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  • Writer's pictureDavid Gaudet

Facebook's Obsession with Design

The creativity competency is all about solving old problems in new ways. Its more academic label, design thinking, walks us through an actual process to arrive at these new ways, starting with empathizing, followed by defining, ideating, prototyping and testing. Without consciously thinking through these steps, successful entrepreneurs arrive at a solution to a “people problem”, which is the essence of marketing.

For larger organizations, entire teams are devoted to creating solutions to customer pain points, in a constant state of iterations and improvements. We see this prominently with the never ending "versionizing" of something like the iPhone, but “new and improved” has been around since the dawn of humankind. It's in us to make ourselves better. Big tech companies, whose product is essentially data and information management, seem particularly adept at this, but then, they kinda have to be. We, their users, lose our minds if things don’t process, sort and present within microseconds. So a lot of what they do is non-cosmetic and largely unbeknownst to us. But when they come up with a visible enhancement that truly shows they “get us”, it is a sight to behold, if only for that microsecond, before we move on, or scroll aimlessly up or down our screen. But I’d like to pause here and celebrate one little delight I love that demonstrates this idea of empathy in design thinking. And in a way it shows how empathy – the effortful exploration of what a user experiences – really is the origination of the end goal of design thinking, which is to enhance lives, even in small incremental ways.

My case study here is a little company called Facebook, and its micro enhancement is is happening within the chatbot of its Marketplace platform - the Marketplace Assistant. Full disclosure, I haven’t exactly been an early adopter of Facebook’s Marketplace, opting instead to pin my hopes of selling our unwanted shit on Kijiji. But after being coaxed by several friends and family members, I took the plunge and now wonder what took me so long. One of the things that makes Marketplace better is this AI driven assistant. While it seems to annoy a lot of folks, I am quite happy to read its well timed, well intentioned tips and tricks. It’s a chat bot with actual substance and relevance, rather than one of intrusion and annoyance.

Again, I’m late to the party here, so you’ll forgive me if what I’m revealing is yesterday’s news, but the point is to show an example of the creativity competency in action, by one of the biggest companies in the world. It is the actual function of understanding user or customer pain points, and finding ways to reduce or eliminate the pain. For me, selling on Kijiji always meant a lot of guess work, and sort of being left on my own. The only way it offers to help involves spending more money - more reach in exchange for premium pricing. Facebook’s marketplace assistant offers data driven pricing tips, communication suggestions, and even targeting strategies. Make no mistake, Facebook does nothing that isn’t somehow connected to its own bottom line, but it understands that bottom line results aren’t always correlated to transactions. With Facebook EVERYTHING comes down to us spending time on it. And so constantly keeping its UX in Marketplace improving means more time spent.

The person steering this part of Facebook’s master plan is Manohar Paluri, the company’s Director of AI. “We want to make anything and everything on the platform shoppable, whenever the experience feels right,” he told The Verge magazine last year, “It’s a grand vision.” (Vincent, 2020)

Facebook makes an easy target for our contempt. Some of it justified. But we use it, despite our disdain, and with disregard for our caution. And we do this because of one thing. Convenience. Facebook makes connecting, updating, informing and selling – convenient. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to deny its commitment to creativity or design thinking.

But to dive deeper into Facebook’s embracement of design thinking is to witness a cultural obsession. The company’s Think Kit platform literally provides online design thinking curriculum, aimed at Facebook business partners, which, at some level, includes regular peeps like you and me selling our used furniture on Marketplace. This is a fascinating peak behind the curtain of Facebook. It continues to build an ecosystem expanding into places we would never have imagined it going. In this case deepening its footprint as a business advisor. Facebook Consulting Group anybody? The home page of Facebook’s Think Kit reads, “A toolkit for rapid collaboration, ideation and problem-solving across teams” (Facebook, 2021) Again, you don’t need to like him, but it’s hard to overlook the ambition of Zuck.

For most of us more human earthly inhabitants, with valuations somewhat less than a trillion dollars, we have to work a little harder at cutting our creative chops. Here are a few creativity actions from my book, designed for easy application into everyday life, in the hopes of making us all a little more aware of that creativity competency we all possess, but all too rarely access. Best Wishes at Being Better at Creativity… Dave

  1. Improvise: Take a set of instructions you follow routinely to perform a task. Add, delete, modify, or re-sequence the steps to seek a more efficient and/or enjoyable process.

  2. Splash: What can you experiment with today where the mess you make is actually part of the innovation? Jump in that puddle.

  3. Expand: Devise ideas to expand your sphere and force discomfort. If nothing seems uncomfortable, decide to do something you once rejected because of a lack of time, wisdom or perspective.

References Facebook. (2021, August 28). Think Kit. Retrieved from Facebook For Business: Vincent, J. (2020, May 19). Tech. Retrieved from The Verge:

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