Join Turi McKinley for an in-depth discussion in this video Hypothesis generation, part of Design Thinking: Lead Change in Your Organization.
- In human-centered design, the team continually iterates through cycles of making and gathering information. But without synthesizing that information, data often serves as more distraction than direction. Adopting a practice of generating and refining your hypotheses about the user and their needs helps the team generate insights and put them into action. A hypothesis combines a human need with a motivation for that need, so that it can be proven or disproven.
This pairing provides a strong base for engagement with people to prove or refine the hypotheses, and also a strong base for concept generation. For example, a hypothesis that people don't like hailing cabs because of the uncertainty of quickly finding a cab could lead you to a range of ideas for improving the experience of getting a ride, including a service like Lyft or Uber. Generating a hypothesis about people's needs is a great activity to do with your team, and it doesn't have to take long.
It can be time boxed into even 30-minute sprints. The first step is to review any existing data you have access to about the potential users of your product or service and to write down the assumptions about what unmet needs may exist. Get all of your assumptions on the table. And literally, use a large whiteboard or a big piece of paper, divide it into three columns, and list the assumptions under the first column of Unmet Needs.
For example, one of our assumptions when we were working with rural farmers in the developing world was that farmers don't have access to accurate pricing information and so struggled to negotiate their prices well. In the second column, you'd label that Reasons Why, we thought about why those unmet needs exist. For example, farmers don't have access to accurate prices because radio information is not for specific to their village, it's really talking about the whole country.
And it's all right to have multiple reasons why for one unmet need. At this point, it's often tempting to jump right to concept generation. This example is from a project we were doing focused on mobile solutions for low income farmers in emerging markets. It'd be really tempting at this point to jump right to an idea, like, let's deliver locally accurate pricing information to the farmers' mobile. But that kind of thinking tends to get you to the expected or the me, too solution.
In human-centered design, the next step is to use these hypotheses to plan your in-person research. So here we use the third column to list questions which will help us test the hypotheses with the people we're talking to. So we might ask questions like, "Do you share your prices with anyone?" "How do you use pricing data?" "How do you get pricing data today?" and other questions like that.
Then you're going to go into the field, and when you come back from the field, you've wrapped up your research. And the research might have been a quick session in your office or several days spent meeting people in their homes or their farms. Could even be by making a prototype to test an idea. You'll now have a wealth of new information. And the next stage is to take another 30 minutes or so to refine the hypotheses. Look back at the initial hypotheses and write each of them down on a separate sheet of paper.
Have the team review their insights from research and look for those that confirm and those that challenge your hypotheses. If the insights from research have highlighted a new understanding, revise the hypothesis to reflect what you learned. For example, from an initial hypothesis that farmers don't have access to the latest market prices, which results in diminished bargaining power and income, the revised hypothesis found that farmers do actually have access to accurate pricing information, on the TV, the radio, and from other farmers returning from market, but what they really lack is negotiating power because they're too far from market and the quantity of their crops isn't enough to negotiate a better price.
With this understanding, a team is far more likely to design a service that will be meaningful for the people they hope will use it. Perhaps by enabling small farmers to find others with similar crops, they can gather sufficient quantity to negotiate for better prices. Often the assumptions we make about why people use products and what they need and want aren't correct. And they may reflect how our organization sees the problem more than how those people actually experience it.
Plus, understanding unmet needs and motivations helps fuel the human empathy, which effective design thinking relies on.
The course opens with a definition of design thinking, including the roles and spaces required for success. You will then learn how to be a good design thinking leader, with specific advice on topics from setting goals to engaging the different skill sets and personalities in the room (introverts and extroverts alike). Next, Turi dives into creative collaboration: the heart of design thinking. She covers planning, research, and concept creation, and explains how to create a "service blueprint" that will help make the design a reality. Chapter 4 introduces prototyping techniques to advance the design.
Design thinking is all about collaboration so we've integrated a LinkedIn Group called "Design Thinking: frog + Lynda.com course." Throughout the course, the author will suggest opportunities for you to share what you're learning. You'll be able to participate in course-related discussions through your web browser at https://linkedin.com/groups/7022790 or via the LinkedIn Groups app, which is available for most smartphones. This is a great way to expand your learning and get additional insights from other members taking the course.
- Defining design thinking
- Implementing a design thinking mindset and approach
- Leading design thinking
- Aligning the design team
- Managing creative flow
- Guiding collaboration
- Generating hypothesis
- Prototyping fast and often
- Making a culture change