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Episode #276 Richard Banfield - Your Product Idea is Great, But Who Cares? Live!

May 20, 2016  ·  52 minutes

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Products and service designers deal with complex design problems in equally complex markets. It’s hard to know which solutions are winners and which ones will fail. Fortunately, you can use simple design insights from biology to eliminate doubt and risk, and prepare you for whatever comes your way.

Show Notes

Richard will show you how to stop making assumptions about your users, and figure out what they really want and need. He’ll demonstrate the value in doing fewer things better, and using features to give your users superpowers. You’ll leave his talk dying to put your new knowledge of biological design principles to work.

To see the video of Richard's talk, visit the UX Immersion: Interactions section in our All You Can Learn Library.

Full Transcript

Richard Banfield: I want everybody to stand up. Stop what you're doing. Stop filling out the surveys. Stand up. Put your hands on your hips. If you're feeling sassy, you can even thrust one of the hips out like that, like Wonder Woman.

Audience Member: [inaudible 00:44] .

Richard: Who said that? What's going on right now? Right now, your body is telling your brain what to do, which is a weird thing. We generally think that our brains are in charge of our bodies. One of the human things that is innate to being ourselves is that it's a collaborative effort between the body and the mind.

If you stand like this for two minutes or more you'll increase the amount of testosterone in your body. You will reduce the amount of cortisol in your body. For those of you who missed science at school that means that you are going to feel more confident, you are going to feel more awake, and you are going to feel less stressed.

You can all sit down now. It's also a handy little trick after lunch. What's the problem that designers face every single day? The problem is that the people that come to us, whether it's an agency like ours and we've got clients or whether you are an internal team and you've got a boss or a customer. The expectation is that as designers we know what to do about the future.

We know what to design for that future. The honest truth is, we don't know. We don't have a crystal ball. We don't know what the future looks like and that's pretty scary. In fact we set the expectations from an early age. We say to our children, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I ask this question on my son and this is what he answered me. This is the same answer you should be giving your teams and your customers, "I don't know. I don't know what the future holds." Who of us knew that Slack would exist two or three years ago? We didn't.

Who of us knew that the next big thing that was going to happen would just take over our lives and dominate our behaviors every single day? We didn't. However there is an opportunity for us to go back to the roots to being human and understand what it is that biology is telling us about design.

What in fact do we know about the future? Is there anything about who we are right now that can tell us about what to design for the future? The answer is yes. There is a lot that biology can teach us.

Currently, we take this approach. We work in groups. We follow the process. We come up with ideas. We design those ideas. If we're really smart, we'll prototype those ideas. Then, we take them out into the world and we test them with human beings.

If you think about that, it's a weird way to do it, because we are the human beings already that are going to receive that. What we should do is study the human being first and understand what that human being wants before we start the design process.

That's exactly what we're going to do today. We're going to start with a new perspective. We're going to find out what biology is telling us about the future of all products, of all services, of all experiences.

Quick little story. When I was a nerd and I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life as an early teenager, I had that concern. "I don't know what I want to be." I was very fortunate that I ended up working on an island as a dive instructor. This is a little archipelago islands in the Indian Ocean called the Islamic Republic of the Comoros.

I was introduced to a bunch of really cool people that were studying ichthyology and oceanography. They were so into it. I got into it as well. I was like, "Woah, this biology thing is cool. This marine biology stuff is great." The more I studied it, the more exciting it became. Biologists seemed excited about what they were doing. They seemed to be doing really meaningful, purposeful work.

Of course, the media has a slightly different viewpoint of what marine biologists do.


Richard: For those of you who have been unable to escape shark week, you all know what we think marine biologists do. I had in my mind that it was something like this. That I'd be working out in the field. I would be interacting with these amazing, beautiful animals. I signed up for that. I went to school.

What I discovered is that biology, especially the marine biology that I wanted to do, doesn't really exist. This stuff happens on National Geographic. The reality is that marine biology happens in a laboratory. I was finding myself spending six, seven, eight hours a day inside a lab.

You can tell this is stock photography because A, everything's so neat and clean. B, those colors. I don't know where they get those colors from. Those chemicals that they're brewing, they are not real.


Richard: Anyway, this was really disheartening for me. I went to school to become that cowboy riding the shark. Instead, this was the reality that I was going to face. I was going to spend the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years inside a subterranean lab smelling chemicals and slowly atrophying my brain.

