability issues and counter the effects that visual attractiveness can have on usability test results. 

Von Restorff Effect

When multiple similar objects are present, the one that differs from the rest is most likely to be remembered. 

Make important information or key actions visually distinctive. 

Use restraint when placing emphasis on visual elements to avoid them competing with one another and to ensure salient items don't get mistakenly identified as ads. 

Don't exclude those with a color vision deficiency or low vision by relying exclusively on color to communicate contrast. 

Carefully consider users with motion sensitivity when using motion to communicate contrast. 

In order to maintain focus on information that is important or relevant to the task at hand, we often filter out information that isn't relevant. It's a survival instinct know in cognitive psychology as selective attention, and it's critical not only to how we humans perceive the world around us but also to how we process sensory information in critical moments that could mean the difference between life and death. 

Banner blindness describes the tendency for people to ignore elements that they perceive to be advertisements, and it is a strong and robust phenomenon that's been documented across three decades. We ignore anything that we don't typically find helpful. Instead, people are more likely to search for items that help them achieve their goals - especially design patterns such as navigation, search bars, headlines, links, and buttons. 

Change blindness describes the tendency for people to fail to notice significant changes when they lack strong enough visual cues, or when their attention is focused elsewhere. Since our attention is a limited resource, we often ignore information we deem irrelevant in order to complete tasks efficiently. Because our attention is focused on what appears to be most salient, we may overlook even major differences introduced elsewhere. If it's important that the user be aware of certain changes to the interface of a product or service, we should take care to ensure that their attention is drawn to the elements in question. 

Tesler's Law

Also known as the law of conservation of complexity, states that for any system there is a certain amount of complexity that cannot be reduced. 

All processes have a core of complexity that cannot be designed away and therefore must be assumed by either the system or the user. 

Ensure as much as possible that the burden is lifted from users by dealing with inherent complexity during design and development. 

Take care not to simplify interfaces to the point of abstraction. 

A key objective for designers is to reduce complexity for the people that use the products and services we help to build, yet there is some inherent complexity in every process. Inevitably we reach a point at which complexity cannot be reduced any further but only transferred from one place to another. At this point, it finds its way either into the user interface or into the processes and workflows of designers and developers. 

When an interface has been simplified to the point of abstraction, there is no longer enough information available for user to make informed decisions. In other words, the amount of visual information presented has been reduced in order to make the interface seem less complex, but this has led to a lack of sufficient cues to help guide people through a process or to the information they need. 

Doherthy Threshold 

Productivity soars when a computer and its users interact at a pace (< 400 ms) that ensures that neither has to wait on the other. 

Provide system feedback within 400 ms in order to keep users' attention and increase productivity. 

Use perceived performance to improve response time and reduce the perception of waiting. 

Animation is one way to visually engage people while loading or processing is happing in the background. 

Progress bars help make wait times tolerable, regardless of their accuracy. 

Purposefully adding a delay to a process can actually increases its perceived value and instill a sense of trust, even when the process itself actually takes much less time. 

While a 100 ms response feels instantaneous, a delay of between 100 and 300 ms begins to be perceptible to the human eye, and people begin to feel less in control. Once the delay extends past 1000 ms, people begin thinking about other things; their attention wanders, and information important to perform their task begins to get lost, leading to an inevitable reduction in performance. The cognitive load required to continue with the task increases as a result, and the overall user experience suffers. 

In some cases the amount of time required for processing is longer than what is prescribed by the Doherty threshold (> 400 ms), and there simply isn't much that can be done about it. But that doesn't mean we can't provide feedback to users in a timely fashion while the necessary processing is happening in the background. This technique helps to create the perception that a website or an app is performing faster than it actually is. 

One common example used by platforms such as Facebook is the presentation of a skeleton screen when content is loading. This technique makes the site appear to load faster by instantly displaying placeholder blocks in the areas where content will eventually appear. The blocks are progressively replaced with actual text and images once they are loaded. 

Another way to optimise load times is known as the "blur up" technique. This approach focuses specifically on images, which are often the main contributor to excessively long load times in both web and native applications. It works by first loading an extremely small version of an image and scaling it up in the space where the larger image will eventually be loaded. A Gaussian blur is applied to eliminate any obvious pixelation and noise as a result of scaling up the low-resolution image. 

