Posts tagged “synthesis”

Sign up for “Well, we did all this research- now what?” at Interaction10

I’ll be leading my Well, we did all this research- now what? workshop at Interaction10 in Savannah, GA, in February. (Check out audio and slides from an abbreviated form the workshop here).

If you’re going to sign up before the end of the year, you can use my discount code: IxD10Special and save $50 off the conference registration.

One of the most persistent factors limiting the impact of design research is that research projects often stop with a cataloging findings and implications rather than generating opportunities that directly enable the findings. As designers increasingly become involved in using contextual research to inform their design work, they may find themselves holding onto a trove of raw data but with little awareness of how to turn it into design.

Participants in this workshop (a sell-out at last year’s conference), collaborating in teams, will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data (to be gathered before and during the workshop) into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights. While the framework includes a step to identify key filters that will ultimately prioritize across all generated concepts, the emphasis in this workshop will be to think as broadly as possible during ideation, truly strengthening the creative link between “data” and “action.” By the end of the workshop, participants will have developed a range of high-level concepts that respond to a business problem and integrate a fresh, contextual understanding of that problem.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Pictorial Highlights of IDSA Project Infusion – Without really getting into the content at all, a visual review of the trip to Miami Beach.
  • Project 10 to the 100 – Google crowd-sourced 150,000 "ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible." They've boiled then down to 16 'Big Ideas' and now are going to decide (they are taking votes but it doesn't seem that is the actual decision mechanism) which one to fund. But the process looks random, the results appear ill-defined, and the next steps are murky. I'm not harshing on Google here; this is the process we see in most engagements, moving from insights to opportunities to actual next steps. It's very challenging to do what. Google has done here and make this a public-facing activity, without the benefit of people sitting together in a room developing a shared understanding. We also don't have as much of a stake in what Google does as we would in our own business; we're the public, not members of the team.

Reading Ahead: Research Findings

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(Updated to include slideshow with synchronized audio track)

We’re very excited today to be posting our findings from the Reading Ahead research project.

Lots more in the deck below, but here’s the executive summary

  • Books are more than just pages with words and pictures; they are imbued with personal history, future aspirations, and signifiers of identity
  • The unabridged reading experience includes crucial events that take place before and after the elemental moments of eyes-looking-at-words
  • Digital reading privileges access to content while neglecting other essential aspects of this complete reading experience
  • There are opportunities to enhance digital reading by replicating, referencing, and replacing social (and other) aspects of traditional book reading

We sat down yesterday in the office and recorded ourselves delivering these findings, very much the way we would deliver them to one of our clients.

Usually, we deliver findings like these to a client team in a half day session, and there’s lots of dialogue, but we tried to keep it brief here to help you get through it. (The presentation lasts an hour and twenty minutes.)

It’s been a great project, and we’ve really appreciated hearing from people along the way. We welcome further comments and questions, and look forward to continuing the dialogue around this work.


Audio

Reading Ahead: Building models

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We’ve been hard at work synthesizing the Reading Ahead data. There’s a great deal of writing involved in communicating the results, and sometimes it makes sense to develop a visual model that represents a key idea.

Here are several partial models evolving through paper and whiteboard sketches, and finally into digital form.

We’ll be finishing synthesis soon, and publishing our findings on Slideshare, with an audio commentary.

Stay tuned…

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models

Reading Ahead: Looking for the story

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I started today by typing up all of the Post-it notes you saw in our recent blog post on Synthesis.

This activity created a 6-page Word document of bullet points.

The next part of the process is something I always find challenging: taking an incredibly detailed list of observations, particpant statements, hypotheses, and ideas; figuring out what the Big Ideas are (there’s a point in the process where many of them seem Big!), and putting those into a form that tells a cogent story.

First step: make a cup of tea.

Ok, then my next steps were:

  • Categorize all those bullet points
  • Synthesize those categories a bit further
  • Write down in as short a paragraph as possible what I would tell someone who asked me, “what did you find out?”

Then I went into PowerPoint, which is what we use when we present findings to our clients. I’ll continue bouncing back and forth between Word and PowerPoint; each piece of software supports a different way of thinking and writing.

I dropped my synthesized categories into a presentation file, sifted all of the bullet points from my Word doc into the new categories, and then started carving and shaping it all so that it started to follow the paragraph I had written. (I’m mixing cooking and sculpting metaphors here.)

I printed out the presentation draft, and laid it out so I could see the whole thing at once.

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Steve came back from a meeting and I asked him to read over what I’d printed out. He started writing notes on my printouts, pulling out what he saw as the biggest of the Big Ideas.

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We talked about what he’d written, which led to an energetic discussion in which we really started to breathe life into this. Tomorrow, I’ll start the day by iterating the presentation draft based on our conversation.

