2013: Framing for Innovation


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A brief talk about a critical step in the process of searching for innovative opportunities.
Presented to the Godrej Group for the IIT Institute of Design India Immersion Program, December 2013.

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2013: Framing for Innovation

  1. 1. Framing for Innovation Matt Mayfield Assistant Dean of Academics, IIT Institute of Design December 2013 A brief talk about a critical step in the process of searching for innovative opportunities. Presented to the Godrej Group for the IIT Institute of Design India Immersion Program, December 2013.
  2. 2. The problem as first presented is rarely the problem to solve... Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Similar to a doctor examining a patient, framing is about looking beyond the symptoms towards the essence of a condition
  3. 3. FRAMING DEFINED Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Framing though, like many design terms, can be vague and open to multiple interpretations
  4. 4. Framing is a part of understanding • There is something that triggers an effort which influences how the project / problem space is defined. • However, your starting point is rarely the most informed and creative place to think about opportunities. “101 Design Methods” Vijay Kumar Matt Mayfield . December 2013 For this moment, we are talking about framing as a part of understanding a situation. It is a valuable step in that it creates the robust foundation for a wide range of exploration and invention.
  5. 5. Framing is how you look at a situation • We are hunting for a way to think about the problem. The way we frame a problem sets the boundaries of what we pay attention to. • Frames help make sense of situations, while shaking us free of established beliefs. This work opens up and closes down avenues of inquiry. • Simply, a frame is a point of view. Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Simplistically, framing is a way to think about and understand a situation.
  6. 6. from Mobile Phone... ...to Connected Media Platforms Matt Mayfield . December 2013 For example, mobile phones were originally framed around mobility and voice calls. As technologies, users, and businesses have evolved, mobile phones are now framed as platforms for personalized media experiences. images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone
  7. 7. What other smart people say... “...the creative act of turning a complicated problem into a simple one by changing its form and by deciding what to emphasize and what to overlook” –John Chris Jones “Active perspective that both describes and perceptually changes a given situation” –Jon Kolko Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Others, much smarter than me, have described this framing activity or shift of understanding. The point here is that framing is a deliberate effort on the part of the investigator. It is not something that you discover, is it something that you do.
  8. 8. Not as easy as it looks... • In general, businesses frame their problems egocentrically • Problems are often also framed by pre-established metrics “ We are not growing, we need to grow faster? Our profit margins are shrinking how do we stop that trend? We have capability (technology, assets, etc), what can we do? ” Matt Mayfield . December 2013 In a business context this is challenging. Businesses, as entities themselves, often have difficulty with framing because they tend to look at everything through their current day-to-day operations.
  9. 9. Framing is not optimization • Optimization is essentially about eliminating variation and improving predictability over discrete elements in a system • This is driven by and similar to a root cause analysis in many quality-driven processes • Framing is more divergent than convergent and looks to try and capture the totality of the situation Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Framing by its nature tends to be divergent and does not mesh well with many other business initiatives that tend to focus on quality and cost control. Those efforts are valuable and can be innovative, but they are convergent and focus on minimizing variability which limits their usefulness for reconceptualizing an area of interest.
  10. 10. Seeing the familiar with fresh eyes • The goal is to redefine a problem in such a way that it is open to novel avenues of thought and potential solutions • We are aiming somewhere between wishful thinking wishful thinking and narrow mindedness • All the while avoiding near-term focus, idea anchoring, and attribution bias narrow mindedness Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Ultimately with framing, we are trying to see the world fresh, to set the stage for reinterpreting what might be possible. And do so in a way that is reliable and grounded in the world, not fanciful thinking on the part of individual actors.
  11. 11. FRAMING PROCESS Matt Mayfield . December 2013 So how do we frame a problem space...
  12. 12. 3 steps, a very simplified approach 1. Abstract Restating the problem as opportunity (negative is about eliminating, positive is about creating) 2. Examine Look at stakeholders and their activities, challenge assumptions 3. Interpret Look to other domains, use metaphors to open up thinking Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Very simply put, first, we step back from the details and constraints of today, second, take in a broader set of new information, and finally, rethink what it might all mean for new opportunities. Let’s take each step one at a time...
  13. 13. Abstraction • Designers often leverage abstraction to “play” with problem boundaries problem area becomes • There is not a “right” level, but an appropriate level depending on the timeframe and appetite of the team involved Abstraction • The more abstract the larger the Categories Accessing healthcare Experiences Visiting a doctor Activities Queuing in waiting room Functions Filling out medical form Matt Mayfield . December 2013 First we step back. Technically we call this moving toward abstraction. It is not a step function or a binary choice. There are different “levels” of abstraction you can work with. The goal is to release us from the immediate details and constraints to give us room to re-establish those boundaries with fresh information.
  14. 14. Activities and stakeholders • Activities are universal places to find gaps between current offerings and stakeholder needs • Similar to benefits, needs, jobs to be done, this examination of the people involved can help us challenge status quo Some methods... ‣ 5E’s (Compelling Experiences) ‣ Customer Journey ‣ Service Blueprint ‣ POEMS ‣ Ethnographies ‣ Activity Networks ‣ Empathy Maps ‣ Personas ‣ Five Human Factors Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Fresh information can come from a lot of places. Typically, activities and stakeholders are the most informative and actionable places to start investigating. There are many, many methods to examine these areas. The objective is to get out of our current point-of-view and establish empathy with others that are involved.
