Jul 17, 2011

Concept of Healthy Community Design


I have always indulged myself observing people move through their life and make a living for them. The strange dependence that human beings have with each other is interesting to observe. But in this strange society, we all are bound by moral values, laws and expectations. I can never completely understand this mere presence of poverty that stares and the meaning of it. If it even means anything to be poor in a society and make your way through struggle, or born rich and stumble through pitfalls of social disaster. The examples of such scenarios are abundant in our society.

Source : sscl.wordpress.com
I consider myself very lucky to have spent my childhoods in between urban and rural areas. I was exposed to city life and rural lifestyle parallel. This has made my experience rich in those terms. More importantly, I could very much say that the society that I was living in was an experimental one. It was the convergence and harmony between village and urban technology, living hand in hand. I lived in the midst of Agricultural Research Centre which had at that time, the most advance technology for research and science purpose.  This was during 90s. Later in my life, I was told that the whole project was evolved to help the community make their living sustainable.

You can imagine that this had tremendous impact on how I wanted to live my life in future - in the midst of research and technology, helping society figure out a way to be efficient. Interestingly, though it was 90s, I happen to touch and feel laptop before PCs. My father would bring this foldable DOS OS laptop and I would watch him type in WordStar. The first command that I ever learned was the BACKSPACE key, which my father would repetitively use. At one instance, I was so eagerly watching him type that, I hurriedly pressed the key before he did, which amused him a lot and made him run to my mother to explain the drama. (Similar incident happened once I took a scissor and hold a cotton to clean my wounds. It was something taught in our first-aid class and it amused him more, thinking I would opt for studying Medicine in future. But BACKSPACE key was more interesting than a scissor and cotton. ) These days, he often consults with me his problems on outlook mail and excels sheets. J  These things make life very interesting.

Anyway coming back to my main point, I would sometime visit research labs full of PCs and get lost observing the FISH theme screen saver. It was the most inspiring and interesting time, which would remain with me forever. The house I lived in was simple and well equipped with furniture and resource supply, I never thought there was anything more that I would need in my life. The place was beautiful with changing climate, which made it all interesting. There were times, when the sky would be filled with brown flies and frogs all set to feed on them. We also had 7 important channels, delivered to our house through DISH antennae.  All I wanted was to work like my father and contribute to make this society efficient in terms of economy and culture.  Ohh!! How I miss those days and simplicity. But I guess, I had to move on to explore the horizon. So among my many friends I was the first one to live the place and move to city for my further degree. Since then, I have never found existence of any community as vibrant and efficient.

This is what brings to me the main topic - Struggle to build an efficient and growing community. Its bliss these days to even find any, though there existence is rare. After almost 3 years of start-up experience and struggle, I can see why it’s so difficult to have such systems. There are so many variables and difficulties in establishing a profitable business of value with efficiency. I guess more time is spent in experimenting and learning what works and what doesn’t and you need to change as it comes around. I find the management of resources and involving them into goal-oriented project, the main challenge. You have to look at the value your company is presenting to the business and how you are doing it. You need to communicate with potential partners to create better opportunity and scalable business. During all this, you need to clearly know the distracting factors too, because that is important for growth and sustainability and those factors have potential to make it or break your company. Similarly with the community, there are many factors which encourage the members of the community to participate and move alone, but negligence to counter the distracting factor could heavily falter the growth and demise of the community. I think that is what happened to the place that I lived during my childhood, though the place exists, I hear it’s not as interesting and vibrant as before.

So the final thought, how can we build a sustainable community? Can they be designed? If so how? Here are few thoughts of mine. First of all, the landscape of the community is very important because that is going to define a lot of things like economy, culture and population. The space where people live is very important, as they affect the emotions of people. I believe that space can affect human’s senses in lot many ways then we can imagine. Along with landscape comes the important role of resources and there management. A community is a combination of people with variety of skills and interest, which can be channelized for betterment of the society. Any rejection of such human resource could result into migration. Then comes the efficient economy of the society and how they can be managed without much lose. The continuous flow of financial transaction between people is one of the parameters to consider the health of the society. Off course the culture is important which binds people together with the feeling of oneness and one. Absence of culture could result in frustration and dissociation of the community because community is the higher realization of individual which is as important as individual.

