User Needs Inception

Skill theme: 
Strategic Direction
Strategic Direction

We first seed user needs into the larger organization when others are involved in working directly with the data: from User Interview all the way to Sensemaking Workshop. As insight is refined into Conceptual Model or the well-structured models—Service Blueprint, User Personas, Journey Map, Jobs to be Done—its leverage in product and service design depend on how accepted these models are, how well-understood they are by the larger team or organization. It takes active effort and attention to "incept" these user needs into the broader organization.

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The challenge

Good work does not stand on its own outside of the team directly involved—everyone who has not been along on the process will not immediately see whatever value or opportunity you understand as a result of research efforts. It is no small task to build day-to-day awareness of user needs in an organization beyond the teams involved directly in research, or on front-line; but this awareness is necessary to create broad momentum out of research results.

The default state of business-as-usual in many organizations is not one that easily accepts new perspectives. Results from small-scale studies fade in relevance not too long after the study occurs. Very few have time to read your report, especially if it's unclear up front how it may be helpful for their own work. The elegance of a good model is easily understood by those who participate in developing it; it is quickly lost on those who are only afforded surface engagement.

The approach

Consider that it can take months to instill a coherent understanding within an organization. It is never possible for the rest of the team to understand what you’ve learned as deeply as you do. Decode organizational culture: teams have their own patterns and rhythms of communication, information flows and sticks in specific ways. 

Therefore, identify the core insight the larger team needs to build on and align on, and who all will benefit from understanding it. Articulate, for each intended audience, what framing that group needs to best make use of what you’ve uncovered. Plan a campaign of conversation, reporting, and presentation that will ensure core team members are exposed to the crucial ideas in multiple times and multiple ways. Repeat the message, and call back to it in each presentation or conversation where applicable. Pay attention to how the team receives this message, and how they understand it. Follow-up with individual conversations to understand how your insights, and their implications, are being interpreted. Adjust the message as appropriate.

Expect this effort to take months at minimum. You will know you’ve succeeded when members of the organization have incorporated the message into their own work. In meetings, unprompted, they speak about user insights in the words you’ve used repeatedly, or draw and work with the simple models you’ve continually framed.

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This larger effort hinges on Effective Reporting in multiple contexts. Useful opportunities and success stories built off of the work are  fodder for Research Evangelization. Widely accepted models open the door to Front-Line Collaboration with teams who can benefit from and build value into your work, and provide a strong basis for developing Product & Design Strategy and Product Roadmap.

Last updated:
Apr 28, 2020 19:26


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Data from our 2019 workshops - 486 research practitioners voting on their top three useful skills / top three desired skills.
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