Building Rapport With Users Is Building Rapport With People
By Steve Portigal at 10:26 am, Wednesday December 17 2014

We use specific techniques to build rapport in user research, but of course those techniques work to build rapport in other situations. Here’s two great examples of rapport in relationships that map quite closely to rapport in fieldwork.

Caution: Stuffed Shirts Ahead [NYT]

Instead, miss no opportunity to chat congenially with your new colleagues — lunch, coffee, the proverbial water cooler, whatever. But remember, these conversations aren’t about you. Though you don’t want to seem evasive, avoid leaping into a happy reminiscence about foosball tournaments with your delightful former colleagues.

Think of the process as the workplace equivalent of politicians’ “listening tours” during the run-up to election season. Don’t ask, “So what’s it like to work here?” or “Do you like it here?” or anything else that requires a point-blank value judgment. Ask neutral questions like, “So how long have you worked here?” Then keep quiet.

People love to talk about themselves, and if you can signal that you’re actually interested in what they’re saying — and not merely waiting for your turn to talk — most will do it all day long. (One of the oldest interview tricks that reporters use is silence: There’s a human tendency to fill a conversational void, so let the other person do it.) In addition to signaling that you’re going to fit in, you’ll likely pick up useful clues to help you do precisely that.

It may take a little patience, but you’ll gradually be able to piece together what you need to know about how this new environment works — and who among your new colleagues has the same kind of sensibility as yours. Remember that even if the company is formal and bureaucratic, chances are that at least some of the people who work there are, in fact, agreeable human beings — the kind who like doughnuts.

5 ways to build a good relationship with anyone [The Week]

I picked up a copy of an underground indie best-seller called It’s Not All about Me: The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. The author, Robin Dreeke, is in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s elite Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program. Robin combines hard science and years of work in the field to offer practical tips to build rapport and establish trust.

  1. Ask them questions.
  2. Don’t be a conversation dictator.
  3. Allow them to talk.
  4. Genuinely try to understand their thoughts and opinions.
  5. Leave your ego at the door.
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Keeping the Humanity in our Technology Work
By Steve Portigal at 8:42 am, Wednesday December 17 2014

A few articles about the practice of medicine echo each other in significant ways, but I share them here as a reminder that all of our work that increasingly relies on technology (e.g., developing digital products) will suffer terribly if we fail to engage the human who thinks, talks, listens and tells stories.

With Electronic Medical Records, Doctors Read When They Should Talk

Even if all the redundant clinical information sitting on hospital servers everywhere were error-free, and even if excellent software made it all reasonably accessible, doctors and nurses still shouldn’t be spending their time reading. The first thing medical students learn is the value of a full history taken directly from the patient. The process takes them hours. Experience whittles that time down by a bit, but it always remains a substantial chunk that some feel is best devoted to more lucrative activities.

Enter various efficiency-promoting endeavors. One of the most durable has been the multipage health questionnaire for patients to complete on a clipboard before most outpatient visits. Why should the doctor expensively scribble down information when the patient can do a little free secretarial work instead? Alas, beware the doctor who does not review that questionnaire with you very carefully, taking an active interest in every little check mark. It turns out that the pathway into the medical brain, like most brains, is far more reliable when it runs from the hand than from the eye. Force the doctor to take notes, and the doctor will usually remember. Ask the doctor to read, and the doctor will scan, skip, elide, omit and often forget.

Like good police work, good medicine depends on deliberate, inefficient, plodding, expensive repetition. No system of data management will ever replace it.

Why Doctors Need Stories

I have long felt isolated in this position, embracing stories, which is why I warm to the possibility that the vignette is making a comeback. This summer, Oxford University Press began publishing a journal devoted to case reports. And this month, in an unusual move, the New England Journal of Medicine opened an issue with a case history involving a troubled mother, daughter and grandson. The contributors write: “Data are important, of course, but numbers sometimes imply an order to what is happening that can be misleading. Stories are better at capturing a different type of ‘big picture.’ ”

Beyond its roles as illustration, affirmation, hypothesis-builder and low-level guidance for practice, storytelling can act as a modest counterbalance to a straitened understanding of evidence. Thoughtful doctors consider data, accompanying narrative, plausibility and, yes, clinical anecdote in their decision making. To put the same matter differently, evidence-based medicine, properly enacted, is judgment-based medicine in which randomized trials, carefully assessed, are given their due.

