Innovating by Uncovering User Needs Through Observation

Margarida da Marça
Oct 4, 2017 · 3 min read

I was challenged by Taneli Heinonen, Deep Costumer Insights tutor from Service Innovation and Design Master at Laurea, to write a reflection on the key insights from this talk by Mikkel Rasmussen and this talk by Christian Madsbjerg, writers of Moment of Clarity — a very good read published by Harvard Business Review that examines the business world’s assumptions about human behaviour and shows how these assumptions can lead businesses to take bad decisions.

The following is what I’ve learned from these articles.

The best ideas come from observation and understanding human needs.

Basically, we can’t make assumptions about human behaviour. Our assumptions are often dictated by our personal context, by our history or they way we perceive, when we know that humans in reality don’t always act in such logical or rational ways.

Mikkel and Christian assert that we must learn from human behaviour, often through observation, direct inquiry and interpretation.

Christian Madsbjerg refers Martin Heidegger and the philosophy of human engagement

What is unique about humans is our ability to be engaged and to care about things. Humans don’t like to think, they like the feeling of being in complete flow with what they are doing.

The only way for big corporations stay relevant in the future is to listen to their customers.

It seems like companies are finally advocating “staying close to the consumer” or obtaining qualitative “user feedback”. What they haven’t necessarily been doing, however, is analysing correctly the feedback, understanding real user needs, or interpreting the real meanings that may be conveyed by consumers.

Forget what you learned in school, the best ideas and thinking won’t come from our head.

Where should original thinking come from? Mikkel and Christian argue that the best ideas shouldn’t come from inside your head, they should come from somewhere beyond it: the real world.

Referring to a future prediction on “the kitchen of the future” where 3D printing, drones delivering food, automated cooking or shopping using touch screens, Mikkel and Christian show us that if we’d think rationally we would never get these ideas, or we would think they are bad or good.

What is the real meaning that drives these ideas?

Humans don’t like to cook.

If we asked about this to an anthropologist, he will say right away that this is completely wrong. Without any evidence he will say cooking is the most important thing to a human being, it is what differentiates us from animals. Cooking is the “essential ingredient of human essence” so removing this from humans would be a really bad idea. Another example of this not being a correct prediction is if we look at the Magazine industry. There’s one category of magazine that is reversing the current pattern of decreasing sales — Food.

Is this “future of the kitchen” prediction wrong?

When Future ideas come from our brains, they also come with our own hidden assumptions, our beliefs or our values. These blind our ability to be curious and create something new and innovative.

15-years from now the Future of the Kitchen predicts that the food is going to be 3D printed

Basically, when technology or bad ideas take away this context of our personal humanity, they become really bad ideas. Really bad ideas have no meaning to us.

In conclusion, we need to look at business problems as a part of a larger social phenomenon. You need to apply deep understanding of the business you are in so the fastest growing in its industry.

Clap if you like it!

About me:
I’m Margarida da Marça, a Senior User Experience Designer at OutSystems and a Service Innovation and Design MBA student at Laurea. I live between Helsinki and Lisbon and work with a bunch of amazing clients and partners worldwide.

Margarida da Marça

Written by

Design Practise and Team Lead at OutSystems Finland

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