Animation is yet another way to visually engage people while loading or processing is happening in the background. A common example is "percentage-done progress indicators", also known as progress bars. Research has shown that simply seeing a progress bar can make wait times seem more tolerable, regardless of its accuracy.

Ten seconds is the commonly recognised limit for keeping the user's attention focused on the task at hand - anything exceeding this limit, and they'll want to perform other tasks while waiting. When wait times must extend beyond the maximum of 10 seconds, progress bars are still helpful but should be augmented with an estimation of the time remaining until completion and a description of the task that is currently being performed. 

Another clever technique for improving perceived performance is the optimistic UI. It works by optimistically providing feedback that an action was successful while it is being processed, as opposed to providing feedback only once the action has been completed. For example, Instagram displayed comments on the photos before they are actually posted. It only displays an error afterward in the event that the action isn't successful. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but it's important to also consider when response times might be too fast. When the system responds more quickly than the user expects it to, a few problems can occur. First, a change that happens a little too fast may be completely missed. Another issue that can occur is that it can be difficult for the user to comprehend what happened, since the speed of change does not allow sufficient time for mental processing. Finally, too-fast response time can result in mistrust if it doesn't align with user's expectations about the task being performed. Purposefully adding a delay to a process can actually increase its perceived value and instill a sense of trust, even when the process actually takes much less time. 

With Power Comes Responsibility

Random reinforcement on a variable schedule is the most effective way to influence behaviour. Digital platforms can also shape behaviour through the use of variable rewards, and this can be observed each time we check our phones for notifications, scroll through a feed, or pull to refresh. 

Infinite loops like autoplay videos and infinite scrolling feeds are designed to maximise time on site by removing friction. Without the need for the user to make a conscious decision to load more content or play the next video, companies can ensure that passive consumption on their sites or apps continues uninterrupted. 

We humans are inherently social creatures. The drive to fulfil our core needs for a sense of self-worth and integrity extends to our lives on social media, where we seek social rewards. Each "like" or positive comment we receive on content we post online temporarily satisfies our desire for approval and belonging. Such social affirmation delivers a side dish of dopamine. 

Default settings matter when it comes to choice architecture because most people never change them. These settings therefore have incredible power to steer decisions, even when people are unaware of what's being decided for them. 

Remove as much friction as possible - The easier and more convenient you make an action, the more likely people will be to perform that action and form a habit around it. 

Reciprocation, or the tendency to repay the gestures of others, is a strong impulse we share as human beings. It's a social norm we've come to value and even rely on as a species. 

Dark patterns are yet another way technology can be used to influence behaviour, by making people perform actions that they didn't intend to for the sake of increasing engagement or to convince users to complete a task that is not in their best interest. 

Ethics must be an integral part of the design process, because without this check and balance, there may be no one advocating for the end user within the companies and organisations creating technology. The corporate goals of the business and the human goals of the end user are seldom aligned, and more often than not designers are conduit between them. The first step in making ethical design is to acknowledge how the human mind can be exploited. 

Applying Psychological Principles in Design

One of the most effective ways we can ensure consistent decision making within the design process is by establishing design principles: a set of guidelines that represent the priorities and goals of a design team and serve as a foundation for reasoning for decision making. They help to frame how a team approaches problems and what it values. 

To define design principles follow these steps:

  • Identify the team: First step is to identify the team members who will participate. A common approach is to keep things open to anyone who wishes to contribute. It may also be a good idea to open the process to design leadership and stakeholders outside of immediate team. 
  • Align and define: It's time to carve out some time and kick things off by first aligning on success criteria. This means not only creating a shared understanding of design principles and the purpose they serve, but also defining the goals of the exercise. 
  • Diverge: The next step is commonly centred around idea generation. Each team member is asked to brainstorm as many design principles as they can for a defined amount of time.
  • Converge: Next step is to bring all those ideas together and identify themes participants are usually asked during this phase to share their ideas with the group and to organise those ideas according to themes that surface during the exercise. Then they are asked to vote on the themes they feel are most appropriate for the team and the organisation. 
  • Refine and apply: It's common to first undergo a refinement stage and then identify how the principles can be applied. It's a good idea to identify where and how these principles can be applied within the team and the organisation as a whole. 
  • Circulate and advocate: The final step is to share the principles and advocate for their adoption. Circulation can come in many forms: posters, desktop wallpapers, notebooks, and shared team documentation are all common mediums. It's critical that team members who participated in the workshop advocate for these principles both within and outside the team. 