I don’t think that psychiatry — or, again, medicine in general — need be apologetic about this state of affairs. Our substantial formal findings require integration. The danger is in pretending otherwise. It would be unfortunate if psychiatry moved fully — prematurely — to squeeze the art out of its science. And it would be unfortunate if we marginalized the case vignette. We need storytelling, to set us in the clinical moment, remind us of the variety of human experience and enrich our judgment.

From October 2003, Diagnosis Goes Low Tech

“This technology has become a religion within the medical community,” said Dr. Jerry Vannatta, former dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. “It is easy to lose sight of the fact that still, in the 21st century, it is believed that 80 to 85 percent of the diagnosis is in the patient’s story.”

Yet medical educators say that doctors are insufficiently trained to listen to those stories. After all, there is no reimbursement category on insurance forms for it. It is this lost art of listening to the patient that has been the inspiration behind a burgeoning movement in medical schools throughout the country: narrative medicine.

The idea that medical students need an academic discipline to teach them how to listen may strike some as farfetched. After all, what should be more natural — or uncomplicated — than having a conversation?

But the narrative medicine movement is part of an ongoing trend in exposing medical students to the humanities. It is needed, educators say, to teach aspiring doctors to pay close attention to what their patients are saying and to understand the way their own emotions affect their perceptions, and ultimately their clinical practice.

The basic teaching method is to have medical students read literary texts and then write about themselves and their patients in ordinary language, rather than in the technological lexicon of the traditional patient chart.

Venerable medical journals like The Journal of the American Medical Association and Annals of Internal Medicine are increasingly publishing reflective writing by doctors, their editors say. And now some medical schools even have their own literary journals. At Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, there is Reflexions; Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine publishes Wild Onions; at the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center, there is The Medical Muse.

Columbia also publishes a semiannual scholarly journal devoted solely to narrative medicine, titled Literature and Medicine, which is edited by Maura Spiegel, a literary scholar, and Dr. Rita Charon, a professor at the medical school and a founder of the narrative medicine movement.

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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 9:07 am, Monday December 15 2014
  • Over the weekend we tried to make some sense out of the office space chaos, figuring out what the new layout will be and what furniture we need to get rid of. There’s a long way to go but there’s definitely a sense of progress.
  • I’m working with a client to do a bit of retail observation today, looking at how their products – and those of their competitors – are merchandised.
  • I’m flying to Austin on Thursday to do lead a full-day in-house workshop on interviewing users on Friday. And catching up with a few folks over the weekend as well.
  • From recent talks: Designing for Unmet Needs from Warm Gun (slides and audio), Interviewing Users from HOW Interactive Design (slides, video, Designing the Problem from Interactions South America (slides and audio).
  • Ten years gone: From December 2004 – Company makes clothes for women who prefer masculine style.
  • What we’re consuming: Hobbit Office, TREATS!, Werner Herzog Inspirationals, Baby Sloth Me.
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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 8:42 am, Monday December 08 2014
  • It may be the time of year, but it sure feels like a busy Monday, right out the gate. So many phone calls and planning meetings to try to get scheduled.
  • I’ve been enjoying my collaboration with a new team in downtown San Francisco, as we help assemble a point of view about design directions to prepare for an internal workshop next week.
  • We’re looking good to wrap up the year with a training session in Austin. People are doing paperwork, I’m hovering over the flight-and-hotel reservation buttons. Also, barbecue.
  • Last week, I spoke about Designing for Unmet Needs at Warm Gun. You can find slides, audio and a sketchnote here.
  • More from recent talks: The HOW Interactive Design slides are here and you can find the video (among several) here.
  • Ten years gone: From December 2004 – Leisurama!, Nike dropping the ‘Goddess’ moniker.
  • What we’re consuming: latkes, Jiminy Glick, dumplings.
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Designing for Unmet Needs, my presentation from Warm Gun
By Steve Portigal at 7:45 am, Monday December 08 2014

Last week I spoke at the Warm Gun conference, giving a short talk about Designing for Unmet Needs

Don’t be surprised if Steve Portigal, author of Interviewing Users, invites himself to your family breakfast or follows hotel maintenance staff to the boiler room. For more than 15 years, he’s led hundreds of interviews that help clients understand customers and turn insights into design opportunities.

