Nare Filiposyan FS

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Reading Responses

The Messy Minds of Creative People

The REAL Process

The article precisely illustrates what I feel on weekly bases while sitting in the architecture studio for an insanely long period of time and trying to make “good work”. Once you claim yourself an artist, or an art student in my case, there is some level of both social and personal expectation from you to always be “creative”. Kaufman gives a description of creative process that is closer to the reality than traditional romanticized ways of thinking about creative minds and the process of creation. He references to psychologist M. Csikszentmihalyi, saying that “creative people… contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual," each of them is a "multitude", which creates a mess when attempting to generate an original idea. He proposes the idea of “Super-Factors of Personality” which we might think are somewhat contradictory to each other, are however determinants of a creative process:

  • Plasticity: openness to experience, extraversion, high energy, and inspiration
  • Divergence: non-conformity, impulsivity, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness
  • Convergence: high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, and critical sense

Kaufman also distinguishes two main stages that are fundamental to the creative process:
1) Generation: idea produciton and originality

  • "...silence the inner critic and imagine lots of different possibilities."

2) Selection: criticism, evaluation, formalization, and elaboration of ideas.

Ideas for Startups

Paul Graham breaks down the process of innovation into doable steps that is accessible to anyone and does not require you to be a genius. He argues that in order to come up with a useful result, it’s important to approach a startup, thinking of it as a questions, because “if it's a question, it can be wrong, so long as it's wrong in a way that leads to more ideas”. I liked the idea of moving away from “a million dollar idea” to a “mistaken question”, because that allows you to actually think openly, instead of being pressured to instantly have a million dollar idea. I liked his description of why universities are a good place to start, as have (in most cases) awareness of new technologies and the right people around. It’s important to recognize how vital the second component is, because we need friends to talk through ideas and receive constructive feedback. As he makes a distinction, we need not just good ideas for startups, but good new ideas. The recipe he proposes is the following:

  • start with a problem and then wonder for a solution( and not just randomness )
  • feel that it must be possible to solve it

He argues that for a product to be not just good, but also valuable, it has to be something that people want. To achieve that, you take a luxury and make it into a commodity. People must want something if they pay a lot for it. Competition plays a big part in the success of the startup: when you work on an idea that multiply acquirers might be interested, there is more competition and more incentives to buy your product.

Design for Action, Harvard Business Review

The article discusses the evolution of design process, moving further away from a physical process to a way of thinking, namely Design Thinking. Intervention, - “their introduction and integration into the status quo”, becomes more crucial for a successful design than artifacts themselves. In contrast with traditional practices of innovation, which separate the generation of the physical object and the analysis of it's place in market, the authors propose to approach design as a “two simultaneous and parallel challenges—the design of the artifact in question and the design of the intervention that brings it to life. Intercorp Group’s practice of “designing new Peru” was a great example of such practice: the CEO of the company, Carlos Rodríguez-Pastor Jr., was aiming to create a middle class in Peru and bring social change, but was confronted with lots of challenges, as it may be predicted. Yet he used his expertise and intelligence to first bring his colleges to the same page, what they call "iterative interaction" as oppose to imposing ideas "imported" from the outside, without a foundational change in their thinking.
The key elements of this process are:

  • Clarity and consistency
  • A multistep Process
  • Iterative rapid-prototyping
  • Multiple small steps, instead of few big ones
  • interactions with the users throughout the entire process

Design Thinking, Harvard Business Review, 2008

Tim Brown in his “Design Thinking” brings up Thomas Edison as an example of creative innovator. Edison’s strategies of innovations are quite similar to that of design thinking. His genius was in his ability to conceive of a fully developed marketplace and not just a discrete device: not just lightbulb but also electric systems and transmissions. Edison broke the standard of “the lone genius inventor” had a team-based approach to innovation. His success was largely due to the fact that he gave great consideration to users’ needs and preferences Design Thinking: a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos, meaning that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding of what people want and need, through direct observation.
He identifies three spaces through which every design project should pass through:

  • inspiration: the circumstances that motivate the search for solutions
  • ideation: the process of generating, developing and testing ideas that may lead to solutions
  • implementation: the layout of a path to market

The shift of the role of designers throughout history is one of the interesting concepts that Brown discusses. In the past designers didn’t take part in the work of innovation. Once the idea was formed they would beautifully wrap it. Design was, what Brown calls, a late state add-on. Now the role of designers has shifted from late stage to first stage, along with innovation. Instead of making the product more beautiful to attract consumers, now they design products that better meet the consumer’s needs and desires.

Prototyping, IDEO

Prototyping: An important element of design thinking is to make prototypes, based on observation, throughout the development of an idea. The more finished a prototype seems, the less likely its creators will be to pay attention to and profit from feedback. The goal of prototyping isn’t to finish. It is to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea and to identify new directions that further prototypes might take. The prototype that one of the design thinkers from Kaiser team came up for a new surgery tool, while the surgeons described it to him, is fascinating!

