Notes on Jon Kolko’s Using Empathy to Create Products People Love

From a 11/18/14 live video stream by Havard Business Review, link here.

Innovative products can be hard to a launch–even after they’ve been built

  • Since it’s new, the business has a hard time explaining why it exists and what it will do
  • The business didn’t develop a set of criteria for success from the beginning, so things feel unmeasured
  • The business ends up fearing that they’ll look bad by releasing the product–what if no one else knows what it’s for either?
  • Someone–generally from the C suite, usually associated with UX– needs to be empowered to say,  This is the right product at the right time–we’ve tested, measured and proved that interest is out there
  • But statistics and quant data shouldn’t the main measure of success

MVPs are great conceptually, but the Big Es can get lost with the relentless focus on speed:

  • Engagement
  • Experience
  • Emotion

Test & measure is great, but it must be partnered with engagement with actual people/users

Product/market fit is key

  • Right time, right product, right technology etc BUT ALSO right human experience
  • Google Glass missed having a market because normal people aren’t ready to wear a computer on their head–it’s too far out of the realm of experience right now to be seductive. Maybe in 5 years there will be more of a market because other products taking smaller leaps have been adopted and humanized the idea
  • I think Apple Watch is having the same issue, people just don’t know why they would want a phone-watch right now. Bring in some useful apps that work well and that may change

Visual artifacts are one way to keep ideas alive and evolving, rather than having meeting after meeting about the same idea

  • They document what actually happened at the meeting
  • They aid in sense making—groups work together to create the artifacts and at the same time create philosophical alignment on the idea
  • They help move an idea from the theoretical to the actual
  • The physical artifacts are another way to tip off memories of the previous meeting
  • Diagrams can include journey maps, visualizations of the market, product ecosystems etc–almost anything
  • These documents help you socialize the new ideas across the enterprise

Visual thinking

  • Diagramming out a product helps visualize it and also helps groups to simplify the product and reduce ambiguity

Empathy is a great way to measure a new product

  • Create a story about why the product will be useful to customers, why they’ll desire it, and why it should exist

From Jon’s website: Jon Kolko is Vice President of Design at Blackboard; he joined Blackboard with the acquisition of MyEdu, a startup focused on helping students succeed in college and get jobs. Jon is also the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 companies, and he’s most interested in humanizing educational technology.


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