Rethinking your digital experience strategy. Is it irrational enough?

Amy holds a block. She joins it to another block. And then another, and another. But she’s not playing with blocks. She’s building a castle. And she’s building a kingdom. Her kingdom. She and her friends are connecting one kingdom to another, bridged by train tracks split in two by a magical redwood tree. Two sheep wait in the tree’s branches. One schemes to prevent visitors from proceeding to the other side. The other waits to hear the secret password – a message hidden back along the tracks can help them figure it out. Someone is piling sheep wool underneath the tracks because once visitors say the right thing, the good sheep will tell them to jump. A soft landing and more instructions await.

Amy and her friends are playing in the imaginary world of Minecraft.

They are learning to build. They are learning their generation’s social behavior. They are learning, period. And they are having a ton of fun in the process. Adults have lauded the benefits of Minecraft for Generation Z. “Great for developing problem-solving skills and it teaches computational-thinking,” they’ll say.  “Inspires sharing, an understanding of digital citizenship and appreciation for coding,” they shout. They’re right. About all of it.

“Amy and the rest of Generation Minecraft aren’t just playing these experiences, they’re making them for each other—brick by brick—and sharing them every day.”

Minecraft’s simplicity means its youngest users can be prolific. Amy and the rest of Generation Minecraft now have the skills and the freedom to create for each other. That freedom, coupled with Minecraft’s unparalleled engine for kid-powered building and making means Generation Z’s digital repertoire is full of randomly conceived, designed, and deployed experiences created by themselves, for themselves. And they’re building these experiences for each other while not knowing or understanding the academic philosophy behind user interactions, human-centered design, or any other prevalent UX doctrine held by “experts.” They’re creating their own random user experience philosophy and it is driving a disruptive form of online discovery — irrational discovery.

A new kind of digital experience strategy—one that drives irrational discovery

In this fast-growing, sometimes frustrating, and almost always surprising UX model outcomes are distanced further and further from their catalyst. To Amy, the following are all design considerations to ponder as she tinkers:

• The castle, whether or not it exists
(and every imaginable rule, behavior
and attribute a castle could have).

• The road to the castle (and its appearance,
or whether it exists at all).

• The freedom for Amy’s friend to sabotage
her en route to the castle (say, with an
army of road-blocking fire-goats).

• The freedom for yet another user to
create a secret passageway underneath her
castle (from a not- so-nearby tree).


And these elements are all in play as she encounters someone else’s creation. The freedom she has to implement these design decisions ultimately defines another user’s experience, and sparks the exponential outcomes their unique experiences generate. Phew. Got that?

Despite the complexity that comes out in describing them, the tools themselves are incredibly easy to use. In fact, most users in the sandbox game community have embraced the irrational UX model. From Minecraft, Roblox, Game Wizard, and Super Mario Maker to Lego Dimensions, Scribblenauts, and Pokemon GO, Generation Z’s digital world is full of irrational UX and moments of irrational discovery.

And while it may be new or foreign to you, it is comfortable, and relevant, for them.

Examples of irrational discovery

You may not have heard the term irrational discovery, but you have almost certainly experienced it. The uptake of irrational UX is revolutionizing the digital playground as many game developers and app designers use it in their design solutions. And it’s spreading quickly—making its way from the kid web to your web.

Go to Facebook messenger and open up a chat. Attempt to send a “thumbs up” to your friend. Except this time, hold down on the thumb icon, don’t just tap it. Look what you found:  all different sizes and ultimately different meanings. Irrational discovery.

Or head over to Snapchat and start shooting a video. Now, while that video is playing back (and before you send it) pull down the emoji tab (the page curl icon). Select an emoji (like the coffee cup I attached to my, um, coffee cup below) while the video is still playing. Now, grab that emoji and hold it over an object, then drop it again. When the video starts playing again, the emoji will animate with the object as though it’s pinned to it. Did you know that was there? Irrational discovery.




What the ubiquity of irrational discovery means for your (future) business

Your future digital strategy depends on your utilization of irrational discovery. Irrational discovery is replacing the rational discovery model you’re accustomed to. As this phenomenon expands, it is easy to imagine a world where this kind of customer experience becomes the norm, not the interesting exception. In a world where Slack has replaced email, your (amazing) bed now comes in a box (from a company of non-bed experts who believe in a better way), and your messages are animated, painted on, and disposable—irrational discovery will become the way today’s brands and businesses find Generation Z’s hearts and minds tomorrow.

But If you’re like the 190 million other businesses operating in the world today, your customers probably discover you, well, rationally. As in, they find you because you “tell” them they should. Irrationally minded companies almost dare their customers to enter the fold —  thus curating an experience rather than dictating one. Is your brand capable of being irrational? Can it even become irrational without becoming an imposter?