His examples of Kaiser nursing team shows that innovation doesn’t come from a genius's brain: they first identified the problem which was the shift changes in hospitals, which cause both loss of time and information. By simply observing, talking to patients and to nurses, they came up with new methods of recording information about the patient and new way of passing that information to the next nurse taking the shift. A breaking way of approaching to design: the first thing we expect a design team to do is to work on the form of the project. what design thinking does is that it leaves the form to the last stage and lets it organically grow, but that doesn’t mean that form is not important. In most cases form is what gets our attention first. However, great design satisfies both our pragmatic needs and esthetic desires, simultaneously. The magic of design thinking is the human-centered approach.

What is Strategy? Michael E. Porter

"Strategy is creating fit among a company's activities. The success of the strategy depends on doing many things well- not just a few- and integrating among them. If there is no fit among activities, there is no distinctive strategy and little sustainability. Management reverts to the simpler tasks of overseeing independent functions, and operational effectiveness determines an organization's relative performance". The essence of strategy is in the activities that a company choses to perform: either performing them differently or performing different activities

  • Operational Effectiveness (OE): performing similar activities better than competitors
  • Strategic Positioning: performing different activities from competitors, or performing them in different ways
  • Productivity Frontier: constitutes the sum of all existing best practices at any given time (when a company improves its operational effectiveness, it moves towards the frontier)

Porter makes an important distinction between strategy and operational effectiveness. He argues that while OE is a necessary component, it is not sufficient in itself to provide strategy. He supports his claim explaining how competition in operational effectiveness shifts the productivity frontier outward, raising the bar for everyone. Which means that there is a general improvement in the operational effectiveness, but not a specific improvement for any of the companies in competition. Such competition is mutually destructive, although costumers and suppliers gain profits from such improvements.

The three origins of strategic positions are:
1. Verity based positioning: producing particular products or services that the company is best at providing
2. Need-based positioning: serving most or all the needs of particular group of customers
3. Acces-based positioning: segmenting costumers who are accessible in different ways and choosing activities to reach them in the best way
The key element here is the differences in activities that make a strategy unique. Because if they were all the same, there would be no need for strategy.

Another dissection that needs to made between operational effectiveness and strategy is that the first one is focused on individual activities or functions, where as the latter is about combing activities: "whole system of activities, not a collection of parts".

The three orders of fit are:

  • Simple consistency: between each activity and the overall strategy, fosters easy communication between customers, employees and shareholders; improves implantation because of the consistent internal image of the cooperation
  • Reinforcing activities
  • Optimization of effort

Just like in the case of strategic positions, here as well the entire system of activities is what determines the outcome, and not merely the particular elements and activities. Hence, positions that are built on the whole system of activities, are more sustainable that those built on individual activities, since the activities reinforce each other in the system and would provide a firmer foundation for positing a strategy. This approach also guarantees that competitors cannot override the effectiveness of your strategy by simply imitating certain activities that you perform: they will need to adopt the entire system of activities to their own practice, since those activities achieve their excellence within that particular system, reinforced by other activities.

The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy

First, I was surprised to read that Michael Porter wrote this article two and a half decades ago, yet there is still so much in our current business structures that we don't understand when we talk about competition. He proposed the five competitive forces, that shape strategy, the awareness of which can help a company recognize its better and worse patterns to separate itself, take a position that will be not only more profitable but also more protected from competitive attacks.

1. Threat of entry: limits the profit potential of industry. And what's important to notice here, is that it's not the actually entry, but the treat that acts as a cap on the company's profit potential. Those limitations, or what he called barriers are 1) Supply-side economics of scale, 2) Demand side benefits of scale, 3) Costumer switching costs, 4) Capital requirements, 5) Incumbency advantages independent of size, 6) Unequal access to distribution channels, 7) Restrictive government policy.

2. The power of suppliers:

  • it is more concentrated that the industry it sells to (Microsoft)
  • it doesn't depend heavily on the industry for it's revenue
  • high costs in changing suppliers prevents industries from switching to another supplier
  • suppliers offer differentiated products, with no substitute to what they offer
  • the supplier can threaten to integrate into the industry itself

3. The power of buyers:

  • powerful buyers can demand for more value with lower price, by playing competitive industries again each other
  • if the products are not differentiated and can be substituted, the buyers increase the bar of competition
  • the switching costs are very low
  • buyers can threaten to produce the products themselves if the vendors are too profitable

4. The threat of substitute: the essay suggests that substitutes are always present, by they are easy to overlook because they may appear to be ver different from the industry's product. Similar to the threat of entry, the threat of substitute limit the industry's profit potential by "placing a ceiling on prices".

