Thursday, June 07, 2012

Design thinking: You must observe well!

The Wall Street Journal has several good articles about design thinking today. The article notes that anthropological observation of customers in their natural setting is a key phase of the design thinking process. What the article doesn't say is that firms have to distinguish between effective and ineffective observation. What must you worry about when conducting observations? First and foremost, you have to protect against confirmation bias. You have to avoid allowing predispositions to cloud your interpretations of what you are seeing. That is why you should not observe alone. Always go in pairs or trios. Then compare notes. In addition, take lots of photos and videos if possible. Then you can show your colleagues back at the office what you saw. They don't see through your filter. They see the raw data. Finally, pick your observation sites carefully. Watch for selection bias. Are you seeing something typical or not. Of course, sometimes we learn from extreme cases, but we must acknowledge and understand that it is an extreme case!

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