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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems

Design Thinking CHAT Guest was Lisa Yamagata-Lynch

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Related Podcast: CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking

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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Dr. Yamagata-Lynch authored the book Activity Systems Analysis Methods: Understanding Complex Learning Environments where she outlines Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT). CHAT is one of several theoretical frameworks that are popular among educational researchers because it conceptualizes individuals and their environment as a holistic unit of analysis. Activity systems analysis is one of the popular methods among CHAT researchers for mapping complex human interactions from qualitative data. What Dr. Lisa Yamagata-Lynch says about herself: I identify myself as a Cultural Historical Activity Theorist (CHAT), and I believe that knowledge is not an isolated set of rules accessed only when necessary, but is a shared entity that is distributed among individuals, context, activity, artifacts, and in the interactions that take place among the above. I also believe that individuals belong in a community that enables them to share and negotiate their knowledge with other members. For the last several years I have focused my research in using activity theory, or more specifically activity systems analysis, for understanding the complex nature of human interactions within a community.

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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Transcription of Podcast Joe:

Welcome, everyone. This is Joe Dager, the host of the Business901 podcast. With me, today is Dr. Lisa Yamagata-Lynch. She is currently a professor and program coordinator at the University of Tennessee, with previous stops at the University of Utah and Northern Illinois, a frequent speaker and author of the book "Activity Systems Analysis Method". I would like to welcome you, Dr. Yamagata-Lynch and can I just call you "Lisa".

Lisa:

That's fine.

Joe:

Can you tell me how you became interested in design?

Lisa:

I was interested in how people learn. That's where I started. Then I wanted to understand what goes on in the real world. Initially, I got interested in psychology, and that's where I started my bachelor's degree, thinking about, okay, how are people cognitively processing information. Then I realized that it didn’t make a connection to what was happening in classrooms or in training situations. There were a lot of things that you could explain from the cognitive perspective. Or, I guess it's more in the framework of predicting. You could predict a lot, but it didn't always explain to me what was going on. Then from my perspective, in order to understand what was going on in the real world when people were interacting with each other or even interacting with artifacts or texts or their prior experiences, helping them think, it was more of a CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems design-oriented activity that they were taking initiative in it. They were doing something with the environment and in order for me to explain that design with something, I became interested in and I moved into a field called "instructional technology" where another word for it or, I guess another branch of it, is "instructional design". That's how I became interested initially in designing instruction. Now, I see design as something that actually, everybody does and everybody doesn't necessarily give credit to doing or we don't even keep training people to continuing to design in their everyday life. Joe:

Your interest in design is based on understanding and designing an environment for yourself to understand better.

Lisa:

Yes, and then I think some people would have issue with that understanding is a little too passive an issue in the sense that would be in the educational research world where I'm at and that understanding's not enough. But, for me, it seems like predicting how people might behave or think or do things at a later time without understanding what they're doing now, it takes a lot of leap of faith to do that and I really wanted to understand people before making predictions, and I don't think I'll ever be in the business of making predictions myself.

Joe:

I think that's an interesting concept. So much of it is spending time downloading information from others before we ever start our own actions. That's what you're CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems saying is kind of the essence of how you start and think about design. Lisa:

Yes, another component that I became interested is this, and I think it'll come up later to, but this framework called "cultural historical activity theory". Initially it wasn't necessarily like an obvious connection to design, but now I see a big connection. So once I removed myself from the cognitive framework or predicting how people would react to information, how they would digest information in the most efficient and probably what people believe to be a reliable way, I then so got into the business of trying to understand people, describe what's going on, and there wasn't a good framework to do that. I moved into cultural historical activity theory, which is one framework embracing that people live in an environment that you can't remove from, and they are constantly molding, shaping the environment while they are being molded and shaped at the same time and in order to engage in any type of activity, it could be learning. It could be anything while some people would say every activity is a learning event for human beings. But to engage in an activity, people are basically carving their own way and, to me, that's where the design is happening on a daily basis. There are purposeful design activities as well, but on a daily basis we are designing our own environment, designing who we are, understanding who we are, I guess, achieve goals that we are aiming to achieve in that moment in time.