  • offers attractive price-performance trade-offs
  • the buyers cost of choosing a substitute product is low, which increases the effects of the threat

5. Rivalry among existing competitors: the intensity of competition and the basis on which they compete is what determins the industry's profit potentials.

  • numerous competitors
  • slow growth in industry
  • high exit barriers
  • clashes of personality and failure of leadership practices

Finally, understanding the importance of those factors and using them as creative tools we can focus on an industry that has a high potential for the future and work on its holistic structure in a way that can provide sustainable profit.

SWOT Analysis I

"The essence of formulating competitive strategy is relating a company to its environment", where this environment is consisted of consumers, competitors, suppliers and regulators. This is a quote from Porter's Five Competitive Forces, which the author uses as basis to provide a system of analyzing the competency of a business, namely Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis.

  • Strengths: activities the company performs well, that need to be developed
  • Weaknesses: characteristics that prohibit the company from performing well, that need to be addressed
  • Opportunities: forces, events and ideas that can potentially be profitable
  • Threats: forces and events outside of your control that you need to have a defensive plan for

One of the things that the article focused on was the role of work style and lifestyle trends in effecting the competency of the industry. It was particularly helpful to see how you take a situation and analyze the business potentials of it by asking questions about the costumers' routines, their living and working habits, and using those as pivoting points for new ideas.

Market segmentation is an important step in SWOT analysis. It identifies particular groups from a large heterogenous group, so that the target's specific needs can be identified which will mean that the business can position itself in a way that addresses those needs at its best capacity with strong strategy against potential threats. One also needs to be well informed about not just who their competitors are, but what services they provide, how and for whom, any important and potentially profitable segments that your company doesn't provide.

Price Sensitivity and Elasticity: the awareness of the relationship between price and customer demand is among the important external factors that strategists should understand. Elasticity of demand quantifies the impact of price changes on customer demands, which can be calculated by:

  • Percentage change in quantity / Percentage change in price = Price elasticity of demand

where any value under 1 is considered "inelastic", therefore the higher the final number, the more sensitive the costumers are to price changes.

Another comparison made here is between static (steel industry) and dynamic (entertainment industry), which can inform us about competition arenas: the more static ones will have less threats of substitution, whereas dynamic industries are more vulnerable to substitution by other vendors.

SWOT Analysis II

Core competency : company's expertise or skills in key areas that directly produce superior performance To advance a company's core competency, it is important to first understand what you are uniquely good at, better than others, that is also valued by customers. The article warns us, that being exceptionally good at something is not enough for strategic advancement. It's the combination of a company's expertise and necessary valuation of that expertise from costumers.

Benchmarking is an objective method for setting a company apart from other practices, that will help identifying opportunities for process improvement. Ratings are another way of identifying strengths and weaknesses in the areas that matter the most. What is important in this method, is to do bring as many voices from various areas as possible, including salespeople, defectors from rival companies, and consultants who know the industry well.

Change-readyness: some companies can see the a shift in the particular industry is necessary and will have the structural support to do so, where as others won't. "Is the company change-ready?", is an important question to ask when analyzing a company's strategic positioning. A change-ready company is adaptive and prepared by structure and temperament to discard what is not working and mote to strategies capable of better results.

The article quotes James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds to illustrate the importance of having a large and diverse group of people to evaluate the internal strengths and weaknesses of a company: "If you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to 'make decisions affecting matters of general interest', that group's decisions will, over time, be 'intellectually superior to the isolated individual,' no matter how smart or well-informed he is". This crowd intelligence needs to be supported by and organized by a strong structure that can take full advantage of that intelligence.

Experience Prototyping

by Marion Buchenau, Jane dalton Suri from IDEO

Prototypes are models at different stages of design development that are meant to explore and communicate propositions about the design and its context. By using simple methods such models tend to suggest what the final product could "look like", "behave like" or "work like". The authors of the essay suggest that Experience Prototyping is a key element for innovation in three stages of design:

  • understanding existing user experiences and context
  • exploring and evaluating design ideas
  • communicating ideas to an audience

Experience is described as a dynamic and subjective phenomenon, which depends upon "the perception of multiple sensory qualities of a design, interpreted through filters relating to contextual factors". Therefore, the quality of those experiences will change over time as those other factors change. Experience Prototype is any kind of representation, in any medium, that is designed to understand, explore or communicate what it might be like to engage wit the product, space or system we are designing. It's a process that allows designers, clients or users to experience it themselves, before the design ideas are fully resolved. Experience prototyping is not a set of techniques, rather it's an attitude and a language towards decision making, that allows them to think holistically, as oppose to individual parts or separate artifacts.

In order for there to be a successful outcome from such prototyping, there needs to be multiple disciplines involved and that the outcome needs to resonate with personal experience. It is suggested to test out ideas through quick set-ups and take brakes in between to discuss what was revealed, and that process is called "bodystorming", which is essentially brainstorming that happens either during or between scenes in response to problems that are uncovered: ideas that are expressed physically and come spontaneously through interaction with proposed design elements. Role-playing, Bodystorming are meant to reach the gap between "real" and prototyped experience that enable designer to make discoveries themselves, which then guides them in their design choices.

