Monday, 31 December 2012

Watches are always photographed at 10:10

This highlights the brand, and makes it look like they're 'smiling'.

More info:

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Best ways to get insight - Mike Harris

When I hired him to speak to a corporate group Mike Harris (First Direct founder) said the best ways to get insight were:

  • Use your own product
  • Spend a day with them
  • Talk to customer service staff
  • 1 to 1 insight
  • Prototyping
  • Watch them, e.g. hang out in a branch
AG Lafley:
  • What are they trying to get done with our products?
  • What's working and what isn't?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Related worlds: Liquid Paper (Tippex)

Bette Nesmith was an executive secretary at the Texas Bank & Trust in Dallas in 1951. She was helping to decorate the holiday windows at the bank, and saw the artists correct their mistakes by painting over the error. Nesmith decided to try the same at work.

She soon has a cottage business supplying Mistake Out to fellow secretaries. She renamed it Liquid Paper, applied for a patent, and when IBM wasn't interested plowed ahead alone. Within a decade she sold out to Gillette for nearly $50m + royalties.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p244

Noble failures at Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab have a history of "noble failures".

It took numerous tech-based failures before they hit on a successful online service, e-Schwab.

For more info see: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p232

"Fail often to succeed sooner"

An IDEO saying.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p232

Pike Place Fish Market

At Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle they turn buying fish into an experience by having the fishmongers shout at each other as you place your order.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p208


Coinstar started with 5 working machines that IDEO created and put in Safeway stores around the Bay area. To most peoples' surprise they worked, even though people had to first see them and then come back in again with their coins.

Marketing people had to stand by the machines and ask people "Have you seen our new Coinstar machine?"

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p191

Answering Machines and Social Norms

"Social norms are notoriously difficult to predict and at times even tougher to change. There was a time when answering machines were considered rude. Then, in the space of a few years, it suddenly became rude if you didn't have one."

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p175

Check your assumptions: Palm Pilot writing

Many pen-based computers failed, because they assume you had to have 100% hand-writing recognition. The Palm Pilot challenged that assumption, proving that it was better at that time to get people to learn a slightly new script.

Source: adapted in my words, from The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p174

Accidental innovation: Kevlar

DuPont originally developed Kevlar to replace the steel wires in radial tyres. But it was the aircraft industry that first responded, using it to save weight. Then other applications were found in bullet-proof vests etc.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p153

Accidental innovation: Kleenex

"Kleenex was intended to be little more than a niche product, essentially a disposable cold cream remover. Only when the public started wiping their noises with the paper hankies did Kimberly-Clark Corporations see the potential and begin to totally re-position its product".

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p153

Accidental innovation: Saccharin

"Saccharin was discovered in 1879 when a research fellow at John Hopkins University found his bread extra sweet one night and figured that something in the lab must have followed him home. Incredibly, he set about to tasting nearly everything in his lab - and lived to find o-benzoic sulfimide".

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p150

Accidental innovation: P&G Ivory soap

P&G's hugely successful Ivory soap was created by accident. A worker went to lunch and accidentally left a  mixing machine running with a batch of soap inside. When he came back, the mix had been whipped to a froth, with soap so light it floated. By chance, the new floating Ivory proved to be both convenient and popular.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p150

Accidental innovation: Aerobie American football

IDEO's Skyline toy division built a prototype for an American football that had built in tee-wings so you can kick it off the ground more easily. It turned out that these curved wings also straightened out wobbly throws in perfect curves. "And so the Aerobie football was born, one of Skyline's most successful toys."

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p110

Logitech's Accidental Red Steering Wheel

"When designing a new video game controller for Logitech, we sent drawings to IDEO's machine shop to have them knock out a prototype steering wheel to be made of rigid ABS plastic with a black rubber coating. But the shop was completely out of black rubber, which ... seemed like a potential disaster. So they molded the steering wheel out of red rubber, the only kind they could lay their hands on in the time. By chance, the client loved the brightly colored wheel ... inspiring the game maker to introduce a line of fire-engine red steering wheels."

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p110

Prototyping snowboard goggles in an ice cream freezer

An IDEO team needed to perfect the design for snowboard goggles in summer. So they borrowed an exercise bike, a fan for wind, and borrowed the freezer of a local family-run ice cream company.

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p103

Brainstorm Tip - Number The Ideas

Numbering each idea helps keep people motivated. "Let's try to get to a hundred ideas before we leave the room."

Source: The Art of Innovation book, Tom Kelley, p58

Johari Window Exercise

Excellent exercise Dina Pinner ran at Limmud. 2007?

  • Whole exercise in same pairs
  • Tell each other known unknowns. 30 secs each way. 
  • Debrief: Did you interrupt? Why did you giggle? 
  • Share things about you it would be helpful for them to know about to be a good partner in the exercise (40s each)
  • Look at each others' shoes and tell me objective facts about them. Demo then 20s each.
  • Congratulate/be nice about each others' shoes. Demo then 30s each.
  • Help them in their choice of shoes. 1 min each way.
Facilitation tips:
  • Open session talking a bit about yourself "I am judgemental; I am tired". Sets safe space. 
  • Answer questions by referring back to self, e.g. I find this helpful.
  • Push for ownership of emotions (from "You feel frustrated..." push for "I feel frustrated...").

Best Buy's Twelpforce

Best Buy employees are empowered to answer consumer queries on Twitter directly. They call this their Twelpforce, and have backed it up with a national advertising campaign.

The system seems to be powered by Lithium:

Shopping Journey Stages

  • Browse
  • Select
  • Commit
  • Purchase

Friday, 26 October 2012

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

IKEA Xmas Tree 'Rental'

Ikea, in the US and Austria at least, are renting(ish) real Xmas trees. Buy it for 25 dollars, and get a 10 dollar voucher when you return it. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Valve New Employee Handbook

Valve's new employee handbook is a great guide on how to run a completely flat company. Includes description of their internal appraisal process for setting salaries.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Q Coin Currency

"QQ Messenger is the most widely used IM system on the planet despite being predominantly Chinese." It has its own currency, Q Coin. This is becoming so popular that the Chinese government considered capital controls on Q Coin to stop them reducing the value of the RMB. But these merely created scarcity and drove up the price.

Source: Brett King, Bank 2.0, p 333. Also mentioned on Wikipedia:

Prototyping a Phone System

Brett King points out that you can prototype and IVR using index cards to lay out the menu. Users can then try to complete a task while someone reads out the prompts.
This can be used to test the 'champion' current system against a 'challenger' new system.

Source: Bank 2.0 book, page 125

Monday, 18 June 2012

Facebook Makes Organ Donors

"In April, influenced in part by conversations over dinner with his med-student girlfriend (now his wife), Zuckerberg decided that he should use social influence within Facebook to increase organ donor registrations. Users were given an opportunity to click a box on their Timeline pages to signal that they were registered donors, which triggered a notification to their friends. The new feature started a cascade of social pressure, and organ donor enrollment increased by a factor of 23 across 44 states."


Thursday, 14 June 2012

7-Eleven's Vcom self-service banking

7-Eleven have Vcom ('virtual commerce') self service machines in thousands of stores in the US. These offer cash, paying in cheques and transferring money for many banks, cheques cashing, etc.

7-Eleven first began exploring the idea of expanding its financial services in 1994. It already offered some financial services, including ATMs and money orders. Its original effort, involving manned centers, generated positive results, with an incremental lift in sales at the 25 Texas locations where it was offered. However, it was too expensive to staff the centers.

7-Eleven began working with NCR in 1998 and created a kiosk that offered money orders and money transfers as well as standard ATM transactions. The original kiosks, which were an unwieldy 9 feet long, were installed in 37 stores in Austin, Texas. The two companies refined the kiosks, shrinking them to 5 feet, before adding them to another 57 locations in Texas and Florida. In July of 2001, check cashing was added.

Offered through 7-Eleven partner Certegy, check cashing has become Vcom's "killer app". By 2002, approximately 12,000 checks were cashed each month at the first 94 locations.

The key business drivers are the ATM surcharge and check cashing. The others are opportunities for incremental revenue.

Not clear what the full current range of services are - could investigate further.