It’s high time to rethink your digital experience strategy. Is it irrational enough?

Just look at what the kids have done. Generation Z demands to exist in a playful, ephemeral, and inquisitive digital world. Companies should future-proof their businesses by using this knowledge now to build services and products Generation Z will surely grow into later.

Are you serious about growth? The type of Innovation firm you hire will tell the story.

As global brands and consumer businesses start to look for new opportunity for growth, a massive crop of creative agencies are looking to ride the wave of a single buzz word: Innovation.

Buyer beware, there’s a difference between marketing that masquerades as product innovation and outright invention.



Chances are you’ve already said it more this year than you have collectively, ever. There’s a reason for that: Innovation drives business growth. And the connection of design and technology today drives innovation. From the Fortune 1000 list to the the Unicorn list, innovation (or lack thereof) is the common denominator of who’s grown, and who hasn’t. With an incredible 70% of US companies on the Fortune 1000 list having disappeared in just 10 years. (And now there’s the Fortune Unicorn list) — you can’t afford to be wrong with your next outsourced innovation hire.

As corporate lethargy thaws, a crop of “me-too” digital agencies have swept into boardrooms selling innovation. But buyer beware. Not all innovation companies make things. And not all digital agencies are capable of total delivery. You don’t want to end up hiring the wrong type of company for the right opportunity.

So what are the key differences between these types of companies?


Lab Mentality.

Agency lab openings are ubiquitous. Millennial labs. Maker Labs. Mobile Labs. IP labs. Labradoodles. But the existence of a lab does not an innovation company make.

All ideas are at risk from getting realized but a “lab mentality” increases this risk because it can kill product viability. Often the ‘agency host’ of the lab creates politics and pressures that break the lab down despite its best intent. In an agency, labs can engender a corporate psyche that misrepresents innovation as a shoppable item, thus treating the lab itself like a convenient store for product design and creative technology. Innovation requires deep, relentless collaboration between client partner and internal team. There is no innovation store. And attempting this model all but guarantees a great idea will never get off the ground beyond a fancy meeting or two.

That’s not to say a fancy meeting is not important. In fact, they are critical to getting innovation buy-in. But, the streams of work and activities that happen post meeting separate the Lab Rats from the Scientists.


Disposability Complex.

Successful innovation companies take product to market, not just Powerpoint and Prototypes. And agents and engineers of innovation thrive on unfinished, iterative development – making each unfulfilled prototype a step to a final product. The company’s contracts and service model (they way they make money) in turn drives this mentality. “Productive” service models are only found inside organizations that are serious about going from imagination to realization.

The psychology of any agency is bred differently. Agencies create advertising – disruptive experiences and pieces of communication conceived individually with their very own expiration date. From their service model on down, agency products are not bred to be enduring solutions. If unmanaged, this sensibility seeps into what is made – affecting your product’s purpose and performance.


“Make-it” Research.

Have you ever wondered why advertising tends to reminisce with you? Simply put: making an ad that connects requires a familiar feel. It’s a time-tested way of telling new stories but the research methods used in conjunction with this thinking are not sufficient for the business of design problems. Sure agencies have research teams. They even have fashionable “millennial departments!” But how they research matters – covering market research and well beyond.

Make-it research picks up where market research leaves off – with a focus on new learning, not just reiterating what others may already know.

Who is doing the make-it research also matters. Product designers seek all human-related aspects that look beyond marketing: new instances of disruptive innovation, new technology, physics (which affects usability), biomechanics (how the body works), statistics, physiology, cognitive psychology, anthropology or sociology. These topics add to a true human-centered design approach, but are rarely addressed by a digital agency tasked with a design problem.


Risk Aversion.

When solving problems, creativity is not king. Risk is. In the business of product design, solutions are forged in the fire of risk. Conversely, agencies inherently breed defense mechanisms around risk because they do not want to stifle creativity. But a multitude of elements must be considered. Averting them, hoping a good idea will defeat all odds sometimes will work. But often it won’t.

Risk aversion minimizes opportunity because it leads to the internal perception of design truths as risks, not opportunities. Innovation can not be decoupled from risk and no project is free from it. Knowing the difference between what is actually a risk and what isn’t is critical.

Today the connection of design and technology is what drives innovation. But only if what you’ve made actually gets to market.

Is your next project really a growth opportunity?

The key to your next successful innovation project is better identifying the aforementioned realities and hiring a company that embraces the reality of risk with a steadfast process to identify it and design with it in mind, not run from it.