The following are the few best practices to help ensure the design principles your team adopts are useful:

  • Good design principles aren't truisms: They are direct clear and actionable, not bland and obvious.  
  • Good design principles solve real questions
  • Good design principles are opinionated: They should have a focus and a sense of prioritisation, which will push the team in the right direction when needed and drive them to say no when necessary. 
  • Good design principles are memorable: If they are hard to remember they would be less likely to be used. They should feel relevant to the needs and ambitions of the team and the organisation as a whole. 

Conclusion

This is an awesome book that list down most common principles to follow when designing any interface. It is also short and crisp, you wont spend months reading it. I would recommend reading this book for anyone working towards building a product!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Scam Alert: Electricity Power Will Be Disconnected

I want to highlight a scam that is going around. This scam starts with an SMS informing you that, "Your electricity will be disconnected at 9:30 PM because your previous month bill is not updated". The SMS also mentions a number which is supposed to be the customer care's number that you must call to avoid the power disruption. 

Here's the screenshot of the actual SMS I received along with the senders number and the Customer Care number

Scammer SMS

This posts documents my conversation with the scammer, in the hope that more of us will become aware of this scam and not fall for it.

The Investigation

When I received the SMS, I was a bit surprised, I had paid the electricity bill on 4th June 2022 itself. Still, I decided to check online, if the bill had been paid, turns out it was paid.

Then I started doubting that may be its a scam. Decided to call the helpline to figure out what happens next.

When I called the helpline, there was no answer. After 5 min or so, the call was returned. This further grew my suspicion, who from the government gives a call back?

The person on the other side was talking in Hindi with a thick UP/Bihari ascent (nothing against anyone, just describing what I noticed). I could also hear other people in the background speaking "Hello I am calling from Electricity Board..."

Here's another red flag, typically people from Maharashtra government would start speaking in Marathi not Hindi.

I asked him which state is he calling from, thinking that may be, they have sent the message to an incorrect number. But he said he is calling from Maharashtra. Next, I asked where are you calling from, he said he is calling from the electricity board helpline.

I told him, I have paid the bill on 4th itself. He said, the problem is not with bill payment. He asked me to read the SMS carefully to understand what is the problem. He asked me to read the message aloud, I obliged. I said what does "previous month bill is not updated" mean? He said, in his system bill is not updated, if I don't update it now, electricity will be disconnected today at 930 PM.

I asked what needs to be done, he responded, go to Google Play Store and download an app...

The Confrontation 

By this time, I have had enough, I decided to confront him and call his bluff. I asked him "Boss, you are running a scam, why are you doing it?".

This person was borderline rude, but my question annoyed him and he said, You will realise when your electricity is disconnected today at 9:30 PM. To which I told him "Do whatever you want, I am going to report you to the police".

This made him go from being rude to abusive. He started using all sorts of curse words and then disconnected the call.

I went to the Cyber Crime Portal and registered a complain. Here's the screenshot of the confirmation

Conclusion

Help me spread the awareness to as many people as possible so that, these scammers go out of business. Please be watchful!

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Book Notes: What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services

The next book on the cards was What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services by Anthony Ulwick. This book tries to emphasise outcome-driven thinking to bring discipline and predictability to the often random process of innovation. It's another foundational book towards learning how to build innovative products. 

Who is this book for?

This book will help everyone involved with product development i.e. product leaders, product managers, product designers as well as product developers. In addition to that it will also help marketing and sales leaders.

Usual Disclaimer

This post is by no means a summary of the book, the notes mentioned here are extracts from the book. If you find these interesting, please pickup a copy of the book and give it a go.