What I did discover while I was studying biology is that biology is an incredibly thoughtful designer. In fact, I think that biology might be the best example of good design that we can follow. That's why I suggest that we study it, understand it, and get better as biologists to become better designers.

Biology likes the same things that we like as designers. All the things that we hold in high esteem as designers, so does biology. Biology works in constraints. Physics, chemistry, those are the constraints. You can't break that stuff. It just is. Math just is. That's how biology works.

Beauty. That's one of the things that whether you like it or not, biology loves a thing that's beautiful. I'm going to read Bucky Fuller's quote on that. "When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty until I have finished. If the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." That's how biology is working.

If the solution is wrong, we don't perceive it to be beautiful. Not beautiful in an aesthetic sense, but beautiful in the way that it works, the way that it interacts with the other organisms around it, and the way that it tells its story.

Biology is also incredibly adaptable. It is a constant, an experiment on adaptability. The best designers that I know are thinking like that. They're thinking, "What do we know now that we didn't know yesterday? What are we learning about our environment that's going to help us make better improvements? How can we adapt that?"

If you're working in an organization that refuses to change, that feels pretty crappy. If you're in an organization that's willing to change, that feels good. Biology figured that out a long time ago.

Biology is very empathetic as well. It understands that there is a give and take, and a balance, and a harmony to everything. Good design is exactly that as well. It is harmonious. It's seeking a balance with all things. If it is too demanding of one resource, then others suffer.

Biology is also the best user test ever. Billions of years of user testing, still going on today. I love this quote. "Cycles of near wins that lead to more attempts."

In other words, it's this endless cycle of user testing. User testing isn't something that happens at the end or maybe if you have money for it or resources for it. It's a constant part of the evolutionary process. It's a constant part of the design process.

Without these cycles of attempts, without these near misses, you're not getting to where you need to go. That is inherent in the biological design process.

Let's look a little bit about how the system of biology works, and what it can tell us about being good designers, and how we can use those every single day.

In general evolutionary terms -- and Hagan's going to love this because it's all about trees -- there is an idea here that evolution happens in this tree-like fashion. It starts somewhere and through certain interactions with the environment, some species are encouraged to have certain adaptations. Those adaptations lead to other adaptations.

When you look at it really closely, it turns out that evolution looks a lot more like this. This is actually called punctuated equilibrium. The reason why it looks a lot more like this is because evolution doesn't really happen until it has to. If there is a reason to evolve, that's when it happens.

These bands represent dramatic things. Maybe it's a meteor falling out of the sky. Maybe it's climate change. Maybe it's disease. These dramatic changes are the stresses that force things to change, that force things to be better than they already are. The things that don't adapt quickly enough, they go away.

This is exactly like our designs, exactly like our product world that we live in and that we work in every single day. If things don't adapt during those stresses -- market changes, pricing changes...

Think about the taxi industry and Uber. They are really struggling right now because they didn't see this coming. This is an environmental stress that they're having to deal with. They're not dealing with it very well.

In life, changes happen under stress. The first breakthrough idea that I want you guys to think about is when you think about design and you think about how design is going to happen, it's best explained under stress -- good and bad. Good things happen. Bad things happen. Those stresses, whether you have created them or they are environmental or necessary for good design to happen.

I'm going enlist a whole bunch of rules. I'm going to summarize them at the end, so you don't have to write them down. Rule number one, as biologists who are designers and designers who are biologists, innovation happens when environmental pressures are significant.

Think about what you were doing in your environment to create the pressures necessary to find out whether your design or your product really is going to survive.

In the previous presentation by Amy Jo is you talked about getting out there and talking to customers, doing these experiments, finding out all those different stages that they go through. This is it. Getting out of the building and talking to people and asking them how they are going to interact with those things, or watching them interact with those things. That's the first step.

The next thing that we need to think about as biologists is why do we have brains? What's the purpose of brains? Anybody want to have a guess? Why do human beings need brains? I know you guys have no coffee but come on, one idea, why do we need brains? Decision making, cognition.

None of these things are wrong, but it turns out that the reason why our brains develop in the first place is not to do the cognition but to allow us to move. When you are static, you don't need a brain. If we were a tree and you're not going anywhere, you don't need something complex to manage your movements.

What started to happen was when the desire or the need to move arose, so did this brain. These things which originally called dorsal ganglia so that you get more and more complex as our movements became more complex to deal with that.

The beauty about that of course is that we ended up with brains so we can do really cool things, what make decisions be cognizant about it. If you understand that movement is the reason for our brains and that as human beings, we exist for that reason, it's very, very useful for the designer to take that into the work that they do.