Take the time to search out actual innovation firms. I don’t know about you, but as an avid reader with a broken truck, I’d rather take her to the mechanic than the library to get fixed.

The Future of Work is No Longer in the Future

Armed with all kinds of digital innovation and some pretty unassuming tools, your millenialized workforce is already changing your workplace from the inside out. This is the future of work and it is right now.

It’s well documented that there are persistent digital forces in business today: millennialization, globalization, and virtualization, to name a few. But none are more powerful than the “millenialized” workforce that is currently reinventing how you do business from the inside out. Generations Y and Z have always been digital citizens: they have maintained friendships remotely, massively multi-played remotely, loved, lost, and learned remotely their entire lives. They will virtualize your business by breadwinning remotely, too. Your millenialized workforce will globalize and virtualize how you work by single-handedly introducing your larger team to the attitudes, tools, and services they love.

“Generations Y and Z have always been digital citizens: they have maintained friendships remotely, massively multiplayed remotely, loved, lost, and learned remotely their entire lives.”

From Penguin Chat to Snapchat to Tinder — and even some you haven’t heard of — at one point or another these services have consumed your team’s lives. They are remarkably powerful in not only their ability to put lots of people in touch, but they do so with game-like communications, collaborative content, and artificially intelligent tools. They’re disruptive innovation. They’re addictively fun to use. They connect to all the other services you use. And they are the basis for a host of new, business and productivity driven services sneaking onto the devices and desktops of your team.

The Future of Work is in the tools your teams use.Slack is one of those services. Easy to install, use and share, it’s the ultimate extension of virtualization and is leading this phenomenon simply because it melds the way YZ’s play with the way they work — through bite-sized business interactions and deep integration with a host of things you (and they) are already using. It enables them to work in the same way they’ve played for years, and as a result, email is disappearing and real time collaboration tools such as Slack are becoming the new normal.

What’s more, YZ’s don’t want to use your email system. Sure, they might use it for what you require them to, but team level communications are happening in a very real-time way. For early adopter organizations we witnessed this phenomenon with the likes of Basecamp and GitHub early on. But, tools such Slack have taken the love of simple messaging and taken it beyond the “maker” wall and onto teams across the world.

Of course many of you might say Slack is nothing new. But, here’s what is new:

 1. Increased collectivism

The presence of Slack in our organization has made us more collective and aware of each other’s on-screen and off-screen personalities. It has fostered a hive-mind that drives collaboration both on and off the field.

2. Increased collaboration

Companies are starting to bring their clients into these systems. As collaboration spills over the walls of your workspace, so too will your process. Clients as part of the process (vs. subject to the process) are happy clients. Better work, richer engagements, and smarter outcomes always result.

3. Decreased CYA

As Slack replaces email for internal communications it also dynamically affects internal politics. In fact, email has been well-documented as the key contributor to a “cover your ass” culture. It is at the very center of cancerous culture and business politics. But virtual, real-time team communications disintegrates it. The CYA factor of inter-office email can ruin a company and its culture. Those that work with tools like Slack report not having that issue in the least.

Slack allows us to do business virtually and globally. And even though email is still the official communication service, Slack is eroding that quickly in the most progressive of companies. One by one, all of your business tools are going to get a simpler, mobile, and more inspired client / UX.

Today’s youthful workforce sees no barrier in conducting virtual business collaboration. It’s no surprise then that the platforms that fill this market are popping up every day.

The Future of work has its own tools.

Applications like are being invented for YZ’s by YZ’s, advancing virtual communication, and making work life better.

Faster and simpler than Skype or a Google Hangout, is a service that congregates team members and clients into a meeting together, talking, collaborating and passing information back and forth as if everyone was in the same room.

There aren’t any…

“Hey what’s your user ID?”

“Did you accept the invitation?”

“Crap I don’t have any call credits.”

“Hold on, I’m downloading the new version.”

“Oh, I don’t use _____.”


It’s also twice as fast and far more interesting to use than anything you’ve previously used to collaborate. Nothing comes close to it in terms of simplicity and nothing nails the feeling like being in a room together quite like it. We even use it with our clients. And this is just the beginning of virtual team work.

Youthfulness has always been provocative, affecting everything around it. But YZ youthfulness is just the beginning of what they offer the business of you. Jobs of all types are being filled with design driven, “why” asking, innovation-minded, and digitally obsessed workers. This future of work-force has been trained their entire lives to be purposefully provocative and disruptive entrepreneurs.

If you embrace virtuality, finding hard-working Millennial talent will be easier this year than ever before. And if you find them, you’ll also find the millenially-inspired tools that are poised to change your company from the inside out.

