An Afternoon With Don Norman In Bengaluru

Are you building products for the everyday user? Is it becoming harder and harder to manage complexity while maintaining usability? How do you design a sustainable system for a complex multi-stakeholder environment? How do you teach a user to use your product with good design? How do you reinvent an established business model in light of rapidly evolving markets and technological possibilities? How do you design a product to be truly human-centric?

If any of these questions sound relevant to you, here’s an opportunity to seek answers on 22nd February in Bengaluru! 

About Don Norman

Dr Don Norman is a living legend of the design world having operated in the field for over 40 years. He has been Vice President of Apple in charge of the Advanced Technology Group and an executive at both Hewlett Packard and UNext (a distance education company). Business Week has listed him as one of the world’s 27 most influential designers. Dr Norman brings a unique mix of the social sciences and engineering to bear on everyday products. At the heart of his approach is human and activity-centred design, combining knowledge of cognitive science, engineering, and business with design.

Presently, he is Director of the recently established Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego where he is also professor emeritus of both psychology and cognitive science and a member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is also the co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centred products and services.


Don will share valuable insights about his interactions with Indian people, products and experiences.

Fireside Chat

An informal discussion with Don about his learnings and experiences spanning his long and illustrious career.

How to participate?

We’re inviting engineers, product managers, designers and everyone else who is building for large scale impact.

If you would like to further your understanding of human-centric design and hear straight from the horse’s mouth, please register here by 18th February. (An invite will be sent out to selected participants by 21st February)

iSPIRT Presents Poster Session & Product Discussion With Don Norman

Don Norman, the pioneer of design in the 21st century, is visiting India. Presenting you with an opportunity to engage with the living legend in a closed-door interaction where you can discuss your solution/product and get unbiased feedback on 20th February 2019 in Bengaluru. 

We’re looking for solutions in the social space that are building for the next 500 million in India.

About Don Norman

Don Norman is Director of the recently established Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego where he is also professor emeritus of both psychology and cognitive science and a member of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is the co-founder of the Nielsen Norman Group, an executive consulting firm that helps companies produce human-centered products and services. He is an honorary professor of Tongji University’s College of Design and Innovation (Shanghai). He serves as an advisor and board member of numerous companies and organizations. Norman has been Vice President of Apple in charge of the Advanced Technology Group and an executive at both Hewlett Packard and UNext (a distance education company).


Poster session  – Show us what you’re working on and how your solution is better in a poster format.

Product Teardown – Engage with Don over your product and discuss what you’re doing well and what can be done better.

If you are interested or know someone who would be interested in growing through this experience, please do register or help them register here by 15th February 2019. Since this is a curated event and there are limited seats we would request you to kindly apply at the earliest. (An invite confirmation will be sent shortly after registration)

For further query, you can write to us at [email protected]

Founders: you are not doing it right

I see a lot of founders requesting 15min time from me for quick advice. They are clear that it is not a funding pitch, but, more to get my opinion on some of their questions – is this a right market, whether idea has legs, customer size, product feedback, etc. Based on who is requesting, I tend to allocate time for few and discuss, which usually goes for 30min+. I know that 30min is not sufficient to give deep/quality actionable items, other than some calculated guesses based on what I would have heard. My worry with such meetings is that I am guessing and my comments may not be based on a lot of input data/context and may not be right for the startup. So, I usually put caveat to founders to validate and test before taking my ideas as it is. I also know that most of the founders ignore all the comments that were contracting to their current thoughts and move on to the next mentor.

I say the whole mentoring, where, mentors are spending less than few hours with founders is completely bogus. I am being on the board of many young startups, it takes lots of meetings to understand the contours of the idea, market, team, capability, and strategy. At most one can help is bit tactical, but, doesn’t change the outcome for the startup. If it is the case what should founders do?

Founders have two important things to do before they get into startup-mode: a) Deep understanding and building their point of view of the startup-model and b) Executing the startup with their understanding of the model.

I see that most of the founders don’t do (a) at all. They want to take as many shortcuts as possible by talking to other friends, founders, and not spend time required to dig deep and build their opinion and model of “what it takes to build a world-class startup/company”.

Knowing what I know, I would ignore every mentor, event, startup pitch session, hackathons. Instead, I will get an internet connection, a decent laptop, personal notebook and sit at a quiet coffee shop. Start researching on web on all the topics that matter. I would first figure out the most insightful writers of the topics that one has to research and read. The goal is to build a Point of View about your product/market/idea/hiring/pitching/scaling etc. that you are an expert and you are better than any average mentor.

Once the rules of the game/knowledge is gained, you would have built a framework of thinking about your startup. Then, get into execution mode. During this phase, you try to interact with mentors, pitch sessions, hackathons, and investors so that these interactions are meaningful and actionable.

Common Questions about Founders

Is there a right age to become an entrepreneur? Any age is a good age. The founders of Microsoft, Google, Facebook started their companies when they were very young. Steve Jobs, who founded Apple at an early age, continued to show amazing entrepreneurial capabilities in his second stint at Apple which began in his 50s. Young professionals in their twenties have amazing energy, and understand the pulse of today’s generation. They can conceive products that others with set thinking cannot. The young have no fear of failure. In the thirties, one has a good blend of work experience, drive, network of contacts and knowledge of the business. Those in the forties and fifties have significant experience, busi- ness connections, understanding of the market, and financial security to risk a start-up. A younger entrepreneur may be more hands-on and seek mentors to provide a guiding hand and connections. Someone older might operate more like a Chief Mentor and get a young, smart team to execute.

Is it necessary for an entrepreneur to have some experience? Is it better to get this at a small company or a big one? The right experience in technologies and domain related to your idea can be a significant advantage. Learning happens in any sized company. By working in an early stage company, you will have lived the pressures and dynamics of building a product ground-up. You understand the importance of being flexible and adapting the product based on early user inputs and competition. At a larger company, you will have experienced a mature organization structure, with different teams focused on specific objectives (engineering, support, sales, marketing and operations). You understand the importance of collaboration, brand building and continuous product innovation to stay ahead of the competition.

Should the founders develop a product related to their previous job? You must be very clear about the terms of the Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) signed with your previous employers. Any work, including, but not limited to research, algorithms and source code, that you did for your employers, belongs to them. Even information such as client and employee lists, salaries, contracts, is con- sidered highly confidential. When you exit the company, do not take away anything related to work, whether in printed or electronic form. If you are a relatively senior person in the company, and start a new endeavour in the same space, your previous employer may keep a close watch. This is especially true if your company becomes their competitor. It is best to pick an area that leverages your technical expertise, but is in a different space from your previous company. Maintain a document that is a dated record of how you conceived and built the product. This will enable you to file for patents or contest any legal challenge. NDAs generally restrict any solicitation of employees for at least one year. If several founders worked in the same company, ensure that you did proper suc- cession planning and your exits were non-disruptive. It is best to maintain good relationships with your previous employer. They are part of your professional network, and they could come handy in the future.

Does it help if the founders have worked together for some time? This can be a significant asset. You will have experienced pressure situations together, and learnt to understand each other’s approach and thinking. There is mutual trust and no ego issues. It is good if the founders have relatively complimentary skills and temperaments, but with shared vision and ideals.

Is it okay to include family members amongst the founders or the key team? It depends on whether you want to build a professional organization or a family run business. If the former, any relation or friend should be included purely on merit, meeting the same criteria that you would have from any other founder or hire. Involving a close family member or friend has its merits and pitfalls. A significant advantage is that you know the person, perhaps share a close bond, and have mutual confidence. However, family members and close friends often have in-built expectations from each other. These may be in conflict with deci- sions that need to be taken for the benefit of the organization. At times, other employees may perceive, rightly or wrongly, that family members were granted extra privileges or favours. While many successful companies have been founded by related individuals, there are equally spectacular examples of feuds in family owned companies.

Should the founders and initial team work from a founder’s home? Working from home is fine in the initial days while the prototype is being built. It helps if part of the home can be set up as a small office. However, it is best to shift to an office once there are more than 3-4 people. Working in a start-up means long hours and stress, and separating home from office is important. Home should be a place where you can unwind and leave the cares of work behind.

Reprinted from From Entrepreneurs to Leaders by permission of Tata McGraw-Hill Education Private Limited.