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 Warmer ‘Embrace’, BMW convertible ‘Wind 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!
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