These are two examples of a host of incredible business tools that are landing on the desktops and home screens of your workforce. The more they get adopted, the more Millennial worker empowerment will topple the outdated digital tools of your company. And with it will come the erosion of rote work policies, hierarchical governance, and mandatory office locations/work hours to name a few.

If the tools I’ve mentioned haven’t appeared in your business yet, they will in 2016. The question is when they do 1. Will you even know and 2. Will you embrace them and realize their exponential potential?

Car-sharing: Will digital innovation spell the end of the road for ownership?

Let’s be honest, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to notice that car ownership has been in digital innovation flux.

Auto makers and start-ups alike have been churning out digital innovation, trying to come to terms with drivers not wanting to own (or afford) their car outright for some time. From leasing to incredibly long finance terms to the new and seemingly unstoppable rise of ride-hailing services like Uber, people across the country (city dwellers and country folk alike) are prepared to give up their car in the name of affordable and more accessible automotive journeys. 

Car-sharing has been the latest auto industry shake-up in larger metro areas around the world. And it has started making its way over the bridge and into your suburb. Is it the end of the car-ownership road for you?  Let’s investigate.

Bringing the sharing economy into your driveway.

Owning your own car has long represented the ultimate manifestation of free will. However, among Millennials and digital natives living in densely populated areas that perception is changing—car access (and ownership) is becoming the ultimate luxury.

A recent survey from Vancouver, Canada, found that an impressive 87% of car owners surveyed said the cost savings from vehicle maintenance and fuel make it tempting to get rid of their cars. And more than half of them told car-sharing co-op Modo (which asks the question on its homepage “Why own a car when you can share 400?”) that they think car sharing is an attractive option for people their age. It’s fair to assume that the same survey, conducted in your city, would see similar results.

As if they’re planning a drop in future car ownership—several major automakers have invested in car-sharing businesses or even launched their own startups in the space.

Depending on where you live there are some pretty successful car-sharing companies in full swing all around the country. City CarShare, CommunAuto, Community CarShare, Enterprise CarShare, PhillyCarShare, VrtuCar, and Zipcar to name a few. But that model (the neighborhood model—car-sharing vehicles positioned in residential and mixed-use neighborhoods for use by local residents) is just the beginning of the story.

Private car-sharing networks are around the corner and automakers are leading the way.

Vehicle OEMs are increasingly experimenting with alternative models of vehicle ownership as a defensive move, to ensure they stay on the cutting edge how consumers might define ownership in the future.

At the start of the year, General Motors invested $500 million in this disruptive innovation in car service, with its on-demand network of cars aiming to give industry giant Uber a run for its money. And recently, with its Cadillac brand, announce an all out attack on reaching the Millennial (and doing so with as non-traditional approach as it can muster).

BMW Car Sharing

In April 2016, BMW launched a new car-sharing service called ReachNow that will enable Seattle residents to access 400 cars that they can pick up and drop off pretty much wherever they like, as long as it’s dropped off within the town’s perimeter. Eventually, the idea is to expand into cities nationwide.

Meanwhile, Jaguar Land Rover unveiled InMotion, a separate business and “innovation” company charged with building mobility apps and services that play to the strengths of its parent company’s premium car brand.

Car2Go-SmartBMW joins the likes of Daimler, which runs its Car2Go service in New York, Austin, Minneapolis, Vancouver and Portland, Oregon, and Audi, whose car sharing service operates in San Francisco and Miami, in the US car sharing space.

BMW is keen to prove that they’re in it for the long term with ReachNow, partnering up with RideCell, a San Francisco-based company whose software allows BMW to operate its fleet of car-share vehicles more efficiently.

By implementing RideCell’s technology, BMW can see which of its electric vehicles are low on battery, for example, and might offer drivers an incentive to leave the car at a charging station.

audi car sharingBut one of the biggest OEM’s doing the most to test the sharing waters is Audi.  First off,  there’s Audi on demand which has been in market for a few years. Initially targeted for San Francisco, it allows people to rent an Audi for a period of time ranging from one day to 28 days. Via a downloaded iPhone app, people can choose any Audi from an A4 to an R8. Customers can even upgrade to features like child safety seats, ski racks and towing packages. A concierge will deliver the vehicle to the customer’s location with all the premium service you’d expect from Audi as well as a premium price.

And then there’s Audi at Home—a collaborative program based in select condominium complexes where residents will be able to participate in a car sharing service using their smart phones to reserve specific Audi vehicles. Rates will be hourly with prices based on which vehicle is selected. Another pilot program to watch is the one in Berlin, Germany, where Audi is testing the Audi Select program—where a customer experience design feature of this service allows drivers to switch up to three different Audi vehicles each year, for a monthly fee. And finally, Audi has also been piloting Audi Unite in Stockholm – where up to 4 people sign up to participate in a joint lease for a specific vehicle. Similar to calendaring on AirBnB, the mobile app UX lets them schedule when and how long they can use the vehicle.

