Just -in-Time Moments in the Future

Ever wonder how the future is proactively created? One great example of applying an understanding of human behavior and interaction to development of future products--so that new products meet emerging needs just at the right moment in the near future--is featured prominently in this Sunday's New York Times Magazine. The Times followed Nokia's Jan Chipchase, Duncan Burns and other designers from the company as they spent time in Accra, Ghana observing and gently interrogating the everyday lives of people in a case-study developing market, and probing their reactions to designs that pair fresh insights about their use of communication technology with equally fresh prototypes.

Chipchase and his colleagues at Nokia, some of whom I have had the pleasure of working with, do a fantastic job of bringing these two critical streams--emerging behaviors and emerging technology--together at just the right time, or you might say just in time. His anthropologist, designer and ethnographer peers in many similar companies are also working diligently to better understand this process, people, and methods to create the future as and when it's needed, not simply to build their own version and push it out the door, hoping consumers' behaviors can be force fit to a design. Fortunately, these ideas and practices are spreading, and the benefits are beginning to be measurable in better lives, better opportunities, and success for the companies who see the light, as the article describes.