Joe:

Well, when you use the cultural historical activity theorist, you abbreviate that as CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems a CHAT person. Lisa:

Yes, well, it initially was a response from the Vygotsky, who was a Russian scholar in the 1920's. He was responding to more of a behaviorist stimulus, a response association framework so that would be the opposite. I wouldn't say opposite makes sense Vygotsky's point was adding in because if you are a behaviorist, your belief is basically that we don't need to know anything other than how to associate stimulus and response. We do this, or we try to do it, in child-rearing, in dog training a lot where you give a lot of reward. I know that sometimes behaviorism has, or a lot of people will talk about being full of punishment, but I think a lot of it has to do with positive reinforcement, rewarding people for good behavior. Behavior management systems in schools are based on that. My children come home, "Oh, I was on blue today the whole day." It works in certain situations, but it doesn't explain everything.

Joe:

Well, at the present time, you're teaching a course in design thinking and theory. Could you tell me just briefly about that?

Lisa:

The course itself is very theoretical, and that's a struggle I have but there's a prerequisite course where students do design instruction. In that moment, they're not even given much reason, but it's something to engage in and our students at the doctoral program here in Tennessee, we have a unique program CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems where it draws on educational foundations that includes social justice and cultural studies, educational psychology and instructional technology. So first of all, a course like mine isn't something you'll see everywhere. We talk about design in the sense of not just designing objects, physical objects like a phone, a hammer or it could anything, every day or high-tech object, but we also talk more about designing experiences because our program is about designing learning environments. From that framework and from the backgrounds that we draw from students to come in and other expertise and faculty in our program, we talk about designers as people who bring voice to their audience. We've looked at, and briefly, some of the IDEO projects both in the consumer goods sector, but they also have more of a human activism sector, as well. So we looked and compared and contrasted about what are the core values in what IDEO people call as design. We've also looked into how design is completely removed from education and even adult training, that usually the dichotomy is between the sciences and humanities, and while design is something or many authors believe it's a naturally occurring phenomena that we engage in, we don't necessarily have to be taught to design. Although, you could be taught certain design specialties. We don't even talk about it in school, we don't even encourage it. Then it ties into more of creativity issues. So basically, we're looking at, from many different angles, many of my students CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems who started the class, some of them are unhappy that it was a required class in the doctoral program but after two weeks or so, it was interesting, so out of about the 10 students I have, about half of them came in saying, "Okay, I'm a designer. I know I'm a designer." Then the other half were very ambivalent and all of the sudden, week three, they came to a realization that, "Wow. I am a designer. I do design on a daily basis." It could be that they designed space at their own home, they design events in the classroom, and they design instructions. So we're taking a broad view at what is design, what are the commonalities, what values people, what are the core principles and what responsibilities we have as designers once we acknowledge that we are engaging in design. Joe:

It sounds like a great course for a marketing guy and for the user experience.

Lisa:

Yes, and then there are methods that we do look into for how to engage in quick assessments of user experiences. It's not necessarily targeted for businesses. One of my students was talking with a business professor. She found out that in the business school; they were trying to create a class that's very similar to this. Probably with much more of a business focus I would assume. We do see a lot of connection. One of the texts we're using is more of an architecture text but talking about design. Another book is a little more cognitive text, but it draws from a lot of different areas. CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Joe:

How does design differ for learning environments versus designing for space, let's say?

Lisa:

I think it first starts with because most of my students are designers of learning space, but they never saw themselves as designers. Once you take the designer role, you develop this new perspective on what are your responsibilities as a designer. We talk a lot about consequences of your design, whether you intended to or not, when something you design, the user finds a completely different use for it than you ever imagined then what your responsibilities there are. In many instructional design programs, we are taught to analyze, design, develop, implement. Then, it's almost like you wash your hands clean from what you design. You move on to the next thing, and you have no involvement of the sustainability or what happens to your product. If you're in a company and if you're working in a global company, if a training module's developed at the headquarters, if you launch that module into a completely different country, how would that be customized, localized? Those are issues that many instructional designers don't deal with at all. So I think that it is widening the scope of where, it's not necessarily about selling a product or marketing a product, but it's widening the scope of what your responsibilities are as designers and how you need to go about working with clients. CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Joe:

You bring up something in your conversation there that I find kind of humorous because when someone uses something in the way it wasn't supposed to be used, I mean, from my engineering background, you say, well, you're not using it right. But from the designer's standpoint, it's an opportunity, right?

