Tuesday 17 March 2015

User-driven innovation: learning faster with flash builds

Alex Humphreys, head of JSTOR Labs at ITHAKA, provided an overview of how JSTOR's launch of a new Labs team who have been charged with partnering with the community to seek out new opportunities and refine and validate them through experimentation.

The team has been using Flash Builds - high-intensity, short-burst, user-driven development efforts - in order to prototype new ideas and get to a user saying "Wow" in as little as a week. he described how they've done this using two case studies, JSTOR Snap and Understanding Shakespeare, highlighting the skills, tools and content that help us to learn (and therefore get to innovation) faster.

Based on the methodology, they worked in a coffee shop for one week talking to users, coming up with concepts, designing, tweaking, user testing, through to prototype.


With the Folger Shakespeare Library, they worked with the digital editions of the plays and visited the Library itself. By iterative consultation with users during the week while at the Library itself, they managed to reduce the number of enhancements through the week - not needed as they got constant feedback.

The ingredients for Flash Builds are:
  1. Small diverse team with technical, design and business skills
  2. Ability to show work to users early and often with the whole team present
  3. Space to innovate: flexible technology that allows for componentization and contours deployment - a safe-space to fail with time to focus.
Prior to the Flash Build they conducted interviews with scholars, then created the data and infrastructure. During the Flash Build they had a design jam, paper prototypes, low-fi prototypes and a working site. After the Flash Build, there was a polish and clean up, release and measurement through key KPIs.

Alex Humphreys spoke at the ALPSP seminar Disruption, development and divestment held in London on Tuesday 17 March 2015.

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