Thursday, April 12, 2012

Class #21 Highlights

In this class, we heard from an ethnographer who designs technology products. Her concerns are with empathy--utilizing survey and long-form interview methods to learn what needs are not being met by existing products as well as strategizing by consumers seeking workarounds for limitations in existing products.

The key lesson here is that she is, in effect, building mental models of consumers and other stakeholders interacting with a product or service. The job of the designer is then to utilize these mental models and then best respond in terms of product design and development--the identical outward thinking process we have emphasized in the course.

Utilizing a range of techniques, from reading financial reports and transcripts of conference calls, to implementing long-form interviews with ex-employees of the rival can yield useful insights in the construction of a complete mental model. For strategic decisions where getting the mental model correct is critical to success or failure, drawing on methodologies across a variety of fields (i.e. metacognition) is a key attribute of leaders.

Key takeaways:
1. Outward thinking is critical to innovation/new product development.
2. Psychology/ethnography offers a variety of techniques to build better mental models.

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