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Design Thinking in the Field: Learnings From In Extremis Negotiators

In today's tough business climate, negotiations can often be stressful. As today's design and business challenges become more interconnected, the number of stakeholders and the complexity involved in leading towards the right solutions is increasing. And the time in which to do so is often short. That said, it is nothing like was U.S. military officers are facing daily in Afghanistan and other regions of conflict across the globe.

A recent Harvard Business Review article entitled "Extreme Negotiations"highlights some important learnings from the field, outlining 5 major learnings that can serve those operating in business contexts just as well as officers. U.S. military officers in Afghanistan often are balancing making progress and proper decisions while maintaining a stance of strength. Over the past six years or so, HBR studied how they resolve conflict and influence others in situations where the levels of risk and uncertainty are extreme.

They discovered that the most skilled among them rely on five highly effective strategies...all of which, as it turns out, are grounded in solid design thinking.

1. Understand the big picture.

2. Uncover hidden agendas and collaborate with the other side.

3. Get genuine buy-in.

4. Build relationships that are based on trust rather than fear.

5. Pay attention to process as well as desired outcomes.

These strategies, used in combination, are characteristic of effective in extremis negotiators, to adapt a term from Colonel Thomas Kolditz, a professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the author of In Extremis Leadership.

- Photo credit: The Washington Post

Chris Downey Offers a Unique and Inspiring Perspective on Design

Christopher Downey, RA, is an architect, planner and consultant in San Francisco, California. In 2008, he lost his sight after surgery to remove a brain tumor. Today, he is dedicated to creating more helpful and enriching environments for the blind and visually impaired. Chris earned a bachelor of environmental design in architecture from North Carolina State University and masters of architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.  He is currently working on a rehabilitation center blind veterans in Palo Alto, California. Check out his interview with the Wall Street Journal or learn more about Chris's work via his website: http://www.arch4blind.com/

The Magic of Small Things and Continued Iteration

It strikes me each time I reach my desk at work. Something is missing. Something core to my daily use of applications and making the rounds through the social networking sphere and the web. Instantly, I realize my experience is less...well...magical. A couple of months back, I recieved an Apple Magic Mouse as a birthday gift. Since then, it has served as a powerful reminder of the power of offering a thoughtfully designed ecosystem to users and of the need to pay attention to even the smallest parts of that environment. Companies that offer extensive ecosystems are empowered to shape both hardware and software touch points in powerfully integrated ways. No doubt, volumes have been written about how Apple has been bringing thoughtful enhancements to their user experience for years. But there is something else inspiring here that has to do with focus and iteration. Sometimes the folks in Cupertino manage to release things that are not accompanied by a special press event in San Francisco or Cupertino but have deep impact on our day to day user experiences nonetheless. The "magic" of the Magic Mouse strikes me as one of those thoughtful additions that has slipped into the offering. While I don't use all the features on offer by the Magic Mouse, I find continually that just having the ability to scroll through deep web pages with the flick of the index finger is magic enough. This kind of synergy between hardware and software is something that many are admirably striving for these days. Sometimes powerfully "sticky" parts of the user experience do indeed come in small packages. Many are made possible through continued iteration focused on making key touch points as good as they can be as new technologies become available. In a world where new to market offerings are so highly valued, it serves us well to click "pause" and pay attention, to double-click if you will, in order to recognize when outstanding incremental innovations do come along. Here's to paying attention to the little things. Indeed there is magic in the details.

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Battle of the Bulge: The Genesis of New Edge Design

At first glance, the similarities between the Audi TT and Apple's new iTunes media player may not appear to run any deeper than both relying on metallic aesthetics to Audi_fuelcap_3accentuate design features. However, what is notable about both offerings is that they strike a dynamic balance between the use of line and curves in functional, evocative products.