3 spots remaining for Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities

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As of this writing there are only 3 1 spots remaining for my EPIC 2009 workshop Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities, September 1 in Chicago.

One of the most persistent factors limiting the impact of ethnography in business is that research projects often stop with a cataloging findings and implications rather than generating opportunities that directly enable the findings. How can designers and researchers work with ethnographic data to create new things for business to do?

Participants in this workshop will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights. While the framework includes a step to identify key filters that will ultimately prioritize across all generated concepts, the emphasis in this workshop will be to think as broadly as possible during ideation, truly strengthening the creative link between “data” and “action.” By the end of the workshop, participants will have developed a range of high-level concepts that respond to a business problem and integrate a fresh, contextual understanding of that problem.

You can check out slides and audio from an abbreviated version at BayCHI or come to the abbreviated version at Web 2.0 New York, November 17.

Reading Ahead: Analysis and Synthesis

Reading ahead logo with space above

Synthesizing field data into well-articulated, data-driven patterns, themes, and opportunities is a big part of our work, but it’s an aspect that generally has less visibility than the fieldwork.

An essential early step in the synthesis process involves going back over the fieldwork sessions. An hour or two-hour interview creates an incredible amount of information. By going back into a record of the interview, we make sure not to leave anything significant behind.

We go through and make notes on interview transcripts (done by an outside service), watch videos of the sessions, and look over photographs, sketches, maps, and participatory design pieces.

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Annotated interview transcript

We made a bulletin board of the people we met, so they’re ever-present while we’re working.

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Yesterday we came together to share the points we’d each pulled out. We present each interview, like a case study, to the team. Sometimes it’s just us, and sometimes our clients join us for part of this process.

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While one of us presented, the other captured the essence onto Post-its. We had a lot of discussion and debate while we did this, pulling together multiple viewpoints.

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When we were done presenting the interviews, the board looked like this:

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Our next step is to take these notes and start grouping them. We’ll look at different ways the information can be organized, and from there, will start refining our work and writing it up clearly and succinctly into a report.

Reading Ahead: Participatory Design

Reading ahead logo with space above

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Tracy and her younger son thinking about possibilities for books and reading devices

Our fieldwork sessions often include a piece in which we ask participants to brainstorm and fantasize about the future.

In an earlier post, we talked about the simple models we were building for the Reading Ahead interviews.

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Book and device models for participatory design activity

We wanted to put something in people’s hands to help them show us what the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future” could be and do. (This fieldwork approach borrows from participatory design.)

We’ve had clients come out in the field with us and say after an interview, “That person didn’t give us any ideas,” so it’s important to clarify that we don’t expect this kind of activity to directly produce marketable ideas. Rather, it gives people another mode for expressing themselves, and it’s great for helping them communicate things which may not always be easy to verbalize, like:

  • Their desires
  • What they think should exist
  • What problems they are trying to solve
  • What seems acceptable and what seems outlandish to them
  • Preferences and in what ways they would like something to be different

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Chris uses the device model to help express his thoughts about navigation

Often for us, the very act of making the props for an activity suggests new ways of using them. In this case, while making a blank cover for the “future book” model, we realized that we could also make a blank inner page spread.

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Holding the “book of the future” model

As it turned out, this meant that when we were done with the sessions, people had created very nice book models for us, with a cover and inner spread.

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Erica’s “telescoping shopping bag” book with digital annotations, hyperlinks, and built-in dictionary

Part of the preparation for each interview session was to get the models ready with new blank paper. Here I am on the trunk of my car, prepping the models before an interview in San Francisco.

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Now that the fieldwork is done, we have a great collection of models made by the people we interviewed.

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Artifacts from participants’ “future book” ideation

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The last section (copied below) of our Topline Summary synthesizes some of what we gleaned from this part of the fieldwork. These are just quick hits; we’ll develop any themes and recommendations that come out of these activities much further in the analysis and synthesis phase of the project.


Excerpt from Topline Summary: Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”

NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

  • Instant on-off

  • Durable
  • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

  • Interactive
  • Put yourself in the story
  • Leave the story for more information
  • Choose from alternate endings, versions
  • Size-shifting
  • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
  • Retain the book form while adding functionality
  • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
  • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
  • Privacy
  • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
  • Projecting
  • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands
  • Reading Ahead: Topline Summary

    Reading ahead logo with space above

    As soon as possible after concluding fieldwork, we write a Topline Summary, in which we capture our first impressions and the ideas that are top-of-mind from being in the field.

    We’re always careful to be clear about what the Topline is and isn’t. There’s synthesis that happens from the fieldwork experience itself (which the Topline captures), and synthesis that happens from working with the data (which we haven’t done yet).

