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Influx interview-indi young- adaptive path- part two

March 5, 2008

Here is Part Two of the interview I did with Indi Young of Adaptive Path. For a discount on her new book go to the Rosenfeld Media web  site, drop Indi’s book in the shopping cart (which can be done here: ), and enter the discount code (FOINFL10) for a 10% discount while completing the order.

5. How do you discover new unmet needs/behaviors and imagine new uses that consumers don’t yet display?

The mental model is not about changing consumer behavior so much as supporting it better, and supporting it in new ways that haven’t been thought of before.  The easiest thing to do is look for gaps between a tower in the mental model (representing a set of behaviors around a particular concept) and the ways an organization supports it. There could be no existing support for a tower, or it could be weakly supported, in which case you could use the concepts in the tower to brainstorm ideas. You could already support a tower, but perhaps extend your support to better support some of the concepts in the tower that aren’t covered.  You could look across the mental model for similarities and bring some behaviors together by supporting them with one idea, thus making it more efficient for the user. You could look for emotion in the tower and see if there was a way to address it.  You could look for surprising towers and see why these concepts just aren’t acknowledged by the organization. You could look at whole areas that you kind of crossed out in your mind as areas your organization just couldn’t possibly address, and see if there isn’t a few ways to help out. And you can rethink services and features that don’t match a behavior–perhaps they are not necessary, or perhaps they are a great opportunity.  The best thing is to be as explicit as possible about why your organization is spending time and money on a particular service or product, and prioritize where to put your resources.  (For examples, see here.

6. What about thinking about the totality of the experience- do you use mental models beyond the web?

Absolutely.  Task analysis, the root of mental models, was used before the web existed.  I’ve done several mental models about workflow processes, one  about media buyers, one about training runs (like for a marathon), one about going to the movies, one about dating, and one about cat behavior.  The output of the workflow process models was, of course, a new process flow. The media buyer mental model informed a software application.  The training run mental model resulted in a few additions to a running watch.  The one about the movies resulted in a mobile app, among the other things we imagined.  The one about dating resulted in changes to an online dating social application.  And the one about cats, well, it resulted in a few laughs. 

A mental model has the single purpose of deepening your understanding of the
motivations and behavior of a group of people who are trying to accomplish
something.  It allows you to see with great clarity how you already support
these activities and philosophies and emotions, and urges you to do extend
what you are doing to a much richer selection.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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