Have you ever considered yourself an intuitive designer? Or is the idea of intuition something that you consider as disconnected from the design profession? Something to be wary of? Or something to be used and celebrated in your design practice?

In Season 8 of Catching The Next Wave podcast, we’ve decided to dig into the topic of intuition. I’ve been having an on / off relationship with intuition in my professional practice as experience designer for years and the two of us couldn’t quite come to terms with each other.

Intuition seems to be a topic that has many interpretations and therefore, perhaps, is not as well understood (by me and probably also others). I had an impression that it is something intangible, a gut-feeling that comes not from logic and analytical thinking but from subconscious interlinking of things that…

Have you ever considered what assumptions do people bring with them when they are attending your user research (I am talking about a concept or a prototype evaluation here, in particular)? And how do these assumptions impact the feedback you collect? There is fascinating research about the way we learn that gains popularity in neuro and cognitive science, and knowing that will, for sure, alter the way you prepare your evaluatory studies.

A person holding a black card and reading a question that’s printed on it.
A person holding a black card and reading a question that’s printed on it.
Photo: Mike Polak

When I was still a student learning the user-centered design process, I somehow got to the conclusion that our brain is a great formulator of hypotheses, much like in statistics. (I am not sure whether we were taught to think so anymore, or if it was my own conclusion.) Anyway, the idea that I was running with for many years was as follows: Whenever exposed to a new idea or a new solution, our brain states the null hypothesis and the alternative hypothesis. Please, don’t get discouraged :)

The null hypothesis means that the new idea or the new solution…

Whenever you run a study, are you trying to confirm or falsify your beliefs?

A group of people holding green cards with adjectives describing the differentiators for the solution they design.
A group of people holding green cards with adjectives describing the differentiators for the solution they design.
Pic. Mike Polak

Many times, when I talk to designers about their user research practice, they (quite subconsciously) tend to say that they believe it is important because it confirms their design choices. This statement always makes me uncomfortable.

Daniel Kahneman says that confirmation bias is probably one of the most potent biases we, as humans, experience. It causes tunnel vision, the fact that we only see about 5% of what’s around us. It is due to the fact that we only look for what we hope to find. …

Innovation is something any organization that wants to thrive today needs to have figured out. Countless bags of cash are invested in it but you might think that the success rate is somewhat unsatisfactory. Is there a way to make it better? Is there a trick to make your entire org think in innovative ways? Let’s hypothesize something.

The last season of Catching the Next Wave podcast was themed: innovation. There is something in this word that triggers attention and vigilance, isn’t there? After all, so many organizations strive to call themselves innovative. They build innovation departments and these departments are then supposed to deliver ideas the rest of the org is supposed to implement so that it becomes the new challenger of the given domain.

But what typically happens is that these innovation departments are challenged and their ideas often rejected. Which is only natural, in fact. If you think about it, 95% of any organization is…

Defining a powerful experience strategy is one challenge. Being able to roll it out is another one. And to do it so that people want to follow and stay committed to it is the most crucial aspect of these two challenges. Only then your strategy becomes the basis for your organizational culture. And the only thing that matters is that you, as an organization, are aligned.

There are a few problems you might be thinking about when it comes to scaling a strategy. The most common one is about communicating the vision and the edges. There is a trap many leaders and managers fall into, namely, “If I understand our vision, everybody else understands it too”. Nothing is farther from the truth. You have spent days discussing why certain choices are made the way they are. You get a deep sense of what it means for your team. But your team hasn’t been there. They didn’t have the experience you had. You need to, in a…

I am a great advocate of becoming an outlier. Why? Because in today’s competitive market playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all. But in order to find your differentiators, you need to know which direction you want to go to. What makes you excited. What will propel you to be daring?

For five years now almost every Wednesday from March to November I go to the local market to shop at the Mr Herb stall. Here’s the story about how he came about to be. Years ago he went with his family on holidays to Italy and became enchanted with their local markets selling amazing, fresh produce. He asked himself: — why can’t we have that in Poland? He started a farm and today he is a major supplier to the best Warsaw restaurants. Next to it he pops up twice a week at the different markets and sells his amazing…

No one likes boring. We love extremes, instead. We are drawn to the different. The outstanding. The remarkable. But being different is scary. Is that a way to tame the fear of differentiating yourself?

There is an obvious benefit of becoming an outlier. You will be noticed and talked about. And since the word-of-mouth is the ultimate marketing tool of today, this is what you want. Look at Southwest Airlines with their policy of hiring remarkable employees to spice up the air travel. I am pretty sure that you wouldn’t forget if your safety instructions were rapped to you. Or if they were turned into a stand-up comedy. Yet, despite the obvious fame of such examples, not many companies follow. Why? Because becoming an outlier is scary. It is entering the uncharted territory. With…

Some companies have a vision which they don’t know how to translate into action. Some companies have a set of actions that don’t quite converge into an expected impact. Yes, you need to have a vision and do it too. How to take the first step from your vision to its implementation?

As I kept on digging deeper into the challenges of translating your vision into action, a friend recommended to look at the Kellogg Logic model and consider it in the terms of effectiveness and efficiency. Let’s dig into it together.

The Kellogg Logic model

I am almost ashamed to admit that I haven’t bumped into the Kellogg’s Logic model before. It is a simple way to look at your activities from the perspective of the intended results and the planned activities.

With respect to the planned activities you can map how the data you collect can be used to inform the activities you perform…

Now you have your experience vision. It looks good. It’s aspirational. It’s inspirational. It can help you improve. It makes you stand out. But here’s the challenge: how to turn this vision into something actionable?

Many organizations face that very challenge: how to turn your vision into, first, tactics, and then operations. How to align your company towards reaching your goals in the most effective and efficient manner?

Vision as a storytelling mechanism

You might ask yourself: why is this vision needed in the first place? Why can’t we simply get some good metrics and follow though with them? Having a vision is essential for one simple reason: the power of storytelling.

From the time cavemen sat around campfires stories offered an effective mechanism for transferring knowledge. As time passed, these campfire stories were transformed into legends. The historic role…

Numbers are objective, aren’t they? Or at least they give an impression of objectivity… It is easy to start believing that this objectivity is true. While, in fact, any strategic number is still a subjective representation of a given goal.

Have you ever asked yourself where does the idea of measurement come from? In a very interesting book “The tyranny of metrics” Jerry Z. Muller explains that the main reasons behind our present culture of being metrics-driven is to eliminate the bias of human judgement. Makes sense, right? People are fallible, so let’s find something to secure us from this fallability. We can easily fool ourselves into believing that numbers are objective while people are not. But is it really so that the numbers that serve as KPIs are truly objective? Or do we simply objectivize the subjective data?

The nature of measurement


Aga Szóstek

“The Umami Strategy: Stand out by mixing business with experience design”, www.seed-cards.com www.catchingthenextwavepodcast.com

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