Lars Damgaard
strategic user experience designer
February 20th 2014

The moment of clarity: How to avoid internet enabled fridges using thick data. Inspiring thoughts from ReD Associates.

The Danish consultancy ReD Associates specializes in innovation and strategy based on social science. Not the usual run-of-the-mill survey or ditto focus group, but real rigorous social science applied to the world of business via sociology and anthropology. The stuff that creates “thick data” rather than just “big data”.

Recently two partners in ReD Associates, Kristian Madsbjerg and Mikkel Rasmussen, published a new book called The Moment of Clarity in which they emphasize the importance of understanding people in order not to get them wrong.

Knowing them by the numbers is not a bad thing, but it’s rarely the kind of insight that inspires radical innovation. I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but as a person with an educational background in sociology and a professional life in design, I found the highlights from the book in this Google Talk extremely inspiring.

I won’t attempt to wrap it up, you really should watch it for yourself. For me however, one of the most important arguments is to always challenge and question the basic assumptions that you (and people in your organization) hold about your customers.

Otherwise you might end up making products that are technologically rich but phenomenologically poor such as internet enabled fridges when perhaps what people really want in their kitchens is the experience of using authentic Japanese knives or to experiment with molecular gastronomy. Or as a sports equipment company you might miss the market opportunity of yoga products because your assumption about sport as something tied closely to achievements and performance is too narrow. Both are examples from the talk. Enjoy.