Image source:
Info: Richard Watson's article in Fast Company, here
Interview in article on ATM Market place, here

Monday, 11 June 2012

Stanford's Behaviour Grid and Wizard

BJ Fogg, Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, has an interesting grid to help analyse behaviour changes you might want:

They also have an online 'Behaviour Wizard' web site to select the behaviour change you want and advise on appropriate strategies:

Monday, 7 May 2012

Pouchlink Vending Machine

Interesting 'greener' vending machine fills pouches with water and flavouring on demand before it vends:

Not sure whether the pouches are recyclable, though.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Chase bank - point, shoot, deposit

Chase bank's app lets you point your camera at a cheque to pay it in. You can tear it up after that.

Several other banks around the world seem to offer this too.

Source: Brett King and my own research on Android market

Octopus Card does banking

Octopus metro card in Hong Kong started to let people paying for purchases other than travel. The banks objected that they didn't have a banking licence. So the regulator instead of shutting them down gave them a banking licence.

Source: Brett King


Nab in Australia started a spin-off called UBank, which had completely different processes that allowed them to provide a better customer experience. For example they all their ID checks online through real-time integration with national databases (source: video I'd need to search for again). Did very well at launch (not sure how it's doing well).

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Regus Office Hire PoS

Proof that pretty much any service can be 'boxed up' as a service - Regus sell office space hire from a newsagent.

The Palm Pilot Experiment

Edited extract from Pretotype It (e-book PDF), 2nd Pretotype Edition, Alberto Savoia, Oct 2011

Introduced in 1996, the Palm Pilot was a palm-sized digital device with four basic functions: a calendar, an address book, a to-do list and a simple note taker.  The Pilot was the first successful PDA. According to a March 1998 story on Time magazine:

Hawkins, Palm's chief technologist and Pilot's creator, designed one of the first handheld computers, the GRiDPad, a decade ago. It was an engineering marvel but a market failure because, he says, it was still too big.  Determined not to make the same mistake twice, he had a ready answer when his colleagues asked him how small their new device should be: "Let's try the shirt pocket." Retreating to his garage, he cut a block of wood to fit his shirt pocket. Then he carried it around for months, pretending it was a computer. Was he free for lunch on Wednesday? Hawkins would haul out the block and tap on it as if he were checking his schedule. If he needed a phone number, he would pretend to look it up on the wood. Occasionally he would try out different design faces with various button configurations, using paper printouts glued to the block.

People must have thought he was crazy. But that piece of wood with paper printouts convinced Hawkins that he was on the right track. He had answered the first, and most important, question: “If I had a Pilot, would I actually carry it with me and use it?”  And his answer was a definite “yes!”  Now he could focus on the next set of questions, such as: Can we build it this small?  How much would it cost to build?  How long would the batteries last? 

The IBM Speech-to-Text Experiment

Edited extract from Pretotype It (e-book PDF), 2nd Pretotype Edition, Alberto Savoia, Oct 2011

I probably got a few details wrong, but in this case the moral of the story is much more important than the details. A few decades ago IBM was best known for its mainframe computers and typewriters.  In those days, typing was something that a small minority of people were good at – mostly secretaries, writers and some computer programmers. Most people typed with one finger – slowly and inefficiently. IBM was ideally positioned to leverage its computer technology and typewriter business to develop a speech-to-text machine. This device would allow people to speak into a microphone and their words would “magically” appear on the screen with no need for typing. It had the potential for making a lot of money for IBM,  and it made sense for the company to make a big bet on it.

However, there were a couple of major problems.  Computers in those days were much less powerful and more expensive than today, and speech-to-text requires a lot of computing power.  Furthermore, even with adequate processing power, speech-to-text translation was (and still is) a very difficult computer science problem. Tackling it would have re-quired a massive investment – even for IBM – and many years of research.  But everyone would have wanted such a device.  It would be a sure-fire hit.  Or would it?

Some folks at IBM were not convinced that all the people and companies who had said they “wanted and would definitely buy and use” speech-to-text machines would actually end up buying them. They feared the company would end up spending years in research and lots of money developing something that very few would actually buy: a business disaster. After all, people had never used a speech-to-text system, so how could they know for sure they would want one?  IBM wanted to test the business viability of such a device, but since even a basic prototype was years away, they devised an ingenious experiment instead.

They put potential customers of the speech-to-text system, people who said they’d definitely buy it, in a room with a computer box, a screen and a microphone – but no keyboard. They told them they had built a working speech-to-text machine and wanted to test it to see if people liked using it.  When the test subjects started to speak into the microphone their words appeared on the screen: almost immediately and with no mistakes!  Actually the computer box in the room was a dummy.  In the room next door was a skilled typist listening to the user’s voice from the microphone and typing the spoken words and commands.

