Empathy, Research, and Documentation

Mutates mutandis : don't be a sophomore!

Why? Learning goals here. At the end of this week you have a milestone and one of your objectives is to have a plan for researching during phase 2. And at the end of that phase the milestone includes a presentation of your revised problem 0.2. Your presentation will be graded on the basis of how much things have moved, how much smarter about the problem you seem to be at that point.

First, take a few moments to think about what "research" means and jot down your definition.


Now, thinking about your own team's project, if your were us - that is, if you were the rest of our firm - what would you want to know before committing a bunch of our company's resources? No buzz words, please.


Back to basics. OR don't skip the basics.

Do you remember an article you read your first semester called "Is it real? Can we win? Is it worth doing?"? Chat with your table mates about what you remember about that article.

Let's focus on "is it real?" What did it mean? Two things: is the technology real, yes. But also, is there actually a market out there? People who want what you will produce? Who can and will pay what you need to charge? Who can be reached and turned into adopters by marketing.

Raising this question points toward one of the three circles in the design thinking Venn diagram … SKETCH IT: DESIRABILITY.

The user. Even if you don't think of yourself as an IDEOesque human centered designer you can do a lot worse than starting with a focus on whom you are designing for.

DO IT NOW: Who is it? Name her! Spend some time on it. Who are the humans you are designing for?

But do not just think. Observation. Field work. Interview. Listen.

Even if this is something you have been thinking about for years, go back to basics as you start this process.

In most of your proposals there is a "posit" line where you assert that some need exists. How well founded that is varies a lot.

In this first phase, job one is to find out demonstratively that the need exists. Or rather, to find out what the real need that's hovering around the one you asserted is.

It's too easy to ape the business creation process putting together a deck, evaluating technologies, thinking about a business model, talking to funders, lawyers, and accountants, all sorts of things that make you feel like a grown up innovator.

But don't forget the basics and that includes starting the process with research, research that is bullishly human centered.

Don't tell me people like to cook and are frustrated by dull knives. Or that car enthusiasts weep over parts buying. Or that elected officials are dying to have some digitally mediated version of their constituents' opinions. Or that pro-zoo attitudes are under threat. Or that people are hungry for smart homes. Or that Indy musicians would kill for a better booking platform. Or that what the world needs is a trusted information source or an easier way to learn how to write video games.

Show us.

Document this need. Talk to real people. Talk to the ones least likely to confirm your biases. Listen most carefully to the ones who think you are wrong. Collect quotes. Collect observations. Count things. Always be on the lookout for the denominator.

"Lots of people." Lots out of how many?

Exercise 1.

Groups of four teams. Remind people of you 3 word tweet version (what you wrote - no ad libbing or improvising or explaining.

A and B on C, C and D on A. Then B and C on D, D and A on B.

Cards with ABCD at each table.

Explain task
Target groups reprise their titles
4-5 minutes to brainstorm
2-5 minutes for first reading. Share top ten.
2-5 minutes for second reading.

Target groups reprise their titles
4-5 minutes to brainstorm
2-5 minutes for first reading
2-5 minutes for second reading.

Exchange papers.

Round one. Who are they. What is there problem? and what do they need? Variations. Ways they would not put it.
Round two. Ten questions for team after they have done their research. That is, things you would expect them to have found out.
Round three. IDEO methods cards.
Round four. Fill out there lean canvas.

Hand out methods cards

Same groups and set up but this time each person sketches how target could use that method and what it would help them find out.


Reshuffle teams.

Same pattern but this time other teams fill in elements of your lean canvas

Who are they. What is there problem? and what do they need?

What else has been tried?

Why might this be successful?

What would you want to know about the problem before committing a bunch of our firm's resources? Name five things.

The three words in the title sound pretty good together, but why this triad? Here's the short version: empathy, of which we speak so often, is too easily conceptualized as a character trait you should cultivate. It's not, it's a verb. Let me say that again, empathy is a verb: EMPATHY - to pay deep attention to the world outside yourself. OK, that's not an official definition. But the point is worth making - empathy is something you do not something you are.

And we are going to mean it in a most general sense - taking in the outside world of others. Or just getting outside yourself and your world. And how do we do that? Research. The first divergent phase of the design thinking process. Ask questions of the world. Bring what you learn back to your team and share. Hence our third word, document.

Research in the design process is different from research in science or research in writing a book or term paper.

For one the shape of the unknown differs (DJR - how do you mean this? Work on explaining).

Especially if we are more than a one person team, but even if we are working alone, the research process consists of two "moves" - the first is finding out and the second is the download. If several of us are on a team we may split the research task up, each, exploring a part of the world. But we do not aim to become spatial specialists. Instead, we have a deliberate and self-conscious process of downloading our data to one another. This means more than just sharing a document or writing a report for one another. It means paying attention to how we document what we learn in our research and how we process it and combine it and share it with one another.

The goal, after the download, is that all team members have the benefit of everyone's research.

Consider the old standard graphic design quartet, C.R.A.P., contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity. How might these be deployed in connection with the research phase.

Contrast: putting cases next to one another to identify what makes one tick, one different.
Repetion: keep asking people until you aren't getting new information.
Alignment: ask everyone the same thing. Build a cases by variables matrix. The Grid.
Proximity: arrange things in attribute spaces.

Research phase as being structured by divergence and then converge. Find out what you don't know that you don't know. Find out what you don't know (as in answering questions).

Building research thoughts around : is it real, can we win, is it worth doing?

Each question has inside and outside:

Question Inside Outside
Is it real? Is the product real? Is there market (desirability and feasible - are there people who will pay for this?)
Can we win? Do we have what we need to pull this off? What resources (money, time, expertise, equipment) would we need? Can we get them? How is this thing going to compete with what is out there or what will emerge?
Is it worth doing? What does the risk/reward situation look like? Does it behoove us strategically? Will we learn things we can use in the rest of our operation?

The last one might be tied to research on the question of what else we could do with the knowledge we are developing? Partly a matter of pivots we know about.

Big Point: Talk about what a research plan might look like. Pyramid. If you only have time to look into one thing? What order? HOw to avoid a sort of

Relating feasible/desirable/viable to real/win/worthwhile.

real is there a demand (desirable)
real does tech exist (feasible)
win can we do it (feasible)
win in the market (viable)
worthwhile risk/reward (desirable for us?)
worthwhile strategy (viable)

Specific research question genres associated with each of the above.

I HAVE THREE WEEKS. I can deploy about 72 person hours.
Desirability:Does solution fill a documentable need? What value does it add to the world? Will it fit in user's lives? Will they want to try it? Will they want to adopt it? If they try it, will they "see" why?1

Feasibility: Does the technology exist? Can we get it/learn it/use it? Can we do it in the time allotted? Does our team have the wherewithal? Is execution reasonable to expect from us?

Viability: Does this solution align with kinds of things we want to be doing? Our strategy or our business goals? Does the solution fit in the resource space available? Does ROI make this something more than a demonstration or proof of concept?

Keep in mind why we are doing this. We want to avoid things like:

Spending hundreds of hours on an app that nobody wants
Crafting a solution that costs more than the user is willing or able to spend
Creating a strategy that the client cannot sustain
Building something that cannot be built within the available resource frame.

What is the denominator?

How many Spieces are there?

Where does my thing rest within a taxonomy.

Who does science on this (matt Damon scene from The Martian)

My project is a special case of …

Because my project is a special case of … I need to learn a thing or two about …

Even though you are an Academy golden child, you need to know some stuff before experts are willing to talk to you and before you can get anything out of it.

The world is full of name dropping wannabes. Don't be one.

Muttis mutandis

Show my perspective slide.

Research as divergent. Your mission in phase two is to redefine the problem based on research. At milestone 2 you will present your revised problem proposal to faculty panel.

For milestone 1 you need a research plan for getting to that point.

We caution you about the tendency to be so enamored of a solution that your creativity is all being spent trying to manufacture a problem.

What problem are you trying to solve? You have to be open to the possibility that you will discover the best solution is not the one you are currently thinking about.


Brainstorm 20 researchable questions about the desirability of the thing. But start with a design challenge version of the project, for example, I'm going to make something for people who want to or might maybe want to design there own video games or for people who use knives while cooking or who travel with babies or worry that the fashion industry is bad on sustainability or who might be intrigued by a new genre of graphic novel.

And here's a way to describe what we mean by researchable question:

How would you find out how/whether X?
How many of X are Y?
How do X think about Y?
Who are these people?
How will you find out what their pain points really are?

The rule is they have to be about the people for whom you are designing. Ask hard skeptical questions.

Exercise #2

There is in almost everyone's proposal already an implied solution, a preferred technology. Now we want you to brainstorm questions that will help the team research whether that's the technology or medium that is best suited to the problem.

Research questions about feasibility.
Is it real technologically?

Exercise #3

What is the problem and who has it?

If you take a more IDEOesque approach, the first step after accepting an innovation challenge

Frame your design challenge http://www.designkit.org/methods/60

Keep people at the center of your designhttp://www.designkit.org/methods#filter

Methods. http://www.designkit.org/methods

Sent from string-and-tin-can-thingie…

How to Think about What You Don't Know

What Does a Research Plan Look Like?

Empathy is a Verb

Research as Finding Out

Documentation for Discovery, Transparency, and Reliability

Two Takes on Empathy

See also Cleveland Clinic's "Patients: Afraid and Vulnerable" and "Cleveland Clinic Culture"

Empathy is a Verb

Empathy as core idea in human centered design

"Empathy" is a hot concept these days. It is a core piece in design thinking and human centered design. In these it is often categorized as a component in the "inspiration" phase of the process. The idea is that empathy is getting ideas from and about your users and we want to emphasize that the design process should be grounded in that. And we usually mean obtaining those ideas by actually listening to and watching those users, not just conjuring them up our heads.


But the term can also refer to a component of our intuition, the act of "taking the role of the other" enough to imagine a solution to a problem she faces.

# What do we mean?
# What aspects of the process does it refer to?
# What are we trying to accomplish?

  1. Empathy as emotion, character type, or action?
  2. Practice
    1. Asking questions
      • What? How? Why?
      • Grand tour questions - take me through your day
      • Tell me more. How did that feel? What were you thinking?
    2. Learning to listen
    3. Learning to see
    4. A quiver of actual techniques

Research as Finding Out

  1. Empirical vs. theoretical vs. moral questions
  2. Primary, secondary, tertiary research
  3. Varieties of scientific method
  4. Research design

What produces good information

  1. Confounds
  2. Sampling
    1. Randomization, selection effects, the denominator problem
  3. Measurement
    1. Conceptualization and validity
    2. Operationalization
    3. Accuracy, Precision, Reliability
    4. Types of measurement

Documentation for Discovery, Transparency, and Reliability

  1. Citing sources
  2. The lab notebook
  3. Reproducibility


  1. label experience/thoughts/feelings in video of users

Dumall, María Jiménez 2017. "Empathy Maps" (3:24)
María Jiménez Dumall

  1. Intellectual understanding of concept, its relationship to sympathy, range of meanings.
  2. Understanding of place of empathy in design thinking
  3. Understanding what we mean by empathy as a verb
  4. Can create an empathy map
  5. Can design and carry out an "empathy exercise" appropriate to different kinds of projects
  6. Understands connections between "empathy" and research methods and data analysis
  7. Understands and makes habit of good documentation practices in connection with empathy and research