Book Notes


Introduction - Moving Beyond the Customer-Driven Paradigm


To figure out what customers what and to successfully innovate, companies must think about customer requirements very differently. Companies must be able to know, well in advance, what criteria customers are going to use to judge a product's value and dutifully design a product that ensures those criteria are met. These criteria must be predictive of success and not lagging indicators. 

The outcome-driven method is a new way to think about innovation process. Three key tenets define this approach. 

  • Customers buy products and service to help them get jobs done. Customers have "jobs" with functional dimensions to them that arise regularly and need to get done. In the outcome-driven paradigm the focus is not on the customer, it is on the job: the job is the unit of analysis. When companies focus on helping the customer get a job done faster, more conveniently, and less expensively than before, they are more likely to create products and services that the customer wants. 
  • Customers use a set of metrics to judge how well a job is getting done and how a product performs. Customers have these metrics in their minds, but they seldom articulate them, and companies rarely understand the. We call these metrics the customers' desired outcomes. 
  • These customer metrics make possible the systematic and predictable creation of breakthrough products and services. In the outcome-driven paradigm, companies do not brainstorm hundreds of ideas and then struggle to figure out which, if any have value. Instead they figure out which of the 50 to 150 outcomes for a given job are important and unsatisfied and then systematically devise a few ideas that will better satisfy those underserved outcomes. 
Innovation is the process of creating a product or service solution that delivers significant new customer value. The process begins with the selection of the customer and market, includes the identification and prioritisation of opportunities, and ends with the creation of an innovative product concept that delivers the new and significant value. 

Formulating the Innovation Strategy - Who Is The Target of Value Creation and How Should It Be Achieved?


Companies need to figure out what type of innovation initiative they're going to pursue; what growth options are best' and who in the value chain should be targeted to maximise value creation in the market. 

There are four types of innovation that companies should consider for pursuit.

  • Product innovation or service innovation: This is the most common type of innovation, results from improvements that are made to existing products and services. 
  • New Market Innovation: This occurs when a company discovers that people are struggling to get a job done on their own because no products exists and devises a creative product or service that enables customers to get that job done faster and cheaper than ever before. 
  • Operational innovation: This happens when a company discovers inefficiencies in a business operation and works to address those inefficiencies through creative solutions. 
  • Disruptive innovation: This results when a company uses a new technology to disrupt the prevailing business model in an existing market that is filled with overserved customers. 
Once a company decides which innovation path and growth strategy to follow, it must then decide where in the value chain to look to maximise value creation. When making these decisions, companies commonly make the following three mistakes, any one of which can derail the innovation process:

  • The company does not consider the end user directly. Companies commonly fail to consider the end user as a target customer, particularly when the end user is not necessarily the primary purchaser of a product or service. 
  • The company doesn't consider all relevant customers for innovation. Companies that are far back in the value chain and those that sell directly to the end user often don't take the time to consider all relevant customers for innovation and therefore fail to capture or consider their inputs. 
  • The company lets one customer speak for another. Often, companies take shortcuts and let their immediate customers, such as an OEM or a channel partner collect, interpret, and provide them with the requirements of others in the value chain. 

Capturing Customer Inputs - Silence the "Voice of the Customer" - Let's Talk Jobs, Outcomes, and Constraints


The second step in the outcome-driven innovation process is to obtain from customers the information that is needed to discover opportunities and to create valued product or service solutions. 

In outcome-driven paradigm, companies capture the necessary customer information and use it to guide them in the creation of valuable products or services. They do not brainstorm a range of ideas and test the with customers to see which ones consumers like best. While the latter practice is common, it is often the cause of product failures. 

A requirement is something that customers want or need, so, arguably, solutions, specifications, and benefits could all be considered requirements. But certain types of information about customer requirements are more valuable than others to companies. To help bring clarity and objectivity to the innovation process, we need to first create a common language around the different types of information about customer requirements. 

Sometimes companies delude themselves into thinking they are obtaining the data they need from customers - but they are not. Customers tend to state four types of information during the requirements gathering process: solutions, design specifications, customer needs, and customer benefit statements. None of them will help a company successfully create new products and services. 

