The answer is in your end user…not in you


Last night I had the privilege of attending Future of Design Thinking: a conversation with IDEO hosted by Design Victoria. The IDEO representatives, Arna Ionescu Domain Co-Lead Connected Health and Jose Colucci Health and Wellness Lead, discussed design thinking and how IDEO implement this within their organisation. This is the first in a yet unknown IDEO/ deisgn thinking series.

IDEO focus on human centred design which involves designing products with the user at the core of the process at all times. (Note: I know it sounds logical that the design process should always be focused in this way but surprisingly it is not.)

They come to each project with this:

People don’t do what THEY SAY they do
People don’t do what WE THINK they do
People don’t do what THEY THINK they do

Understanding and fulfilling this is critical to developing the best possible solution for the client. As it assumes that all participants in the design process bring their own personal bias and the end user are the best source of input. To illustrate this they told some telling and powerful stories (Dear IDEO, if you ever read this and I have gotten minor details wrong apologies)

Image: Grandma's hands by sparktography
Image: Grandma's hands by sparktography

People don’t do what THEY SAY they do
In Germany they were speaking to an elderly lady with rheumatoid arthritis. They asked her if she could remove the top from her medication bottle. She replied she could. To be sure they asked her again and she replied ‘Yes, it’s easy’. They asked a third time but this time ‘Can you show us how you open the bottle?’. ‘Of course’ she replied. The lady then got up from her chair, took the two gentleman to the kitchen, proceeded to turn on her domestic electric bread slicer (think circular saw, but smaller, embedded into the backsplash) and ‘sliced’ the cap from the bottle.

The moral of this story is: being in the natural environment with the end user allowed this conversation to progress to this demonstration, and the realisation of how people complete tasks. Jose Colucci said that if they had’ve been in a focus group situation and she answered yes, they would tick off the check box on the list. She could do it but not the way most people would assume…people don’t do what they say do.

Image sourced from IDEO website
Image sourced from IDEO website

People don’t do what WE THINK they do
IDEO designed the first defibrillator to be used by a lay person and approved by the appropriate authorities. IDEO were able to simplify the process to two steps – turn the machine on and then another button shock the body. However they found users did not like this – and wanted three steps – which is counter intuitive. IDEO introduced a false third step to the process and in testing discovered adding an extra step shaved a few seconds off the time for people to complete the process. Big difference when it comes to bringing someone back to life!

As professionals, it’s very easy to develop assumptions about our clients/ users/ customers. This is particularly prevelant the more experience we have with an organisation/ user group/ industry – we believe our experience provides enough knowledge of our clientele…but IDEO show that people do not do what we think they do (or want them to do).

Image: Opposite Day, courtesy of hartboy
Image: Opposite Day, courtesy of hartboy

People don’t do what THEY THINK they do
Okay…so this one is not and IDEO story, this one is mine…which some of you may have experienced. I have done a number of presentations in my time…and I am an extremely nervous presenter. I often am nauseous for at least a day before the actual event – even if its just a simple short talk, sweaty palms, racing heart, the whole kit! Because I felt like this I assumed that I presented like this also until I had was video taped presenting last year (very scary!). It turns out I turn my super power calm on, I don’t have any odd twitches, nudges, scratching, or stammers. I can even pace myself reasonably well. (I am not a great speaker by any means but I’m definitely not atrocious as I thought!). This is a perfect example of what goes on outside does not match at all the inside – I did not do what I thought I did.

From these three statements, it is easy to see how important it is to remove yourself from the process and heavily involve your end users in anything you create. Assumptions are very powerful in the way we conduct ourselves and our work – both our assumptions of the project, as well as personal assumptions of the clients and end users which are easy to go unnoticed, and which they may not realise exist! This is not just a lesson in talking and working with your end users, but knowing them, and teasing out the real solutions to the challenges and issues they face (some of which they may not even know about).

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