    In the Topline we go a step further than the field highlights and start to articulate some of the patterns we think are emerging, but these ideas may change once we do a detailed analysis and synthesis of the data we’ve gathered.

    In a client project, we’ll have a discussion with the client team around the Topline Summary. We encourage members of the client team to come out in the field with us, and the Topline discussion is a great opportunity for everyone who did so to share their experiences and tell stories. The Topline discussion is also a good time for our clients to let us know if there are any specific directions they want us to pursue as we analyze and synthesize the data we’ve gathered.

    We’ve now finished our fieldwork for Reading Ahead. We conducted six in-depth interviews, with photo diary and participatory design activities (more in our next few posts about these methods).

    Here’s our Topline Summary:



    Portigal Consulting: Reading Ahead Topline Summary

    1. Reading is not just a solo activity; there are significant social/interpersonal aspects for many people
    • Recommendations, book clubs, lending

    • Books facilitate the interpersonal aspects of reading

    • Can be easily lent or given away
    • Given as gifts
    • People can use a book together: parents and kids, showing someone a passage or illustrations, etc.

    • Reading can be a big part of family life

    • Childhood memories, passing books between generations, reading with one’s own children.

    • Connection between home life and outside world (school)

    1. Reading and Books are not always one and the same
    • Erica buys some books because she likes them as objects. She knows she may not read all of them. “I love books. I almost like books more than reading.”

    • Jeff says if you love to read, you’d like the Kindle. If you love books, you should try it out before you buy one

    • The Kindle facilitates types of reading beyond books: blogs, articles, periodicals

    1. Books do more than carry content
    • Books engage the senses: they are tactile, visual objects, with specific characteristics like smell and weight

    • Become carriers of specific memories

    • Develop a patina that carries meaning
    • An inscribed book becomes a record of an event, interaction, relationship

    • There is an art/collector aspect to books (which is absent in the Kindle)
    • First editions
    • Signed copies
    • Galley proofs
    • Typography
    • Pictures and illustrations
    • Quality of paper, printing, etc.
    • Books say something about a person
    • Others can see what you’re reading; like clothes, etc., this carries meaning
    • “Looking at someone’s bookshelves when you go to their house” (Jeff)
    • When people give books as gifts they are deliberately communicating something about the relationship, the event, themselves, and the recipient

    • Books can create a physical record of someone’s reading activity
    • Chris used to line up all the books he had read to get a sense of accomplishment
    • Annotations, bookmarks, tags all convey the reader’s personal history with that book

    1. Books are easily shared
    • Pass them along to others

    • Donate to library

    • Sell or buy at used book store

    • Borrow from the library rather than purchasing

    1. How books are stored and organized carries meaning
    • Emotion, sense of pride, expression of personality, record of engagement

    • Erica organizes her books by how the content/type of book feels to her: “dusty” classics, modern classics, etc.

    • Julie’s extensive shelves are organized alphabetically to reinforce the idea of library

    1. Libraries and bookstores provide specific experiences
    • As a little girl, Erica visited different libraries with her Mom. This was their daily activity, and Erica retains strong and specific memories

    • Julie and her housemate recreated a library atmosphere in their home

    • A quiet, comfortable space
    • Good lighting
    • Alphabetized bookshelves
    • A unified décor

    • For Jeff and others, spending time browsing in a bookstore represents having leisure time

    1. The Kindle
    • For people whose love of reading is bound up in their love of books, the Kindle loses much of the reading experience; it is only a content carrier

    • Julie has a history of wanting to read on electronic devices as well as from printed books, so to her, the Kindle is a big evolutionary step from her old Palm, the iPhone, etc.

    • For Erica, the Kindle signifies “computer,” so it does not let her “unplug” from the fast-paced connected lifestyle that books provide a refuge from

    • Several people described the kinetics of page-turning as an important aspect of reading books that is absent in the Kindle

    • Books afford ways of navigating content that the Kindle does not: flipping, comparing non-sequential pages, looking at the recipes at the end of each chapter, etc.