This disgusting looking thing is called sea squirt. It's a really good example of how that works. It has two stages as assuming stage or a pelagic stage, and it has the sedentary stage. What happens is it swims and swims and swims with this great little brain of it that it has.

As soon as it starts to find a place where it can settle down for good and it puts down those little legs of it, the first thing it does is digest its brain.


Richard: You think of anything else that happens? Like that?


Richard: As human beings, we crave movement. We crave this desire to get from one place to the other. We can affect the world just like Daniel [inaudible 14:10] , the quotation I put up earlier. Just like he said, "We can affect the world in ways that other organisms can't because we have this ability to move and be mobile all the time." That's the other breakthrough idiom.

Mobile is our natural state. It's not a description of the technology you carry around with you. If you are describing this as a mobile, you're wrong. This is the mobile. This thing is coming along for the ride.

Get this into your heads. If you are thinking about mobile being these things, you are wrong. Mobile is the thing that carries it. All of our evolution is towards this goal. Oops, I pushed the wrong button.


Richard: How do I go back? One sec. Good. If you are working on a product, or an idea, or an experiment and you noticed that that thing that you're working on is taking us out of our natural state, then you should be aware.

You should be thinking either this is a transitory type experience, or product, or service that is here to fill in the gap until such time that we can get the technology small enough that we don't need to have this things, for example, the desktop. The desktop is a really good example of a transitory state. It requires us to sit and be sedentary.

How many people have read articles about sitting is killing you? Sitting is killing you, right? Sitting here is killing you. The fact that you have to sit here and watch me is killing you.


Richard: This is a transitory technology. This is not a natural state technology. This is the thing that was created in between this and the thing that came before it. Because we didn't have small enough technology or the material science wasn't good enough.

If you're working of something, think where will we be? What does it look like once we fix that state, and start thinking about designs towards that. You can you can actually implement it in your companies as well to force this mobile sense, the state of mobility.

The "New York Times" required that all of its designers and engineers, or everybody on the team was actually required. You only look at the New York Times on their mobile devices. They were not allowed to look at it on their desktops because they wanted to force people to understand that mobility is a human state and not just the thing that they are designing for.

Therefore we get to rule number two. Mobile is our default human state. The other thing that's not changing that quickly in comparison to the cycles of product development or experience development is our physical shape.

The first stone tool that we have discovered, the time between that first stone tool, and the improvement made on the second stone tool is about a million years. What does that mean? It means that it did a really, really good job for a long time.

When you look at something that's not changing like our human form over long periods of time, it means that it's working well. We work in a much smaller time continuum when we design products and things. We're talking about days, weeks, months, years.

Look at these hands. One could be an Australopithecine hand from a million years ago and a human hand from yesterday, and they look identical. This human body form is an important indicator of what the future of product design is going to look like.

It's not just that physical appearance that we need to consider. We need to consider what that physical appearance is carrying forward with it, what emotions, what feelings, what memories is that physical state carrying forward? It's not good enough to design just for the human form.

We'll design something that just fits on people's faces, and then they can just look at it. How successful is that idea? Terrible, right? Why?

Because it ignores the fact that you're an emotional human being as well, and that walking out into public spaces with this thing on your face makes you look weird, and therefore not part of that community and you go, "I feel really uncomfortable. I don't want to put this thing on my face."

What would have happened if Google had approached Warby Parker and said, "Hey, we've got a really good idea. You guys are good at designing things that go on faces. We're really good at designing stuff that is like somewhat invisible, and it just works in the background. What if we got together, and we did something amazing?"

Last year, I went to a conference in San Francisco called "Mind the Product," and the guy who worked as the design lead on the Google glass admitted to the audience that the reason why it ended up looking like this is because that's what Sergey Brin wanted it to look like, and he thought it would be cool because it reminded him of the stuff that was worn on "Star Trek."


Richard: Now, that's when you start to make design flaws. When you look at the human body and you go, "Oh, it looks like this. It's OK just to put these things on top of it." There are some things that work really well as additions to our human form because they're non-intrusive, they can be worn as status symbols, and they can be very discreet in the way that they communicate with us.

A haptic feedback or a small notification is a great way to use a product like this, and it works really well with our current human form. It's just like somebody giving you a nudge, somebody tapping you on the shoulder, somebody whispering in your ear. That makes a lot of sense.

In fact, there are some really, really hardcore wearable people. A guy called Amal Graafstra is working on putting RFID chips into bodies, and this will be completely invisible. In this case, you can open your door, whether it's the handle of your car, or your house, or you can turn things on just with the swipe of an RFID chip in your hand.

There is something where you're going beyond just the human form and you're going inside the human form, and you're taking design well beyond just the wearable to the inhabitable. This is not so weird by the way.

For those of you who are biology buffs, this is how mitochondria started. Mitochondria started as essentially a bacteria inside a host, and now it lives there permanently. Even though it has its own DNA, we couldn't survive without it.

One of the interesting things about designers who look at the future, so a futurist or illustrators, is that very often, these interesting human forms that come beyond the ones that we currently have, these cyborg humans that we are inevitably going to be a part of, they still look human.

Look at that arm. Sure, it's got a glowing blue, but look at that thing that's attached to the face. It's a little weird, but it still looks human. We still want to be human. We want to participate with humans as humans, and that as a product design, it should tell us a little bit about how we interact with these new products.

Innovative product design doesn't just fit our current senses. It makes those senses a little bit better, and the way that I want you guys to think about it is it's like having a super sense, like a super power.

If you're designing for something that's going to help people, think about what they currently use as their senses, whether those are the five plus maybe a sixth sense in terms of understanding the world, and think about how you can take that a step further, and make that a super power.

This is, I think, probably the second oldest archetype. The hero archetype. What's so cool about the hero? Is that the hero is a human that has risen above the human level by being able to do something slightly better.

I think the only other archetype that's old than is "Boy Meets Girl." This is like a huge big idea that Joseph Campbell and others have been studying for years. The idea that we are just like this guy, and he's just within reach. The only difference between this guy is that he had a bad day in a lab, or a spider bit him.

Even our most incredible and crazy ideas about superheroes, they still look human. Superman still looks human. We are obsessed with the human form. Don't let that escape you. The best products extend our biological powers. They don't replace them, they don't add to them. They just take our existing biological powers, and they extend them.

Something as simple as I have an app on my phone that allows me to turn on my security system at home, and I can actually look at the cameras that are placed around the home, and see what's going on there, that's just extending my sight. I can see across time and space, and that's all it is, but it feels to me like a super power.

What about content? If technology conforms to us, then content should too. About 70 percent of us admit to reading content while sitting on the toilet. The other 30 percent are lying I'm sure, but...


Richard: Regardless, right now, somebody is looking at an app, or a product that you've created, that you designed while they're sitting on the toilet.


Richard: Now, what does that mean? It's funny, but it also means that the kind of user testing we're doing...


Richard: probably not real. It's probably not helping at all. The idea here is that we're always on our devices. We're on our devices, we carry them from room to room, and that's obvious. Even if we don't want to talk about it, even if we don't admit it, that's obvious. The funny thing is we're not always on the same device.

This guy here is on his laptop. Then he's going to put that laptop down, and he's going to reach for his mobile phone, and he's probably got a tablet as well. All these things help us to understand how content is delivered because all of these things are part of our life.

When "The Guardian" did their study of how people consume their content, they noticed that during the week, they use different devices to get that same content. Now, here's the weird thing. All of these things are being used by all of the people.

It's not like there is a subset of people that only use iPads and a subset of people that only use smartphones. We are all using all the devices, so this is an intra-day view of the same thing. You can see how people use devices within the day that allow them to access the same stuff, the same information.

From a biological point of view, this is like saying, "I need to get the same thing, but I need to access it in a different way." The guy who led that study noticed that there is no substitution effect. This is really, really, really critical.

If you're designing something, and content is a critical part of that design experience, you need to understand that there is no substitution. If there is a new device coming out tomorrow, and I just bought my Oculus Rift, then that's where I'm going to be receiving it in addition to the things that I already receive.

If I've got all these things, it's not like I'm saying, "Oh, I'm going to put away my laptop, or my desktop. I'm just adding to these things," and there might be some kind of slow degradation of the older things that don't fit into my model, but over time, you're adding devices, and adding portals into the same content.

Think about all the different places that people access identical information. The thing is not just the device, but where they do it, and how they do it. Somebody in bed is lying on their side. Have you ever tried to read your phone on the side? What happens? It automatically re-orients itself. How irritating is that? It's irritating, right?

Looking at stuff while you're walking around in public, bump into things. You miss the opportunity to interact with other human beings. That's a mistake. We need to fix that. Privacy. Multiple devices in the home for instance. Who is using those devices? Mom, dad, kids. Everybody is using them.

