Friday, May 22, 2015

This Week in EID - Episode 55

We were thrilled to have a great guest post from Moin Rahman this week, with a very thought provoking piece on ethics in human factors.  If you missed this, here is your chance.  A great read from a great mind.

The three articles from our standard series got a ton of response on the EID site and on Linked In.  We clearly hit a couple of major nerves.  But for surprising reasons I think.

Many of our loyal readers (based on the fact that they read all of the articles in the sitting/standing/leaning series) had some strong opinions on these articles, including the one this week.  One point that Brian Peacock shared was that any strategy that uses absolutes is going to be flawed.  Can’t argue with that.  But the article this week focused on emotion, which is something very different from the usual debate, so I was hoping for comments on that.  Now, I am really looking forward to the response when the last piece of this series comes out (in two weeks) on kids and sitting.  Articles about kids always brings out the best and worst in all of us. Stay tuned.

Which brings me to the free range parenting article.  The idea here is that the free range children movement is gaining some momentum, but it hits the wall when parents get intimidated by their neighbors, community, and even the police about letting their kids range. 

Then the final article (which actually appeared first on Monday) was a behavioral science piece on smarter lunchrooms.  The San Francisco public school system and IDEO teamed up to create a very innovative lunchroom environment (not your everyday cafeteria).  And it seems to work.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these. 

Should brands drive social change?

I wrote about some interesting trends in how brand identities with respect to gender have evolved in recent years. Whether any of these speculations are valid, it brings up an interesting debate that definitely happening all over the corporate world.  Should companies care about the impact of their products, brands, marketing, etc on social change?

It is clear that corporate social responsibility is a big debate, not just in the Twitterverse but also in the boardroom.  Companies are moving towards the triple or even the quadruple bottom line.  They are moving beyond an exclusive focus on shareholder value and defining stakeholder much more broadly. 

  • Do they have responsibilities towards employees beyond “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” and legally mandated safety and workplace regulations?
  • Do they have responsibilities towards customers to support their well being and best interests? 
  • Do they have responsibilities towards the community where their offices and factories are located or where their employees live?
  • Do they have responsibilities for environmental stewardship?

And now I would like to add a fifth question to this list:  Do they have responsibilities to drive social change?  This is a harder question because I think there is more uncertainty about the direction that social change should be heading.  The headlines these days focus on the most controversial issues like whether a bakery should be required to design and create a cake for a same sex marriage. 

But even when we consider accepted problems such as the glass ceiling in wages, minorities in STEM careers, employee wellness, etc. how far do we expect companies to go?  Is it even their role to influence these challenges on their own initiative?  The article in EID focused on gender stereotypes and how they can be supported or challenged by brands in the way they are designed and marketed.

And then even if we want companies to care about and address these issues, how much will we trust that they are doing it because they believe in it or just as a marketing gimmick?  Can we suspend our cynicism?  And even if companies are doing it out of self-interest, if it works, should we care? 

I don’t have answers to most of these questions.  I have some personal beliefs and speculations on several of these issues.  But I am uncertain enough to worry about forcing these on companies through regulation or mass consumer pressure.

It makes a good long weekend post to give it time to percolate before many of you respond.  But I am very interested in what you think.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sports Quotes and T-Shirts

There was an article in the New York Times on Saturday that gave me a few interesting thoughts.  The article talked about fans of the Memphis Grizzlies who create team t-shirts and caps and other swag for sale outside the stadium that display quotes from the players or slogans from the team.

One of the first things that jumped out at me is the intellectual property issue.  With so many people rushing out to trademark every pithy phrase they might say (Taylor Swift doing this to the most extreme), it makes me wonder what the team and the players think about this and what they will do about it.  The reason Taylor Swift trademarked all of her song quotes is so that she has the sole right to sell things like t-shirts and caps with those phrases on them.  This is the “hard ass” strategy perfected by the music industry back in the days of Napster.

But there is also the Seth Godin model where you give everything away for free, establish yourself as a leader by the sheer volume of sharing (which only happens if the content is good), and make money on the back end.

The NYT article focuses more on the personal stories, but they seem to imply that the Grizzlies have a silent agreement to let the fans have their fun, even at the expense of their own licensed t-shirt and cap vendors and their own profit from sales of licensed products.  They are benefiting from the increase in fan engagement, so it may not be 100% altruistic.  But it is not the usual first reaction, so I respect them for that.

A second thought I had was the huge increase in volume of potential quotes to use because players are such active tweeters.  Every tweet is a potential t-shirt.  Just the right size, and easy to market by copying the player’s own hashtag.  One story from the article is Tony Alley making a great defensive play and shouting out “1st Team All Defense” and then of course following that up with a tweet.  The next game, there was a vendor who already was selling unlicensed t-shirts with #1stTeamAllDefense prominently displayed.  Tony Alley is also the source of “Grit, Grind” and “I don’t bluff” quotes that have made their way on to t-shirts.

So put these two together and we get to my third thought.  What does Tony Allen think of private vendors taking his words and making money on them?  He could easily hire a merchandising company to scan his quotes, trademark the good lines, and make their own swag.  He is leaving a lot of money on the table based on the sales volumes that are implied by the Times article.  Has he not thought about this?  Did he miss the business school course that Taylor Swift is drawing from?

Friday, May 15, 2015

This Week in EID - Episode 54

Here is the weekly recap of EID.

Monday shared what I think is the start of a great innovation, but one that needs to take a deeper dive into the user experience, human factors, and safety. Since we cover all of these topics, it was a rich subject for an article.  And we got lots of discussion all over the web: on the EID site, on Twitter, on Linked In.

Tuesday was perfect timing for the Apple Watch article. The very next day, I found a use case that made a lot of sense.  E-Trade launched an Apple Watch app for rumor-based traders.  For them, the few seconds could be all it takes to get in on the beginning of a rumor when the price is good and the middle/end when they could lose their shirts.  The few seconds to check your phone for the Twitter notification could make it too late. I don’t recommend this kind of investing, but it you do, you many as well do it well.

Wednesday I didn’t have a chance to cross post the article on forensic linguistics, so we lost a lot of the usual commentary from the readership.  One of the challenges I guess we have of trying to be a daily publication with a team of two.  So if you didn’t see this one, I would really appreciate your feedback here.  Can we use a person’s emails and text messages to narrow down a unique signature reliable enough to be used as evidence in court?

Then finally we shared a thought provoking idea from a Dutch design firm that is fundamentally rethinking the sitting/standing debate by creative spaces where you can lean in a dozen different ways depending on what you are doing.  Lying back to read, you can use shape of a lounge chair.  Leaning forward to examine a document or object, you can use a shape that supports this kind of posture.  The challenge is that there are no chairs to move around or adjust.  But it is a conceptual design, so that can be added in a later iteration.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these.