Steve knows that our success depends on letting the unmet needs of our audience shape our designs. Okay—but how do we hit a target we can’t see? How do we design for people who aren’t us? How do we solve for the complexity of those people?

Dig into the details, ditch the guesswork, and join Steve to engage deliberately with the people we’re designing for. Look at ways to acknowledge the complexity of your users. Offer solutions rooted in the connections you make with people. Get unstuck and discover opportunities for design that adds value.

Below you’ll find slides, audio and a sketchnote.

The talk is 25 minutes long.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Sketchnote by Lexi H (click for full size)

LEXI-H-B4Crtn5CcAA51R3

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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 9:37 am, Monday December 01 2014
  • Happy December! I turned over the keys to our second office space. It was a lovely space with good meeting areas and lots of light, but it was just not being used. I feel like it should have been a sad moment, but it was really just a small moment of transition. Meanwhile, our main office space remains overloaded with furniture and boxes. I’ve got a group coming in on Friday and I’m not sure what state it will be in by then, probably the same.
  • I had a great meeting with a new team last week and we put together a plan to help prepare for an internal workshop in the next few weeks. I’m waiting on paperwork to see how and when we’ll move forward.
  • I’m expecting to hear this week if I’ll be doing a training workshop in Austin in a couple of weeks. A new collaboration in a favorite city? I’m hopeful it’ll work out.
  • I’ve been working on both visual and sonic identities for this stealth project I’ve been teasing here. I’ll be working on the content as well this week, but oh, man….I had to buy a bunch of donuts over the weekend and photograph them. This was terrible terrible brutal awful work.
  • I’ll be speaking about Designing for Unmet Needs at Warm Gun this week. Please come say Hi!
  • In case you missed it, from two very recent talks: the slides about Interviewing Users at HOW Interactive Design are here and my new talk, Designing the Problem, from Interaction South America with the slides, audio and sketchnotes are here.
  • Ten years gone: From December 2004 – Val Kilmer Street Meme, Things magazine.
  • What we’re consuming: names of football players, Pixie Donuts, Seiya Sushi, Ewoks are real.
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Today we are thirteen
By Steve Portigal at 10:44 am, Friday November 28 2014

13

Today is the thirteen anniversary of All This ChittahChattah. And since it just about overlaps with Thanksgiving, I’ll once again give thanks for all the enthusiasm and engagement from readers and friends over the years.

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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 8:22 am, Monday November 24 2014
  • It’s a short week this week, getting as much done as I can before Thanksgiving. If we can work out the paperwork today, I’ll be spending tomorrow working with a new client to explore their very immediate design and business challenges and seeing what we can get done before the year wraps up.
  • Last week I spoke at HOW Interactive Design about interviewing users. I’ve heard great things about how helpful the talk was and the slides are online here.
  • Over the weekend, I delivered a new talk as a keynote at Interaction South America. It’s called Designing the Problem, and the slides, audio and sketchnotes are here.
  • Coming up this week is the 13th anniversary of All This ChittahChattah. That’s a lot of blogging!
  • Ten years gone: From November 2004 – Grotesque consumerism, Nissan Lets You Tell Better Stories, Kreskin Offers Services to N.J. Governor.
  • What we’re consuming: Dungeness crab, Olive Kitteredge, Fog City, exuberant Goldens.
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Designing the Problem, my keynote from ISA14
By Steve Portigal at 7:31 am, Monday November 24 2014

Although we couldn’t make it down to Buenos Aires for Interaction South America, thanks to the magic of Skype I was able to present Designing the Problem at over the weekend.

Too often we assume that doing research with users means checking in with them to get feedback on the solution we’ve already outlined. But the biggest value from research is in uncovering the crucial details of the problem that people have; the problem that we should be solving.

As the design practices mature within companies, they need to play an active role in driving the creation of new and innovative solutions to the real unmet needs that people have. In part, driving towards this maturity means looking at one’s own culture and realizing the value of being open-minded and curious, not simply confident. This is a challenge to each of us personally and as leaders within our teams and communities.