The Design of Everyday Things, Don Norman

What makes a good design are it's two essential characteristics: discoverability, which makes it possible to know what actions are possible and where and how to perform them, and understanding, which answer questions of the meaning of the product and its use. Norman argues, that in most cases when we have problems with using certain products, we are blamed for not being able to understand, or read manuals. However, unlike us, machines are limited, and require us to be precise and follow exactly how it is designed to function, which we naturally don't tend to be good at. He suggests that "it is not our duty to understand the arbitrary, meaningless dictates of machines". Since most machines are designed by engineers who think logically, but have limited understanding of people, this creates loopholes in the design process. The logical thinking behind their design work assumes that everyone else will think that way. The solution that Norman proposes is Human Centered Design (HCD). At the center of HCD approach are human needs, capabilities and behaviors, and the goal of design is to accommodate those needs, capabilities and ways of behaving.

Focusing on the experience of a product is crucial in it's design stage because it will determine how people will be affected by those experiences and how fondly they will remember their interaction of the product. "Cognition and emotion are tightly intertwined, which means that designers must design with both in mind".

Discoverability, which is a crucial component of successful design, results from five fundamental psychological concepts:

  • affordances: it is not a property, but a relationship between the properties of an object and the capabilities of the agent that determine how the object could e used. Its existence depends upon the properties of both the object and the agent. To be affective, affordances have to be discoverable/ perceivable
  • signifiers: any perceivable indicator that communicates appropriate behavior - a means through which affordances become perceivable. Signifiers help people figure out what actions are possible without the need for labels or instructions. Affordances determine what actions are possible, signifier communicate where the action should take place.
  • constraints:
  • mapping: is the relationship between the elements of two sets of things (such as lights switches and lights, and the making of them would mean to specify which switch controls which light)
  • feedback: some way of letting the agents know that the system is working on their request. Since our nervous system is essentially a network of feedback mechanisms, it is essential to incorporate a feedback mechanism in the design of a product in order for us to interact with it successfully.

The Business Model Canvas, Alexander Osterwalder

The business model canvas is an incredible tool for designing a business model that serves best to its costumer segments. The nine blocks are the components of the canvas that allow you to diagram very clearly your business model. Using this canvas was itself a great experience: it allowed me to think about my idea from different angles, similar to SWAT analysis, but more for the purpose of sharpening my business model orientation. I have outlined the nice blocks that can be useful while working on the canvas.

  • Costumer segments: making a conscious decision of which customer segments you are serving will allow you to construct a strong business model based on the needs of those costumers. The costumer segment types include: mass market, niche market, segmented, diversified, multi-sided markets.
  • Value Propositions: is an aggregation of benefits that a company offers to its costumers, which his also the reason why costumers chose that company. The values that contribute to the costumer's choice include: newness, performance, customization, design,brand/ status, price, cost reduction, risk reduction, accessibility and convenience/ usability.
  • Channels: are the touch points with the costumer, that influence the user's experience. Channels are the ways you communicate with and reach out to your costumers. The channels are divided into two types: partner and own.
  • Costumer Relationships: a company needs a very clear understanding of what its relationship with costumers is like and what the basis for it are. These relationships can be categorized, as personal assistance, dedicated personal assistance, self service, automated service, communities, co-creation.
  • Revenue Streams: represent the earnings of the company, and there can be two different types of revenue streams: 1) transaction revenue that is generated from one-time costumer payment, 2) recurring revenue, resulting from ongoing payments.
  • Key Resources: are physical, financial, intellectual, or human assets that are necessary for the business model to work.
  • Key Activities: are the necessary activities that the company needs to do in order for the business to work and these include: production, problem solving, platform/ network.

Design Toolkit

Since I had read a lot about the Design Toolkit, I watched a lot of the video's on the website to hear how other people both inside, and especially outside of IDEO use the toolkit in their design processes. It was interesting to hear Gaby Brink the founder and chief designer of Tomorrow Partners. I enjoyed the way she talked about her iterative process and how she entered into that field knowing that the first attempt is most likely not the right solution. So having iterative mindset to product development allows it to be much more in depth and successfully address the costumer needs.
I also watched some video's of David Kelley, the founder of IDEO to talk about creative confidence, which is the fundamental concept behind IDEO's approach to design and creative ways of demystifying creativity as an exclusive talent.

The Business Model Generation, October 21

I found this reading incredibly helpful because it put in context all the new business talk vocabulary that I learned from studying the Business Model Canvas. I like how it used big, well known companies to explain how different business models work. I feel that even if I never deal with this kind of analysis and designing a business model for my work, I already feel empowered to be able to understand not only what a company offers, but also how it does, what are the values at the center of the business and how does it generate revenues.

