25 years of growing this method
Supporting humans is more important than creating tools
Generating respect, dignity, and a sense of making progress in community with others–those are what lives are made of. And those are what get crushed in the rush to push technology forward. Those are what get crushed by the zeal for mega payouts. I’m a technologist, but not a solution-ist. I’m a systems person who loves that we can do so much with the internet and these tiny computers we carry around. But most apps feel harmful to me. The tool I reach for most often is deep listening. I’m one of those people molding our methods to a more human shape. I’m spreading the idea of paying attention to people. I’m helping you support humans, rather than simply create tools.
I give practitioners and leaders powerful mindsets and awareness. Depending on their own context, developers, product owners, designers, researchers, and leaders can adjust these mindsets and awareness to best work within their organization. This adjustment gives people the confidence that they need to lead, push, or pull their org into a more ethical, person-supporting frame of mind.
A method for supporting humans
Are you wondering how I came up with mental model diagrams, opportunity maps, and thinking styles? Find out about the genesis of the method
Research for ethical product design
We can’t go on solving things only based on our own thin understanding. Even if we have diverse teams (which is sadly rare), our ideas are based on our own experiences. Who speaks for everyone else out there who may think differently? It’s time to bring ethics to bear, in particular futures research (also called opportunity, foundational, or exploratory research).
It’s time to
- examine the risk of your assumptions
- create knowledge properly
- understand how confidence in data is achieved in the social sciences
“Woke” in the Technology Workplace
Right now in the technology world, broad representation of cultures, histories, and values among teams is rare. We’re working on improving this, actively seeking the people who have been excluded from chances others have access to.
Harness the power of deep understanding
When paired with big data trends, solution space research, design thinking, JTBD, lean UX, and agile methods, opportunity maps allow organizations to hold a wealth of data in one place. Thinking styles let you activate better support for far many more people.
You can make solutions that truly support different people as opposed to an “average” one-size-fits-all attempt. You can help your organizations realize they’ve not invested enough in understanding the problem space.
For the past two decades I have provided organizations with the knowledge to face the future with confidence and excitement that they can truly see people and support many different perspectives.
Advocate & Create Trust
Though at first daunting, it’s possible to help stakeholders shed years of assumptions, and trust the value of problem space research.
We are a solutions culture. Our first impulse is to come up with ways to fix things. Dropping this impulse for a moment, taking time to listen deeply, is the way to develop trust. With stakeholders, this means learning how they think, building your understanding of their concerns, and making them feel heard. Over time, you will have built their trust, which they will extend to you.
You can also develop trusting relationships with your peers at work. You can develop trust with customers. And best of all, you can develop trust with people who you’d never thought of before. With all this trust, with this deep knowledge, you can then turn on your fixing-things ideas.
Indi is a researcher who coaches, writes, and teaches about inclusive product strategy. Her work is rooted in the problem space where the focus is on people, not users. Indi pioneered opportunity maps, mental model diagrams, and thinking styles. Her way of approaching the problem allows teams to truly pay attention to people, without letting cognitive bias and assumptions creep in. Indi has written two books, Practical Empathy and Mental Models. Her next book, Assumptions Aside, will cover thinking styles. She builds knowledge and community via a series of live online advanced courses about the importance of pushing the boundaries of your perspective. She was one of the founders of Adaptive Path, the pioneering UX agency. You can follow her on Twitter @indiyoung and access many resources on her website indiyoung.com as well as at medium.com/inclusive-software.
- Indi has spoken at 60+ conferences globally (six of them online during the 2020 pandemic), and 30+ internal talks for organizations
- 2021: working on a third book, polishing the online courses in preparation for a cohort format
- 2020: counts the 58th opportunity map Indi has created for a client
- 2018: Indi begins building a series of live online training about listening skills, synthesis, creating mental model diagrams & thinking-style segments; she adopts the term “opportunity map” suggested to her by several practitioners at big tech companies
- 2016: Indi narrates Practical Empathy for Audible
- 2015: Indi’s second book, Practical Empathy, is released
- 2008: Indi begins offering workshops to organizations; she continues to do freelance research for clients
- 2008: Indi’s book Mental Models is published as the first Rosenfeld Media book, introducing the problem space research method to a wider audience
- 2006: Indi returns to freelance consulting, doing research studies, mental model diagrams, and gap analysis for many clients
- 2001: Indi is a founding partner of Adaptive Path, the pioneering UX agency responsible for knowledge sharing via many channels; she conducts research, creates mental model diagrams, and teaches everyone she can how to see opportunities in the gaps between the mental models and the business capabilities meant to support them
- 2000: Indi draws the first version of a mental model diagram, to show a client how their product supported (or didn’t support) their B2B customers (geospatial data)
- 1997/99: Indi polishes her practice of non-directed interviews with people who are addressing their purpose; to appeal to product and business managers, Indi transitions from “conceptual model” to “mental model,” a representation of what the users are trying to accomplish and how they can accomplish it, looking beyond just the tool design
- 1996/97: Indi works for a year as a UX designer for Ikonic, and introduces UI models to the directors, developers, and PMs there; she flips from top-down structure to bottom-up, because the top-down, ivory tower (“cloth office cube”) approach does not take into account the real-life breadth of “atomic tasks;” she creates functional documents for UI based on “conceptual models” made up of these atomic tasks
- 1996: Indi evolves the task model to a “UI Model” for Colloquy, intrigued by the “task analysis” method from part of a BayCHI talk given by researchers from the Stanford Knowledge Systems Lab
- 1993: Indi is determined to shift bank stakeholders to focus on the user, and creates a state machine of Visa call center reps tasks as they transition a desperate cardholder from having lost their card to gaining a replacement; stakeholders grasp the state machine as a less-complicated way to understand the system requirements (a 321-page document)
- 1992: Indi begins freelance work, starting with apps in the PenPoint tablet (early handwriting recognition)
- 1989: Indi moves into interaction design, in Unix, during the Motif vs XToolkit+ competition
- 1987: Indi begins her career as a software engineer
- 1987: Indi starts her masters in Computer science at CSU Fort Collins, then quits because she wanted to push interaction design forward. (This was before any UX programs existed!)
- 1987: Indi gets her degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo