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Archive for the ‘Service Innovation’ Category

Do You Know Your Higi Score?

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

Many of us have seen the sit-down stations in drug stores that have you put an arm in a sleeve and give you a blood pressure and pulse reading.  The folks at Higi have gone further to create a interactive health kiosk that captures blood pressure, pulse, weight, body fat and BMI and uses it to compute an overall health score called the Higi Score.

You create an account, provide some basic information such as height and age and your progress is tracked.  You can access your info from the station, a computer or an app.

There are levels, awards and even a way to create a winner-take-all challenge with a group of like minded Higi users.

They have nearly 10,000 stations across the US and some evidence that the Higi can reduce blood pressure in people that are hypertensive.

The evidence comes from a 3-year study involving 159,000 hypertensive users that was presented at an American Heart Association Meeting:

“Nearly half lowered their systolic blood pressure to below 140 mmHg, the cut-off for high blood pressure according to AHA. Both men and women across all age brackets saw lowered blood pressure over the course of the study.”

From a cognitive design standpoint interesting features and functions include the gamification and the way relatively complex health data (weight, BP, pulse and BMI) is rolled up into one score.

If designed correctly, this composite score can give me something that provides a signal that supports how I learn from feedback better than any of the individual measures.

The Weight Watchers program attempts to do this with a point system for foods.

Add in some gamification or socialization features that make it feel good to try and change the score and you may be able to get some lasting health behavior change.

Anyone up for a Higi challenge?


Considering a Yoga Design Experiment

Friday, April 25th, 2014

In cognitive design we seek insights into how minds work so that we can create features and functions that motivate, inspire, inform, entertain and otherwise deliver positive mental performances.

 A systematic approach to cognitive design usually takes one of three forms: Look at what the science tells us, study design patterns that dazzle our brains or explore the implications of mind-intense philosophies or belief systems.   My work has been focused on the first two approaches.  After all, scientific insights into how minds actually work and products/services that push our emotional and intellectual buttons have proliferated wildly over the last 30 years.   Behavioral economics, emotional design, serious games, neuromarketing and other areas have emerged as a result.

Over the years I have been challenged (usually by one of my students at Northwestern), to consider the third approach and explore how a particular mind-intense philosophy or belief system can inform cognitive design practices. Examples include Yoga, martial arts and religion.  Such domains offer unique insights into cognition and promise powerful psychological experiences – for example alignment, clarity and faith – that are sought by millions.

Perhaps these ancient practices and sources of wisdom are just as rich of source of insights for cognitive designers as our modern sciences and marketing phenoms such as Harry Potter are.

Take Yoga for example.  Yoga offers insight into the nature of specific types of mental states, how to achieve them and why they are important. This raises a number of interesting questions for cognitive designers:

 How can yoga wisdom inspire the design of our products and services? Can it be used to inform employee and leadership development? How about the design of our workspaces and grounds? How does yoga fit in with your business ethics program?

 A quick Google reveals clothes, jewelry, pottery, room interiors and other products and services that claim to be Yoga-inspired. And Yoga has clearly made some inroads into corporate wellness programs and retreats. But I suspect we have yet to really tap the design potential of Yoga to deliver unique think-and-feel experiences and improved cognitive performances into the mass market.

 This belief was reinforced by a project I recently completed with Jamie and Maren Showkier to summarize their excellent book Yoga Wisdom at Work into a deck of NewHabits cards for the iPhone.  The project gave me a small personal taste of the design potential Yoga wisdom holds. As the authors explain:

“Many people already know that yoga stretches and meditation can benefit them at work. This app centers on helping people create habits based on other yoga practices that strengthen ethics, self-discipline, focus, self-awareness, productivity, contentment, and taking individual accountability for the good of the whole.”

Several colleagues that have experimented with the deck asked: How can we combine design thinking with Yoga Wisdom?  That is, how can we take a systematic yet creative approach to unleashing the insights Yoga has into the workings of our minds to reshape our products, services and organizations?

A question we will explore on the Cognitive Design Blog.


