Data Science meets Design: my visit to IDEO

Yesterday I was invited by David Webster to talk to the team at innovative design company IDEO. IDEO is a cutting edge digital and physical design studio in Palo Alto that has been leading creativity for over 30 years. I was lucky enough to have a tour by David through their workshop, engineering office, and toy lab.
ideoAfter the tour we had a joint Q&A with the whole team about how big data is used at Airbnb and how it might be used more in the design process at IDEO. Some key thoughts emerged:

  1. The world is moving towards more wearable sensory technology e.g. Google glasses, Apple watch, Fitbit. With this comes a wealth of feedback data on the user in the offline world. The internet of things (IoT) will make, for example, A/B testing in the offline (physical) world possible.
  2. For designers to be more data empowered, we first need the analytics and prediction tools to catch up. Currently it is easy to log data, cheap to store data and there are standardised tools to query data. However, no leader has emerged for extracting insights from data. This democratisation of insights needs to happen before data can permeate design.
  3. Data science works best with design when they collaborate early. At the start of a project it is easier to scope what data is necessary and easy to collect at the outset so that decisions can be informed and iterations can be faster.

The future for Data Science in Design is exciting and, when they start to overlap more, we will see changes in the world around around us accelerate even faster.


Should we A/B test the classroom?

A recent article in Skeptic » Insight » The Myth of Learning Styles suggests we have all been duped into believing that people learn in different ways, without any hard proof or experimental evidence. This made me think, what else do we take for granted in the education of children?

Should children be in school from 8am to 4pm every weekday? Should we test them every week? Should class sizes be 30 or 10 or 2? Why are we so frightened to A/B test different variations on the standard education curriculum?

The most obvious argument is that if we teach two sets of children in different ways then we are necessarily providing one group of students with an inferior education. And we are more comfortable with providing both sets of students with a potentially inferior education – because at least they are equally inferior. I believe we can do better and should not be afraid to try.