Companies spend considerable time debating the methods used to capture customer information rather than focusing on collecting the right kind of information. 

Many customers offer their requirements in form of a solution to a problem. Customers do not always have the best solutions, which means their suggestions may lead to products and services that ultimately disappoint them. Customers do not know how the features they are requesting will affect other, possibly more important, dimensions of the product. 

Customers often focus on product specifications, giving interviewers detailed instructions on particular design characteristics: size, weight, colour, shape, look or feel. Accepting specifications as customer inputs inherently prevents engineers and designers from using their creative skills to devise breakthrough products and services. 

Customers' needs are usually expressed as high-level descriptions of the overall quality of a product or service. They are typically stated as adjectives and inherently do not amply a specific benefit to the customer. For instance, customers commonly say they want a product to be "reliable", "effective", "robust", "dependable" or "resilient". Although these simple statements provide some indication as to what customers are looking for, they have one major drawback. They are imprecise statements open to interpretation and present designers, developers, and engineers with the impossible task of figuring out just what customers really mean by "dependable" and "resilient". 

Customers often use benefits statements to describe what value they would like a new product or service feature to deliver. They often use words like "easy to use", "faster" or "better". These statements may be useful for marketing-communication purposes, but again, they present designers and engineers with ambiguous information that can't be measured or acted upon. 

To execute their innovation processes successfully, companies must obtain three distinct types of data. They must know which jobs their customers are trying to get done (that is, the tasks or activities customers are trying to carry out); the outcomes customers are trying to achieve (that is, the metrics customers use to define the successful execution of a job); and the constraints that may prevent customers from adopting or using a new product or service. 

There are three different types of jobs that customers are often trying to get done:
  • Functional Jobs: They define the tasks people seek to accomplish. 
  • Personal Jobs: These explain the way people want to feel in a given circumstance. 
  • Social Jobs: Clarify how people want to be perceived by others. 
Customers want to get more jobs done, but they also want to be able to do specific tasks faster, better, or cheaper than they can currently. To define just what "faster" or "better" means, companies must be able to capture from customers the set of metrics that define how they want to get the job done and what it means to get the job done perfectly. These metrics are the customers desired outcomes

Before we start capturing outcomes from customers we often begin to dissect the job into its process steps so we know where to look to capture customer information. This results in a clear understanding of the customer's value model. To fill in customer value model, managers must capture the customers' desired outcomes in a precise format for each stage of the job so development and marketing staffers can use the information throughout the subsequent stages of innovation process. Desired outcomes typically state a direction of improvement (minimise or increase); contain a unity of measure (number, time, frequency, likelihood); and state what outcome is desired. 

Desired outcomes are fundamental measures of performance that are inherent to the execution of a specific job. They will be valid metrics for as long as customers are trying to get the job done. 

Besides getting more jobs done, or a specific job done better, customers also need help overcoming the constraints that prevent them from getting a job done altogether or under certain circumstances. These constraints are often physical, regulatory, or environmental in nature. Companies that can find new ways to overcome these constraints can also uncover excellent growth opportunities. 

Identifying Opportunities - Discovering Where the Market Is Underserved and Overserved


The third step in the outcome-driven innovation process is to determine what jobs, outcomes, and constraints represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation. 

In the outcome-driven paradigm, an opportunity for growth is defined as an outcome, job, or constraint that is underserved. An underserved outcome, in turn, can be defined as something customers want to achieve but are unable to achieve satisfactorily, given the tools currently available to them. 

Underserved jobs signal potential opportunities for new markets. They are jobs that customers cannot perform satisfactorily with the tools that are currently available to them. Job-related opportunities for growth can be discovered by determining what ancillary or related jobs are underserved when a customer is using an existing product or service and by determining what jobs people are trying to get done in general. 

Underserved constraints also represent opportunities for growth as they point out under what conditions or circumstances a customer is unable to perform a job of interest. 

Companies often spend years developing a competency or strength in a market and then continue to improve the products that showcase that competency. Companies have a tendency to keep making improvements in their areas of strength even though the associated outcome may already be well satisfied, even overserved. 