I have a modern family. I have kids from previous marriages, and current marriage, and it's just a huge, big...Devices are having sex at our house. They are just like being passed between each other. It's scary stuff.

From an evolution point of view, this is often called convergent evolution. This is flying, but it's flying in different ways. Evolution has come up with multiple solutions to the same problem.

This is what your user is doing. They are thinking about their particular problem through their lens with the resources that they have. If you're evolving from one set of resources, you're going to come up with a similar solution, but it's going to be made out of different things. It's going to feel and look different still achieving the same ultimate goal.

Add your appropriate thing, whatever you're working on. If you're working on a shopping app, you're working on an app that's got notifications. Maybe navigation like Hagan was talking about earlier.

It isn't the same for all apps. Just because you were really good at navigating, or solving a navigation problem for your previous project doesn't mean it's going to immediately convert to the same thing.

If you are hiring consultants for example, and your consultant says, "Oh, I've done this a million times for this industry," you should be very scared. Very scared because those people are bringing the bat experience to the bird outcome.

You need somebody who can step back and say, "Hang on a second. What's the context here? What's the environment that we're working with?" This is a very biological way of approaching design.

Experience has become specialized over time even when they look the same. There are multiple groups within your audiences that are doing things that are similar. They've converged around an evolutionary solution, but they are doing it with the resources that are different, and coming at it from different experiences, and different societal pressures.

Let's talk about something that's cool. My particular drug is cycling, and I use Strava as a way to track my rides, and follow my friends etc. Anybody used Strava? Cool. This app is a really good way to describe the chemistry that's going on in our brains. Let's start with dopamine.

Dopamine is released during task based interactions. These are generally things that require doing something, getting it done, or responding to something. Good examples of these are like when you receive a text, or a notification comes up, and you respond to it.

In the Strava example, up there in the top right hand corner, I get a little notification that somebody has either given me kudos on a ride, or maybe they're following me. Just like friend requests, etc. on Facebook.

On the far side there, those are the numbers of kudos that you get on a particular ride. These are very, very important for your brain to get these things. This is exactly what the previous speaker was talking about in terms of the game interactions.

We need these things to stimulate the chemical reactions within us in order to really appreciate what we're interacting with. It's important to be a biologist here. You need to understand not just that you're designing something that's cool, and interesting, and that's going to create a habit, but why?

What are you actually stimulating here? In this case, it's dopamine. We need that dopamine so that we can feel like we've achieved something. Oxytocin, often referred to as the love drug, one of the biggest companies of all time. In fact, I think currently, Facebook is by comparison the largest unicorn of the unicorns, and it's based around this very idea.

You're either in or you're out. You're part of the group, or you're not part of the group. Circle of trust, or outside of the circle of trust. Very, very, very, very powerful driver in biology. In Strava, there's lots of ways to be able to solicit the oxytocin response.

Commenting on other people's stuff, being able to connect to your friends, being able to share things, this was my ride, these are the photographs, actually being able to go back and forth and have a conversation of some new start to develop a relationship with them.

This is where that love drug kicks in. I'm connecting with somebody, I'm part of something, I'm part of a community, and these people like me, and they all connecting with me.

Serotonin, this is when you actually achieve something. On Strava, there's a bunch of things...I think I can zoom in. Tell me how far I've gone. I can set a goal, which amount of work I've done this week is actually achieving those particular goals. This is exactly what's we talk about when we talk about mastery.

Getting deeper into that mastery is how deep am I going to go to achieve and unlock the next step? Here is something where a lot of those game dynamics are taking place, but driven specifically with those drugs, those chemicals in mind. How do they solicit more and more of those, how do they go deeper?

Serotonin is the one that gets you challenged. This is when you look at applications that are particularly difficult and have lots of steps, and you want to use them more in order to unlock those things, not just in games. In our experience as consultants working on projects, we often encounter people who have mastered their very, very difficult to use application.

How many of you have had this experience where you're designing for a group of people and they say "We don't want you to come up with a fun easy-to-use UI." We just spent the last 10 years mastering this really, really complicated thing. We've had this experience.

In fact I was reading the Elon Musk book, and he was saying the same thing about when they were designing the infrastructure for SpaceX, the old UIs for the original space modules like the rockets and the things that were controlling the rockets.

They're still the same. They go all the way back to the '60s. The reason why that unchanged is because the engineers are super proud that they understand how the stuff works, and that they've got some kind of garden wall around that that lets nobody else in.

