Hidden in Plain Sight | Jan Chipchase

Summary of: Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers
By: Jan Chipchase


Dive into the fascinating world of ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ by Jan Chipchase and discover how to create extraordinary products by understanding the habits, constraints, and lifestyles of the people you are designing for. This summary will guide you through the process of immersive cultural understanding, identifying threshold behaviors, and exploring the role of status symbols and trust ecosystems in product adoption. By observing ordinary human behavior and daily routines, you can uncover valuable insights that can be used to design products that cater to today’s unmet needs and anticipate the desires of tomorrow’s customers.

Designing for People

Designing solutions to problems in various areas requires designers to understand people’s habits, constraints, and lifestyles. International design research should focus on observing ordinary human behavior and daily routines to discover information that is hidden in plain sight. Immersing yourself in a community to gain a layered and nuanced understanding of people and their culture is a better approach than housing team members in a downtown hotel for a day or two. To achieve this, hire local college students as guides, assistants, and translators and ride bicycles to experience the ebb and flow of the city. Understanding where people hang out and engage in conversation, like at barbershops and coffeehouses, and getting up before dawn to watch the neighborhood come to life, provides insights into patterns of behavior. By understanding the people for whom you’re designing, designers can create solutions that fulfill today’s unmet needs and ascertain what products people will want tomorrow.

Decoding People’s Behavior

Researchers use interviews and field studies to collect information about people’s daily lives. They then analyze the data to uncover patterns and emerging trends, which they organize into frameworks to chart behavior. One such framework is the “customer journey map,” which tracks a subject’s typical day and identifies touchpoints where they use a specific product or service. Another framework is “threshold mapping,” which identifies default physical and mental states to understand what conditions prod people into taking action. By understanding threshold behaviors, designers can create products and services that fit people’s ideal, normalized state, known as the comfort zone. People’s definition of normal changes with societal context and depends on various cultural, age, and environmental factors. When people enter an abnormal state, they become uncomfortable and take action to return to their comfort zone. Understanding these unwritten social rules can assist designers in creating the products and services of the future that will best fit people’s needs.

Status Symbols Speak Volumes

In today’s world, where people are obsessed with branding, status symbols reveal a lot about their owners. Economist Harvey Leibenstein gave the term “Veblen effect” to this phenomenon, in which people use goods to project social factors such as wealth and individuality. Some status symbols are unexpected and unpredictable. For instance, girls in Bangkok wear fake braces to imply that their parents have the means to straighten their teeth. Single-digit license plates, lucky phone numbers, and owning a dog in Iran are other unconventional status symbols that reflect the owner’s wealth, influence or give a particular impression to the outside world. However, status symbols’ meanings vary across countries and contexts. Having a suntan in the US or UK indicates the leisure to spend time outdoors, while in China or Thailand, fair skin shows higher status. People worldwide want to project positive attributes like physical appearance, personality traits, and intelligence. Therefore, personal objects serve as gateways into their owner’s selves, revealing their identity.

Understanding Human Behavior and Adoption

In their groundbreaking research on how and why farmers adopted hybrid seed corn in the 1940s, sociologists Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross established a model that is still used today. They defined the stages of adoption as “awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption” and created the “adoption curve.” This curve demarcates how first, middle, and late adopters approach something new. The pace of adoption and abandonment is accelerating due to technology changing more quickly than ever before, and increased connectivity from the Internet has accelerated the social pressure to adopt or not adopt something new. How fast something is adopted is influenced by moral codes and the market for pornography illustrates that. This research shows that human behavior can be framed, decoded, and analyzed well beyond what’s articulated.

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