When companies focus on what can be done rather than what should be done, they often focus on an outcome that is just not that important to customers. This takes resources away from the underserved outcomes that would result in the creation of value, adding an opportunity cost to the equation as well. 

Companies rarely know all the outcomes customers are trying to achieve, and often the improvements they make in one area end up having a negative effect on other important outcomes. The best opportunities spring from those desired outcomes that are important to a customer but are not satisfied by existing products. 

The opportunity algorithm, is a simple mathematical formula that makes it possible to discover the most promising areas for improvement. The formula states that opportunity equals importance plus the difference between importance and satisfaction, where that difference is not allowed to go below zero. 

Opportunity = Importance + max(Importance - Satisfaction, 0)

An opportunity for improvement exists when an important outcome is underserved - that is, when it has a high opportunity score. Such outcomes merit the allocation of time, talent, and resources, as customers will recognise solutions that successfully serve these outcomes to be inventive and valuable. 

  • Opportunity scores greater than 15 represent extreme areas of opportunity that should not be ignored. Outcomes with scores in this range are rare in mature markets, but common in newer markets. 
  • Opportunity scores between 12 and 15 can be defined as "low-hanging fruit" ripe for improvement. 
  • Opportunity scores between 10 and 12 are worthy of consideration especially when discovered in the broad market. 
  • Opportunity scores below 10 are viewed as unattractive in most market and offer diminishing returns. 



To define and deliver new solutions that evolve each measure of value along its continuum, better satisfying the collective set of outcomes. Every time a new product or technology is introduced, the opportunity for value creation migrates somewhere else. To understand how this dynamic is playing out at any given time, companies must know three things: what all the customer outcomes are, which of those outcomes are important and which are unsatisfied. With this information in hand, it is possible to see where value is migrating and to be the first to address the new opportunities with winning products. 

The information gained from competitive analysis can be used to help position existing products, to understand why one competitor's product is selling better than another's, and to target the weaknesses of key competitors. It can also be used to direct the organisation's communication and sales strategy to highlight the high-opportunity areas that are well served. 

In the face of uncertainty, companies simply copy their competitors because they feel they must meet or beat them on a spec-by-spec basis or be left behind. A company that is thinking in terms of customer outcomes has been freed from the spec-by-spec mentality, however, and will not necessarily try to match the competition. 

Segmenting the Market - Using Outcome-Driven Segmentation to Discover Segments of Opportunity


The fourth step in the outcome-driven innovation process is market segmentation. Traditional segmentation schemes often lead companies to focus on phantom targets - that is groups of customers who are neither homogeneous nor non-overlapping, and why may not value a unique set of desired outcomes. Segmentation must create a population that:
  • Has a unique set of underserved or overserved outcomes. 
  • Represents a sizeable portion of population
  • Is homogeneous - meaning that the population agrees on which outcomes are undeserved or overserved and responds in the same manner to appropriately targeted products and services. 
  • Makes an attractive strategic target - one that fits with the philosophy and competencies of the firm
  • Can be reached through marketing and sales efforts. 
Using the opportunity score as the segmentation variable forces the creation of segments that represent unique opportunities. From a development and marketing perspective this is nirvana, as this market insight is just what is needed to make effective targeting, positioning, messaging and other product and marketing decisions. 

In most markets there exists a group of customers who are more demanding than the rest. They are underserved along many dimensions of value; they want more and are willing to pay for it. In most markets there also exists a group of customers that is unattractive to utilise more function, or they may require excessive service while demanding lower prices. 

A technology can successfully disrupt a market only if a sizeable segment of market population is overserved and willing to accept a product or service that is functionally inferior to those currently available. 

As a new entrant into an existing market, a company must be able to pick out a small segment of customers, address their unique outcomes, and then leverage its position to make gains in other market segments. 

Outcome-based segmentation is used to discover segments of opportunity in a specific market of interest. Job-based segmentation is used to discover entirely new markets - a job or a group of jobs that are underserved. 

Targeting Opportunities for Growth - Deciding Where to Focus the Value Creation Effort


Once a company knows all the opportunities that exist in a market, it can devise a very effective targeting strategy; one that will ultimately place it in a unique and valued competitive position - a position that addresses the underserved outcomes in a market while reducing costs in those areas that are overserved. 