Lisa:

Right and that is, again, where the CHAT framer comes in. In a way, what you intended for the right specs or right design for the item, at that point it doesn't matter. It becomes a tool that's inserted into your client's space or your audience space. Then the audience can do anything they want to with it. I mean, there are hazardous information’s, like child car seats. You want to use it the way that it was intended to ensure safety, but there are issues in that area. As a designer, you have to think about when they say that, okay; it was a person, the user's problem, the user's fault. When something's designed so that so many users would install something incorrectly, then you have to think about whose responsibility is it? Where is the scope of, as a designer, how much do you need to know about your client? How much participation do you need from your audience? Those are issues that widen the scope of our role and responsibilities and how to go about design. In my class, what's interesting is so many of them either used to be or are classroom teachers. As a group, we're concluding that classroom teachers are designers. They ought to be designers of instructions, but that voice is being CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems taken away. Lately there are so many prepared modules that their school districts just say, "In order to meet standards, this is what you have to do." I don't know. It's almost like we've talked about how their wings are being clipped. They're no longer treated as a designer, and they just have to follow a script. That was something interesting for my students themselves to realize. Joe:

I think that context is carried over into business. We're seeing where the customer facing type of service and sales and support, the customer is the disruptor in it, so they have to be able to have complete clarity on what they're trying to accomplish behind them to enable them to design right there, very similar to how you're going to be as a teacher.

Lisa:

Well, yes, you're talking about customer service. When you call somebody it's clearly scripted. What's interesting to me, we were talking about it last night in class to is that when you look at a lot of the messages that are coming from businesses to higher education, the messages that are four-year colleges worth it employers are not getting employees who think on their feet, who can design experiences, or I interpret it that way. They're not creative. They can't problem solve. They can't think on their feet. Which, to me, are all related to designing, more than anything.

Joe:

We've talked about that. We've seen it in complex environments where we have to be able to design on our feet and as I was alluding to as far as the customer facing type of support and be able to react that way. So from design, is that CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems becoming a more traditional type of instruction that we need to make part of college and high school levels? Lisa:

I would think so. I mean, there are skills. First of all, you need to be able to analyze a situation, then synthesize it and then make meaning from it. Even if it's meaning that just makes sense in that moment, you need to try out various solutions, you've got to be able to think by yourself or in groups or in collaboration with your audience. I would really think so, and I think in a way, there was a wave in the '90's of problem-based learning, especially in medical schools, and it was popular in my own instructional technology and instructional design area to. Even in K-12 schools there were a lot of movement towards portfolio assessment, projectbased, but, once again, it got stripped away once all the standards came in and the wave kind of changed that there's a concept of, "We don't have time for that."

Joe:

Well, design seems to be a hot topic now.

Lisa:

Right now? Definitely.

Joe:

Is it just a nomenclature for the times? Is it something that we need to grab and take hold of? CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Lisa:

I do think that it's something that needs to grab and take hold of. I do also see, especially in just looking at how it just floats around everywhere lately. Again, in the '90's there was a whole movement towards change and especially in the business books texts, even popular press. There was a lot of talk about change, a lot of talk about Quality Six Sigma, TQM. I think it's one of those right now. It's just one of those real popular concepts, but I do firmly believe that there's more to it and how to keep at it after this popularity goes away, I think it's a big question.

Joe:

Well, one of the things you talk about is complex environments. What constitutes a complex environment? Is there any definition to that?

Lisa:

That's a good question. The whole idea of complex environment, that is more my personal reaction to more of the what's believed to be scientific method. In that environment, so I'm going to first talk about what it's not. So in a much more, what's believed to be a traditional scientific environment, especially in taking a quantitative analysis type of approach, you want to simplify everything to the simplest form. So when you come up with variables that you decide, "I care about this particular student test score," let's say we're just going to say, "I just care about this student test score." We're not going to think about anything else, whether the student had breakfast before she or he came to school, what kind of family structure, what kind of tutoring opportunities this child has at home or through CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems siblings or maybe even the parents’ hire tutors. You say, "We're just not going to think about all that. We're going to put everybody on an even keel and say we're just going to look at this particular variable. We're going to give them the exact same test and make sure that they have all the same allotted times so that it's all unbiased, it's fair and look at the results." To me, that raised a lot of question that, in reality, things are not that simple that you can put blinders and say, "That's all we're going to look at." But like you said, reality is always complex. So to me, the complex learning environments, another way of putting it is just like what's happening in real life. Then one problem with this approach is that no matter what we do when we're talking about it, it's going to be in simplified form. The particular approach I talk about in my book "Activity Systems Analysis", it's an extension of a model that Vygotsky came up with in the 1920's. That, on its own, while it tries to embrace the idea that a real world situation is complex, it's still a simplified version so that's something I struggle with, that no matter what you do, as a qualitative researcher who embraced the fact that the world is complex, you can't, as a human being, in the storytelling, in the reporting of your own work, there is no way to capture the entire complexity. So that's something that I struggle with myself if that makes sense. CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Joe:

