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Forget ‘User Research …..’ – It is Waste of Time!


The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Bangalore had organized a symposium / panel discussion on ‘New Design Perspectives’on 23rd last week.  I had the privilege of being a presenter/panel member for the Design Thinking topic.  (Incidentally if you are a user of any of the Top Fashion Brands in the world, it is quite likely that it is coming from the Designers graduated from this Institution.  Yes!  … You guessed it right … outsourced completely for the brand … end-to-end … insights to realization!)

A common and critical topic in the Design process, agreed across the panel members is ‘User Research driven Insights’.  The 6 person panel is a constellation of a Product Designer, an Artist in Fine Arts, a Design Thinker (that was me!), an Urban Designer, a User Experience Designer, a Fashion Designer and an Architect. 


Each one of us had 20 minutes to present our perspectives followed by a panel discussion.  What can you expect in such an eclectic mix of diverse panel members?  Great stories, with wonderful insights and therefore inspiring solutions!  Admiration and respect was mutual for each of their work.

Great thoughts from great Designers –

Here are some of my notes of some of the more memorable comments from my fellow panelists:

“I am an observer from heart and I can keep watching a cat, the fingers, a twig, the clouds in the sky, the waves in the sea…and sometimes weird and sometimes not so beautiful visuals, maybe awkward things…for as long as time permits. For me observation is the key… and everything about art that we want to know… is already there in nature” – Soman, the Artist.

“Our portable ECG product and App design enable the users and caregivers to instantly read anomalies and connect up to the cardiologist.  Speed in taking corrective action, easy to use diagnostics at any place and anywhere, instant reporting of test results were some key insights derived from behavior research with patients, doctors, care givers and equipment manufacturers”Makarand, the Product Designer.

“In a large metro with 10 million people of varied demographics, the Bangalore Transport Authority with its diverse fleet for different destinations had a big challenge.  How can the commuters easily identify their bus for their specific destination ahead of some distance and board it without any hassle and assistance?  (Peace and Happiness follows!).  Observation of different kinds of people – what they see, how they see, what they make of it? Engaging with them – asking them – like they ask others for assistance in their language, Immersion – looking for a bus – like them – understand and feel like them!  Decipher their unarticulated needs! Many commuters today in Bangalore do not know whom to thank for making this experience as easy and delightful that can be!”  That was Shyam, User Experience Designer.

“How might you create a futuristic campus of pride from an existing old factory (25 years) without disturbing its current operations, and expand their production capacity four times, world class in nature and completely environment friendly?  Isn’t this problem wicked enough?  Blending the insights from employees and stakeholders about their work, pride and aspirations, analogous research on Art and Theatres along with the landscape and contours of the place gave birth for a proud campus” – Sujay, Architect

I presented about the Baby WarmerEmbrace, BMW convertibleWind Experience and ‘HPIs Airport Security, Safety and Efficiency” challenges, that all had the focus on User Research – understanding, observation, immersion, interviewing  – followed by derivation of relevant insights for understanding and solving wicked problems.  Also to innovate for better future!

Dsn thinking2.JPG

Are these innovations coming from stated needs? Insights which are deeprooted (unmet and unarticulated) would not have surfaced if it was just a secondary (desk) research or with brainstorming without the real users in context. This skill does not come easily and that makes the difference between a good and a great Designer/DT practitioner.

I bet you would violently (and silently) agree that User Research and Insights for wicked problems are critical in Design Thinking.  It was nice and reassuring to hear the same from these diverse panel members.  Do you think ‘User research driven Insights’ … is a Waste of Time?  Don’t you think Design Thinking is a serious (and fun) business? 

If you want be a great Violinist or a great Soccer player, or a great SAP Consultant/ Developer/ Architect, there are no short cuts, and it applies to Design Thinking skills as well! Welcome to the Club!

