Monday, 18 November 2013

Design Thinking: Quantity vs. Quality (aka Getting to 50lbs of Clay...)

(From Wikipedia)

It's not a new story, but when talking about Quantity vs. Quality there are definitely some misconceptions. However one parable often told about this is about a Ceramics Class. It's actually reproduced in the book Art & Fear, which I got from LifeClever blog entry:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot”albeit a perfect one”to get an “A”.
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work ”and learning from their mistakes” the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
I feel almost like Nissim Nicholas Taleb (author of The Black Swan) when I point out that there is often this fallacy that its much more efficient if we must focus on Quality and that it's mutually exclusive from focusing instead on Quantity

In fact as counter-intuitive as it might sound, the opposite is actually true. I have seen the empirical evidence of this and this is why so many of today's ideologies (Agile, SCRUM, Design Thinking) all are set-up to constantly iterate, evolve and improve. (If you want proof of how this works look at the Intel example in Jim Collins' Great By Choice. Continued innovation is a staple of long-term success.) 

Mathematically this should make sense, but this isn't the point I'm talking about. The "Infinite Monkey Theorem" states that a monkey given enough time at a typewriter could reproduce all the works of Shakespeare. However I'm not advocating randomly trying things and by shear volume making the next great product. I'm certainly not advocating getting more monkeys and more and typewriters! Design Thinking eliminates the need for this type of luck-based brutal force type of approach. 

However, what I feel is understated today is the 'amount of quantity that' people should suspect a project needs before it's 'mature'. Bill Buxton in Sketching User Experiences suggests that good 'sketchers' may come up with 40+ sketches a day! A good Design Thinking project has multiple iterations, often starting with very quick, low-cost, low-fi prototypes and expanding to more elaborate, hi-fi prototypes when the team is more confident on what the users wants.

It's important to note that these prototypes go through iterations. Things changes, new ideas are introduced, but overall each successive prototype is built upon the previous version. Each one (generally - there are some lulls and backtracking...) becomes better than it's predecessor. So back to the Ceramics example, even more importantly if we were to line up all the pots by chronological order, we'd clearly see the progression of skill and mastery.

This is why Design Thinking is tightly coupled with building prototypes and more accurately sometimes called "Design Doing". Often times Design Thinking teams are crippled at a decision point and as Design Thinking Coaches we're encouraged to help them push through it by being decisive and often taking a risk. The reason for this is because we don't want teams stuck or bogged down by indecision. We'd rather a team make a choice, prototype it and the most importantly *test* it out on users. (At that point it often much quicker than just trying to guess what the user would like better...)

This is what I believe was equivalent to the "Quality" ceramics group was doing:
...the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay
Show me a team that has a large graveyard of prototypes and sketches and I can almost guarantee they are being productive. What Design Thinking is not is simply a framework for brainstorm and evaluating ideas. It's an overall systematic approach of being in user insights that drive an iterative, feedback based approach to improve dramatically the odds of creating user-driven products.

Being of Asian decent, I can't resist the opportunity to use this famous quote:

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."
Even 2500 years ago, we knew that doing was more important that just listening and observing. As sacrilegious as it sounds, I'd almost modify this to read:

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand...
...I then keep doing over and over and over again and I get BETTER." 
Confucius + Wayne
(If you've ever seen small Chinese children learn to write their first 5,000 Chinese characters, you'll understand what I mean!)

Still don't believe why quantity focus triumphs just quality focus? This is why rule #2 for Brainstorming from Stanford is:
"#2 - Go for volume. Getting to 100 ideas is better than 10, no matter what you initially think about the “quality”. Try setting a goal for the number of ideas you’ll get to in a certain amount of time to provide some stoke."

So I guess my main question to you if you're doing design thinking is "How many ideas and prototypes have you been through lately?" Are you getting Quality via Quantity from your Design Thinking team?

One of the most famous quotes about volume is likely this one by Thomas Edison

"I didn't fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb; I only needed to find one way to make it work."Thomas Edison
However, I see the # of attempts anywhere between 2,000 to 10,00, but I think it's more likely 6,00-ish, according this quote from Franklin Institute:

"Before I got through," he recalled, "I tested no fewer than 6,000 vegetable growths, and ransacked the world for the most suitable filament material." - Thomas Edison
Reached your 50lbs yet? (.. be it 200x post-it ideas, 30x user interviews, 20x prototypes, 10x iterations, etc) Ensure you're setting a worthy Quantity goal constantly with your Design Thinking initiatives!

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. Just remember you still have to put in the time and that means actions. Just remember Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hrs theory (also clearly stated in his Outliers book). Hitting the jackpot product in only a few iterations or prototypes is just getting lucky. If you want to take luck out of equation, you need to iterate and you need to keep going back to your users to get feedback and improve, evolve and re-factor.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Design Thinking: Levels of Insights (Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy)

So... following up the Empathy video from the Cleveland Clinic in our last blog entry, I thought back to how we do User Interviews with Design Thinking and how we try to 'mine' core insights view User Empathy. As I was trying explain this, I came up with a quick and dirty "Hierarchy of Empathy" that I believe helps to explain the levels of empathy or insights we can get from interacting with users.