Now we're dealing with the situation where in order to unlock that level of mastery, we have to give up on all the time that we've invested in that thing. Now you're turning on to use it and saying "All that mastery, we don't care about it because a simple UI is more important." Be very careful about which chemicals they're receiving and which ones they want to hang on to.

The final one that's important is the endorphins. In Strava's case, it's obvious. You go on a ride, you get the endorphins from physical achievement. You want to do more, you get the serotonins and the oxytocins and everything. It's a cycle. It just keeps going over and over again. You can discover the endorphins in your product as well.

What is the physical thing that you're doing that's allowing the brain to secrete that endorphin? Think about when I ask you to stand up at the beginning of this talk. I was asking your body to tell your brain what to do. That's what you can do as well.

You can create physical environments, whether you're creating a service, or a digital product that force people into behaving in a certain way that then demands that that physical experience produces the chemicals you want.

Don't always think about "If we do this thing on a screen, this is going to happen." Sometimes think "What if we get them to stand up and move around, go and do this thing. Talk to that person. Make a phone call." Will that give them the drug they need so that we can then move them to the next stage?

Chemistry drives emotions, and emotions drive behavior. That's probably obvious, but the thing that's probably not that obvious is that emotional drivers are more important than logical drivers.

When scientists remove the emotional part of your brain, the amygdala, you can't even make decisions. Never mind bad or good decisions, but you are unable to make decisions when you are not being emotional.

My wife keeps reminding me of this. She says "Woman have understood this for years, and men are just catching up to this idea." It's probably true, but we cannot be thoughtful or understanding or interactive without emotions.

It used to be that scientist thought that we were logical rational beings, and that we were machines who had also developed the ability to think emotionally or feel emotions.

It turns out it's the other way around. We are emotional and we just happened to have this weird mutation called rational thinking. When you look at the world through that lens, everything becomes different.

Suddenly you start designing for those chemicals that create those emotions, and start thinking "Wow, what can we do to solicit an emotional response?" Not, "This is logical so therefore everybody should understand what to do."

We know that brain chemistry drives engagement. The most important thing you can do then of course is make people feel good. Is it the most important thing? I think that the most important thing that you can do is make somebody feel good in front of their friends. Why? Because we are social animals. That's a biological thing as well.

Making somebody feel good is great unless they're in a vacuum, then it doesn't mean anything. Think back to the Strava app. I feel really good about my ride because I can share it with my friends and say "Hey guys, I did this thing, I said I was going to do it and I did it, and you guys are going to say 'kudos, good job, Richard'."

If you think of any situation where you'll feel good about doing something, and nobody else will ever find out about it, then you are a sociopath.


Richard: We are connected. We like being connected. We want to be connected. We are a social community. It's really important to remember that because when you are building things and making apps, and designing interactions, it is critical that you understand that when you make somebody feel a certain way, and you solicit those chemical responses.

Those chemical responses are more meaningful when they can be shared. The evidence is a fact that social media is so popular. It may feel superficial but it's not. It's an incredibly powerful force happening right now.

I would much prefer we spend our time and money solving bigger problems like clear water but right now the first step is that we actually get connected, because we weren't really well connected. Now, we're the most connected species on the planet, and we're going to do great things with that.

I want to take some of the stuff and put it into the real world examples. A friend of mine owns a BMW dealership in Boston, and we're talking about this stuff and he said "You know this reminds me of a situation. We had a car come out recently." This was about two years ago.

This car was engineered very, very specifically for what they call the soccer mom audience. It's a large enough car. It take a bunch of people.

It's got the typical kind of station wagon looks, so you can dump all the crap in the back, and then they went out, and they got all the necessary safety ratings from the necessary people who gives safety ratings, and they opened the doors.

Their soccer moms, as they describe them, would come in and look at this car. They would say "That's great, thank you so much," and they'd leave, and then go and buy a different kind of car. BMW just couldn't get their heads around this.

They started to do what they should have done in the first place. They said, what does safety look like to their customer, what does safety look like to a soccer mom? Safety does not look like a small station wagon. Safety looks like this to a soccer mom. It might be more expensive but it looks big and bold, and it's going to keep the scary guys at bay.

When you're carrying your kids around town, you want a machine that's going to protect them from all the bad things out there. Not something with safety ratings, but something that looks like it's safe.

I don't care how well you've engineered your product, and how many safety ratings it's got. If it doesn't look like it does what it's supposed to do, it doesn't matter. This is the same as all biological things.