Unlock the Learning Labor in Your Organization

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Let’s turn our corporate training/development efforts and university classrooms into learning communities that create structured content and computable knowledge with immediate economic and social value.



Are MOOCs Changing the Way We Learn?

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Massive open online classes (MOOCs) burst onto the education scene over the last few years.  Millions of people have taken them with some classes hitting initial enrollments of 100,000 plus! The New York Times dubbed 2012 the Year of the MOOC and the likes of Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Northwestern are MOOCing their educational content and learning experiences.

Studying the effectiveness of MOOCs is a hot topic and definitely relevant for cognitive designers. So I am always on the lookout for scientific quality studies with design implications.  For example, a series of working papers has been released on several of the MOOCs run on edX. These MITx working papers  include a summary of the experience and papers on individual MOOCs ranging from solid state chemistry to fighting global poverty.

A few of the findings hint at non-traditional learning phenomenon. For example, not surprising completion rates are very low but there is some evidence that those that drop out still engage with the materials during/after the course. This signals big interest in getting access to world-class content but less interest in engaging in structured learning.   On average, 50% of the students are leaving within two weeks of enrolling.  Further supporting this hypothesis.

Interested to hear from readers that are evaluating MOOCs and considering how we can use them to support and enhance the cognition of learning.


First Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

In cognitive design we create artifacts that are optimized for how minds really work.   There are five types of “minds” that are important in cognitive design.

  1. Individual (between the ears) including mental processes and structures in a given person’s brain.
  2. Extended (in the hand) including objects that we think, learn and create with. For example, an artist’s favorite paint brush or an architect’s model of a building.
  3. Group  (among the heads) including any collection of individuals. For example, a partnership, product development team or therapy group.
  4. Machine  (in a black box) including hardware and software that automates one or more mental processes or structures. For example, the buzzer on your clothes dryer or an expert system a car mechanics uses to diagnosis a problem.
  5. Emergent (beyond the heads) including a group and/or machine intelligence the delivers a new mental state or level of performance. For example, a prediction market that forecasts a presidential election or the success of a new product better than any individual.

A robust design seeks to distribute cognitive load across the five types of mind. In some applications we look to off-load the mental work that individuals have to shoulder on to groups or machines. In other cases we look to  boost mental capacity by creating machine or extended minds that outperform individual or group minds in an important way.

For example,  Wikistrat  is an example of how to use an emergent mind  effects to outperform a group of highly trained individuals. They are using gamification and crowdsourcing  to produce high quality reports and forecasts on complex geopolitical and economic issues 5 times faster and for 1/3rd the price of traditional consultancies.

The architecture that creates the emergence is similar to massively multiplayer online games.   Wikistrat assembles a group of analysts to develop scenarios for a client’s strategic challenge and then lets gamification kick in:

The chief analyst synthesizes the results and the client has access to all the intelligence via an interactive platform.

Definitely a new way to support the cognitive work needed to generate  strategic insights into economic and geopolitical issues.


Science Toys and Economic Prosperity

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

I get a good number of calls and emails from people wondering what cognitive design can do to help meet the challenge of improving engagement  in  high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.  The concern is, at least in the US, that enrollment is down just when we need more STEM educated citizens to innovate and compete in the global economy.

Teaching is a hard cognitive design challenge, especially teaching STEM so I generally have a lot of advice to share. Indeed, I have been teaching a physics class to learn more first-hand and experiment with specific cognitive design ideas.  One suggestion I often make is  create/buy and give cool science toys.

Technical play, often early in life, appears to be a common theme among STEM professionals that are making notable contributions to our economic prosperity.

For a sample across age ranges check out – science is creative and good toys reflect that.   The idea is simple. Play by adults or children reveals the magic and power of science and will inspire us to learn more.

Interested to hear from readers that have experience with science toys.


The Dawn of Conversational Toys?

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

A 2-person firm Supertoy Robotics is looking for 30K pounds on Kickstarter to build the world’s first natural talking teddy bear. They already have a pledge of more than 58K pounds with four days to go.  You can get more details on how it should work HERE.