I largely based this on the Stanford d.School Bootleg Empathy Mapping tool. As I was trying to explain the Empathy Map, that got me thinking about framework to help explain to reach those special, deep, inferred "insights" during User Interviews.  We use this at SAP for Design Thinking User Interviews, as this helps to formulate the notes from User Interviews in a useful grouping. 
Empathy Map - Stanford d.Sdhool

It's a little like Maslow's Hierarchy, so I'm going to call it:

 Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy

(Pau's Hierarchy of Empathy)

The hierarchy has 5 levels, (0-4, I must be a programmer... *hehe*), where:
Level 0 - "IGNORE" - General Apathy
Level 1 - "LISTEN" - What I am Saying...
Level 2 - "OBSERVE" - What I am Doing...
Level 3 - "READ" - What I am Thinking...
Level 4 - "EMOTE" - What I am Feeling...

Levels 1-4 match up directly to the 4 quadrants of the Empathy Map. On the left is the "Observed" or Level 1 & 2 insights and on the right is the "Inferred" or Level 3 & 4 insights.

So in more detail...

Level 0 - is happens when developers create apps without even considering or thinking about the user. This is the worse way to develop or design anything. By the very nature not knowing or not caring enough to find out about end-users, they almost guarantee they will have no meaningful insights.
(This mirrors most of the 7+ billion people in the world you've never met or know anything about. Someone once said that "Apathy" is worse than "Hate". At least with hate, you need to know what you hate. It's the "Takes ones to know one" thing... You don't even know who they are.) 
Note: I draw the line between level 0 and Level 1, because below this line, there is no real quality "user-driven insights". End-user need is not driving the project at this point.
Level 1 - is the first step to cater to the needs of users. The bare minimum is know your end-user enough to communicate to/with them. To have a "common" language when you can 'listen' (and not just hear), what the user is saying. The limitation here is that the Design Thinker still needs to interpret what is said within their own understanding or world-view. 
(This mirrors strangers who you may strike up a one-time conversation with. You have very little background or context, but at least you are able to talk to them. For example, travelling in a new country, while you might technically know the language you could be easily "confused" by an unfamiliar culturally based idiom that wasn't meant to be taken literally.)
Level 2 - is the second step to gather the true needs of users. Unfortunately as we discuss often in Design Thinking people sometimes say one thing and do another. Ethnography is basically a branch of research that involves just 'observing' subjects. Words can sometimes be misleading, but actions have an "honesty" to them. 
(This mirrors people you interact with for longer periods of time and know or judge/assess them by how they interact with you, not just what they say to you . You know their body-language and can read their gestures and actions. That mean-looking colleague just bought you a chocolate bar for no reason, shows maybe he/she doesn't hate you...)
Level 3 - is the start where the designer needs to intimately understand the user as they move away from "observed" insights and into "inferred" insights.  I used 'read' here as in somewhat like "mind-reading". As we all know, there are many things we as human think, but never act upon. There are also many things we want to do, but never actually get around to doing. 
(This mirrors people who can communicate non-verbally with you. Sometimes you can tell what is on their mind without them telling you verbally or non-verbally. When done correctly, there is less chance for being mislead or misinterpreting something as these are in fact the motivations or 'means reas'. If it were real, telepathy would be a great tool, but in its absence we use a combination of context, observations and conjecture to come up with our 'best-guesses'. )
Level 4 - is the highest level of empathy, where you can 'emote' with the subject. Feelings are like raw emotions and can be the core or root of some very powerful insights. Some of the best designs feed off of our very primal emotions, satisfying some of our very deep seated needs/wants. For Design Thinkers, this is the ultimate or root "Why?" 
(This mirrors the very small circle of intimate people in your life that you naturally feel for and over time become intuitively attuned to their state of mind and moods. You basically know them and can live in their "skin". You can literally "be" them for short periods of time.)
The reality is that as you move up the levels, it takes more much time, energy, training, determination and experience to reach the next level of empathy when interacting and interviewing with End-Users. On the flip side, the higher the level of empathy, the more core the insight. If you want to be a *great* Design Thinker, you want to be moving upwards in the hierarchy, to get those more deep-seated, core insights and drivers. 

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. When I tried to Google this and find something similar to this Hierarchy of Empathy (to ensure I did not copy from previous source), I could only find M.L. Hoffman's "Four Levels of Empathy" (below), which was similar, but different. However the list itself does help to re-enforce that as 'children', we start move up a hierarchy of "Understanding" those around us.
1. Global empathy
2. Egocentric empathy
3. Empathy for another's feelings
4. Empathy for another's life condition 
My source for this was:

There are a lot of parallel's with Hoffman's 4 levels and my Hierarchy of Empathy. However I've made my divisions much more aligned with the Empathy Map of Stanford's Design Thinking process. 

I apologize in advance to anyone else who might have come with a similar pyramid before mine. It wasn't meant to be radical, just a vehicle for visualizing something I wanted to explain as part of User Interviews.