Join Turi McKinley for an in-depth discussion in this video Synthesis, part of Learning Design Thinking: Lead Change in Your Organization.
- The object of human-centered design is to learn from the people who will use your product or service, and that research generates lots of data, but data is worthless unless you get it to a point that something can be done with it. Synthesis is the act of making sense of all the data you've gathered then translating those insights into a framework that will guide concept generation and design. It's a process that enables us to maximize the value of research and generate meaningful human-centered solutions. However, it is one of the hardest things to do well, and it's an area that can feel like black magic until you've done it a few times.
Synthesis begins with raw data: lots of observations in the form of notes and quotes, photos, field observations, and even statistics and other types of data. During the synthesis process, that content is filtered into themes and insights and finally distilled down to a few key opportunities that will inform the design moving forward. There are many ways of getting to insights and opportunities, but let me share with you how frog often approaches the process.
The team works together in the team room to organize and analyze the data over several days or weeks. We start by analyzing our notes and creating key observations. So it might be somebody with a medical condition who says, "If I lose my kit, I have to get a new one right away." It really speaks to the urgency that they feel. So, as we go, as we're looking at our notes, we might find other observations that are similar to that one, and we group it as we go.
"I went from feeling like an 80 year old "to feeling like an 18 year old." Each of these Post-its is a single observation, and we've coded each of the Post-it notes with the user that made the observation so that we can go back in our notes if we need to. And as I look at these Post-its, I'll go through, and I'll identify one or two that might be really important. Here, they're talking about the sense that this medication feels like magic.
Once you've got a bunch of groups, the next step is to label those groups, so you might call this one Miracle Drug. At this stage, I'm usually using yellow Post-it notes, and it's because they're the most common out there, and they're really high contrast, so they're easy to see. So now at this point, imagine you've got boards and boards of these groups. You want to stand back from those boards and start to compare the groups.
You might end up regrouping some of your Post-it notes, and at this point you want to start labeling themes. For themes, I will usually use a blue Post-it note. Doesn't matter what color you use. It really just needs to be consistent. So let's imagine that I've got a nice theme here around this idea of a miracle drug, so I might label this as the theme miracle drug. The next step is to get to insights.
So for insights, what you want to do is start looking at those themes, and you begin to group your themes. For this project, we noted a theme around miracle drug, but we also noted that this drug really was perceived as creating a drastic change for people and that they perceived it as critical to feeling well. So we group these themes, and now we're ready to start moving to an insight.
An insight is a summary of similar data points in a concise statement which is based on both the data but also your understanding of human behavior. You are part of the synthesis. All the previous work that you've done is about setting you up to make clear connections between the data and particularly making those unexpected and unusual associations which might be the spark for a radically new idea.
So getting to insights. If we look at these themes, we might be able to draw an insight here that the drug is seen as a miracle drug and people treat each does as special. So, at this point, we have lots of these insights, and the last and most important step is getting to opportunities. So these themes led us to this insight that users, while they do have this anxiety around taking the medication, they feel this powerful positive association with each dose.
That insight lets us craft an opportunity area around the packaging. So our opportunity could be that we want to design the packaging as a celebration. As a celebration of the drug and the process of taking it.
This is a good opportunity area because it can be addressed in many concepts. This idea of celebration could be applied to the packaging and to the overall user experience in a wide range of ways. So there are many approaches to research synthesis. The best all help you avoid what I think is the biggest research pitfall, a big report that provides lots of data but no clear direction on how to move forward. I would much rather have one clear, compelling story come from research that ties to a few rich opportunity areas than a big research summary report that condenses all the richness to lists of quotes and weighted responses to specific questions but leave us nothing to really work from.
In the course files, I've shared some articles about common frameworks for communicating your findings and insights, which are commonly used to great effect by organizations like frog. These will help you get the story across and continue to use the insights as a team long after you're back from research or the white board is taken down.
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