Everything you know about the future is wrong. Presumptive Design: Design Provocations for Innovation is for people 'inventing" the future: future products, services, companies, strategies and policies. It introduces a design-research method that shortens time to insights from months to days. Presumptive Design is a fundamentally agile approach to identifying your audiences' key needs. Offering rapidly crafted artifacts, your teams collaborate with your customers to identify preferred and profitable elements of your desired outcome. Presumptive Design focuses on your users' problem space, informing your business strategy, your project's early stage definition, and your innovation pipeline. Comprising discussions of design theory with case studies and how-to's, the book offers business leadership, management and innovators the benefits of design thinking and user experience in the context of early stage problem definition. Presumptive Design is an advanced technique and quick to use: within days of reading this book, your research and design teams can apply the approach to capture a risk-reduced view of your future.
- Provides actionable approaches to inform strategy and problem definition through design thinking
- Offers a design-based research method to complement existing market, ethnographic and customer research methods
- Demonstrates a powerful technique for identifying disruptive innovation early in the innovation pipeline by putting customers first
- Presents each concept with case studies and exploration of risk factors involved including warnings for situations in which the technique can be misapplied
Leo Frishberg is a Product Design Manager at Intel with more than 40 years' experience in design. Leo co-discovered the techniques in this book in 1984 and has been applying them in practice for over 10 years in a wide variety of contexts including consumer gifts, industrial tools, software application development and emerging businesses. These techniques have been detailed in his writings for Interactions magazine and workshops he's led during CHI conferences.
Extraordinary begins with discomfort.
This book is fundamentally about being wrong.
That isn't what I (Leo) thought this book was going to be about when we set out to write it. What better example could I wish for of how easily we get things wrong?
In fact, everything we know is wrong.
Humor me for a moment and reflect on that sentence. Even after re-reading it hundreds of times, I still feel a twinge of ... anger? Self-righteousness? I hear a little voice saying: "Well that may be true for you buddy, but not for me." And I wrote the sentence!
According to the research, that's a completely normal reaction; it has its roots so deeply buried in our evolution that there is nothing we can do about it. Every day we operate in the world based on a set of well-worn beliefs, and mostly we are successful, or so it would seem. So, surely my statement that "everything we know is wrong" is hyperbole. Or not, if you look at the world through Plato's eyes. In brief, all we know about the world comes in through our senses and is processed by our brains before being committed to memory. The whole system is fraught with potential error. In short, how well can we trust our senses, cognition, and memory?
Still, I'm more interested in the emotion around the reaction to the statement than engaging in a philosophical argument. My point is, when we read the statement "everything we know is wrong," we resist agreeing with it. And, now, humor me one more time for a moment: Read the statement again and let yourself accept it as true. It might take a few tries and a couple of deep breaths, but give it a shot.
How does that feel? If you're really engaging here, it should feel uncomfortable. Disorienting. Rudderless. (Of course, if the statement were really true, you wouldn't be able to read these sentences because you're wrong about your ability to read along with everything else. But stick with me for a second.)
To summarize: We don't like to think we're wrong, and we feel uncomfortable when we learn we're wrong.
Irrespective of how frequently we think we are wrong (maybe not about everything, but at least once in our lives-and let's hope you weren't wrong about picking up this book), the real question for us is, "What are we going to do about it?" Our focus is on applying our errors to our best advantage, use them to positive effect, and ultimately make our teams and organizations successful, not in spite of our errors, but because of them.
Let's restate the hyperbole: Everything you know about the future is wrong. That feels a little easier to admit, right? This book is written for people who are "inventing" the future: building products, services, companies, strategies, policies, or whatever, in service of a future state.
Presumptive Design (PrD) begins with the following operating assumptions:
We are wrong (at least about the future).
We are in denial of being wrong (except perhaps about the future).
We generally don't like learning that we are wrong. (Where are those flying cars, or aerial houses (Figure Pr.1
)?) Figure Pr.1 "Maison tournante aérienne" by Albert Robida, a nineteenth-century conception of life in the twentieth century
After reading this book, you will see how PrD eliminates the third assumption. (You'll look forward to learning from your errors and experience the surprise and joy of your discoveries.) The process helps you accept the second assumption. (Face it, we can't eliminate our denial-it really is baked into our brains-but we can at least recognize our denial.) And with respect to the first assumption, it's irrelevant. PrD works whether you believe you are wrong (about the future) or not. The process asks only one small thing of you: that you at least pretend to believe you are wrong (about the future).
Why We're Excited About Presumptive Design
Let's just put it out there: PrD is the fastest way to converge on a future state your stakeholders really "want." The approach isn't all that novel, and it's not really all that different from a bunch of other techniques user experience researchers and designers already use. Parts of it have been around for well over 30 years while other parts have been around for thousands. As you'll learn, we're not positioning PrD as the magic solution to every problem. It has its place in the toolbox of research techniques. It is a research technique
, in spite of its name. It is peculiar because it leads with design and with the crafting of artifacts. It depends on individuals who have mastered facilitation with a modest talent in improvisation. It requires designers as well as other disciplines in your organization. Although it is easy to describe (in spite of the length of this book, the steps are fairly simple), PrD isn't necessarily easy to apply. It is filled with risks (one of the reasons this book is so long) and is just as likely to generate garbage results as any other research technique if it isn't applied with care. With all that said, PrD's many proven advantages over other research methods (in the contexts of innovation, agile software development, and business strategy, to name a few) far outstrip the risks and challenges of the process.
Who Is This Book For?
In the early decades of the twenty-first century, businesses are recognizing the competitive advantage of designing user and customer experiences. This book has a distinctly business tone to it: The business value of PrD will be discussed throughout, because it is fundamentally about improving time to market and customer satisfaction and reducing risk. With that said, we offer case studies and stories of applying PrD in a variety of contexts, not just business. Specifically, with its relationship to Participatory Design, PrD is an equally effective tool for social innovation, for at-risk populations and situations in which you design with
, not for. Its primary audience is the practitioner "on the ground" trying to build better experiences for her organizations' stakeholders. Properly designed experiences drive better business, so at its heart, this book is written to help practitioners improve the competitive value of experiences they are designing and building. And by "practitioner" we mean any member of the team: business leader, manager, analyst, engineer, designer, and researcher. If you are a business leader who is trying to position your company for top-line growth, this book offers insights into expanding your current market research efforts. As you'll see in Chapter 3
, PrD is about improving the competitiveness
of the end-user experiences you are bringing to market, specifically by identifying market whitespaces where users are currently underserved. To get a deeper understanding of how to apply PrD, you'll likely want to read Chapters 1
, as well as skimming Chapters 4
. Similarly, if you are team, program, project, or product manager, trying to increase your share of market through relevant features and rapid adoption, PrD is an effective risk reduction tool. It raises confidence in your offering at the very start of the program. Further, if you are trying to maximize the productivity of your staff and/or reduce the cost of development, you will see how PrD reduces development risk by removing waste, increasing opportunities for alignment, and establishing a shared vision. For you, Chapters 1
will be paramount. You will also benefit from skimming Chapters 14
so that you have a deeper understanding of the skills required of your team. If you are a designer, interested in expanding your research insights with users, the entire book will be of immediate use to you. And, of course, we expect researchers of all stripes will benefit from reading the entire book. Most of PrD's principles will be very familiar to designers, because it is based on the way designers approach problem solving. With that said, if you are an experienced designer, aspects of PrD may be challenging to you. PrD uses principles from Participatory Design and rapid prototyping, but it isn't either. If you are a user experience researcher, market researcher, or social scientist, many of PrD's principles will be familiar to you because it identifies underlying needs. It is both a "generative" research tool (in which informants cocreate ideas with you) and an evaluative research tool (e.g., usability testing). The approach requires subtle facilitation with quick wits and a design partner working with you. PrD is a powerful way to tie research results into actionable designs in a matter of minutes and hours, rather than weeks, months, or not at all. One final note of caution to designers: If you are an experienced designer, you will both recognize pieces of the process and possibly be flummoxed by them. Over...