There’s a lot of disruption being attempted in the category.  But by far, my favorite so far is Flexdrive. A product innovation from Cox Enterprises, who already owns Autotrader, KBB and Manheim brands. Flexdrive is only in a few markets, but the model appears to be one that will stick. With Flexdrive you get a simple and convenient alternative to traditional car ownership. Members get the car of their choice, insurance, maintenance and roadside assistance, and the ability to swap—all in a single payment.

Will car-sharing do to the auto industry what iTunes did to music?

Given North America’s shifting demographics, urban environments, and auto industry dynamics, car-sharing will continue to grow and the impact will expand. Certainly for Millennials, all signs point towards car ownership becoming a thing of the past. A recent study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that that car-sharing could have an impact on vehicle sales in the U.S as soon as 2021—predicting the first dent to car ownership to be roughly 550,000 vehicles worldwide.

From a utilitarian perspective this makes a ton of sense. The benefits of the access and use of a car without the hassle and expense of maintenance is hard to argue against. This will prove out to be a major hurdle the auto industry will have to get over long-term. Car-sharing can substantially reduce the number of vehicles owned by member households. A recent study of 6,281 households in car-sharing organizations that use the “neighborhood” business model found households joining car-sharing owned an average of 0.47 vehicles per household before joining car-sharing, but that average dropped to 0.24 after membership.

As car-sharing networks grow and become more established, their attractiveness to vehicle-owning households will increase, even in lower-density communities, such as the suburbs.

But to win Millennial hearts automakers will need to bring more than utility—by exploring every angle of the car-less lifestyle.

While car-sharing hasn’t won everyone just yet, it’s easy to see how our Millennial Generation has taken the emotional meaning many place on the car, and transferred it to the smartphone. And with that emotional adjustment, I believe, comes opportunity. Just as every single automaker has a brand that represents a specific lifestyle, so does the smartphone. Our devices, and as importantly, the types of services and communities they give us access to are inextricably bound to where we want to go and how we want to get there. Ultimately what we do—for a living and for fun— are quite literally our lifestyle. (Sound familiar?)

Automakers struggling to drive commercial value with Millennial Hearts need to look no further than the community, ubiquity and access of the smartphone for their answers. These car companies are going to have find their roots as technology and service companies as much as they are product companies. That includes logos that are designed for digital, slogans and services that apply to more than just the PHYSICAL product, and more.

If the lifestyle the smartphone represents (access) collided with the lifestyle individual car brands (and often times individual Models) emote, can utility become necessity and even luxury?

The answer is yes. And for car-companies trying to remain relevant, the time is now.

Rise of the Digital Assistant and Artificial Intelligence

2016 may very well be the year of the digital assistant. Can disruptive product innovation and AI enhance your digital-self?

Modern life is becoming more and more like the future the Jetsons predicted every year. There are cars that can drive themselves. Incredibly powerful computers in consumers’ pockets in almost every market. And entire ‘smart’ homes that can be controlled and customized from miles away.

Case in point, UX design firms’ physical and digital designers have been working hard to create digital assistants–apps that can understand human commands and carry them out. Yes, artificial intelligence and the company iRobot actually exists. Today, you can ask Google, through natural language, who played He-Man in 1987 (Dolph Lundgreen), have Siri look up the address of Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002), or have Cortana organize your flight information on your next trip. Automagically.

However, as far as these technologies have come, digital product innovation has a ways to go. These digital assistants aren’t perfect, but it won’t be long before they’re close to it. Here are a few things you might be surprised to learn about this blooming AI technology.

It’s not just for the tech obsessed.

That’s right. One-third (33%) of U.S. smartphone owners say that they’ve used a digital assistant in the past month. And as these apps continue to grow more and more sophisticated, it’s only a matter of time before every consumer who knows their way around a smartphone uses them. And even if you can’t imagine yourself downloading one, your favorite apps, platforms and services will all implement the technology to cut costs on staffing customer service. There’s really going to be no avoiding it, and it’s probably for the better. As you use these services, they will become increasingly personalized and understand your likes, dislikes, preferences and anything else you deem necessary. This might sound a little creepy, but as security advances in parallel, a new industry will bloom that puts you in control of your data–when and where it’s used.

Even your friendly neighborhood data monger, Facebook is building a digital assistant.

