community & communication

newsletter #29 | 17-Oct-2017

This newsletter will be short, because I live near the Santa Rosa, Sonoma & Napa fires. It has been an intense week. I tracked friends and family, volunteered at a local evacuation center, and made donations. I saw so many other members of my community doing the same. We had more physical donations (food, clothes, bedding, pet food) than families to take them! So, it becomes a problem of getting the items to the right places, and thence to the hands of those that lost their homes.

We also had many needy who were not evacuees, who were members of the homeless population who live in this beautiful climate. They were also embraced and given what they needed.

unhealthy air quality map, a popular site during the Napa/Sonoma fires

Also, there was the ash all over everything and the smoke was keeping us indoors with windows tightly shut, air conditioning or not. Lots of people felt it in their lungs, but plenty more claimed not to be bothered and even went on to say that people were imagining their chest pain. A family member who is a fireman reminded me that each station still had to respond to all the regular calls from people with health emergencies (of which there were an increasing number complaining of chest issues), and that early on there wasn’t enough equipment for firefighters to join the fight. Not that there was anything to be done in the beginning, when the wind roared through and knocked drought-tested trees into power lines, starting 10 different fires in a 90-minute period that first night.

Over the course of the week, everyone wanted to KNOW things: where were the fires headed, where had they been, what areas were evacuated or about to be, what was the progress on getting cell towers up again, where to evacuate to, what centers needed what kinds of donations, where to bring donations if a center was already overflowing, how to volunteer, how to offer special services to such as massage and yoga and counseling, who might need them where … To KNOW was not possible. There was always old information, slowly updated websites, stale updates returned by search engines, and the endless excited drama of the cable news.

thought provoking

“There is an absolute insistence and faith in meritocracy from many, many people in Silicon Valley.” Why Meritocracy Doesn’t Work by Trisan Kromer, plus the interactive demo Parable of the Polygons

“Human cooperation was often facilitated by an ability to believe in ‘fictions’ such as nations, money, religions, and legal institutions. Machines don’t believe in fictions—or not yet, anyway … if machines are designed to be mainly self-interested, they may hit a roadblock.” Eliminating the Human by David Byrne (contributed by Dan Szuc)

Here is an example of problem space research in action. This past summer CCA students Melissa Kim and Jennifer Kim redesigned the site based on research. diversity for the sake of wisdom, breadth, and relevance. 7 Reasons Why Women Speakers Say No to Speaking & What Conference Organizers Can Do About It — PART 1 and 7 Reasons Why Women Speakers Say No to Speaking & What Conference Organizers Can Do About It — PART 2

Here, I am happy to see an example of using empathy to support people, rather than thinking of “delight.” It’s a talk at the upcoming UI22 conference by Ariel Kennan and Marc Stickdorn. Empathy as a Service: Applying Service Design to the Homelessness Issue

Here’s a talk about JTBD and product discovery at the Productized conference which is coming up again soon in Lisbon, Portugal. The Evolution of Modern Product Discovery by Teresa Torres


I’ve been experimenting with referring to “behavioral audience segments” (and personas) as “thinking styles.” A fellow UX researcher friend, Sam Ladner, PhD,  asked me this:

Q: Curious, Indi, what framework for thinking styles do you use?

A: “Thinking styles” are my new label for behavioral audience segments by context. A person might follow one thinking style in one circumstance and another in a different circumstance. Thinking styles can change over time and with experience. For example, a passenger might have one thinking style when they’re with family v. a different thinking style when they’re alone on a business trip. I’m hoping the new label will help imply the flexibility inherent to human behavior. (LMK if there are similar labels in other fields of research.*)

I use the listening session data (transcripts) to come up with the thinking styles, but I use it in a way that’s 90-degrees different than how I pull the patterns together to create a mental model diagram (the top part of an Opportunity Map).

Here’s what I do:

1. After each listening session, I spend 20-30 minutes writing a paragraph in first person, present tense, to summarize salient points of the way my participant (myself, since I’m writing in first person–putting myself in their shoes)​ approaches/reasons through the subject at hand. (The subject is the scope of the study, never stated in terms of the offering/solution, but in terms of the larger purpose. “Take care of my clothes” instead of “do the laundry.”)

2. I go through the transcripts highlighting certain concepts–the reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles of the larger purpose. (This is the point when I often synthesize patterns across participants to create the diagram, but it isn’t required for making thinking-styles.) Now I have a deep understanding of each person.

3. Re-read each paragraph from step one, holding the work I did in step 2 in mind.

4. Write down the “universals,”–concepts that everyone or lots of the participants have in common. This will be the list of things to ignore in the next step, when inevitably the team and I fall into the rut of discussing things everyone does.

5. Consider whether any of the participants seem to have reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles that stand out from any of the other participants. I look for concepts that seem unique. Then I see if any of the other participants can hook into this uniqueness in a similar way, thus diluting the true uniqueness to a theme that two or more participants can have in common. These become the nucleus of a “thinking style.”

6. This step is a loop: I look for whether each participant can fit into a nucleus thinking style, and if not, I loop back to number 5 and choose a different “unique” hook. It takes a few tries, but within 4 tries or so I have some thinking styles that every participant fits into.

7. I write a paragraph description of each thinking style in first person, present tense, highlighting what makes this approach different. I also refer to some of the common concepts here, just for detail. I name each thinking style, and go over every word to make sure it’s something that someone from this group would say about themselves.

8. I test out the thinking styles by approaching people with the descriptions and ask which one they feel describes them. I approach participants, sometimes, too. I end up tweaking the descriptions to be even better. Every once in a while I end up getting rid of a thinking style no one seems to gravitate toward, or I merge two descriptions.

9. I do this again with the next study for the same organization, starting with step 1, to see if I come up with something similar. With subsequent studies along similar scopes, it’s more a matter of seeing if participants easily fall into a thinking style or not.

An example will appear in my next book, to help clarify what this looks like.

* Sam Ladner wrote back with these links about similar terms:


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