1 January 2013
2012 was a relatively slow year for me in terms of quantity of new blog posts. But I was able to capture and share some of my best thoughts this year.
Here are quotes that summarize each of the top 5 posts by number of views in 2012, in reverse order of popularity:
Some business stakeholders are swinging for the fences in their innovation efforts:they want the big wins. And rightfully so: reaching for the stars keeps the company pushing forward, beyond what it can currently deliver. This inspires and motivates employees and management alike. But sometimes this quest for the next biggest and best thing overshadows everything else.
Companies need incremental innovation, breakthroughs and disruptions alike. To do this, there must be a comprehensive innovation program in place to channel attention and effort in the right direction.
The point is that incremental ideas shouldn’t be neglected: they are profitable and can fund your big idea projects. And they also provide a stepping stone toward game changers via the adjacent possible.
Specific techniques for research and diagramming are important, of course, but it’s really the principles of alignment diagrams that are essential. Once you grasp these, you’ll find there range of potential ways to go about diagraming, including mental models, customer journey maps, service blueprints and more. You may even introduce variations on these standard forms or come up with your own.
I’m proposing a 2-dimensional picture of innovation:
- The y-axis indicates the degree of technological progress an innovation brings with it. Moving from low to high along this line indicates improving existing capabilities, services and products.
- The x-axis shows the impact an innovation has on the market, also from low to high. This usually entails new business models or reaching underserved target groups.
This gives rise to four distinct zones of innovation:
- Incremental innovations involve modest changes to existing products and services. These are enhancements that keep a business competitive, such as new product features and service improvements.
- Breakthrough innovation refers to large technological advances that propel an existing product or service ahead of competitors. This is often the result of research and development labs (R&D), who are striving for the next patentable formula, device and technology.
- Disruptive innovation is a term coined by Clayton Christensen. In his best-selling book The Innovator’s Dilemma he shows that disruptive innovations “result is worse product performance, at least in the near-term. [They] bring to a market a very different value proposition than had been available previously” (p. xviii).
- Game-changing innovation transform markets and even society. These innovations have a radical impact on how humans act, think and feel in some way.
I’m advocating the incorporation of channel-based distinctions and information, such as a Touchpoint Matrix, directly in alignment diagrams. By doing this, you get not only channel-specific information, but you can also see how this aligns with both customer goals and business goals. In this light, alignment diagrams are a suitable tool for cross channel mapping and design.
Defining a project in its earliest stages is like hitting a golf ball: if the face of your club is slightly tilted , you’ll end up slicing the ball as it travels down the green. Likewise, small miscalculations at the beginning of projects can have massive consequences later on.
Part of the problem is that the logic of a project definition is invisible. You can’t “see“ project goals or risks, for instance. Sure, you can write them down as text. But long documents – if they get read at all – tend to get lost in the shuffle as the project unfolds.
What’s more, a written description of project elements doesn’t expose relationships between them. The big picture can fade quickly as work and deadlines pile up.
Here is a tool to help you get a quick, but broad definition of a project in a single overview. It’s called the Project Canvas. You can download it here: Download the Project Canvas v1.0 (PDF)
9 April 2012
Alignment diagrams are a class of documents that reveal the touchpoints between a customer and a business. Examples of alignment diagrams include customer journey maps, experience maps and service blueprints, among others. As I’ve written about previously, locating value is a common goal of these deliverables. Alignment diagrams show value creation in three fundamental parts:
- First, they illustrate various aspects of user behavior—actions, thoughts, and feelings, among other aspects of their experience.
- Alignment diagrams also reflect a company’s offerings and business process in some way.
- Finally, the areas where the two halves meet gives rise to touchpoints between customers and an organization.
This last part — the point of interaction — is particularly useful for describing cross channel experiences.
Designers having been mapping out the touchpoints in for cross channel experience in different ways over the past years. In his article “Connecting the Dots of User Experience” Gianluca Brugnoli showcases a simple, but very effective cross-channel diagram, called a touchpoint matrix (Figure 1):
Figure 1: Touchpoint matrix by Gianluca Brugnoli (See: “Connecting the Dots of User Experience“)
“The system is the experience” is a key notion behind his argument. We must think in systems when designing cross-channel experiences. Brugnoli concludes:
Helping to reveal the structure and the many invisible connections within an interactive system, the proposed model is not only an effective tool to analyze and design the user experience, but also can help us think about the user experience in a different way.
Brugnoli’s example follows some of the alignment principles I’ve outline previously, but not all. Absent are more details about the customer experience (thoughts, feelings, etc.) as well as business activities to support the experience. Still, it’s quite a handy tool.
In another example, Tyler Tate proposes a similar matrix in his post “Cross-Channel Blueprints: A tool for modern IA“, shown in the next image (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Cross-Channel Blueprint from Tyler Tate
Like the Touchpoint Matrix, above, this blueprint is focused on the channels themselves. Here, however, we see “Shared Assets” — an important addition that points to business-side activities needed to support the experience. So it’s closer to the alignment principles than Brugnoli’s approach.
In my experience, both of the above examples can fit into a customer journey map or experience map in their entirety without causing confusing or perceived complexity. That is, stakeholders and team members find it quite intuitive and useful to see a cross channel matrix as part of an alignment diagram.
Therefore, I’m advocating the incorporation of channel-based distinctions and information, such as a Touchpoint Matrix, directly in alignment diagrams. By doing this, you get not only channel-specific information, but you can also see how this aligns with both customer goals and business goals. In this light, alignment diagrams are a suitable tool for cross channel mapping and design.
Learn more about alignment diagrams:
- Participate in my workshop at the IA Konferenz in Essen Germany, May 10 (1/2 day workshop, in German).
Read about alignment diagrams:
- “Alignment Diagrams: Strategic UX Deliverables” (presentation at Euro IA, Paris, 2010)
- “Alignment Diagrams: Focusing the business on shared value” (Boxes and Arrows, 2011)
- “Locating Value with Alignment Diagrams” (Parsons Journal of Information Mapping, 2011)
- “Principles of Alignment Diagrams” (Blog post on Experiencing Information, 2011)