    • Peter finds it frustrating that when he buys a Kindle book from Amazon, he can’t share it. When he started working in an environment where people were passing books around, he went back to reading printed books

    1. Participant ideation about the “book of the future” and “reading device of the future”
    • NOTE: The first thing a number of the participants said when asked about what the “book of the future” could be and do was that it’s pretty hard to improve on the book-it works very well the way it is. In addition to all the qualities already mentioned, books are

    • Instant on-off
    • Durable

    • But people did have ideas. Here are some of them:

    • Interactive
    • Put yourself in the story
    • Leave the story for more information
    • Choose from alternate endings, versions

    • Size-shifting

    • Able to morph from bigger size for reading to smaller for transporting
    • Retain the book form while adding functionality

    • Book form with replaceable content: a merging of book and device, with a cover, and page-turning but content is not fixed-it can be many different books
    • Books that contain hyperlinks, electronic annotations, multimedia, etc.
    • Privacy

    • Hide what you’re reading from others, hide annotations, hide your personal book list and lend your device to someone (with content for them)
    • Projecting

    • A device that projects words that float above it, so that the reader doesn’t have to hold the device in their hands

    ChittahChattah Quickies

    • Steve Portigal presenting "We've Done All This Research: Now What?" at Web 2.0 Expo New York on 11/17 – As designers increasingly are themselves conducting contextual research to inform their design work, they may find they are holding onto a trove of raw data but with little awareness of how to turn it into design. How can designers and researchers work with this type of data to have the most impact on design and business?

      Participants in this workshop, collaborating in teams, will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data (to be gathered before and/or during the workshop) into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights.

    ChittahChattah Quickies

    • UK teen sex education pamphlet emphasizes sex sex as healthy and pleasurable rather than warning about disease – "Health officials are trying to change the tone of sex education. The new pamphlet, called "Pleasure," has sparked some opposition from those who believe it encourages promiscuity among teens in a country that already has high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

      Regardless of what you think of this morally, politically, etc., it's a powerful example of reframing a discussion and challenging closely-held beliefs in order to innovate.

    • Slides and audio posted for “Well, we did all this research … now what?” at BayCHI – BayCHI has relaunched podcasts and my recent BayCHI talk is among the first to be posted. You can listen to the audio, or you can watch the slides with embedded audio."Steve Portigal introduces a framework for synthesizing raw data into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights and integrate a fresh, contextual understanding of a customer's unmet needs."

    Now online: summary of “Well, we did all this research – now what?” at BayCHI

    Keith Rayner (krayner@kemarra.com) has put together a detailed summary of last month’s BayCHI presentation featuring Kate Rutter and I each sharing our approaches for going from research to design. Hit the link for the whole review, but here’s an excerpt:

    In a fascinating, interactive pair of presentations on product and services design, the audience gained valuable insights into design thinking and the design process. Both presenting companies, Adaptive Path and Portigal Consulting, help companies with the design process for product and services creation and improvement. The session dispelled any notion that these companies work in an intellectual ivory tower, remote from their clients. We saw how their methodologies effectively engage a client in the process, and how the design concepts get pushed through to final product creation. As an added bonus the audience got to join in, be creative and become part of the design process ourselves.

    Steve is often asked by clients to help designers determine what’s going on with their products and services and find out what the future holds. For Steve, conducting research and turning field data into insights consists of two main aspects:

    • Synthesis – turning field data into insights
    • Ideation – turning insights into solutions

    I’ll be running a half-day version of this workshop at EPIC later this summer as well a shorter version to be held in an East Coast city late fall (TBA).

    ChittahChattah Quickies

    • BusinessWeek looks at how Steelcase went from user research data to insights to opportunities – "But most innovations depend on nontraditional research methods—ethnographic studies, customer-created collages, and so on—that can't easily be sliced and diced in Excel. That means synthesis can be one of the most challenging steps in the innovation process." This is an issue I'll be addressing in my upcoming workshop at EPIC 2009 "Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities"
    • The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies – Not technically a museum (or even an Internet museum) as they've really just aggregated images that represent tools and ways of working that have or are in the process of obsoleting.

    Workshop open for registration: Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities

    home_2009

    My EPIC 2009 workshop Moving from Data to Insights to Opportunities is now open for registration. It takes place September 1 in Chicago.

    One of the most persistent factors limiting the impact of ethnography in business is that research projects often stop with a cataloging findings and implications rather than generating opportunities that directly enable the findings. How can designers and researchers work with ethnographic data to create new things for business to do?

    Participants in this workshop will learn an effective framework for synthesizing raw data into insights, and then creatively using those insights to develop a range of business concepts that respond to those insights. While the framework includes a step to identify key filters that will ultimately prioritize across all generated concepts, the emphasis in this workshop will be to think as broadly as possible during ideation, truly strengthening the creative link between “data” and “action.” By the end of the workshop, participants will have developed a range of high-level concepts that respond to a business problem and integrate a fresh, contextual understanding of that problem.

    This workshop is a lot of fun to lead and, as we’ve heard, fun and informative to participate in. Earlier this year it sold out at Interaction 09, and was enthusiastically received in its abbreviated format at San Francisco’s Interaction09 Redux and BayCHI.

    Hope to see you there!

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    About Steve