31 Oct 2022 innercircle@experiencedynamics.com

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Bring stakeholders along in Problem Space Discovery

The role of stakeholders in problem space discovery

At the very start of the Problem Space Discovery in Agile Masterclass on October 27th 2022, participants had already raised a fundamental question in doing user research in the Problem Space: how to bring stakeholders along?

Problem space discovery, or the act of first fully understanding user needs, contexts, and tasks, is vital to creating a UX design that boosts user adoption. However, possibly more important than insights is stakeholder desire to carefully explore problem space before solution space. Moreover, making this vital UX activity a regular part of their regular design decision-making is where you gain UX maturity. In short, who cares if your insights are groundbreaking, if your stakeholders are not engaged, ignore the insights, or do not value problem space discovery?

Why would stakeholders not value problem space discovery?

The main reason is they are in love with the wrong end of the puzzle: the solution space! ‘Solutioning’ is the art of jumping straight to a solution without deeply understanding the users, their constraints, the space they solve their problems in (physically, socially, mentally, emotionally). The result of solutioning, sadly, is that you end up with the wrong features or the design of those features in a way that is not intuitive, or slightly off (again, impact user adoption- the topic of an upcoming course on user adoption). The goal of problem space discovery is to design for the “Right Problem”–the one that makes most sense and works for the user.

avoiding solutioning- designer tames dog

Now stakeholders not ‘falling in love with the problem‘– is not the only issue here. In the Problem Space Discovery in Agile Masterclass we talked about how designers can often jump in and solve problems (some well trained by their stakeholders to do that, no doubt). This is what we call taming your inner Solution Dog. As designers we are problem solvers and we often have a tendency to chase after solutions (like a highly motivated dog chases a ball). Stakeholders sometimes don’t even need to ask, we’ll give it to them. And the more you do not have contact with your users, the more likely you are to have a very active Solution Dog inside you. It’s important to get it on a lead. How? Before solving any design problem, stop, back-up, and ask:

  • “Is this really what users need, as they define it?”
  • “How did we come to define this problem we are solving?”
  • “How do we know?”

Here are some excerpts from a discussion on how to help stakeholders learn to tame their insistence on solutions before problem space discovery.

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