Presenting at York
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of presenting my talk on Design Thinking to my York University colleagues in various IT departments.
The best part of making these presentations is the immediate feedback I get. This time I got three questions I wanted to wrestle with here in greater depth.
How do you know when to stop iterating?
Design Thinking demands iteration. The goal is to avoid the problems that come from the waterfall technique where first we gather requirements, then we plan around those requirements, then we work the plan.
I believe Design Thinking and Lean Startup are complementary and the combination of the two offer an answer to this question. Lean Startup pushes for every iteration to be a product and eschews prototypes in favour of the direct feedback users can provide on minimum viable products. Design Thinking by contrast recommends trying multiple prototypes before committing to production.
In short, Design Thinking seeks user feedback before production, whereas Lean Startup seeks feedback after production.
I think you can see where I am headed here. The answer is we never stop iterating. Prototype, build, prototype, build is the rhythm of any product. The question is of degree.
The operative question is will the likely improvements to the product outweigh the cost of another prototype? If not, get it in front of users or paying customers.
What about the triple constraint?
In a way this is a riff on the first question, because the implication of this question is that if we prototype forever we’ll blow our time and budget. The answer is the same.
How do you know who your user is?
I love this question because it is often so easy to overlook. The user is very rarely the sponsor, but often the sponsor is our boss, so we act as if the boss is the user, or at the very least can speak unerringly about the user.
At the risk of sounding glib, the user is always the person or persons using your product or service. The reason this answer feels so unsatisfactory is that focusing solely on the users when designing a product can often feel like career suicide.
If you propose to observe the actual user of your product and your boss says something along the lines of, “Don’t waste your time, I just told you what they need,” then you may find it hard to impress them with the merits of human-centred design. If so, then work the brief given. But, if you have the kind of relationship with your boss that permits a little leeway, ask if you can treat this product as an experiment in human-centred design. Who would quibble with an experiment?