In the sixth How to Think Like a Designer class, Barry lead a discussion of the user research exercise that we participated in last week. We broke into teams of 2 and took turns interviewing each other about our work environment. We then identified key issues and brainstorm solutions. Some of the insights that came from the discussion of the exercise:
Be attentive to something that doesn’t fit. There's a tendency is to ignore the anomaly. It’s often the incongruous bits of data that that yield the greatest insights.
Make the most of your constraints. In class, we weren’t able to observe our partner in their work environment and we had limited time to conduct the interview. This is similar to real world professional practice, which is always constrained by time, money, technology. How do you know when you’ve dug deep enough? When you run out of time, money and/or technology (because technology is not available or does not exist). User research/interviews are a scalable procedure which can be applied over and over again throughout the course of the project.
Reframe the problem statement to discover the true issues Designers want to to be asked “what is your point of view on a wall?”, not “here’s a pile of bricks, build us a wall”. The danger of just building a wall without questioning why is that the solution may really be a window, not a wall. Around 2006, the DOE (Department of Energy) came to IDEO with a problem/question: why don’t Americans care about energy efficiency? User interviews turned into an inquiry into values which lead to the discovery: it’s not that Americans don’t care about energy efficiency, they just care about other things more – aesthetics (appearance of house and the appliances in it) and the safety and comfort of themselves and their family. The real challenge facing the DOE was to create energy efficient solutions that align with American values. The starting question presumed a set of values that was not correct. Read more about IDEO's process and solution here.