Targeting is the process of selecting for pursuit those underserved and overserved outcomes that represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation. An effective targeting strategy will enable a company to add function and performance in areas that are underserved and to reduce cost and function in areas that are overserved. 

It is best to target a big opportunity in the broad market first because an innovation that has broad-market appeal will have a big impact on revenue growth. Once the opportunities in the broad market are addressed or exhausted, the segment-specific opportunities should be explored and considered given their size, business implications and potential impact on revenue growth. 

On occasion we find a market in which a number of underserved outcomes represent some sort of theme. In such a case a company is advised to message, position and compete around this theme, as it offers a strong competitive position. 

Even when there are not a large number of opportunities in the broad market, there may be one big opportunity that has not yet been addressed. When a big opportunity is discovered, evaluate whether or not the outcome can be addressed by creating a new product that fits well within the existing system and makes great improvements in getting the job done. 

Some underserved outcomes will require new technology, cost-reduced technology, or a reshaped technology before the outcomes are effectively pursued. When a broad-market opportunity does not exist, companies often look for opportunities that multiple segments share. 

When company is able to find opportunities that are shared by multiple segments, it may be able to define a feature set that addresses those shared opportunities and use that feature set as a platform on which to build solutions for the multiple segments, thereby reducing the overall number of product platforms that it needs. 

We typically find a segment of the population that is highly underserved - meaning many of their outcomes have high opportunity scores. This type of segment is typically underserved along so many dimensions that it would be impossible to address all or even most of its underserved outcomes in the next release of the product, and, consequently, it would be impossible to achieve total customer satisfaction with that release. Therefore it's wiser not to target such a segment until all the other attractive segments have been pursued. 

Occasionally we fine a segment that has no or only a small number of underserved outcomes while the remaining segments demand more performance and have greater number of underserved outcomes. In such a situation we may plot the segments with price point along one axis and performance along the other. Such an exercise enables a firm to determine which segment is most likely to be satisfied at a low price point and which will only be satisfied with more features at a higher price point. 

Positioning Current Products - Connecting Opportunities with Valued Product Features


Once a company has targeted the underserved outcomes that represent the best opportunities for growth and innovation, it is able to exploit those opportunities and gain revenue in three distinct ways:
  • By better communicating and exploiting any advantages its current products have in satisfying the targeted underserved outcomes, leading to increased sales. 
  • By quickly bringing to market those products and services in development that do the best job of addressing the targeted opportunities. 
  • By developing longer-term product and service ideas that target the remaining unexploited opportunities. 
A company can have a great product, but if it fails to communicate the product's value, it will not optimise it's sales revenue. Although marketing managers know this, we have found that positioning and messaging strategies often fail to communicate a product's true value because companies are unaware of the opportunities that exist in a market, use vague messaging that fails to hit the mark.

Companies often feel the need to appeal to their customers emotions, but depending on the functional and emotional complexity of the product or service being delivered, doing so can bring unexpected and unwanted results. 

Certain products - especially those in cosmetic and perfume industries - are relatively simple, functionally speaking and are often purchased to help customers get emotional jobs done. As the markets for these types of products mature, the products simplicity makes it difficult for companies to continue to differentiate one product from another along functional dimensions. This in effect forces manufacturers to differentiate their products along an emotional dimension in order to build and maintain brand loyalty. 

At the other end of the spectrum we find companies in industries that product highly functional items such as medical devices, financial services, and computer and software tools can be differentiated along many functional dimensions, and customers who buy and use such products rarely use them to get emotional jobs done. 

We can categorise the possible scenarios into four quadrants based on their combination f functional and emotional characteristics.




