In business, there always seems to be the latest silver bullet methodology. It gets a lot of attention, articles, and talks. It works well in certain situations and these successes get written up. Everyone wants to be like the company with the success, so they adopt the methodology. But like nutrition, a healthy organization consumes inspiration and understanding from a balanced variety of sources.
In terms of digital product/service design, these sources appear in a typical quadrant: quantitative and qualitative (numbers and words, or “what” and “why”) juxtaposed with evaluative and generative (test and conceive). There are methods that fit into each box created by this quadrant.
There is another dimension that can be added to the quadrant: solution space versus problem space. The methods of listening sessions to develop cognitive empathy and create mental model diagrams or behavioral audience segments fall into the box created by intersecting the problem space with qualitative, generative investigation.
Organizations are starting to realize they’ve not invested enough in understanding the problem space. They’ve been spending budget studying their solution, its design, and its use through quantitative and qualitative methods. But they haven’t balanced that by understanding the problems people are trying to solve in the first place–the bigger problems. Understanding the problem space takes different skills than traditional user research.