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Research Side Projects

How are career pathways navigated by humanities graduates?

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After initially thinking art school served no link to future work I found that it was the perfect education for a job that, at the time of my graduation, had not even been invented yet.

Twenty years later I’ve decided to revisit this question – with a potential project in mind – to help creative arts and humanities students and graduates explore career pathways.

I’m currently conducting research interviews and seeking participants for 45-60 minute conversation to explore the needs and experiences of students and graduates of creative arts, humanities, and related degrees in relation to career pathways.

This audience research will inform a concept for a potential new website. The website aims to share career journeys and stories of arts graduates who are advanced in their careers to help current students and graduates navigate their ambiguous futures.

If you would like to participate or have any comments or thoughts on the general concept please do comment here.

Categories
Events Research

Conducting qualitative research during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything in our lives. Dr Deborah Lupton asked how can fieldwork continue now that researchers cannot simply meet with participants? The responses from her Twitter and academic community resulted in a crowdsourced resource – Doing fieldwork in a pandemic which outlines alternative methods to qualitative research. She shared this in a fully subscribed webinar hosted by QRS international.

Digital and analogue methods featured heavily as alternatives to qualitative fieldwork. Expected alternatives included

  • Phone interviews
  • Online research platforms (that can be set up by a market research company)
    • see in real-time what people are typing online (and avoids transcription)
  • Apps and social media – public and private Facebook groups, Reddit, etc
  • Online surveys
  • Scanning social media

Dr Upton emphasised novel approaches – and made me reflect on whether my own research practice could do with reinjection of creative techniques. These included:

  • Photo and video voice elicitation
    • probes that can be shared via mobile phone
    • talking and messaging in real-time
  • Re-enactment videos followed up with discussion online
  • Story completion method where people are given the beginning of a story to complete
    • Can be done via pen and paper or online using survey platform
    • Helpful for researching sensitive or highly personal topics as participants can project their experience to a hypothetical third person.
  • Epistolary interviews asynchronous, one-to-one interviews mediated by technology.
    • e.g. using email, and/or Microsoft Word to go back and forth
    • Allows time to build a relationship with the participant

There was a big emphasis on diary studies and journaling, as an alternative to ethnographic field research and interviews with lots of questions. This included creative methods as prompts for future phone and online discussion

  • Paper diaries that can be mailed, online diary platforms, or simply emailing Word docs
  • Including creative exercises such as drawings, handwritten creative responses, mapping exercises, letters, cultural probes, zine-making and collages where images are taken from magazines and words added

Revisit ethics

Dr Lupton emphasised ethical considerations of remote research in the COVID-19 context

  • People may be experiencing additional anxiety
  • The privacy of conducting remote fieldwork in shared spaces – people are now stuck in their homes with family all around them
  • People may be experiencing disrupted family relationships, violence, may be unwell, have underlying chronic health issues
  • Digital data privacy management

In some contexts, including academic contexts, the response to these considerations will require new approvals by ethics committees. In all contexts, researchers need to build trust with participants and demonstrate an understanding of the difficulties that different people are experiencing.

Everything has changed

Dr Upton believes any research of any subject will now be in the context of COVID-19.  She argued we are all COVID researchers now. The social impact of this pandemic is unknown. Upton cautioned that now is not the right time to dive into research – there’s an adjustment period and people are feeling traumatised, worried and anxious, wondering what will be happening with their lives. As researchers, we need to pause, ‘read the room’ and understand the affective atmospheres of when to do applied research. We need to protect the wellbeing of participants and ourselves and consider the timeframes when we and participants will be ready.

Alongside the wonderfully nerdy method catalogue, Upton reminded us that “this will be a long moment.”

References and links:

Categories
Design Product design Research

Ethnography Makes Products

I share this introduction with you here for your interest and, should you find it useful, for you to re-use with a couple of conditions — see the end for what they are. But in the meantime, enjoy.

ikea-fisherandpaykel-whirlpoolduet-product
Ethnographic research informed the design of Ikea rechargeable lamps, The Fisher & Paykel Dish Drawer, and the Whirlpool Duet.

Ethnography Makes Products

We’re a product design team…so why are we doing research? Design starts with research. It’s how we define the customer brief. In this project we used ethnography…diary studies with customers, visiting their homes, interviewing them to understand their behaviour…what they do…because ethnography makes products.