The last statement could be controversial as it raises the debate between individualism and communal behaviour, but there is some practical implication where both fail to answer deep rooted question of life and society. Being open-minded can only be the way to resolve this issue rather than following some hardcore philosophies.

As you can see, the question of community design is important in today’s society. It can come in a form of an organisation design or community design. I believe both follow similar line of thought.

Jul 15, 2011

Creative Product Development Process


An interesting topic, as this means a lot to me and my every instances of life. Product is far more different then Service, in terms of engagement with customers and expectations. I find it similar to animated movies versus actor-acted movies. There are certain freedoms in making animated movies, due to freedom of choice of characters, whereas in case of actor-acted movies you have to deal with the personality of the actor before you even go to explore the character of the story. I chuckle every time I remember one of the statement from George Lucas, “I like working with animated characters as I hate dealing with people.” Off course, that cannot be the only reason for making animated series, because at the end it’s about great story telling. In case of products and services, it’s all about solving problems and adding value. What differentiates is how you want to approach it.

Source : brainpickings.org
So let me dwell into the aspect of product development process. It starts, I think, with etch.   Etch, is important because it definitely shows you the area of problem and a point where value can be added. The greater the ETCH, the great the value the product can add.

Once that is identified, the whole system starts to reveal itself in terms of system variables and controls variables. And this whole process is gratifying in its own terms. But I am not going go through all these process of identifying variables and implementing them as a form and function in terms of software or hardware. What I want to explore is this development process, where the product is still not matured but is on its way of becoming the required solutions.

Imagine, designing a building (building structure is the perfect example for me in terms of creativity and engineering solutions). It has aspect of aesthetics and ingenuity of engineered solutions, making a perfect combo for any kind of analysis. And the variable becomes the flow of nature, resources and humans in and out. But there is one aspect missing and that’s the mass production. Unlike products, building becomes the defining aspect of itself attracting visitors to marvel its engineering feet. But product on the other hand, reaches to mass through calculated production and supply chain. It has aspect of packaging, pricing, distribution, sales and so on. On the contrary, modern web solutions or products are much like designing buildings rather than products. It’s about attracting visitors and maintaining their flow in the system. Traditionally software products were too packaged and distributed, but now it’s much simpler to reach out to mass.  Today, internet is a platform where you need to build a software or solution, similar to constructing a house. It has to be aesthetically appealing, functionally simple and lot of value addition.

Difference between buildings and software lies in the risk that you can take on, which means you cannot afford to do lots of trial and error tests with building as with web platforms. In case of buildings, the evolution happens in slow and steady way, encouraged with lots of off shore research and testing. So I would like to see, web product design as more than just designing a building, but designing a community and a society. Because in case of designing landscapes and community you have lot more flexibility, in terms of experimenting with elements of society. It has to have every aspect of a community, especially after the social media revolution.

Now, why is it that it’s a creative process and not just stacking of functionality? Well, it doesn’t have to be. Back to my saying, that it depend how you approach and the vision behind it. But I am more inclined into taking it as a creative process, as that happens to be my passion.

So, can I say it’s like movie making experience? Hmm may be not entirely. But there are certain aspect of film making that can be implemented into the product development cycle, especially the scripting part. Script writing is certainly the blue print of films, so I think even a good product would have more benefit if a basic script can be formed in terms of actors, plots and functionality. Lately, I have tried to go through some of the standard scripts of movies, I found them expressive in terms of scene description and how that helps to take the story forward. In similar, way a good description of a product feature in terms of user perspective and system perspective would be great. May be characters could be users, interaction and system services. Ahh... ya it’s all so interesting to feel about this creative process of dealing with lot of variables, but it’s better not to get into process so much that you forget the main pictures, that solving the problem.

Don't forget to see the post on GOD COMPLEX, its a great talk on trial and error process. 

Tim Harford: Trial, error and the God complex

I really don't have anything to write this time. Though I have many thoughts winding up in my head. But then, after a very long time I stumbled upon a good video in TED. This is regarding the complex system and solving the real problems through trial and error.

Though I could not help noticing Tim Harford, calling Hans Rosling the Mick Jagger of TED. By the way, Tim's book Undercover Economists is a great read for any one.

Bottom Line : "Its very difficult to make GOOD mistakes."

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