Facebook M, as it’s dubbed, is only in beta (and only in San Francisco) right now, but 20% of its mentions on social media reflect high anticipation. What’s even more impressive is that that’s four times the level of anticipation around any other digital assistant. As they begin to monetize their Messenger app, which now has 800 million users, we will see this artificial intelligence come in handy in a variety of ways as it becomes a service, and maybe even an eCommerce platform. We’ll be witnessing the dawn of the new search engine. A search engine where you ask for things and receive exactly what you’re looking for. Watch out Google.


With wearable tech on the rise, we’ll see it work its way off our phones.

Granted, like digital assistants, wearables aren’t perfect, but it’s getting there. Just take a look at Amazon Echo, and imagine that on your wrist. And consumers are actually quicker than epxpected to adopt these new technologies. Research shows that the market for wearable technology is growing at a faster than expected pace. More than half (52%) of recent poll participants said that they’re aware of wearable technology devices. Among them, one-third said they’re likely to buy one. Meanwhile 15% — one in six — consumers currently use wearable devices, such as smartwatches and fitness bands, in their daily lives. Of those who use smartwatches, 35% of them use them most frequently for fitness tracking, while 37% of consumers plan on buying one in the next six months. Once digital assistant apps improve, they’ll surely be wed to wearables. Imagine having your own assistant right there on your wrist!

This may very well be the year of the digital assistant. Let us know what you think!


The Driverless Car Has Many Sides, Which One Will You Pick?

As the future of transportation begins to unfold, driverless car ownership is a common theme.

When Tesla released their “auto pilot” software update to the Model S last October they weren’t just releasing it to their drivers. They were releasing it to roads, driveways, social networks and news feeds around the world. Overnight the promise of driverless cars became a sensation.

From Silicon Valley to Detroit, to China, Germany and beyond, analysts, technologists and auto industry leaders alike have been taking note and taking stock of what everyone’s driverless strategy is going to be. And the ripple effects have been obvious.

The invention of the self-driving car will affect all of us and what you’re reading today is just the beginning.

Since that time, the common public seems to believe Tesla has the biggest head start in autonomous driving–and understandably so—their autopilot is quite advanced. Not only is it built with software that can be updated and iterated on, but it learns on a greater network that connects every driverless Tesla on the road to build an advanced mapping system (think Waze+Google Maps+Apple maps on steroids), an imperative necessity for autonomous vehicles. Factor in their $5 billion battery factory (valued at $50 billion) and charging network plans, and it’s safe to say Tesla has been designed for the future since day one.

But was Tesla first? Not really. For many automakers driver assist or assisted cruise control, has been around for quite some time. No, it won’t let you take your hands off the wheel (yet), but that’s about to change in a big way. Most are already advanced enough to navigate bumper to bumper traffic, parallel park, and even switch lanes on highways. At CES 2014, Audi even made the longest single (highway only) drive in an autonomous A7, bringing a few employees from San Francisco to Vegas performing similarly to Tesla’s autopilot. And while the big conventional automakers seem to also have a clear vision of the driverless future, some familiar Silicon Valley companies have plans of their own.

But is car ownership still the answer?

Right now, there are two competing camps with self-driving cars. There’s Google, who is attempting to build a network of driverless cars that will “serve” the traveler. And there’s manufacturers and insurance companies, which largely support an ownership model. Fleet supporters maintain that when all of our cars are driving themselves, technically there’s really no reason to own your own hunk of metal. After all, they break. They get dinged in parking lots. They wear out. They get taxed. They depreciate. It’s a wonder any of us have them at all. Analysts agree that the automotive lifestyle of the future demands convenience and efficiency, and a transportation device that sits idle 90% of its lifetime is not efficient. Where do you see your behavior fit?

Why is it your car?

Just last week, GM, the country’s biggest automaker invested $500 million in Lyft (Uber’s top competitor) to develop a fleet of autonomous vehicles that can be summoned on demand; and meanwhile, GM will also set up national hubs where Lyft drivers can rent and operate cars without owning them. James McQuivey, an analyst with research outfit Forrester, spoke to WIRED recently on the subject. In McQuivey’s view, “Selling individuals a self-driving vehicle isn’t as game changing as getting people to use self-driving cars they don’t own,” “The former only adds a new technology while the latter changes the economics of one of the world’s biggest industries.” Sounds disruptive.

Morgan Stanley’s lead auto analyst, Adam Jonas seems to believe this is an opportunity for growth. Just a few weeks ago, he wrote “The No. 1 inefficiency in the current auto model is that cars are used for less than 1 hour a day, for a utilization rate of less than 4%.” Uber’s success as a $50 billion company is already a testament to this statement of the increasingly urban population. Just 50 years ago, approximately three out of ten people lived in a city. Now, it’s more than five out of ten and growing at ludicrous speed. Which means higher cost of parking and public transit as municipal infrastructure invests in accommodating the new population. The interesting thing, is how autonomous cars will not only disrupt the auto industry, but the Uber model itself that “employs” 160+k drivers in the US alone.