If something looks mean and bad, it's probably mean and bad. Why? Biology is really good at telling us a story. If something has got yellow and red stripes, what's our natural reaction to that? Don't touch, it's probably poisonous, or it's going to bite you, or do something awful to you.

Nature has already figured out a translation device for all the things that it creates. Why are we not listening to that? Why are we not translating in the same way?

BMW did what we need to stop doing, and that's they engineered something before they got the answers they needed. Don't engineer your solutions and then try and retrofit it with safety ratings. Engineer the solution based on what your customer wants to see.

Rule number five is the best products make humans feel more human. They relate to us. We're already human beings. We're already interacting with each other over hundreds of thousands of years in certain ways with certain language, unspoken or not. Let's use that language to make a better product.

What do we learn today? What can biology teach us about creating product of the future? First thing is environmental testing gives you great answers. User test, user test, user test. Tomorrow we're going to be doing a design sprint workshop. Who's coming to that by the way? You guys are getting free books. Rest of you are not.


Richard: Making prototypes is what this is all about. We going to create things that we can test immediately. We're not going to wait six months before we test something. We're going to test it that day. We're going to find out if that idea is valid.

Number two, the human state is the technology we built for, whether it's mobile or otherwise, this is who we are. Do not talk about your technology or your solution as the thing that you're trying to create. It's the human being that's already achieved that.

You need to go along for the ride. The things you create whether they're experience, as products, or services need to fit in to that human state.

We need to create super men and women. We need to create superheroes. Take those biological scientists and think how are you going to extend them? What are you doing about the five senses that allows your human to become a superhuman? Don't do this.


Richard: Or design a recombinant bicycle. It's the same thing.

Number four, specialize by learning from other niches. Look at what others are doing. Remember the example of how evolution has discovered flying multiple different ways with different resources. Think about that.

What are the resources that your customers have, and how are they trying to get to their specialization. They might not call it flying, but to them it's flying. They may have a different language, or different description for it, but they're doing the same thing.

Make humans feel good, not just for themselves but for the people around them, for the community, for the society. Connect them and the loved ones around them, and the friends, and the people that they respect to each other. That is it. Thank you.


Richard: The timing machine tells me that we have 10 minutes and 57 seconds for questions. While we're going to do that, Jared is going to interrupt us with his technology switch-a-roo. As long as he is messing around with technology, we have time to talk. Does anybody have any questions?


Richard: Do you have a question?

Jared: I have a question. This idea that we are biological beings, and we have to design for biology but the machines that we create, right now they are not biological. There's all this talk of chat bots and the singularity and AI being the big thing, what should we be looking at in terms of where designers going.

I'm of the opinion that chat bots are basically just this thing that every 20 years computer scientists discover they could do this again, and about six months later they're like "Oh yeah that was stupid."

Facebook thinks that we're going to interact...the entire user interface of everything we do is going to be through messenger. Do we really want that conversation? Is that the biological thing we're going for?

Richard: It's twofold. One is bots are trying to replicate human behavior. The ideal bots is the one that behaves most likely human. When it starts to behave badly like the Microsoft bot did the other day, then we're like "You're gross, I don't want to be with you."

We want something that looks and feels to be human and biological. As it comes to the singularity and we become more cyborgy, again we're going to look for things that remind us of being human. We're going to try and look like we're human. All the robots that are being develop today, we have two robotic clients right now, Rethink Robotics and GBO. Rethink Robotics makes a manufacturing robot called Baxter. Baxter was being slowly adapted, very slowly, too slow for their runway.

They took an iPad and they put the iPad on the head of the robot. They put a series of emoticons on the head that would then describe how the robot was responding to the instructions that was being given. Because this is a really cool robot, you can just grab its arms, and you can show it what to do and then it will repeat that over and over again.

The fact that it has arms should be enough. These emoticons were changed on its face and that just made the engineers fall in love with it, and suddenly sales skyrocketed.

Even the things that are the most inanimate in some ways because they are pure inorganic stuff, hydraulic pipes and metal. Unless we start to see them as being things that have biological qualities, we don't care for them. If we don't care for them, we don't want them around. That answer your question?

Host: Yeah. That was a great answer. What other questions do we have? Do we have other questions? Come on, you guys were filled with them yesterday.

[background conversation]

Jared: Hold on we need to get you a microphone because of the...


Richard: We see your kilt. This is the best outfit of the day, by the way.

