CHI Nederland

Interview Michael Meyer

Michael Meyer is the CEO of Adaptive Path. He has served as a Lieutenant in the US Navy and has worked at both IDEO and frog design. He will give a keynote at The Web and Beyond 2010.



LY: Why choose Amsterdam and Europe for a new AP office?

MM: There is a couple of reasons for Europe and a couple for Amsterdam. One is that we have been working with European clients for the past few years, so we think there are more and better opportunities to work with these clients if we are in the same time zone.


LY: Physical proximity then?

MM: It’s more about temporal proximity. People are used to work in globally dispersed teams. So we don’t have to be in the same city or country. But the temporal proximity becomes important because if we share the same working hours, we can get on the phone, collaborate, videochat, etc.


LY: And those channels are sufficient?

MM: They are not sufficient in themselves, but they are a requirement. Being in the same time zone makes it easier for us to work with clients and get better results. And in the end it is about better results.


When we looked in Europe, we looked at the work that was open to us, and we looked at the work we were doing in the US. We could see that the US, California in particular, really understands how to deliver great experiences through the web. And this is something we felt we could bring to the European market and through this improve the experience delivered through the web. At the same time, when looking at Europe, designers here really understand the mobile platform in a way that American designers haven’t quite got yet.


LY: Is there a reason for that?

MM: Here is my supposition. If you look at a country like Italy, the penetration of internet connections in the home is fairly low. But the penetration of 3G and smartphones is very high, both compared to the US as to the rest of Europe. I think people are skewed towards having their data connectivity through wireless platforms, so there’s more of an impetus to design for these platforms.


LY: This reminds me of Japan, since there e-mail is mostly used through mobile platforms and not through desktop ones.

MM: I think there is probably something about the cultures. There is more of being outside, people in Italy gather at a piazza, so it’s more of a mobile and social culture. In the US we have more of a heritage of the homestead. The early settlers, the pioneers who helped opening up the West, would stake out their homestead, their house and land, and would be self-reliant. I think the people in the US are more centered around the home than around the third place, probably in contrast to Europe or Italy.


So [red: come back to your original question] the reasons to be in Europe are to be closer to the people we are working with and to be able to share the best of we know how to do, and to learn what the people here know how to do.


LY: Do you think there’s a different of design between the US and Europe?

MM: There certainly is. A lot of design in the US is technologically-based and system orientated, because often there is a large system required to support a new technology. I think in the European design heritage there is a tremendous sensitivity for human systems. For example, there is a greater awareness for service design and its techniques here than in the US. When it comes to individual products, whether physical or digital, Europe has a slightly more artisan design heritage. I just came from Italy, and it definitely has such a heritage. This is excellent in certain respects, but it also means there is less focus on the system that the product lives in, and more focus on the product itself. Today products gain so much from being part of a network, whether it is a data network or a network of other products used in conjunction.


LY: Or services, such as Apple with iTunes or Nike+?

MM: Exactly. Multiple products that need to work together with some data connectivity and a business model behind them. Probably that’s a natural result of the technology focus and system orientation being more common in America.


LY: You are giving a keynote on The Web and Beyond conference, which has the theme of proximity. Can you tell us what your lecture is going to be about?

MM: [red: I will ] in a way that doesn’t give away too much. I think I am going to pose it more as some points or questions to think about. We started out talking about being close to our clients and the different types of proximity, such as geographic or in time. There are other dimensions of proximity. [thinking] I am not trying to give too much away. I think it’s worthwhile to think about what these different dimensions of proximity are, and also whether it is always better to be close for these different dimensions.