This post is about my insights on Class One of the Human Centred Design for Social Innovation class I’m currently taking by IDEO and +Acumen.
The mini design thinking challenge for this class is about “Designing a Better Commute.”
To summarise, here are my key takeaways for Class 1:
- Interview outside your circle, and interview a variety of people. Interviewing your friends might lead to the same insights as yourself. Listen to differing ideas, it is where you can gain insights. What seems normal for you would be an insight to another person.
- Always leave time for fun. Follow your scripts to have a direction in the interview process, but always leave time for adhoc conversations outside the scope.
- Never forget to ask: Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Five times.
- If you can’t always disengage yourself from your assumptions, then you can always tell yourself to remain silent and just listen. It can surprise you.
Dropping All Assumptions To Truly Ideate
The four of us in the group, Sam, Felix, JB and me, are all motorists from Metro Manila. Recently traffic in the Metro has turned from bad to worse due to road projects happening simultaneously all over the city. This, coupled with a poor public transportation system, inefficient road planning, and accidents happening due to regulators’ negligence, have inspired a slew of articles from thought leaders on what needs to be changed. This is the perspective by which we as individuals are approaching the challenge.
It was hard to separate from this mind set. Majority of the questions asked by the group looked at the problem from a big picture standpoint. The focus was to move the situation from its current version to an ideal version. This was bad because the solutions we came up with were not within our capability to execute. In retrospect, we could have worked with the real situation, and identified pain points the interviewee’s/motorists encountered daily aside from the traffic and address them.
One way we can mitigate having only one viewpoint in this situation is to interview again, and interview more people, and iterate on the interview questions, especially if there were only two people in the group. Of course, this could be offset by having group members with differing backgrounds asking different questions. But since this was a practice session within our group, this limitation is expected to occur.
Listening and Remaining Silent
On my part, because this is a topic where everyone can be considered experts in the field (everyone drove a car, the group also unanimously agreed that the solution we are aiming for cater to people who drive), I found it challenging not to add personal insights and experiences while interviewing Sam.
I was able to hold back in colouring the interview with my opinions, but when we were sharing prototypes and Sam was explaining how she came up with her prototype, I was not able to hold back in cutting through her explanation and adding on top of what she said.
There are two ways to look at it: it was bad because I pushed my agenda ahead the person speaking, but it was also good in that context because that’s how I arrived at my Aha moment.
Balancing Interview and Casual Conversations Leads to Insights
Having to follow the guide did not necessitate free-flowing dialogue. Working within the guidelines, the group’s atmosphere was professional. Although everyone tried to be helpful and offer a lot of ideas, it was hard not to feel a bit awkward talking about something as trivial as a daily commute in a very detailed manner. When we moved to having fun and joking around, and having a dialogue, a lot of the things that were omitted because it was too trivial came out. That also led to many insights.
One point to ponder is do we have to strictly follow the process? Or maybe we can follow it but always leave some time for deviation and just relaxed off-the-record sharing. After going through the second reading, the awkwardness probably also stemmed out from the interviewers not warming the interviewees enough.
If you’re wondering, my Aha moment insight is: for people who are in a hurry, and eat food in the car, they need a way to keep food in place when two hands are needed on the wheel. Below is a rough drawing of the idea I came up with: a food holder clamped to the steering wheel.
For anyone who wishes to take the class too, here are the links:
- About HCD for Social Innovation: http://plusacumen.org/courses/hcd-for-social-innovation/
- Course Materials: http://plusacumen.org/human-centered-design-for-social-innovation-course-materials/