18 videos

The world of our users

Observe - The world of our users

The observation phase in design thinking brings the teams closer to their users. They observe their behavior, conduct user interviews and immerse themselves in their living environments. In this way, they gain empathy for their needs and are able to design their subsequent solutions to fit them precisely.

Excursus: The search for user needs

If you look at innovations, it becomes clear: new solutions usually address needs that are already known. But unlike the old solutions they gradually replace, these innovations manage to address the needs even better. "Better" often means that the solution works even more simply, even more integrated, even more accessible - depending on the context in which the need arises.

Method: User interviews

In the following videos we show you the essential interview techniques. The techniques expose what motivates our users and what concerns them in terms of our project theme.

Story from a project

"And then she said this one sentence..."

Our coach Holger Rhinow remembers this one interview of a young mother. The interview was initially only about textbooks. However, due to the open course during the interview, completely different insights came to light once again. What Holger showed was that it pays to respond to signals in user interviews and to ask specific questions.

The analysis of the interview from the story

Our coach Holger Rhinow reflects on the methods and techniques he used during the user interview. He works without a standardized questionnaire and reacts flexibly to the user's described experiences. The stories often point to unresolved problems and strong needs. At these points, Holger specifically digs deeper.

Gradually, he reveals details that can inspire the team to develop new solutions.

Who are users?

In innovation projects at the HPI, we take a user-centric approach. But what does that actually mean? Do we go out on the street and talk to people we meet there?

Yes, but only to a limited extent. Users are affected because they have already had certain experiences that interest us in the context of our project. And even among these people there are very different types of users.

User Interviews vs. Polls

Holger reports on a typical situation that we often experience in Design Thinking projects. The team gathers inspirational insights while also being confronted with skepticism - is this data even representative of the market? For the customers?

This shows that there is often a fundamental misunderstanding about when user interviews and when surveys are used in innovation projects.

The preparation: Without questionnaires

We do not use questionnaires for our interviews with users. And for good reasons. The aim of user interviews in innovation projects is to detect small, often incidental signals and then to react accordingly and vigilantly. Questionnaires, on the other hand, often lead to working through a given catalog of topics.

Getting started with a user interview

Great user interviews are opportunities for users to express and reflect on their experiences and experiences unfiltered. This requires a mutual arrival between the interviewer and the interviewee.

Experienced interviewers use entry routines, clarify the context for the interview and the expectations.

Asking for user stories

Our coach Holger Rhinow gives teams formulations to use with interviewees to get started with their stories. During the interview, we imagine we are directors who want to film the story.

Signals in user stories

What are user interviews about? About listening! We look for signals that indicate interesting user needs. There are three main types of signals:

1. There are important signals in the opinions of users, behind which there are often values and needs.

2. Emotions are interesting because they show which topic is relevant for our respondents.

3. Contradictions are also important signals, because they illustrate conflicting goals and unfulfilled demands on ourselves.

Open questioning techniques

In user interviews, we are required to listen carefully and then respond spontaneously to the right signals. A number of follow-up questioning techniques have proven effective in these moments.

Open vs. closed questions

Closed questions in user interviews are useful when we need to clarify certain details and make sure that we have understood the users correctly.

However, too many closed questions quickly interfere with an open-ended conversation in which users can respond in an unbiased manner.

Beware of hypothetical questions

Hypothetical questions lead to users being asked to imagine something they have never experienced themselves. And how they would react to it. The answers we get are completely meaningless for innovation projects - according to the experience of our coach Holger.

Beware of opinion polls

"What do you think about this?"

Opinion polls ask our users to take a stand on a topic. The extent to which this opinion is authentic depends on many factors that we cannot always influence. In this respect, the opinions only offer an indirect insight into the emotional life of the person sitting opposite us in the interview.

The conclusion

User interviews in Design Thinking end with a question routine. We recapitulate the remarkable statements together with our interview partner. We ask if we have understood them correctly and ask for more details if necessary.

Then we say goodbye, show our gratitude and check back with the interviewee to see if we can ask further questions.

Where do user interviews take place?

Many project teams find it difficult to find users for interviews. However, the hurdles are often less high than first thought. It is worthwhile to look around in your own environment and search for suitable places and opportunities.

Field research

Julia Leihener and her former team at the Creation Center at Telekom Innovation Laboratories immersed themselves in the lives of their users. They spent everyday life with them and had interesting experiences.

Excursus: Small observations

The SAP AppHaus shows how they start by understanding their users before developing new solutions. To do this, they meet the users where they live and work.

Holger adds another example: how Bank of America used design thinking to get to know its users. And thus arrived at an unplanned new solution: "Keep the Change".

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