About the author:

Lakshman (Lucky) is the Chief Consultant with the Services Innovation and Design Thinking Center of Excellence in SAP Services. Lucky is an Innovation and Design Thinking practitioner and evangelist. He runs/facilitates end-to-end Design Thinking projects for SAP customers and SAP Development to address a variety of business problems. He supports the advanced DT skills enablement for SAP developers and consultants across SAP. Lucky teaches Strategy, Innovation and Design Thinking at premier business schools in India and at the HPI d.School at Potsdam.

Follow Lucky @lakshmanps

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      Author's profile photo Deepa Iyer
      Deepa Iyer

      Hi Lucky,

      Thanks for emphasizing the very important aspect of "Research" in DT projects! absolutely agree with you- Research is critical to DT.

      Stakeholders and participants are sometimes reluctant to allocate time for observation, interviews, immersion and understanding- they indeed think it is WOT. However, when they do immerse, they often uncover unmet/unarticulated needs leading to solutions that solve real problems as opposed to perceived problems.

      It would be great if you could share your definition/perspective of an insight!



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Deepa.  More to come in the near future, including your asking!

      Best, Lucky

      Author's profile photo Lakshmi Sankaran
      Lakshmi Sankaran

      Hi Lucky

      thanks for sharing the experience. I liked the prototype to design view depicted.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Lakshmi. I wish you can share your project experiences here as well!

      Author's profile photo Custodio de Oliveira
      Custodio de Oliveira


      Are all this tags really related to the blog post or you use them just to appear in searches? Also, if you are not a sapmentor you should not use this tag, right?



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi... that was a mistake.  Removed it now. Cheers! Lucky

      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      Great post Lucky. Thanks for sharing.

      In the context of improving the user experience design of software we continuesly have to argue to gain the access to do a propper end-user research. the dynamics around that are not to be underestimated and it's a professional skill to set it up.

      the good news, we are making progress. for our projects the idea of engaging the end-users becomes less and less a scarry thought for the IT departments. and we can almost take a firm position "if we cannot include and engage end-users, we may not run this project' 🙂



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Heike... this is the turn around time and I can see with some customers that is happening now.  Best, Lucky

      Author's profile photo Chandan Veerabhadra Setty
      Chandan Veerabhadra Setty

      Good Post Lucky. After reading the heading I thought definitely there will be something positive about user research 🙂 . You have nailed it.

      Thanks for the writing.



      Author's profile photo Jayananda A Kotri
      Jayananda A Kotri

      Hi Lucky,

      Thank you for sharing the article. I agree that user research is the critical foundation for DT and along with brainstorming makes a big difference to the outcome.

      Best Regards,


      Author's profile photo Arvind Kumar Tiwari
      Arvind Kumar Tiwari

      Hi Lucky,

      Great article.



      Author's profile photo Karthikeyan P
      Karthikeyan P

      Hi Lucky,

      Fantastic  summary indeed. The new learning from here is that even the designers in other parallel but distinct fields are using user research to a great extent.

      Warm Regards, Karthi

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great Post Lucky

      To quote Charles Eames" The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful

      host anticipating the needs of his guests."

      UR as a tool really helps the designer to enter the world of end user as a tourist, understand their context, make meaning & come out  with an understanding of what they need.

      As you rightly mentioned its a skill which enables one to make meaning out of abstraction and  more one practice better he/she become good at it.



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Lucky,

      Have always had this thought deep down ( almost like a gut feeling ) that user-research isn't the end-all and a designer's intuition plays a big role,  but material floating around made me think that I probably was wrong. Your article makes me realize that I wasn't 🙂 . Thanks!



      Author's profile photo Nandeesha M
      Nandeesha M

      Hi Lucky,

      Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to see more such posts in the future 🙂


      Nandeesha. M

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Very good case studies. Thanks for sharing.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hello Lucky,

      A great post on the emphasis of User Research. DT being a very collaborative process, I think its important that different members (design/business/execution) of the team also need to wear the hat of a user researcher (and not just the core 'design researcher' team member). It allows to bring a varied context of the user behaviour which making the insights a lot richer.