Exploring the Future in the Present: How to Support Design with Research When Potential Users Can't Imagine Future Products

Bonnie Johnson, Interval Research

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 11, 1994


At one time, new product development was something done in a lab and presented to stereotypical consumers for comment and refinement. "New and Improved" was sufficient to generate interest. Now many new products are beyond the understanding of their potential users. And many users are likewise beyond the understanding of the marketers and developers who need to reach them. At a time when thorough, accurate and perceptive market insights are most needed, they have become increasingly difficult to get. This presentation will discuss methods of "Applied Exploration" from observing "life contexts" of potential users to synthesizing conclusions in the form of guidelines.


Bonnie Johnson is a member of the research staff at Interval Research, an institute founded by Paul Allen to conduct basic research on future applications of technology. She heads a group exploring methods and technologies for market research.

Prior to joining Interval, Bonnie spent over 10 years researching and managing the introduction of office technology. She held management positions at Intel, Aetna Life & Casualty, Focus Systems and Humanware. While at Aetna, her group was the subject of a Harvard Business Case. In a project funded by the National Science Foundation, Bonnie led a two year investigation of 200 organizations to identify the management practices that distinguished innovative users of office technology.

Bonnie has a Doctorate in Communication from State University of New York and Post Doctoral study at Stanford University. She is the author of several books and articles on business organization and innovation including Managing Organizational Innovation, The Evolution from Word Processing to Office Information Systems (Columbia University Press, 1987; co-author Ronald E. Rice)


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