I thought the example of LEGO, the Danish toy company that became popular for its modular, interlocking bricks, in 2005 incorporated user-designed products, which was a new stream to generate revenue and turned its already well established resources, into a platform to empower its users: LEGO Factory allows customers to assemble their own LEGO kits, using a software called LEGO Digital Designer and order them online. Even though sales from this new stream are significantly less than from other revenue streams that LEGO has been using since 1949, the focus on user-generated products is a big step in implementing a Long Tail model as an alternative to its traditional business model: focusing on a large number of products, each selling in low volumes.

Company Profiles


IDEO is a global design company that creates positive impact through human-centered approach to design. It provides support to organizations in the public and private sectors to innovate, grow, and bring to market new ideas. IDEO was formed in 1991, in Paolo Alto, California, as a collaboration between Stanford University professor David Kelley Design, (who created the first Apple mouse in 1982), and ID Two (the designed of the first laptop in 1982), led by Bill Moggridge. The name of the company was chosen by Moggridge, meaning "The Art of Innovation", derived from"idea," as in "ideology" or "ideogram".

Initially the company provided traditional design services for business, such as the Oral-B toothbrushes. Starting from 2001, they shifted from designing products to designing experiences. Whithin the company itself, there was no hierarchy, with the exception of former CEO David Kelley. Project management duties were rotated. A staff of ten was dedicated to administrative functions. To keep bureaucracy small, the size of each office was limited to about two dozen people.

In 1996, office furniture manufacturer Steelcase Inc. made an equity investment in IDEO and David Kelley was designated Steelcase's vice-president of technical discovery and innovation. IDEO had been working with Steelcase companies on various projects since 1987 and helped design the company's ergonomically advanced Leap Chair.

Since iterative process to design was one of the fundamental elements of IDEO's worth ethic, in 2000 they introduced a firm called "IDEO U" to teach clients to be more innovative. IDEO later designed Procter & Gamble's own innovation center, called "The Gym." Currently IDEO has offices in Boston, Chicago, London, Munich, New York City, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, with Tim Brown as CEO.


  • McKinsey & Co: is a global management consulting firm that serves leading businesses, governments, non governmental organizations, and not-for-profits to make lasting improvements to their performance and achieve high end goals.
  • Citrus byte: designs and builds web and mobile apps to enhance user experience
  • Artefact: is a design consultancy that works with a variety of high tech consumer electronics, communications, and computer software clients

SHoP Architects

SHoP is an architecture firm based in New York City, founded in 1996, with partners Christopher Sharples, Coren Sharples, Gregg Pasquarelli , Kimberly Holden,William Sharples (all Columbia graduates)and Vishaan Chakrabarti (Berkeley, MIT, Cornell).
The firm was founded on the ideology of questioning accepted methods of practice and altering, expanding the role of an architect. Questions 1 such as "How can architects solve a construction problem, revitalize a neighborhood, build in a sustainable way, or give a superscraper a human sense of scale?" are the guiding principles of the firm. The think tank setting of "no idea is too outrageous" provides platform for innovation within the firm. Another key element of their work ethic is the early engagement with material manufacturers and trade contractors.

Within the past year, the firm has grown from 100 to almost 200 people, with backgrounds in fine arts, banking, history, real estate, political science, and business as well as architecture,who bring a wide range of abilities, experiences, and perspectives. In their work, they have found that greater engagement with a project’s specific constraints—budgetary or structural, cultural or contextual—results in greater design integrity.

SHoP Construction: In 2007, SHoP had formalized its preference for being involved with the whole process by creating SHoP Construction, a separate firm headed by SHoP's sixth principal, Jonathan Mallie, to "facilitate the delivery of the design all the way through"2 until a project is built. In early 2015 the firm decided to close SHoP Construction.

Although the firm had been working in New York City for a many years already, it became known in the city for its design of the Barclay's center. ShoP, stepping in after Frank Gehry's initial design for the arena was dropped, worked within the constraints of the already-ordered steel, and the results impressed observers (though the arena still has plenty of detractors among design critics and community members).

In 2012, the firm added a seventh partner, Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of Columbia University's Center for Urban Real Estate. His formal addition to the firm was seen as a driving force behind SHoP's recent wave of mega project commissions, particularly Domino and Essex Crossing. In his 2013 book, A Country of Cities, subtitled "A Manifesto for an Urban America," he calls himself an "accelerant" for SHoP's prior urban planning work. "It's like taking an amazingly well-designed engine and putting a turbo-charger on it."

Family business model: The fact that most of the principles are family members, to some extend defines the intimacy and support system of the atmosphere within the firm. Collaboration is the key in the office’s success and the actual office space provides that through various types of spaces for group work, casual critiques, pin ups. The principles are accessible to everyone, including interns, who are encouraged to participate in the design process and propose ideas.