  • In quadrant 1 (low function, low emotion) we find industries involved in production of raw materials and chemicals. Companies in this quadrant are better off positioning and differentiating their products along another dimension, such as service or cost. 
  • In quadrant 2 (low function, high emotion) we find the cosmetics, food and beverage and packaged-goods industries. These industries spend considerable time differentiating along emotional dimensions, since many of these products have limited function. Much is to be gained, however, by trying to make these products more functional. It not only adds a new avenue for differentiation, but it also makes the product more valuable to the user. 
  • In quadrant 3 (high function, high emotion) we find the apparel and automative industries. Although products in these industries are highly functional, they are also very important in defining the customer's persona. Because of this, the emotional component is an important dimension of differentiation. 
  • In quadrant 4 (high function, low emotion) we find electronics, software, services and medical-device industries. The focus here needs to be on function, as these products have little emotional appeal. 
If the sales team begins with a solid knowledge of the customer's outcomes and ascertains which are underserved, it can then create a sales pitch and solution that will connect with the customer front and centre.

A cleverly conceived brand name that connects the product to the job can make customers think of the product whenever they think about getting the job done - so much so that the product and the job may come to be thought of simultaneously. This can only happen when companies take an outcome-based approach to branding and sales. 

Prioritising Projects in the Development Pipeline - Separating the Winners from the Losers


With increasingly competitive pressures and tightened budgets, companies cannot afford to continue to bet on dozens of initiatives in the hopes that at least a few will succeed. A new method for prioritising development initiatives is needed: one that can identify the initiatives that will create the most customer value and company profit. 

Products and services that satisfactorily address targeted market opportunities are given high priority and the resources to get to market quickly. Those that fail to address targeted opportunities are reconsidered and often abandoned. 

Most companies do not know their customers desired outcomes or which of those outcomes are most underserved. They try to make educated guesses, often giving most credence to inputs from the sales team. They may react to competitors new launches, diverting resources from their own potentially breakthrough initiatives. Because companies don't know where opportunities exist in a market, they often feel compelled to invest in an excessive number of initiatives in the hope that at least some of these bets will succeed. 

The excitement and exuberance associated with a project typically originate with the project champion, a person whose unyielding conviction that the project will succeed is often based on a hunch rather than on strong evidence. The champion's exuberance spreads because others also want to believe. It is this dynamic that makes it hard to kill a project, even when there are signs that it will likely fail. 

Because companies tend to fund far more projects than they should, they are forced to spread limited resources across many projects. In the end, few projects receive the resources and attention they need to move forward quickly. 

When several competing initiatives are found to address many of the underserved outcomes, each initiative may also be evaluated for factors such as effort and risk. When all of a company's competitors satisfy an important outcome better than the company itself, then the company should give high priority to an initiative that helps overcome that competitive weakness even if the outcome was not one that the company has originally targeted. 

Devising Breakthrough Concepts - Using Focused Brainstorming and the Customer Scorecard to Create Customer Value


Most brainstorming and idea generation efforts yield poor and un-actionable results for three key reasons. 
  • Managers rarely know how or where to direct employees' creative energy. The result is much wasted energy, hundreds of useless ideas, and unfortunately, few ideas that are truly worth of pursuit. 
  • Companies often measure the success of an ideation session by the number of ideas that are generated, not the quality of those ideas. 
  • The third problem arises because so many ideas exist and most companies lack a useful way to evaluate them. 

Instead of thinking up ideas and then trying to figure out which ideas merit value, companies should only generate ideas around the underserved outcomes. Knowing where to focus creativity is the key to successful and accountable innovation. To successfully generate breakthrough solutions, companies must identify and address their customers' most underserved outcomes and do so in a way that does not diminish performance along other important dimensions. 

The first rule is to keep the ideation team focused on generating ideas that specifically address the high-opportunity outcomes. Do not let them wander off course and push ideas that are focused on satisfying other, less important outcomes. 

When brainstorming, employees are instructed to devise ideas that make significant improvements in customer satisfaction, not just incremental improvement. 

While some experts suggest that applying constraints is confining and many stifle creativity, we argue that on the contrary, constraints focus creativity in a way that generates valuable, usable, and practical ideas. 

There are plenty of bad ideas. These are ideas that are impractical and costly and that fail to address underserved outcomes. Outcome-driven companies eliminate these bad ideas quickly as they are evaluated immediately after they are generated. 


Conclusion


This book talks about how outcome-driven companies do things differently and why it is important to know what jobs, outcomes customers are trying to achieve and what are the constraints governing them.    I would recommend reading this book for anyone working towards building a product!
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