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Design Ethnography for Lean Teams

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By WIll Evans, Director of User Experience Design, TLC Labs

"What people say is not what people do" - Cheskin

There has been a lot of hot air about "getting out of the building", and "just go talk to customers", but rarely are those statements backed up with strategic and tactical advice about HOW and WHY. Well, this talk is meant to help. Honestly, getting out of the building and talking to customers is only valuable when done right. As my old martial arts sensei used to say, "practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect!"

Design Ethnography is usually conducted to gain a *deep* understanding of the our target customers in order to apply a customer-centered approach to the product strategy. Design ethnography takes the position than human behavior and the ways in which people construct and make meaning of their worlds and their lives are highly variable, locally specific as well as intersubjectively reflexive.

One primary difference between ethnography and other methods of user research is that ethnography assumes that we must first discover what people actually do, the reasons they give for doing it, and just as importantly, how they feel while doing it, before we can assign to their actions and behaviors interpretations drawn from our own experiences.

Many people believe that design ethnography is only viable in the context of "Big Upfront Design", while many Agile and Lean teams believe they simply don't have the time, or that big upfront design is synonymous with waste. During this talk, we'll explore various myths, methods of ethnography, and ways in which agile or lean teams may use it to gain deeper insights into customer behaviors to create richer experiences without waste.

Questions I may answer in this talk:

What is design ethnography?
What are some of the qualitative and quantitative methods?
Isn't Design Ethnography and LeanUX contradictory?
When and where is design ethnography appropriate for teams?
Is Design Ethnography appropriate only with Big Upfront Design Research?
How can teams use Design Ethnography for sense-making?
What are the practical steps for engaging in design ethnography tomorrow?

Will Evans is the Director of User Experience Design and Research at The Library Corporation as well as TLCLabs, the enterprise innovation lab. At TLC, Will is responsible for working across the organization to create extraordinary user experiences and new product innovations.

Before TLC, he led experience design and research for TheLadders in New York City. He has over 15 years industry experience in interaction design, information architecture, and user experience strategy. His experiences include directing UX for social network analytics & terrorism modeling at AIR Worldwide, UX Architect for social media site Gather.com, and UX Architect for travel search engine Kayak.com.

Mr. Evans’ research and design has been featured in numerous publications including Business Week, The Econom

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Design Ethnography for Lean Teams

  1. "A startup is a human institution design to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty" - Eric Reis
  2. Malkovich Bias The tendency to believe that everyone uses technology exactly like you do.
  3. Lean Startup (and LeanUX) is a risk mitigation strategy
  4. A Dirty Secret People being either idiots or lazy
  5. Proxies Suck!
  6. Ethnography, WTF?
  7. Why Ethnography
  8. Complexity is everywhere Ethnography offers a way to make sense of this complexity. It lets us see beyond our preconceptions and immerse ourselves in the world of others. Most importantly, it allows us to see patterns of behavior in a real world context – patterns that we can understand both rationally and intuitively.
  9. “If you want to understand what motivates a girl to pick up a skateboard, you could bring her into a sterile laboratory and interrogate her… or you could spend a week in a skatepark observing her interacting with her friends, practicing new skills and having fun.”
  10. Ethnography + Design
  11. Lean Ethnography?
  12. Most teams practicing Lean Startup don't start with a customer hypothesis; they work backwards from a solution hypothesis Because teams start with a solution hypothesis, it's almost impossible for them to generate multiple hypotheses for testing If GOOB is not conducted in the appropriate context, it almost never yields useful behavioral data GOOB relies far too heavily on self-reporting, which is almost useless. GOOB, when done poorly, is particularly prone to confirmation bias Most teams have a very hard time formulating assumptions as hypotheses Designing reliable experiments is a skill that takes time to learn People new to customer research are really bad at listening for weak signals When a customer interview is guided, it almost never provides opportunity for serendipitous insights to emerge
  13. Design research as a systemic approach
  14. Design ethnography allows us to
  15. 1. Discover the semantics of living
  16. Context is king
  17. Self-reporting is mostly shit
  18. People's hacks are a great insight
  19. 8 Steps in Ethnographic Research
  20. 1. Define your customer hypothesis
  21. 2. Identify the people to validate they exist
  22. 3. Plan your approach
  23. 4. Conduct Paired Research #ShoeUpBitches
  24. 5. Become a "habit-farmer"
  25. 6. Search for Patterns & Themes
  26. 7. Co-Generate & Share Insights
  27. 8. Perform your narrative
  28. 7 Keys to good ethnography
  29. Delve deeply into the context, lives, cultures, and rituals of a few people rather than study a large number of people superficially.
  30. Holistically study people’s behaviors and experiences in daily life. You won't find this in a lab, focus group, or 5 minute interview on the street.
  31. Learn to ask probing, open questions, gathering as much data as possible to inform your understanding.
  32. Practice “active seeing,” and “active listening.” Record every minutiae of daily existence, and encode on post- its.
  33. Use digital tools for asynchronous data gathering: tumblr, facebook, twitter, instagram
  34. Use collaborative sense-making activities like the Cynefin framework and affinity diagramming for active sensemaking.
  35. Map the stories from insights back to the original problem. Did it validate or invalidate the customer hypothesis?
  36. Now you can think about your Solution Hypothesis Did the new insights provide potentially richer opportunities to solve?
  37. Thanks! Will Evans Chief Design Officer PraxisFlow @semanticwill

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