The usual suspects are waiting to jump in.

And if you think Google, Uber, Samsung, Apple aren’t looking to make (or snatch up) the best self driving car fleet, you haven’t noticed these companies proficiency for growth and optimization. It is not a question of if—but when—the driverless car from your local self-driving fleet will arrive and wait to pick someone up in a driveway near you.

In fact, the overall inevitability of robo-chauffeurs has already caused the US department of transportation to begin rethinking their position on the laws that govern the driven (autonomous) road. On top of that, Obama signed a $305 billion transportation deal that includes grants for self driving cars. It’s probably worth it too, considering McKinsey estimates that we could save $190 billion a year in accident related costs.

So where does Tesla, the semi-conventional car maker sit?

Well, they already make the one of the most technologically advanced automobiles on the road and they know they can’t disrupt the industry on their own. They simply can’t make enough cars at the rate of demand. From opening up their key patents, thus removing barriers for growth in the industry, to essentially building their cars to be platforms (for software and hardware to be easily replaced as it goes out of date). Tesla has demonstrated they know that they need other automakers to help and make the BEV market more valuable in order for themselves to become more valuable. In the API driven future of design, these are important foundations to have as the market grows. But being a leader and innovator, Tesla doesn’t keep all their eggs in one basket, after all, they do own a $50 billion battery company and one of the most advanced, living and breathing mapping systems.

Why can’t there be both?

The auto-auto (autonomous automobile) worlds are colliding. Everyone should be (and is) working together. Companies are making parts for each other, sharing patents, opening patents and it’s a beautiful thing in the name of innovation. Partnerships like GM + Lyft, and (speculatively) Google and Ford will continue, and with them the very near future is electric and shared.

Want your own glimpse at the future of automotive innovation? Put the names of the players in a box: Nvidia, Uber, Lyft, Apple, Tesla, Audi, Google, Samsung, Nissan, Volvo, Oculus, Microsoft.

Ok, now, pick two.

Congratulations. You’re a futurist.

Is this the next automotive innovation, or innovation in payments?

Look at the new automotive innovation, Vinli closely.

Innovation in transportation

Innovation in transportation

It’s being marketed as wifi for your car (not new, but still great).  But looking a little deeper – once your Vinli is plugged in you can download a host of apps that talk to your car – the “first car App Store.”


Now imagine the 128.3M US commuters having a device attached to their car to pay for that next Dunkin’ Run. It’s a suburban reality and huge market. My town even has a drive thru grocery store #ftw.  If Tesla and others are basically “iPhones on wheels” could they be the next “vehicle” for payments?

Disruptive Innovation in Film

Disruptive Innovation in Film: Meet The Doghouse

Has film ever given you an emotional transformation?

At Makeable we talk a lot about design empathy. It is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process and core to understanding people within the context any design challenge. When making anything meant to be used by a person it is critical that you understand the way they do things and why, their physical and emotional needs, and how they think about world—literally picking up and on-boarding what is meaningful to them.

You go (or must go) through an emotional transformation.

Well, the annual New York Film Festival recently presented the U.S. premiere of The Doghouse, incredibly innovative Danish short film, and it used virtual reality technology’s ability to help the participant/viewer do exactly that.

The audience sits at a dinner table, where they don an Oculus Rift headset to enter the mind of a particular character at an awkward family dinner. You can rotate glasses to transport to a different perspective in the story, discussion and debate—from Mom, to Dad, to little brother, big brother and even his new girlfriend—literally embodying a different point of view in the conversation as you go.



This remarkable short film is shot from 5 personal point of views with wide angle lenses, allowing for a 180 panorama in the Oculus Rift, and reimagines not only the viewing experience but what a movie experience can be altogether.

Imagine if there was some kind of device or experience that could put you inside the “person” you’re trying to understand?


A top digital agency can acquire customers but a product developer will help you keep them.

Many a top digital agency will be the first to tell you that customer retention is both cheaper than customer acquisition and can deliver a higher ROI.

A recent joint study by BIA/Kelsey and Manta surveyed nearly 1,000 small business owners (SBOs) and found they now spend more than half of their time and budget focused on existing customers because they recognize that it can be up to ten times more costly to acquire a new customer, and sometimes less effective. Their research further identified that the same businesses determined that their repeat customers spent a total of 67% more than a new one. So it seems pretty obvious, right? Set your digital agency’s focus on retention because it’s better for the bottom line. Actually, that’s not always the case. Sometimes retention may require more than retention marketing.