The toy bear is supposed to go beyond Q&A and engage in continuous conversation, read stories and role play in a character. It even moves its mouth.

If the technology works and is affordable it will open up a wide range of interesting applications for cognitive designers and other innovators.


Using Data to Change Behavior

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

The former CEO of Zeo, a personal sleep management company, has an interesting blog post on using personal health data to change behavior.  The post summarizes  advice from five years in the trenches and is specific enough to be useful to cognitive designers.

The bottom line is that health  data and advice will change behavior if it is personalized, presents a new view on health,  relates to an immediate concern (e.g. how I look) and is presented in a comparative and visual way.

Devices like Zeo’s have another important feature for changing behavior. They close the loop quick enough to hold my attention. They use sensors, devices and software to measure my behavior and then show me how the adjustments I make produce a change I want or not. If this happens in a fast and visually stimulating way (like it does in video games or speed limit signs that display my driving speed) then behavior change is more likely to take place.

How are you using personal data to drive behavior change?


What Can You Do with The Internet of Things?

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The internet of things is made up of our current computer-based internet plus a wide range of other devices that have a sensor and can send or receive information.  These other devices include cameras,  personal health monitoring devices,  phones, cars, parking spaces, Christmas trees, appliances in your home, dog collars, power meters, traffic sensors, toys, fire alarms  and many others.  One estimate sees 24 billion devices on the internet of things by the year 2020. That’s more than 3 devices for every person on the planet.

By connecting all  of these things to the internet we enable direct machine to machine (M2M) interactions.  That means one machine controlling or at least communicating with another via the internet. This will also create a river of big data the likes of which we have never seen and enable new services, marketing opportunities and even business models.

Take for example, Budweiser’s Red Light. This device links to the internet via your WIFI and monitors the games of your favorite hockey teams. When a goal is scored it goes off. This enhances the experience of watching the game. A nice example of cognitive design- creating experience value and building brand.  To quote:

“Our mission to get every Canadian closer to the game one goal at a time”

How can you build brand on the emerging internet of things? More generally, what new service and business opportunities does it present?

Internet of Things graphic: IEEE Communication Society Blog

Red Light image: The Classic Install


Small Changes in Habits Produce Weight Loss

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

At Cornell University they have been investigating what type of small changes in eating habits produce lasting weight loss. Several years ago researchers ran a Mindless Eating Challenge involving 2000 participants to try and figure it out. They recently published an article that found:

“The results of this study suggest that online interventions based on small changes have the potential to gradually lead to clinically significant weight loss, but high attrition from publicly available or “free” programs still remains a challenge.”

More specifically, 42% of the participants lost about one pound during the program. Approximately 7% of the participants saw a significant weight loss of 5% or more.  Some gained weight. Impressive results when you realize how small the changes are. Examples that participants found most effective include:

  1. Don’t eat directly from a package,  always eat from a dish
  2. Put down utensils between bites
  3. Keep food out of sight except for healthy items.

These types of changes are easy to make but not for everybody. As pointed out in a Science Daily blog post:

 ”Common barriers that prevented people from making changes included personally unsuitable tips, forgetting, being too busy, unusual circumstances such as vacations, and emotional eating.”

I am working with a physician to develop a solution that addresses most of these barriers.  The solution is a deck of 24 knowledge cards that document  the small changes you can make to achieve healthy weight loss.

You use the cards through a free App called NewHabits.  You can browse through the deck picking the cards that best fit your circumstances. That way the tips are always suitable.  Because the cards are on your iPhone or iPad it is much easier to remember to use them. Cards are designed to fit everyday activities as well as special circumstances (e.g. vacations) and take just minutes to use. That way you can use them no matter where you are or how busy you might be.

Three sample healthy weight loss cards are available in NewHabits.  One is shown above. Download the App (it is free), go to the store and look in the coming soon section for Healthy Weight cards. Give them a try and let me know what you think. We expect to publish the rest of the deck in June.