Company/ Product/ Service Ideas

Talk of the Town

I have recently discovered how practical it is to listen to the radio, while when I don't have much time to read. One of the issues that I come across quite often, is the homogeneity of the voices I hear and the second hand information that I receive. I imagine the "Talk of the Town" be a "news channel", that can collect everyday stories from people in a particular city/ town and allow you to hear multiple perspectives of an issue, without censoring it through a central radio station. It can be an app, but perhaps it could be site specific installations: i.e: using "google voice" system in a few locations such as downtown Bennington, hear at the college, Williams College we could hear stories, opinions about things happing in our own surroundings and in the world outside of our bubbles, through uncensored voice mails.

The Street Collaborative

Most American cities, are not for the pedestrian experience. The capitalist regime is build into the infrastructure of city itself and therefore in the every day activities of driving from a place to place: from buying grocery to going to the cinema. This is in some sense a social control because it keeps us all apart from each other and sheltered in our cars, which to me a is a huge threat to the power of the public as a group.
This could be an employee owned design company that will bring architects, urban planners, artists and social scientists to provide problem solving services/ creative consulting on how to improve public spaces, enhance pedestrian experience and the ownership of the space by the public. The collaborative will focus on small scale changes that seem trivial but are nonetheless fundamental to the pedestrian experience, starting from sidewalks.

I can't hear you


Smartphone app (or headphone product) that allow you to see what others are listening to around you.
One of the concerns we hear most often, as technology advances, is that we lose “the real” contact and interaction with each other and become more and more isolated. It seems to me that, as soon as we put our headphones on, we are building a protection zone around us which blocks casual interactions and warns people that they are “not welcomed”. I experimented this a few days ago in the dining hall and it was fascinating to watch people, that normally would sit with me, seeing that I had my headphones on, left me alone. While in some cases, we do look for solitude by blocking our senses, I think in most cases it is the other way around: that it is the result of solitude that we seek for protection through our headphones. This would be specifically designed headphone product or perhaps more accessibly an app, that will allow you to see who else around you is listening to similar music. Music tells you something about people’s taste and a provides a common platform on which you can easily start conversations. It could also expand and allow you to see what radio station the other person (who also has the app) is listening to, intriguing you to engage with each other and discuss what you just head.

Edited: September 22


Potential Competitors: I searched to see if this is actually an original idea and weather there are other products addressing the same concern. I came across an IOS app Boomio, which could be a potential competitor. Boomio is a social, music-sharing platform that allows users to send songs to their friends and followers. Features such as liking, sharing, sending (Booming) are similar to what Facebook's services and the actual interface is similar to Facebook's news feed. Similar to Spotify, you can make a playlist and share (Boomlist) it with others. But what makes the app distinct is that you can hear the same track for free only once and after that you have to purchase or share it with friends. The app is supported by several major record labels, so it launched with millions of songs. But the format is especially appealing to lower-profile musicians looking for a way to attach some monetary value to their art form.

Strategic Positioning: Companies such as Spotify and Pandora are among the most favorite providers of commercial music streaming, podcast and video services, that provide digital rights management-restricted content from record labels and media companies. Weather or not my product will compete with Spotify or potentially collaborate with it, one of the most important strategic difference of "I can hear you" is that it is a located based social sharing of music: you can only see what people around you are listening to by being there. This enforces the idea of not just sharing, but sharing in your immediate, physical environment.

Feedback from people

  • "You just get tired of your own playlists, whereas listening to someone else's music, you always discover something new". The person giving feedback liked the idea of spontaneous exploration and discovery of music. She compared it with Spotify's "Weekly Discover" feature, that creates a personalized list based on the artists you follow and sends you a weekly list of new songs: "a week is too long, I get bored of it and would love to discover new music at any point".
  • Music not only tells you about the person's taste, but also something about their mood and state of mind at the moment. This can play an important role in how you decide to interact with the person.
  • Someone said that they may not feel comfortable to talk to someone randomly, but will check out what they are listening to. On the other hand, sitting in the dining room, they would love to check out what a person they know, is listening to.

SWOT Analysis, September 29

Analysis of External Factors
Who they are: it's for music listeners, younger generation, between 18-25.
Costumer price sensitivity: generally sensitive to price: this is mostly targeting high school/ college student populations, therefore price sensitivity is important
How to reach them: the best way to reach them is though already existing platforms where they are actively engaged: as social media
Current patterns of using a product: Spotify and a few other similar products are the main channels through which they listen to music and customize those platforms to their habits by:

  • creating playlists
  • receiving recommendations based on your music library
  • sharing songs, playlists with friends
  • choosing what is presented publicly and what isn't: having control over how your music taste is presented in those social media platforms where you share your activities.