So, what did IBM learn from this experiment? Here’s what I’ve heard: After being initially impressed by the “technology”, most of the people who said they would buy and use a speech-to-text machine changed their mind after using the system for a few hours. Even with fast and near perfect translation simulated by the human typist, using speech to enter more than a few lines of text into a computer had too many problems, among them: People’s throat would get sore by the end of the day, it created a noisy work environment, and it was not suitable for confidential material.Based on the results of this experiment, IBM continued to invest in speech-to-text technology but on a much smaller scale – they did not bet the company on it.

As it turned out, that was the right business decision. Keyboards are proving hard to beat for most text entry tasks. Thirty years ago most people could not type; but look at any office today and you’ll see people of all ages and professions typing away.  In devices where a full-size keyboard is not possible, such as mobile phones, speech-to-text can be the  right  it, but otherwise the keyboard is still the device to beat.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Social Cues

A good bit of psychology. "Over 115,000 people receive our newsletter. You should be one of them!"

Sunday, 8 April 2012

KMart - in-store laundromat

Kmart has announced a test program they will be rolling out at one of their locations in Iowa City this June. Shoppers will now be able to do their laundry at an in-store laundromat named K-Wash. While they wait for their laundry to finish, customers can shop online. purchase orders are compiled and made available for pickup an hour after they are placed. there will also be a full-service Kmart register inside, along with drop-off service and free WiFi.

Info source: PSFK Future of Retail report
Image source:

Hair Salon Offers Skype Consultations

Realizing that their clients might appreciate speaking with a stylist prior to heading to their hairdressers, Plan B Salon in Cambridge, Massachusetts offers 15-minute Skype web-video consultations with the stylist and can get an idea of what their options are or how receptive the stylist is to their requests.

Source: PSFK Future of Retail Report

Trunk Club - try on a selection of clothes at home

Each individual is assigned a style expert who mails them apparel and accessories based on their personal profile and an initial webcam consultation. Customers can then choose to buy or send back any of
the selections.

Source: PSFK Future of Retail report

Miele Concept Store - personalised tour by iPod

Gives customers iPod Touch when they enter the store, which guides them on a tailored journey based on their needs.

Source: PSFK Future of Retail Report
Image source:

Singapore - see which doctors are busy

"In an effort to lessen waiting times and prevent overcrowding at Singapore’s health clinics, the country’s Ministry of Health has developed Queue Watch, an online service that provides a real-time picture of what’s happening at each location. an interactive map reveals not just the number of patients waiting for registration and consultation, but live webcam images show the waiting areas for registration, consultation and pharmacy payment."

Source: PSFK Future of Retail report,

Mappiness - the happiness app

Interesting LSE project to use an iPhone app to track where and when people are happy.

A British site that goes beyond AirBnB - rent space for people to camp in your garden!

Edison's Concrete Piano

Not all Edison's ideas were successes - as owner of the Portland Cement Company he tried making affordable concrete pianos (he was mostly deaf) and concrete furniture. Neither were entirely successful.

Source: The Week's extract from Pigeon-Guided Missiles by James Moore and Paul Nero

GroceryIQ App - quick shopping lists

"Grocery IQ is an iPhone application that gives users a simple method for tracking and organizing the groceries they buy. Upon first use, items from a shoppers’s list are automatically sorted to match the rows of the store they shop. Over time the application learns the user’s purchase habits and default items to arrange shopping lists even more efficiently."

Source: PSFK Future of Retail report, p18

Monday, 26 March 2012

Give + Take Shop - business model

An eco shop in East Dulwich has an interesting business model - bring in unwanted furniture or clothes and get a store credit for 50% of the net selling price. Presumably 'net' in this case means sale price less VAT.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Cues for Our Habits

Experiments have shown that most cues fit into one of five categories:

  • Location - Where are you? (Sitting at my desk.)
  • Time - What time is it? (3:36 p.m.)
  • Emotional State - What’s your emotional state? (Bored.)
  • Other people - Who else is around? (No one.)
  • Immediately preceding action - What action preceded the urge? (Answered an e-mail.)

Source: NY Times,

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Interesting. Not a brokerage - they buy the clothes from you and then re-sell.


