• Wendy Castleman

Three design research capabilities that you need to grow right now!

Design research is a field that has been evolving dramatically in the past 30 years, particularly in the area of Experience Design or User Experience. Although it's roots stem from Human Factors Engineering (a blend of engineering, psychology and design), it has evolved into a critical skillset that more and more companies are starting to need.

Today, Design Researcher (or User Researcher) is a role that is found especially in technology companies, and increasingly in medical and educational environments. Here is why: The skills of design research are critical for innovation. In our rapidly changing world, innovating is not only a desire, it is a necessity for survival. Every business needs to be innovating, so every business needs to grow their design research capabilities.

What are the design research capabilities that a business needs?

1. The capability of being able to deeply understand your customer. You must understand the problems they are facing, the context surrounding them, their motivations and emotions that drive the decisions they make. Unless you are your user, you cannot rely upon your own instincts and logic to figure out what might be going on for your user. Each of us has different life experiences and different values that can change the trajectory of our experiences. You will need to know how to watch, listen, ask questions, notice details, collect artifacts and gather data. The design research capabilities around researching customers are necessary for understanding your customer (which, in turn, can allow you to design solutions that will solve their problems in a way that will prompt them to adopt your solution). This is at the core of any successful business, and is necessary for increasing customer loyalty to your brand.

2. The capability of being able to effectively communicate the customer story. In order to ensure a shared understanding of the customers, and to really deliver an amazing solution, you must be able to tell the customer's story in a way that resonates with the specific audience you are sharing it with. Again, you will draw on your capabilities around deep understanding, this time with the lens of understanding your audience. However, you additionally need to be able to craft an experience that will communicate the story at a visceral, emotional level to the audience you are sharing it with, in order to get them to take some action. Traditionally, user researchers have prepared reports and presentations, but sometimes alternative, immersive experiences can be more effective. The key here is to know your audience, be clear on what you want to convey, be clear on the outcome you are seeking, and to experiment with approaches to achieving it. This set of capabilities are critical for people who do research, but also for leaders within an organization, sales and marketing professionals, and others.

3. The capability of Facilitative Leadership. In addition to being great at doing customer research and effective at communicating customer stories and learnings, you must be a facilitative leader who can help a group process, explore and decide on next steps. In many cases, you will want to coach or train team members to participate in the customer research, and then facilitate a debrief and interpretation of the findings. The ability to not only facilitate these interactions, but also to provoke and push for the group to stretch their thinking (without pissing anyone off), is critical to motivating people to take the necessary steps to design, build and launch the solutions that are going to make a huge improvement in your customer's lives.

Do you want to develop and deepen these capabilities to make a bigger impact on your company and your career? I can help you. Reach out to me today and we can discuss how I can help you.

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