Needs that are poorly served, or unserved:
Loyalty to vendor:for this particular demographic, I think price is what determines the level of loyalty. More precisely, the amount of features a user can assess freely, without monthly subscription. </u>

SWOT Analysis
Great working on paper--can you type out the contents of this SWOT analysis? Robert_Ransick (talk) 02:16, 30 September 2015 (UTC)
Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
you can check what other people around you are listening to if the goal is socializing, it is not a reliable instigator for conversations maybe instead of having to physically intervene in your private zone, I can hear what's in your ear. very competitive industry
instantly discover new artists assumptions are being made here about music listening habits, which vary from person to person: for some people listening to music is a form of defining private zone in which case it would become the opposite of location based and allow you to listen to music with a friend physically far away. constant technological advancement: companies like Spotify frequently develop new features
location based, which would instigate conversations it would attract a particular group of music listeners, who don't mind letting others know what they are listening to maybe that extends to listening to what's outside of headphones, but the sounds around you need a strong and differentiating strategy, so competitors like Spotify doesn't just copy

Next Steps

  • observe/ survey how people listen to music
  • test out how people respond if I sit in the dining hall with a headphone splitter and two headphones attached to it and have a sign that says what I am currently listening to (and maybe keep changing the names of the songs

Questions to ask:

  • if the headphones were wireless, would you use it to listen to what I was listening to?
  • would you let others see what you are listening to?

Clarify and goals:

  • a) socialize through music, in which case an app might be contradictory to the goal
  • b) innovative ways of sharing music: making it a more social activity: what happened to boomboxes? The History of Boombox
  • c) connecting people through music/ sound: which is not about your presence in the social scene but the intimate connection of two physically distant people through music and sound.

October 6

Feedback from Erika and John:

  • opportunity: growing trend to share music, looking for external opportunities and threats
  • problems of allowing someone listening to a radio that you are paying for, but they are not: how do you deal with this?
  • Profiling? how do you differentiate who is who?
  • how does this integrate in people's everyday life? how does the word get spread? how do you get people excited about?

Analysis of Prototype 1: I sat at the library, intentionally during my shift, so I would be on the from desk and attract people's attention. I used a headphone splitter and two pairs of earphones, a sign that said "What's in My Ear?" and hoped to learn something out of this about my idea. First I was getting frustrated because people wouldn't even notice. Then I picked the spare pair of earphone that were on the desk and hanged them over the sign, so the suggestion to pick them up and check out what was in my ear, was more clear. People started noticing and asking questions. I gave basic information and allowed them to fill the gaps in a way that would tell me about their habits of listening to music. I also took notes from their comments and took pictures of some of the ones that I found very helpful. I was positively surprised to hear mostly positive feedback and quite a lot of excitement, because I was ready to leave the idea and move on to something else.

Important remarks made by potential users:

  • having control over permission: Getting a notification at the moment when somebody wants to connect to what's being played in your phone and accepting or rejecting the permission request
  • sharing playlists is fun, but you normally don't check out every single song in that playlist, this would be more fun because it's just one song at a time and you are listening to it at the same time.
  • having a chat option to ask a question about what's being heard
  • some people may just not be interesting in sharing with others what they are listening to

Overall what I learned from this expertise what that they is something in the idea that excited people, but needs to be more developed and reframed in a way that makes it a strong reason for them to want to have it. Describing them the problem that I am trying to tackle, which is the fact that music has shifted from social to solitary activity, and then proposing my solution. In this way it is portrayed as a need and not just a want to what I am describing as a problem. Also, there was something very interesting in listening to my music with random people. The participatory aspect was crucial for the outcome. It was a real social practice moment!

Market Analysis: October 21

Spotify: I have looked at one of the main music streaming platforms, Spotify to see how its business model works. It offers two kinds of services: you can listen to music for free, but with advertisements in every 30 minutes or subscribe to the Premium and get special features. It has what's called a Freemium business model, which blends the basic free services with paid premium services and generates most of its revenue from the advertisements and a smaller part of it from the monthly subscriptions. The way it attracts users to go premium is first it allows them to try premium for a month with no fee. It also allows the users to save playlists on their phone and listen to offilne, without ads. Students, who are the larger demographics of Spotify's costumer segments, get %5o discount for subscription. One of the latest features that Spotify introduced, is that it allows you to listen play background music while you play on PlayStation.

This was an interesting reading about the music listening habits of US college students. A feature that Spotify has that is a potential threat to my product is it's interactive map of the most popular songs in largest cities in the world.