Acquisition = good, but retaining your existing customers is vitally exponential.

Building loyalty with just 5% more of an existing customer base could lead to an increased average profit per customer of between 25% and 100%. And it’s staggering data like this that has sent many a business into a race to invest in relationship marketing over acquisition marketing.

customer retention statistics

But in the fast and furious world of retention and relationship management the answer might not be to just to pile on more marketing.

Alas, not all customers want a deep relationship with the companies they transact with. Sometimes they just want a great product/service and, if your product or service is out performed or just falls short, it’s going to take a lot more than a top digital agency to get them back. Further, too much retention marketing can make (insert your favorite product, brand, service name here) come off as inauthentic, or worse, strangely robotic—leaving the sense that the company has collected too much personal information you (but that’s for another post). Slow down for a second and let that one sink in. So how do you increasingly retain  your customers and manage your relationship with them without CRMing your relationship with them? This is starting to sound like a job for a product development agency.

Here’s an idea: focus on your product. Not your funnel.

Get better at engaging, not enraging the user. Many top digital agencies try to help companies build products, but can’t (and likely won’t) be able to jettison their marketing underpinning enough to be able to objectively look at and fight for the user. The same analogy can hold true for internal teams. Through iterative design and analysis, product teams need to grow in their understanding of and appreciation for the branding and marketing by-product of their efforts. Your product and service should grow as your customers do, with a design philosophy that starts at their end.

Good User Experience Design Can make a Good Product.

Good UX is, simply put, simple. Fun but functional. Bad UX is almost everything else and can possibly render your company useless (from a customer’s perspective). You have one job: make something that people look forward to using. 70% of Millennials feel that a great product is the most important driver of brand loyalty and 69% of Millennials feel that brand recognition and trust is also an important brand loyalty factor. What they are telling us they need is a great product that knows it and stands by it. Incrementally investing in your product is critical.

Fight the myths: “We must be innovative.”

When you’re evolving your product with customer retention in mind it is not necessarily the time to reinvent the wheel — no matter how tempting it might be. Innovation for innovation’s sake can kill your relationship with your customer – and even worse – your business. True Innovation shouldn’t evolve a product, it should re-invent it. And when it’s time to reinvent, you should be just as cognizant of the user – with a massive objective of growth.


Accelerating the adoption of the internet of things in law enforcement

How big is the internet of things market?

Right now, just 0.06% of things that could be connected to the Internet actually are, but by 2019, companies are expected to ship 1.9 billion connected home devices, bringing in about $490 billion in revenue. By 2025, connecting everyday objects like factory machines, vehicles and buildings to the web could be worth between $3.9 trillion and $11.1 trillion. And with demand like that, every company that makes “things” is going to need an internet of things agency to identify the true purpose for connecting their product, and bring them from the lab to the market.

The emerging internet of things design company

We’ve seen time and time again, companies, connecting their products to the internet of things just because they can and not because they should. And while most products can get by with a remote on/off button, it’s important to explore ways that connecting your product can, in fact, drive increased value of your product or even introduce your brand to new, under-served markets. That’s when true innovation is recognized.

The internet of things is not just meant for home appliances like connected lightbulbs, speakers and kitchen appliances. It actually has huge potential to disrupt industries across markets from the auto industry to health care. While many of the internet of things designers are focused on improving industrial, utility and infrastructure efficiency, these physical and digital designers are also helping to improve another industry: law enforcement.

The Internet of Things fights Crime


Take the police department of Austin, Texas, for example. Rather than sending out squad cars to chase suspects down, they’ve used a system attached to the front of a car’s grill to fire a small GPS at the suspect’s vehicle – collecting data and providing tracking at a safer speed—reducing the length of dangerous highway chases that could endanger others. Not even the best mobile app development company in NY can top that kind of data collection!


Body cameras are another, similar technology that’s leading to more peaceful outcomes. A study from the city of Rialto, California found that after giving its police force body cameras, complaints against officers dropped nearly 90% in comparison to the previous 12 months. Similarly, officers’ use of force dropped 60%.


Internet of things designers are also working to make guns safer. California-based firm Yardarm’s Internet of Things designers are working on a chip that, when put in the handle of a firearm, notifies dispatch when and where an officer unholsters and even discharges their (smart) weapon, which could reduce the time it takes for backup to arrive at a scene.

With all the controversy surrounding law enforcement these days, you can expect to see more Innovation in weaponry and firearms. Where there’s controversy and publicity, theres a market.  Clearly some of the top product innovators agree, as they are clearly attempting to get these advanced products from single town law enforcement to a global scale. If you know of any other exciting projects, feel free to share in the comments.