  • At Google designers use all sorts of data but they also talk to users and watch them use YouTube in their home to see if people use their products the way they expect them to. (1)
  • IKEA routinely visit people in their homes to understand what they need, particularly in small living spaces. The results are every imaginable shelf but also beautiful rechargeable batteries that can be disguised as books, or wireless charging furniture (2) (3).
  • The idea behind Fisher & Paykel’s Dish Drawer (4) came not by looking at dishwashers but by examining the way people used their kitchen. The design team took inspiration from an unrelated kitchen function – the drawer – and created a hybrid between the two.

This process is not about finding answers in quantitative data.

  • The Whirlpool duet was designed by watching people in their homes walk through their laundry process (5). One observation, one data point — seeing someone raise their front-load washing machine with a palette, led to the invention of the pedestal and introduced accessories to the washing machine category.
  • And at Telstra…a combination of strategy, design thinking and lean startup led to Online Essentials. The original question concerned domain and web hosting. We visited customers at their businesses to understand their DIY approach to web site publishing and marketing and conceived an experience to solve their problems.

For years in concept and usability testing sessions customers have been giving us hints about their concerns around … (here is where I shared the customer anecdotes and proof points that helped us form a hypothesis to make the case for conducting the research in the first place.)

We’re at the beginning of a design process. What will you get out of today…

  • An understanding of what customers are experiencing
  • How this might translate as new experiences we deliver to our customers

I’ll now hand over to the team now so we can hear what they learned.

References

  1. 5 questions for YouTube’s lead UX researcher https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-aunz/advertising-channels/video/youtube-user-behavior-research/
    “To answer those questions, I’m constantly doing both qualitative and quantitative research—everything from talking to users and watching them use YouTube in their homes, to carrying out lab studies to see if people use our products the way we expect them to.”
  2. How Ikea took over the World: http://fortune.com/ikea-world-domination/
    “The company frequently does home visits and—in a practice that blends research with reality TV—will even send an anthropologist to live in a volunteer’s abode. Ikea recently put up cameras in people’s homes in Stockholm, Milan, New York, and Shenzhen, China, to better understand how people use their sofas. What did they learn? “They do all kinds of things except sitting and watching TV,” Ydholm says. The Ikea sleuths found that in Shenzhen, most of the subjects sat on the floor using the sofas as a backrest. “I can tell you seriously we for sure have not designed our sofas according to people sitting on the floor and using a sofa like that,” says Ydholm.”
  3. Ikea presents: Life at Home Report 2017 https://lifeathome.ikea.com/home/en/
  4. Fisher and Paykel: Designing difference: https://www.betterbydesign.org.nz/about/news/news-and-features/fisher-and-paykel
  5. A Case for Good Design. Part One: Whirlpool’s Duet Series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghCGffPSRyo

Conditions of Use
Works on this site are published under a creative commons attribution and share alike license.  So if you do use this refrain from publishing under your name, and please let me know if you do use it by posting a comment here. Also, if you use alternate examples in an adapted work, let me know what they are. Heck! If you have any favourite examples of ethnographic research contributing to UX, product, or service design, let me know in the comments.

Categories
Design Research Strategy

Resource list

Strategy

Collaboration

Reflecting on work

  • https://www.manager-tools.com An incredibly rich source of career and management advice vitamins. The podcast series on how to write your resume is both instructive and hilarious.
  • https://www.bobsutton.net/articles Bob Sutton is the Professor of Management Science at the Stanford Engineering School and author of The No Asshole Rule and Good Boss Bad Boss. His writing on organisations is evidence-based so the next time some fad comes your way, check-in with Bob’s articles and blog.

Research

Design practice

Remote research

Technology opinion

Human directory

  • https://alltop.com/ Directories crafted and curated by actual humans used to be a big thing, and was a reason why Yahoo! was a thing before Google. While they may seem anachronistic compared to search they can uncover gold hard to find in your personalised search echo chamber.

For design and product inspiration and curiosities

Tools

Do you have a trusty go-to resource? Let me know what it is in the comments.

Categories
Events Research

JTBD for Health meetup wrap-up

Last Monday saw a great crowd of almost 30 people turn up at Brain Mates to hear Justin Sinclair of Neo speak about a health case study at the JTBD Sydney Meetup.

Justin shared how Jobs-to-be-Done research was applied to investigate customer needs and behaviour when choosing a health provider. His client had hit a crossroads in the development of an online solution for provider selection and decided that some customer centred research was needed.

Some background to JTBD (and the case-study)

For those unfamiliar with JTBD, it is a research technique that focuses on the moment where a customer has made an explicit choice to switch between one product or service to another. The underlying rationale being that all priorities have been crystallised in this moment of decision making which can then, in turn, inform product development.

