Collaborative design, and the social TV case study

The rising gap between exploration and development 

Though innovation is supposed to process along the “rugby approach” defined by Professor Nonaka, innovation in large companies is more like a relay race.

Innovation goes through successive handover from R&D and exploratory teams to development teams, and from development teams to sales and marketing teams.

Moroever it seems that the gap between innovative design and mainstream development corporation has widened lately:

  • while innovative design looks for disruption in technology or untapped markets and usages, in a holistic approach of innovation, using “design thinking” tools like fast prototyping, multidisciplinary teams, or user observation,
  • development entities are focused on “stage gate” innovation, stuck in roadmap constraints, trying to introduce innovation without cannibalizing current business, landing into the area of incremental innovation as a result of multiple compromises.
Exploration and “acting out” development are uncoupled, innovation even appears as a risk, potentially harmful to “fast selling products” delivery.

                                                                                                                       Passing the culture of creative product

Passing the culture of an innovative product from one team to another has emerged as a task on its own: ensuring smooth transition and a good understanding of the attractiveness of the innovation designed can not be taken for granted.

“To align all company stars” and avoid creative product to be left as an island, innovation highlights have to be clearly expressed and key features easily captured. Call it USP, design intent, or user’s benefits, window time is short to stage your innovation: you’d better Keep It Simple… and Sexy!

Furthermore, to achieve acceptance, innovation has to fit into a meaningful need, and to start an open dialogue with your corporate partners:

  • To get people moving, they have to understand the necessity for change, and how the innovation designed can help them in this new journey: creative product shall create meaning not only for end-user, but also for development teams which will adopt it. We usuallly focus on the advantages generated by the new product: nevertheless, from the development team point of view, the new product is first of all an additional workload in a crowded roadmap. This perception shall transcend in: “I understand your innovation and how it can help me grow my business, differentiate from competition, and increase customer loyalty”.
  • Acceptance requires dialogue and ownership. Exploratory team shall be prepared to discuss with development teams, and open its product to evolutions. As the context of development teams vary, they might shape slight adjustements different to the original intent: when showing ownership of the development team, they are a sign of good transition.
In this road to “tightening human connections between those pursuing innovation efforts and others throughout the rest of the business, in order to maximize effective reintegration of innovations that become new businesses”,  listen to influence can turn to be your new mantra!

From there, finished design can damage your innovation: when finished design prevails, it prevents from having a fair open dialogue, as you are not ready to rebuild what you have just struggled to achieve. Bringing a fully designed product to the development team can mean “take it or leave it”.

Design brings an in-depth identity to your products: Smart TV case study shows how design encompasses identity foundations like Belief, Open Collaborative Platform and Ecosystem, and Customer Experience, including renewed user interface and form-factor.

It’s “double or quits” bet on whether this identity will match mainstream operations roadmap, it’s like choosing a dress for your wife! … unless you have anticipated and paved the way for cooperation.

Collaborative design: design with, rather than for

At this point, innovation in large companies seems sadly converging to a crossroad with a limited choice:

  • one way is to stick to your design identity: it drives you to go out in the market like a start-up, or to start fighting against the organization, mitigating for your creative product. It might end as a “loose loose” game for the company;
  • the alternative way is to open your design to adjustement: the occuring risk is to move from a genuine innovation to a bespoke development.

Collaborative design is a way to overcome the innovation dualism, “fight or surrender”: by building an open collaborative platform instead of a finished design, you enable development teams to build on your innovation, letting them bring on board your innovation intent, with the ownership to finalize the end-user product.

You are not pushing a comprehensive locked-up new concept anymore: you are suggesting innovative possibilities, embodied by development teams pulling assets out of your innovative platform, even in bits and pieces as in the Leggo construction.

Some experts call this approach “half-product” or “unfinished goods”: your design is a way to initiate dialogue, bring user feedback trough prototype testing, and turn on further collaborative work with additional innovation partners.

The good news about the platform you have build for internal development teams is that it also works for external developers and editors, driving to an ecosystem that is feeded by third party editors and developpers. You’ve not created a new product: you’ve crafted a “leadership platform”, which is a powerful and rare achievement.

Design With, rather than For, open the door to cocreation, breath life into participatory aspects and rapid prototyping, and engagement on your innovation: these are the DNA of collaborative design platform.

The case for Social TV

Social TV is a hot trend nowadays“: it covers TV-related interactions such as deciding, watching and Live-commenting, getting more information about the show, participating, reviewing and rating.

All these interactions seem magically embedded in the traditional TV “lean-back experience” with the help of second screen devices, such as tablets, smart-phones, and laptops. “The behavior is already there: viewers are commenting, rating and reviewing TV programming in surprisingly large numbers.” says Alan Wolk, anticipating new marketing and advertising opportunities.

Following an in-depth market review, we identified three main areas to build an advanced Social TV service:

  • content discovery through social recommandation, and EPG enhanced with Internet information sites,
  • participative TV, interacting with the program (voting, betting, polling, and conversing with characters and TV presenter), and Live Tweeting with social network,
  • device interaction between companion app running on mobile or tablet and TV screen, enabling flinging content and flicking from the app, one-click option to bookmark or save shows to your cloud storage for future viewing.

We liaised with various social TV players, and realized multiple initiatives were going on the market and… within our corporate group. We also found out that there were some untapped opportunities linked to in-depth analysis and ranking of Live-Tweet conversations: we were convinced there were great value in social conversations around TV, but that it was difficult to capture with the current tools.

Therefore, we refined our value proposition as follows: we would not design an end-user social TV service, rich in content discovery, participative, and device control features. Instead we would focus our innovation endeavour on a more underlying function, a semantic platform scanning social conversations, harnessing comments and filtering them, extracting social recommendations from the noise of social networks. Information provided would help the viewer to find, choose, and share.

This platform is now running and open to end-user applications through an API, enabling several corporate development teams to embedd social recommandation feature in their service, and stage it at their convenience. Our enabler is called Blended TV.

Since the use of Blended TV is very flexible and accept variable geometry, we discover it could be plug in a great variety of applications and user interface: TV service on tablet and mobile, social gaming related to TV, enhanced EPG with web information, web EPG, program and audience monitoring, dedicated TV sport event applications, … Reversely, these applications impulse worthwile developments to our platform, and a next step will be to complete a SDK and various tools to facilitate access, and mash-up initiatives.

Conclusion

What collaborative design tells us aloud is that you can grow your innovation belief while sharing its ownership: the tools are up and running to implement cooperation at various stages, and connect development teams to your platform; they will not alter your innovation identity, but rather provide extension to your boundaries.

By giving your community the tools to build on your innovation, you will comply the innovation paradox: “To innovate is to change while remaining yourself”.

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21 responses to “Collaborative design, and the social TV case study

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