This vending machine allows you to donate, receive or swap objects. If you donate you get a credit, if you receive you use a credit. Obviously it's not really enforceable, its "a statement on over-consumption in our society".


Jamie Oliver parties

Jamie Oliver has now followed Tupperware and Ann Summers in having home selling parties. Apparently, you can sign up to be a 'consultant' and earn money around your family life.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Pay-Per-Minute Cafe

Interesting business model innovation - cafe in Moscow where you pay for the time you're there and get free beverages.


Friday, 24 February 2012


Interesting start-up brokerage for buying and selling with people nearby.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Types of Business Model & Pricing Model



Brokerage model - earn fees or commission, e.g. eBay; PayPal


Merchant - sell product or services for a unit price

Pricing models - cost plus, value-based, yield management, freemium

'Do Some Business Models Perform Better Than Others?':

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Simple Bank

Simple are a soon-to-launch new bank. Or as they put it 'more than a bank'.

Article on their mobile app:

Their site:

Monday, 9 January 2012

Euclid Elements - bricks and mortar sensors and tracking

Euclid provide a sensor that tracks customers around real world stores.

Phone call tracking

For call tracking Kevin at Corke-Wallis recommends

Use a template to create landing pages.
Optimise for higher conversion with simple A/B testing.

Testing which shop should come to a neighbourhood

-Put an electronic billboard in vacant shop window.
-Write rotating series of ads with different shop brands saying 'to register for opening offers [QR code/email]
-See which gets more responses, use that to pitch to shop that they should open (e.g. say to Tommy Hilfiger that they did very well and should open)

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Ratings service iWantGreatCare providing ratings for doctors, dentists, pharmacies and care homes. They are currently trialling with Lloyds Pharmacies.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Tax and Social Norms

Groups of taxpayers in Minnesota were given four kinds of communication:
- their taxes went to various good works, including education, police protection and fire protection.
- threatened with information about the risks of punishment for noncompliance.
- how they might get help if they were confused about how to fill out their tax forms.
- just that 90% of Minnesotans already complied, in full, with their obligations under the tax law.

Only the last one had a significant effect on tax compliance. The last one improved tax compliance.

Source: Stephen Coleman's report for the State of Minnesota (available here) quoted in Nudge book p 73.

'Mere-measurement' effect

When people are asked what they intend to do, they tend to act in accordance with their answers. e.g. if they're asked if they intend to eat certain food, or exercise.

This is an example of priming - where the merest hint of an idea or object can trigger action (see also Derren Brown). Objectives characteristic of a business environment, such as briefcases, make people more competitive.

Source: Nudge book p 76-77

Hot-Cold Empathy Gap

When in a 'cold' we don't appreciate how much our desires and behaviours change when we are under the influence of arousal.

Source: George Loewenstein (1996) quoted in Nudge book, p 45

Diversification and the '1/n' heuristic

People generally prefer to 'not put all their eggs in one basket'.

An example of this is the '1/n' heuristic - given n options, divide assets equally between these options.

Source: Nudge book p 134


Humans like to conform.

Source: Nudge book

Other examples:
- putting smiley faces on electricity bills to show if you're doing better or worse than neighbours
- putting up an ad saying '90% of people have completed their tax return' (see other post on this)


'Of one hundred patients who have this operation, ten are dead after five years'
sounds worse than
'Of one hundred patients who have this operation, ninety are alive after five years.'

Source: Nudge, p 39

Loss Aversion

Most people have a loss aversion - they hate a loss more than they like a gain of the same size. In other words you need a large gain to get enough pleasure to offset the discomfort from a small loss.

Source: Nudge book

Overconfidence Effect

90% of all drivers think they are above average.

Source: Nudge book, p35

Status Quo Bias

People have a lot of inertia. For similar reasons the 'default' option in any plan is often important.

Source: Nudge

Anchoring Bias

If you have an initial piece of information (an anchor) in your head, this affects your later decisions. This is true even if the anchor is irrelevant - e.g. think of your phone number and then answer when the hun sacked Europe.



When Hutchison's lawyers said they couldn't legally register Orange because it was a colour, marketing director Christ Moss made them register it as a fruit.

See also Chris Moss story from Virgin Atlantic:

Both from Adam Morgan's (EatBigFish) article at