All posts by austinhenderson

The Practice of Innovation

James Euchner, Austin Henderson

Research-Technology Management, March-April, 2011

Successful innovation requires the man­agement of multiple contexts: those of the customer, the offering itself, the business model for the offering, and the strategic aims of the hosting corporation. An ap­proach to managing these contexts and the constraints they impose was developed and implemented at Pitney Bowes. Although it is designed to manage multiple constraints, the approach is based on a deep and con­tinuing reliance on the customer for direction. In this paper, the constraint-driven process is discussed and examples of innovation based on the approach are reviewed.

KEY CONCEPTS: Innovation, Customer-centered innovation, Participatory design

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Coherence and Responsiveness

Jared Harris, Austin Henderson

interactions, Sept-Oct, 2012; On Modeling Forum

Coherence and responsiveness are often seems an in competition with each other; and as things get large, this tension increases. However, we believe there are many ways to simultaneously increase the coherence, responsiveness, and scalability of systems, and this quest has enormous potential to improve our lives.

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Evolutionary Development

Austin Henderson, Jared Harris

(A position paper for Critical Alternatives 2015 workshop W12: The Future of Making.)

The increasingly common creation of large, important, complex systems through “open peer projects” is a rich source of insight into the Future of Making. We should learn what has made open peer practices so effective, and apply those insights to Making. Our conclusion is that open peer production is supporting evolution of complex systems with powerful tools, and practices for collaboration, on- boarding of new community members, and capture and navigability of history. Our position is that the future of making should incorporate this framing and such tools. We believe that these practices can be applied beyond current open peer projects to make, in a better way, a better world.

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Design for the Unanticipated

Keynote at ECCE’2008, the European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics

Funchal, Madiera, Portugal
September 9, 2008
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We deploy our applications for use in worlds that change, and in places not anticipated by their designers. As a result, our applications do not – and, in principle, cannot – anticipate all the circumstances in which they are used. Yet the user must cope with every single circumstance that they confront, and they must find some way to bring the application to bear on those situations. In this paper I explore some thoughts and challenges concerning the resulting inevitable misalignment between the user’s needs and the application’s capabilities. I explore three kinds of solutions: fixes (changing the application), work-arounds (going “outside” the application), and appropriations (going to school on other cases). The resulting socio-technical systems (humans and applications working together) can address circumstances unanticipated by the applications. I argue that the implication for designers is that we must challenge ourselves to design applications that support, not only the circumstances that we anticipate, but also the systems that people adopt for dealing with circumstances that we have not anticipated. I then argue that such safety-net mechanisms for dealing with unanticipated circumstances can also be used to address unusual circumstances – those that, although anticipated, are not worth devoting application development resources to. This could lead to simplifying applications by focusing them on usual cases, leaving everything else to the socio-technical safety net. I close by speculating on reasons why we have not yet focused on this issue or built such systems.
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