Wednesday, August 08, 2007

ergonomics entrepreneurship

I just found out that a potential customer of the FIU Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center (where I run the Tech Institute) found us through Google and as part of his due diligence skimmed this blog. Isn't the Internet great for fortuitous discovery?!?!

This entrepreneur may be our third product testing client that wants to test a product that provides ergonomic/biomechanic advantages. If any of my students are reading this, let me know if you are interested in a project for Fall (for credit or a stipend). I love seeing people with no ergonomics background realizing that having ergonomics credibility can be a competitive advantage (in seeking investment as well as impressing customers).

productive friction

One of my favorite gurus (I recommend reading everything he writes) is John Hagel. One concept he has promoted is the idea of "productive friction." When everyone agrees, nothing gets learned - its just a love fest. When people can't communicate because they speak very different languages (marketing v engineering) or because they vehemently disagree (pro-life/pro-choice), nothing gets learned - the sides just throw sound bites at each other. But the middle ground is where innovation happens. You want enough friction to get everyone's juices flowing but no so much that that they drown in these juices (terrible metaphor I know).

Another source is that diversity creates innovation. He defines diversity broadly (not just ethnicity/religion/gender).

So from a human factors point of view - we can imagine the team process of collaborative activity that causes productive friction. If the team members schema overlap completely, all collaboration does is reinforce existing schema component connections. When the schema
have no overlap, collaboration doesn't work because there are no common connections from which to share new ones. You may have had to take my course or be familiar with connectionist models to get my point fully, but basically I am trying to say that its easier to teach Spanish to someone who speaks Italian because there are so many words and grammar in common. But to teach him Chinese is much harder.

And we are not even getting into the decision making bias effects. If the person doesn't want to believe what you are selling, that adds exponential difficulty.

Web 3.0

I have been looking for interest in Web 3.0 for some time now and just praying that it hits the streets before I am too old to use it. The basic idea (copied from sramana mitra) is that Web 3.0 is a combination of content, context, commerce, community, personalization, and vertical search. Her example is perfect:


-I am a petite woman, dark skinned, dark haired, brown eyed. I have a distinct personal style, and only certain designers resonate with it (Context).

-I want my personal SAKS Fifth Avenue which carries clothes by those designers, in my size (Commerce).

-I want my personal Vogue, which covers articles about that Style, those Designers, and other emerging ones like them (Content).

-I want to exchange notes with others of my size-shape-style-psychographic and discover what else looks good. I also want the recommendation system tell me what they're buying (Community).

-There's also some basic principles of what looks good based on skin tone, body shape, hair color, eye color … I want the search engine to be able to filter and match based on an algorithm that builds in this knowledge base (Personalization, Vertical Search).

Now, imagine the same for a short, fat man, who doesn't really have a sense of what to wear. And he doesn’t have a wife or a girl-friend. Before Web 3.0, he could go to the personal shopper at Nordstrom.

I have two reasons to want this. From a human factors point of view - it is the gold standard. It considers just what the user wants and gives it to him/her with no unwanted stuff (the target content, the whole target content, and nothing but the target content).

But also, I have found that my own personal tastes are somewhat unique - so no systems that use generic collaborative filtering or community seem to give me what I am looking for. So for my own personal use, I need some serious web 3.0 action.