Audience Member: Following on this theme of human interactions, there's this idea that personification, like people look at a plug in the wall and they see a face on it. Do you think that that is in some way humans trying to relate to technology by looking for human characteristics in it?

Richard: It's part of our DNA. It's part of who we are that almost requires us to anthropomorphize the things around us. We're constantly looking for that. Children constantly do that. Those of you who have children see this every single day. They're constantly trying to connect things.

A friend of mine said his daughter was talking to him and said "Our house is not fast enough." He's like "Our house is not supposed to move." She went "Why? Why is it not supposed to move? We need a new house." The things that we take for granted being able to move, she anthropomorphized to the things that aren't supposed to move and said "I don't understand why the house can't move."

This is how we evolved, so therefore we imagine that this is the space. Remember, we're now affecting the world around us. It was Churchill who said something about first we create the spaces and then spaces create us. It's a little like that. We've evolved to these states, and now that state is affecting everything that we do.

Jared: Where's our microphone? Got it back there? You got a big voice?

Audience Member: Hi, oh, sorry...


Jared: Yes.

Audience Member: Hi. As technology tries to mimic biology and physiology, sometimes the uncanny valley occurs very often. What kind of recommendations, or what have you learned to overcome that?

Richard: Did you say uncanny...?

Jared: The uncanny valley, do you know this?

Richard: No. I never heard that.

Jared: The Uncanny Valley is what happens when you start to mimic human behavior, there's period right before you nail it where it's just creepy.


Richard: That's OK. That's part of that cycle. It's just like the cycles that we go through in developing our talents and in learning new things.

We go through that like "Oh my God I really want this thing to be," and then you saw it creating it or doing it, and then you go "Oh my God I hate it. It's terrible," or I'm really bad at it, or it doesn't look the way I wanted. You have to get beyond that. We're going through that right now.

Robots are really, really, really good example of that where when they thought you look exactly like us, it's too weird, so now we're backing off of that idea. Now we want them to look more like robots. We'll probably go through the same cycle with AI where it's like "Yes, we wanted to be exactly the same with that." As soon as it starts [inaudible 51:14] we're like "Not so much."


Audience Member: What role does age or generation play with the biology angle and how you consider when you're trying to get the right drug during the right time, and we assume that changes over time as well.

Richard: Very good question. There's two things to consider. One is that physiologically you change and therefore your chemistry changes. It's a well-known fact that when you get to about 70, certain physiological changes are happening at such a great degree that you're actually incapable of doing the things that you were able to do when you were younger than that.

Another good example is teenagers can hear ultrasonic sound. When you get to your 20s, you can't hear it anymore which probably great because I have tinnitus and it doesn't bother me at all. That's one thing is that physiologically, who is able to do what at what age? I also think it's a generational thing. Who is comfortable doing what at what age?

When social media first started, it was definitely a young person's game, and then boom, your grandmother was on Facebook, and was like, "Wow." That's when all the kids went "OK it's not cool anymore." We got to Instagram, and then they went to Snapchat, and now they going to go somewhere else.

I don't know what the next. Snapchat has probably got another big evolution to go through. You have to look at it both from the physiological timeline and then also the temporal timeline of human experience.

We're speeding up our experience in some ways. There's a little bit of a Moore's law going on in terms of how we appreciate the world around us. Understanding that makes a big difference. Again, testing will help. Question over there.

Audience Member: When you were mentioning the brain chemistry and all of the different dopamines or whatever, is there any cautionary tale or proceed with caution when you're starting to trying to knowingly manipulate how someone, it's not like you're giving someone drugs. You're not injecting Morphine through the phone, but you are...

Richard: You kind of are.

Audience Member: You're intentionally shifting how their brain works to get a certain reaction.

Richard: I'd like to believe that designers don't intentionally go out to manipulate people, but I think what happens is they come up with something and it works very well. The MBA in the room goes, "We need to do more of that. That's going to make us more money."

I think sometimes we invent stuff that can go awry. It's our responsibility to make sure that we test the stuff and we understand it. We're designing the stuff, not for our bosses, not for our clients, but for human beings and we need to take responsibility for that.

That might be ideological, but I do believe that. I think you've got to put your stamp on it. If you're working on something and you say, "This is not a good response, I don't like where this is going," you need to speak up about that or figure out how to dissuade your group from manipulating people into doing bad things.

It's our responsibility. There is no way that we can avoid that stuff, it's going to happen, we need to be responsible for it, just like privacy.

Jared: Any more? No? Richard, thank you very much.

Richard: It's a pleasure.