Research Journey

Three months ago, as a recent graduate with a degree in human-centered design and a passion for a career in research, I started an adventure with the Essential Design family. Here is a condensed list of necessary tactics that I have learned. 

DON'T LET PRIDE GET AHEAD OF RESEARCH
Sustain an approach: Sustaining a holistic, empathic, and descriptive approach in capturing the user context is fundamental. As researchers we require to absorb every detail by avoiding distractions of our surroundings and being present in the moment. Even note taking is about postponing interpretation and capturing word by word of the participants.

Manage a conversation flow: Sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation that is not related to the topic of the research. So, it is important to understand when it is necessary to direct a conversation to the next question without offending interviewees; by expressing how much we appreciates participants’ thoughts, and due to the time or necessity of another topic we need to move on.

Dive deep: “Tell me more” and “why” are the magic words to reach to the deepest thoughts of interviewees. The Five whys method is a great approach to explore a problem in a greater depth, but the challenge is in keeping the questions relevant and addressing participants’ frustration on time.

Stay focused on objectives: Debriefing after each session is an effective way to get the team on the same page about what has been learned and what can be improved. Debriefing with all stakeholders is an ideal way of getting productive feedback from clients while triggering them to open up about what they like or want to change. Also, a simultaneous analysis during research while thoughts are fresh in our minds supports a foundation for analysis and builds a rapport with future participants.

STEP INTO AMBIGUITY
As researchers we must be quick on our feet and not chase perfection. Obviously we set our goals for perfection but it is essential to be flexible in our approach, such as shrinking the content of a 2-hour session to an hour for the price of not losing that session. Goal prioritization, a backup plan, and going with the flow are keys to making logical decisions in an ambiguous world of research.

HUMANIZE THE RELATIONSHIP
Make the most out of initial moments: The first informal moments are the best chance to humanize the conversations with participants. Our job is to help people feel comfortable and excited about the session.

Regain the trust: In challenging sessions, patiently explaining the research objectives and the reasons behind naive questions to the frustrated participants will redirect the session to a positive one. It is all about the power of empathetic understanding and as has already been said “putting ourselves in their shoes.” Recapping major points of the conversation without interpretation proves to people that their opinions have been understood correctly.

PRODUCTIVE STORYTELLING
Think visually: In the analysis phase, making data visible and writing all the thoughts from objectives to conceptual frameworks on the board are collaborative tactics for making sense of data and finding patterns.

Seek extra opinions: Sharing our thinking process from early steps can be very insightful. People who have not been deeply involved in our project with fresh perspectives are helpful in discovering hidden insights, even if we are comfortable with the initial results.

Craft your story: A research will not be complete without a rich presentation of the findings; storytelling is the essence of any presentation. In crafting our story it is important to consider who the audience is and what should be communicated through the story. Simple, fluent, and clear information design improves storytelling and audience engagement.

From the outside world, research may not be a shiny and attractive career like industrial design, but its power and pleasure lie in communicating with people, discovering their needs, and having the ability to tell their story ethically and meaningfully.