Listen to Steve speak with Jared Spool about “Immersive Field Research”
By Steve Portigal at 4:54 pm, Thursday August 25 2011

I was recently interviewed by Jared Spool in anticipation of November’s User Interface 16 conference (where I’ll be leading a full-day workshop).

You can listen to the interview below, and read the transcript here.

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There’s a great sort of, what I think of as a great myth around that that maybe we can talk about for a sec. Just the oft repeated idea that you can’t ask people what they want because they can’t tell you so that if you’re in the kind of business and design challenge that we’re talking about where you want to break through and innovate and reinvent something you shouldn’t ask people what they want because they can only talk about what is going on today.

I love hearing that because I feel like I have a good response to that. It’s a conflation of a few things. One is, let’s just say, looking more largely, doing field research to learn about people and asking people what they want. I think if this is not an area that you’re experienced in you think those are the same thing. You think the only thing you can do in field work is to say, “well what do you want?” and then go off and build it.

And most people would say that’s not an effective technique for learning new things. I agree with that on the face of it. If you, you know, are trying to change the game in a certain space that’s well entrenched you’d better have a more interesting approach to the field than to say, “well what would you want to see different?”

You have to be looking more broadly at people’s behaviors and their needs and, you know, what are kind of educated people trying to do and how are people solving problems? What are the entrenched kind of challenges there? And so you need to use techniques to gather that information and make sense of that information.

It’s not a ladle that you dip into the soup, right? Scoop. Oh, here’s what people said they want. We’re going to go off and do it. That’s never a way to do breakthrough stuff. So yeah, I agree when people say don’t ask what people want because they can’t tell you but I don’t agree with the implication of that which is don’t do research to try to innovate.

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