Below you’ll find slides, audio and sketchnotes. I’ll repost when the video go up.

The talk is just over 40 minutes and there are two questions (which you can’t hear but which should be obvious enough from my response).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.



To download the audio Right-Click and Save As… (Windows) or Ctrl-Click (Mac)

Here is my huge head during the Q&A segment (image via Juan Marcos Ortiz)

juan marcos ortiz B3EU_zyIYAAXKue_425

Sketchnote by Kat Davis (click for full size)

Kat-Davis-B3KkgEsCcAE2Jjo

Sketchnote by Thiago Esser (click for full size)
10802698_389325447886104_12

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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 7:05 am, Monday November 17 2014
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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 11:14 am, Monday November 10 2014
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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 12:40 pm, Monday November 03 2014
  • We’ve decided to consolidate our office space and so I’ll be spending time in the next few weeks going through the accumulated tech gear, paperwork, books, furniture and office supplies, getting rid of what we don’t need any more and moving stuff around to create a more streamlined and comfortable workspace. It’s overwhelming but necessary.
  • Sign up for my Interaction South American workshop on Interviewing Users.
  • In early December I’ll be speaking at Warm Gun. Use the code SPKWARM to save $150.
  • My Brussels photos are now all uploaded, here.
  • Out on the town this week, I’m hoping to go to this BayCHI event featuring Frank Yoo, the head of design at Lyft.
  • From the blog last week, When A Food Truck Is Not A Food Truck.
  • Ten years gone: From November 2004 – Maybe name is not destiny, then?, eBay tries to harness warm fuzzies, Elevator Pitch Essentials.
  • What we’re consuming: iPhone 6, The Roaring Twenties, roof sealant, Grilled octopus with bacon tempura, USB enclosures.
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When A Food Truck Is Not A Food Truck
By Steve Portigal at 2:09 pm, Wednesday October 29 2014

Now you can have all the positive attributes of a food truck (adventure, deliciousness, speed?) without the inconvenience of having to actual go to a food truck. Here’s some examples I’ve seen recently where an individual restaurant is named like a food truck but is definitely not a food truck.

slicetruck
Slicetruck explains themselves this way

I like to try and remind people that we are actually a restaurant and not a food truck. We named it Slicetruck because we started with a pizza truck and just couldn’t think of a new name for the store. You should try naming a pizza place. Very difficult to find something no one is already using and real easy to fall into the lame trap of throwing some meaningless Italian name into it or a “papa” or “mama” into the name.

taco-truck
The Taco Truck tells us

In 2009 we launched our very first truck in New Jersey…So far we’ve opened stores, kiosks, carts, and trucks in NY, MA, and NJ.

At least they each have trucks in their history, although it makes for a confusing name, what with their not being trucks.

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This Week @ Portigal
By Steve Portigal at 10:47 am, Monday October 27 2014
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When your participant repels and scares you
By Steve Portigal at 8:26 am, Thursday October 23 2014

Embedded above is a fantastic and disturbing episode of Love + Radio. Nick van der Kolk and Noah Morrison visit Jay Thunderbolt, who upon beginning the interview, aggressively reiterates his demand for payment (not possible for public radio, which Jay knew). Noah ends up going on a liquor run instead, as Jay offers him a pistol or Kevlar vest. Jay never stops insulting the interviewers, and stories of violence abound; indeed at one point he points a gun at Nick’s head. Meanwhile, they are interviewing Jay about the strip club he runs out of his house.

Yikes. This sounds like some of the War Stories, doesn’t it?

I don’t know what is going through Nick’s head as he’s doing this interview, but as I listen I find myself strongly repelled by Jay. And while the interview here is edited, so we don’t know all that happened, but Nick never reveals discomfort or lets Jay’s obvious provocations get to him. His patience and tolerance create room for Jay’s story to come out, and while Jay is not an appealing individual, you begin to understand and accept him as he is. Well, I did. Your experience may vary.

Nick finally responds to Jay’s taunting at the end, when he asks Jay “Do you think you understand the way I feel about you?” and Jay admits that he doesn’t. It’s a powerful moment in an intense interview.

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