It’s an Adaptive & Emotional World

I was able to attend a session last week at QUT Foundry (Thanks Angela for the invite) and I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be getting myself into. The event was titled Designing Products For Adaptability, Innovation & Sustainability. But after seeing the conversation on twitter the day before about another event called Reducing Unwelcome Surprises in Managing Innovation Projects with visiting Prof. Tyson Browning (from TCU), it seemed to trigger my interest. It didn’t take me long to register.

There’s a was a great group of people there, and like most of these events that I like going to, there’s only a small group of people that I have met before which means great opportunity to introduce myself to others and learn what they do. The group consisted of researchers and students as well as representatives from small businesses, corporates and government. And not just from one field but a variety of different industries — business, law, engineering, science and IT to name a few.

We were lucky to have two speakers that night — Prof. Tyson Browning and Dr Rafael Gomez with Dr Henri Burgers as the MC of the event.

Prof. Tyson Browning started the night talking about one of his research papers — Designing Products for Adaptability. It was interesting that the research discusses about modularity …

… a module is a physical or conceptual grouping of components (Yassine and Wissmann 2007) that encapsulates or hides information about them from the rest of the system (Baldwin and Clark 2000; Langlois 2002).

This is not just a term that applies to technology (software or hardware) but when asked about it’s applicability elsewhere, modularity works for structures like organisations (ie Conway’s Law), project and program groups in service delivery as well as out there in the community.

The research itself focused on a concept of Architecture Adaptability Value (AAV), the value of splitting or merging different components and what make-up of modules makes the most value or optimal value. There is also cost of modularity, an interface cost that exists between modules. It is always a trade-off.

Prof. Tyson Browning talked about several case studies where he worked with different companies to study how modularity is applied. The results were interesting and the optimal value was not always obvious.

Coming from a sales organisation where software is our main focus, it was very interesting to then apply that to my scenario. The organisation itself has a structure of sales, solution, consulting, research & development and operations. It’s easy to see how communication and collaboration being the main interface cost is impacted by the structure. In terms of the software, we have always been looking at modularisation and how different components work together. Concepts like Microservices, Service-Oriented Architecture, Paced-Layered Architecture and Bi-Modal IT are terms that describe modularity. Now after attending this session, I have another way of looking at these problems. It doesn’t provide immediate solutions for these problems (ie reducing the interface costs) but it helps identify where modularity should be and identify what I should focus on to reduce interface costs.

Dr Rafael Gomez was the second speaker for the night. He talk was about Design and Sustainability — Emotional Design. This was an interesting topic. There’s been many discussions and work on Experienced Design — User Experience, Customer Experience, Digital Experience, Developer Experience — expanding that into journey mappings, design thinking and personas. The main difference in what Dr Rafael Gomez is looking at, is the emotional journey of a person over the lifecycle of a product. So for example, let’s talk about your phone. It’s got features and there is an experience that it gives you. However, how you do you feel about it (the product) today, tomorrow, next month and next year? Does it age gracefully? Are you willing to keep it vs buying something else? The talk walked through a framework to highlight key areas of interest.

It was an interesting discussion. How we perceive a product over a period of time is as important as the first day that you purchase, subscribe or consume it. This is not just the product itself, but includes other aspects not even tied directly to the product — like customer service, loyalty programs, marketing, social media and community. All of these play a part in the emotional value that it brings. There’s something that we can all learn from in terms of product design, selling and buying.

Thanks QUT Foundry for putting this session on with these speakers. And afterwards, I was asked Dr Henri Burgers about the event and what was the drive behind it. To surmise, it’s about bringing the broader community together with interest topics and discussions that can benefit everyone. The topic may not be in your industry however with an open mind and critical analysis to adapt the thinking to your situation, it is all a useful and learning experience.