  15. 15. 5E’s and Customer Journeys • A comprehensive inventory of activities that to inspect and understand • Similar in logic to a traditional value chain Matt Mayfield . December 2013 One common method is a Customer Journey. What is shown here is a similar approach called the 5E’s or Compelling Experience model. By listing out the activities that are happening, the people involved, and the general sense of strong and weak experiences over time, we can get a fairly comprehensive view quickly.
  16. 16. Empathy Map and Personas • A way to examine the stakeholders involved • Useful for independent assessments on each stakeholder group as well as cross-stakeholder comparisons Matt Mayfield . December 2013 For the stakeholders involved, another common method is to map out several key attributes of each. The Empathy Map is a short set of questions that helps us get to a comprehensive set of attributes. Multiple stakeholders can then be compared and overlaps or conflicts can be identified. Some put this information into a profile or persona to help the information from getting too abstract, generalized, or unrelatable.
  17. 17. Interpreting and using insights • Discussion is essential for rich insight, there are often multiple interpretations of a situation. • Search to understand the essence of the problem, not the source of the problem. • De-structure to find the elements that will permit valuable and feasible degrees of change. Discern what is stable versus what is in flux. Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Once we have had a chance to compile observations and details of stakeholders and their activities, we can then turn our sights on what it might all mean. This is some of the most challenging work. If the prior steps have been done well it can feel overwhelming to try and pack it all up into a single coherent view. One way through this challenge is to leverage your teammates to discuss and articulate what is important, what is changing, the nature of the situation, etc... (not what to do about it...yet). Taking the time to reflect is imperative to good interpretation.
  18. 18. Look at other domains for inspiration Tom Bradley International terminal at LAX airport JetBlue terminal at JFK airport Layover as shopping Layover as luxury dining Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Additionally, another technique is to borrow from other domains as metaphors to characterize the nature of a situation. Images: http://www.clarkconstruction.com/our-work/projects/lax-tom-bradley-international-terminal, http://www.dearskysteward.com/check-in-to-gourmet-dining-at-jfk/
  19. 19. Current view 1. Abstract New view 2. Examine 3. Interpret Matt Mayfield . December 2013 To sum it up, first take the current view and stand back through abstraction. Then secondly examine broadly the activities and stakeholders involved. Finally compress those insights into a new view of the situation. Again much easier to say than to do at times, and it doesn’t always happen in a lock-step sequence. Sometimes the new view peeks out early, or the current view is so entrenched the heavy lifting of abstraction can’t happen until most of the examination is completed.
  20. 20. FRAMING POINTERS Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Some things to keep in mind during framing work...
  21. 21. Framing & insight are often conflated • “A frame is shaped over the aggregation of thought and experiences. It is a larger view of the world and situations that occur in it” –Jon Kolko • Framing is a higher level, and holistic • Framing is best as a culmination of multiple insights Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Framing is more than jumping from (and anchoring on) one individual insight to another. A good frame aims to incorporate all of the insights uncovered in a holistic way.
  22. 22. Context is critical • Capabilities, Organizations, Stakeholders must be equally considered • What does each provide and what does each need to be able to provide. • Need to know the past to understand the present and imagine the future “Balanced Breakthrough” adapted from Larry Keeley, Doblin Inc. Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Ultimately meaning is contextual. Understanding the broad influences and history of a domain is necessary to separate a fundamental shift from a novel fad.
  23. 23. Embrace paradoxes and ambiguity • We are taught to chase away ambiguity and avoid paradoxes • Paradoxes are sources of invention • Ambiguity keeps us agile, defer the details as long as possible Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Innovation can happen in many ways. A paradoxical situation is often a sign of a mismatch between current and desired solutions. Not something to shy away from. Ambiguity provides room for multiple answers each of which may hold a bit of the final solution. What can feel messy or unsolvable at first glance is necessary to explore.
  24. 24. Avoid jumping to solutions • Many times we can intuitively see answers that address the issues we are investigating. This is good, as long as you don’t anchor on it. • In this context, these initial ideas should be used to explore your thinking. What do they reveal about your assumptions and priorities? Matt Mayfield . December 2013 As much as we try to suspend or defer looking for solutions we can’t help but be inspired. The work then is not to ignore these potential answers, but use them as a way to further understand our thinking. Why did they jump out and what might they mean? One thing they don’t mean is that the work is done, as much as it may feel that way at the time.
  25. 25. Changing frames • Changing your frame should be done as often as the project demands it. As newly assimilated information challenges the current frame. ? ? ?? • Ideally, frames should change over the longer term rather than short term • Once you get into exploring solutions changing your frame is risky to staying on pace. Matt Mayfield . December 2013 Over the course of a project a frame can shift and be reworked. In fact, the “re-frame” is a highly anticipated moment in design work. It’s a threshold towards ideation and the fun of exploring new solutions. The trick is to make sure a shift is appropriate and useful. Too much changing from one frame to another will eventually stall out a good investigation.
  26. 26. Having the “right” frame Does it examine core assumptions and established beliefs? Does it provide a holistic umbrella to think about all stakeholders’ needs? Can you imagine multiple potential solutions with it (businesses, offerings, benefits)? Matt Mayfield . December 2013 And finally, there is no such thing as a correct frame. A frame is just away of understanding the situation to enable insightful and inventive ideas to emerge. There are however stronger and weaker frames. A good test of a new frame is to make sure it is built on a fresh investigation of key issues including established beliefs, it is suitably holistic to cover all stakeholders involved, and is robust enough to inspire multiple solutions at multiple levels.
  27. 27. Thank you Matt Mayfield Assistant Dean of Academics, IIT Institute of Design December 2013 mayfield@id.iit.edu http://www.linkedin.com/in/mayfield Best of luck. Let me know how it goes.