I also looked deep in the market to see what the key value propositions are for the most commonly used music sharing apps and I came across an app called Raddeus, which is almost exactly what my product idea is :(-- my product + spotify = Raddeus! "It's a "global headphones splitter, where users can listen to music together in real-time, no matter where in the world they are." It's the first music venture from Ryan Rockefeller, who co-founded it with childhood friend Matt Rogers. "We were on a train trying to share headphones, and couldn't help but think, 'There's got to be a better way to do this,'" he tells Billboard. "So we ventured into this exploration of proximity-based listening, but soon realized, 'Why limit ourselves to just what's playing around us? It shouldn't matter if you're next to someone or across the globe."1

Scenarios for “I Can Hear You”, October 28

Anne is a 20 year old college student who loves listening to music in her free time, when she is painting, studying or when she is at a local coffee shop in her town. She is always excited about hearing new artists and finding out what her friends are listening to. She is one of those that get easily tired from listening to their own playlists for too many times and wishes that someone could just introduce them a new song whenever they had to pick. But of course, you don’t just take everyone’s recommendations, there is something else that makes you want to check out what they suggest. Most people around her use headphones, play their own music and then post about them on social media share with friends. Anne, instead, wishes that she could access to what’s being played in people's headphones in real time and share with them that experience of listening to music together, as a social activity of its own. For that reason she uses I Can Hear You, our smartphone app, that allows her to see what’s being played around her within the 100 feet radius and she can exchange thoughts about what she hears with the person that streamed the music with her, either personally or through the app’s basic commenting option. In this way, sharing music becomes more meaningful to her as a real time social interaction, because of its direct streaming from one person to another.

Yeva is 18 years old, just started her first year at college. She likes to socialize with people, but is introverted and always struggles to make the first step in talking to them, and meeting new people. She gets overwhelmed in crowded situations and she finds it hard to approach people, introduce herself and start talking to them. In these situations she uses her headphones to signal people that she is “not alone”, and is doing her own thing, fencing herself from potential encounters. Now, that Emily has I Can Hear You on her phone, she can engage with people in public in a way that is less uncomfortable for her, without feeling isolated and lonely. Music becomes the platform that makes real interactions less stressful for her.

Evan is 25 years old entrepreneur, lives in a small town and commutes to work by a 20 min bus ride from his place. He is an active member of the local community participating in community events that include from farmer’s markets to town hall meetings. He is always interested in new ways of engaging with the local community, getting to know people that he interacts with during his daily activities and hearing what the talk of the town is. Evan uses I Can Hear You when he is taking a lunch break, or on the bus going to work and has a few minutes to hear what’s being heard around him and who is listening to what. His morning bus rides become much more exciting because the app allows him to engage with the other riders in a novel way that is enjoyable and playful. “I Can Hear You” extends the experience of sharing music and becomes a powerful gateway for Evan to initiate real conversations with other members of his town community.

Business Narrative
We are group of passionate music listeners who collectively have developed a smartphone app to transform our current culture of listening to and sharing of music and provide novel experiences of social interactions through music. I Can Hear You, is a location based smartphone app that can detect what is being played within the radius of 100-150 feet and allow you to listen to it together, in real time, with the person streaming the song.

The business is designed to serve the demographics of 18-25, who are the most active music listeners, and provides an app based services. While we acknowledge that this is a highly competitive market and there are tons of music streaming and sharing apps, we believe that our approach is unique and has a much larger dream of changing people’s behaviors that can transform the culture of listening to music into a social activity. What makes our app special from others is that we focus on the actual real time experience, as opposed to creating a timeline of your music choices, that can be accessed through your social media platforms. The app is located based and works within a small enough radius that allows you to be physically close to the people you are streaming music with. The design of the app serves to our strategy through a very simple and clear language, user friendly interface to provide a pleasant experience. The constraints of the app, that include location specificity, small radius and the number of things the app allows you to perform, all serve to our central goal of using music as a platform for real time interactions: therefore it eliminates the need to connect the activity of listening to music to sharing on an online platform and only does what it takes to detect music from around you and allow you to stream, and connect to other people’s music.

If our business doesn’t seem to go well, we will have to find out why, by working with users and understanding what are the things that are lacking or we are not performing well that affect the level of engagement from the users. All of these will then be implemented in the design solution. A more difficult situation would be if major music streaming channels decide to provide the same services as we do, we will need to set out clearly what are the things that distinguish us from others. If at that point, these are no longer valid and our competitors are doing the same job, at a much larger scale and perhaps better than us, then we need to brainstorm, observe and generate different way of achieving our goal that is incompatible with the interests of our competitors.

Functionalities of the app, November 4

I Can Hear you: Wireframe

Here is an outline of how I Can Hear You works and the detailed funcionalities at every stage of user experience.

Testing out, November 11

Feedback from "users":

  • loved the simplicity of it and that they don't need to do anything extra: they can just connect it to their existing music platform.
  • the messaging slide wasn't so clear for a few people: who are you messaging to? (the language and the graphics need to be more clear).
  • other person said that they loved the idea of being able to message only while the song is playing. Then you actually have to talk to the other user in person.
  • the "locked" screen is not so clear: it should say the name of the app and be more clear that it's a background app and you can turn it on and off whenever you want to.

Design Development, November 18

Name Change: Tune Mate

Tune Mate: color palette

Tune Mate: first design iteration