For the health study, Justin and his team from Neo recruited customers with a range of health needs who had chosen new providers.

The next fundamental concept of Jobs-to-be-done is the job itself which in JTBD terms is framed as a problem that a product or service is “hired” to solve.

The problems discovered in the health study went far broader than diagnosis and treatment. The problems involved the whole experience; some examples:

  • The convenience of location and appointment times.
  • Cost, and lack of information around insurance.
  • History of information with an existing provider as a reason to stay and a barrier to change.
  • Comfort, trust, and alignment of values between patients and health practitioners.
  • Questions of expertise and credentials of health practitioners.

The research successfully illuminated the customer journey. It also posed a challenge because the importance of all decision making factors and touchpoints varied significantly depending on whether the patient had chronic needs, a new serious illness, a minor illness or was simply organising a check-up.

Applying Jobs-to-be-Done to customer research

Jobs-to-be-Done was incorporated into the research discussion guide and all researchers received training in how to do a “switch interview”. Group analysis was done using the “Four Forces” model: looking at the forces driving a customer to a new solution and the forces that are holding them back.

In this case study two of the four forces in the framework – habit and anxiety – proved fundamental to understanding customer choices and the difficulty faced by the client’s solution in trying to solve far-ranging problems with their online product.

So consider for a moment that this approach seeks to find and define customer “jobs” in order to make products that do those jobs. What was most fascinating to me was hearing about the challenge the researches faced in framing the job at the right level. Defining the “job” too broadly, at too high a level, gets us insights that aren’t actionable. Defining a job too narrowly or specifically categorises customers by type and fails to capture the needs of the behaviour around the task or job of choosing a provider.

Interestingly for the client, the research brought into question the fundamental value that this product was bringing to the market. The product is now on hold maybe because of this insight: “Discovering a job isn’t enough if you can’t viably solve it.”

Questions from the audience

I think what I am beginning to like most about Jobs-to-be-Done is the diversity it attracts. We had user experience designers, product managers, and developers in the audience. Their questions reflected how diverse these disciplines can be in their approaches. We had side conversations about personas and the value of qualitative research versus quantitative research.

It’s difficult to baseline the understanding of such a wide audience with a new toolset. Jobs-to-be-Done is quite jargonistic to someone new to it. This made it all the more valuable to hear about it applied in practice and also shows how much awareness and education around this and related techniques are needed. Which is the reason for the meetup so come along to the next one Monday July 13.

The Jobs to be Done Sydney meet up was founded by Christian Lafrance and is organised by Christian and yours truly. 

Follow Justin Sinclair on Twitter at or check out where he works at Neo. Thanks to Justin and Neo for sharing your work at our meetup. 

New to Jobs-to-be-Done. Check out http://jobstobedone.org/

Thanks as ever to our hosts and event sponsors Brain Mates

Categories
Events Product design Research

Jobs to be Done Sydney #4 Interview workshop

Monday 23rd March was the fourth installment of the Sydney chapter of the Jobs to be Done meetup, and the first co-organised by me. That’s right, after so many years of attending meetups I’ve finally stepped up to help Christian keep the ball rolling. As always we were wonderfully and generously hosted by Brainmates who also host and sponsor Product Mavens and Product Talks Sydney. I’ll be getting along to one of those very soon.

Always putting on a great spread for us.
Always putting on a great spread for us.

JTBD 4 was all about customer interview practice and the particular techniques used in Jobs-to-Done. Like other qualitative interviews it probes for detail but a Jobs-to-Done interview also

  • hones in on a participant’s ‘hotspots’
  • asks seemingly irrelevant questions, such as what the weather was like that day to not only trigger memories but to stop the interviewee post-rationalising their decisions
  • tries to identify each trigger where the participant progressed through a stage of the buying, switching, or leaving journey.

Which customers to recruit to understand the buying journey.
Which customers to recruit to understand the buying journey.

JTBD interview facilitation tips
JTBD interview facilitation tips

We watched a video of Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek demonstrating the interview technique at Business of Software 2013. Then everyone got a chance to practice interviewing themselves in groups. It was pretty funny and sweet hearing everyone’s stories. Especially from the business owners. Inspiring stuff.

The most fun was the discussion afterwards. We all shared our own experiences and opinions on interviewing etiquette: the art of asking open questions, whether it is OK to ask closed questions, and the trick of leaving a question hanging for the participant to fill the void.

Getting ready for group work and interview practice.
Getting ready for group work and interview practice.

Thanks to all who attended. A guest speaker will be announced very soon for the next event so sign up on Meetup if you haven’t already. See you there!