It is difficult. In the Lean world, you think about the five Whys, you find root cause, and that is very linear and step by step. On the other hand, Lean is an iterative process and tries to take the complex world in a learn by doing environment. You could take either side of lean and argue whether it can deal with a complex environment or it's just a quantitative analysis.

Lisa:

And taking a lean approach is a powerful, attractive thing because it can seemingly explain a lot of things. At times, perhaps, you do need that kind of explanation, making it the end all and be all. I do worry about that.

Joe:

I don't think it is. I think in Lean you look at things as not having definitive answers. They're just countermeasures because you know that they only exist solving the problem for a while.

Lisa:

And they acknowledge that there is still a chance of error. There might be an underlying variable that it's just not possible to see at this time that is affecting everything that you're seeing, and that is something to, that somehow in this taking of lean understanding of the world seems to have made many units, organizations, groups of people unable to be flexible about, "Oh, it's time to change our thinking on this." It's almost like it's not a problem of taking a Lean approach. It's using that information, how to adapt as things change.

Joe:

I think that's very true. You have to realize that it is a temporary measure, that you are just improving the process as you see it today. CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Lisa:

Right. I think when you look at designers, again, part of design thinking is that you are able to adapt real quickly and whether you take a lean approach or looking at the world in a complex way that you are able to move again on your feet and realize that when an explanation you had before doesn't work, it's not time to fight for that explanation because you're trying to create an experience or a product that not only will sell but is meeting the needs of your clients.

Joe:

How do you see design developing in the future? If you had a crystal ball and five years from now when people are talking about design, do you see it differently than how it is perceived now?

Lisa:

I would hope that with the current trend and movement that, design is looked at more of a common language across boundaries. I think part of the problem, and it's something we discussed, design itself doesn't have a content. I have the same experience in education where technology itself doesn't have necessarily, or at least no education, it's looked at as technology doesn't have a content. It's a tool for delivering your content message and something like that, typically, at least in an educational system, gets put on the wayside or put aside. I would hope that this trend would make it more acceptable for design as a field to be on its own or see more interdisciplinary collaborations and people realizing themselves, like my students' case that they're actually engaging in design form more often than they give themselves credit for and once they realize that they CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems are engaging in design, and they have to be responsible designers. Joe:

What does the future hold for you?

Lisa:

I don't know. I'm thinking that through myself. In terms of my job, I have to engage in research. Eventually, I think I want to be involved in more of the design of the university programs, environments. Program coordination right now is exciting and interesting to me. I need to look into more opportunities within the organization for more design opportunities I could engage in.

Joe:

What's the best way of, if anyone had some question that they could reach out and contact you?

Lisa:

E-mail would be the best way. It's lisayamagatalynch@gmail.com. My name is fairly unique so if you Google "Lisa Yamagata-Lynch", I'm the only one that shows up. I have a website: www.lisayamagatalynch.net. That'll be another easy way to track me down.

Joe:

Well, I would like to thank you very much for your time. I appreciate it. This podcast will be available in the Business901 blog site and the Business901 iTunes store.

Lisa:

Thank you so much. CHAT in Activity Theory Thinking Copyright Business901


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Podcast Transcription Implementing Lean Marketing Systems Joe Dager is president of Business901, a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He takes his process thinking of over thirty years in marketing within a wide variety of industries and applies it through Lean Marketing and Lean Service Design. Visit the Lean Marketing Lab: Being part of this community will allow you to interact with like-minded individuals and organizations, purchase related tools, use some free ones and receive feedback from your peers. Joseph T. Dager Business901 Phone: 260-918-0438 Skype: Biz901 Fax: 260-818-2022 Email: jtdager@business901.com Website: http://www.business901.com Twitter: @business901

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