Just had a very insightful meeting with Jeneanne Rae. Jeneanne has been in the Design Thinking field since before it was called Design Thinking. She was hired by David Kelley at IDEO to help grow the business integration part of that company as an MBA and a significant part of the growth into the company that they are today. Since leaving IDEO, she has been working as a consultant to fortune 500 companies in the area of Service Design.
She regularly speaks at conferences and is an ongoing contributor to BusinessWeek. She drinks dark roast coffee with both cream and sugar.
The majority of our time was focused on the best practices to involve End Users in the Service Design process. One of the hallmarks of Design Thinking is breaking away from the “stakeholders only” mentality where insiders decide what they believe is needed, and then create and roll out the service or product. To be truly effective, the process must include regular involvement and feedback from those who will actually use the services (Users).
There are 3 key times for End Users to be involved:
- When you are doing your initial research into the “problem” that you are solving (your service proposition)
- When you are prototyping your services – BEFORE you implement
- Immediately after implementation – to make sure that you are actually solving the problem.
Let’s go deeper into each of those.
1. When you are researching. There are two segments of research. One is hard data collection (demographics, market analysis, etc) and the other is live data. This is the data you collect when you send people out into the field to watch real End Users as they interact with the elements of your service proposition. For example- if you are working on a concept that involves online banking, you would sit with them as they use whatever online banking system they already have. You would also spend time watching people who do not use online banking and see where their pressure points and pleasure points emerge. In addition, you would also take the time to ask questions about their experience and learn why they made the choices they did. You may discover (as one insurance company has advertised) that sometimes they want to speak to a real person, other times they don’t.
2. When you are prototyping. Remember that there are countless opportunities to come up with the wrong solution during this entire process. One of those wrong ways is by providing a solution that is unattainable or undesirable for Users. It could be the “feature creep” syndrome that plagues many tech products. The User says “I just want to be able to turn the TV on and off, change the volume and the channels. Why do I need 100 tiny buttons on my remote?” The tech guy responds “Let me show you. We have given you the ability to connect to and navigate your Blu Ray player, your home media server, and your Netflix/online accounts, we have integrated social media so you and your friends or followers can share favorite movies and or online content, AS WELL AS the ability to control the sound settings for your room based upon the media source AND the number of people currently in the room. Isn’t that awesome!?” User – “But I can’t find the power button.”
The service industry has done the same thing. Think Voice Mail Directory
3. When you are evaluating. After so much time and energy has been put into a project, it is easy to loose sight of the actual goal. Many companies get excited about the “Launch Date” of a product or service, and mark that on the calendar as the end of the project. DON’T DO THAT! Send your people back out into the field and watch End Users interact with your service to make sure it is doing what you intended.
Another side benefit is that you may discover they have found additional ways to use your service other than what you intended. This has the potential to open up new markets and services for your company. Twitter started as a quick SMS for coworkers to tell each other what they were doing – “eating pizza, reading the DesignThinkingBlog, and thinking we need to hire this guy“, but became an integral part of the international news gathering platforms. I promise you, they did not see that one in product planning.
As Jeneanne points out, always take at least two people into the field. That way one can watch, wonder and ask questions while the other takes pictures, video and notes.
Involving the End Users can take more time, can involve more work and may make the process more complex. Not involving them can make it fail.