You don’t always need to research the problem space. You might be in a steady state where you see a solid, successful path forward for the next year or two. But if you are interested in getting more market share, securing customer loyalty, moving into a new competitive space, getting ahead of your competitors, or simply creating a brand new idea, you need this research to focus your ideas and reduce risks. The people to explore the problem space are innovators.
mental model diagrams
Above is a mental model diagram from Rackspace. (only available as thumbnail) … For a detailed example, see the diagram published by the Employment and Disability Institute, ILR School, at Cornell University. (published paper)
Mental model diagrams contain the reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles that pass through people’s minds as they seek to achieve a certain purpose or intent. Below the horizontal line, an organization’s capabilities line up in support of certain conceptual towers above the line. Since the data is not connected to solutions, it does not go stale over time. Therefore you can add more data to the same diagram over the course of decades. Colors can depict different meanings; often above the line the different behavioral audience segments are depicted in color.
Outcomes of a mental model diagram:
- Get insight into new or missed opportunities with a clear, broad picture
- See where you have assumptions or insufficient insights about the people you intend to support
- Perform due diligence to reduce risk before investing capital
- Seek new markets within the cracks and details of existing markets
- Measure the strength to which you support different cognitive approaches and principles
- Prioritize where to focus your resources next
- Select which data to apply to other strategy and design efforts like epics in a story map
- Free yourself from following trends by creating trust with truly customized solutions that support a breadth of cognitive approaches and principles
behavioral audience segments
Behavioral audience segments are much the same as personas, derived from listening sessions where rapport between participant and listener enabled deep dives into reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles going through the participant’s mind as they sought to accomplish a particular purpose or intent. Personas often incorporate demographic data and frequently lack context, and are treated as a person to design for, whereas behavioral audience segments are sets of people with common thinking styles. The emphasis is on the way they reason within a particular context.
Outcomes of behavioral audience segments:
- Differentiate between your customers at a deep level, and choose how to support the diversity of their purposes & thinking styles.
- Know what segment you can serve really well with your current capabilities, which allows you to focus
- Postpone, decisively, segments who are not a good fit for you currently (avoid bogging your organization down trying to address them when you need to focus on the priority segments)
- Map out when in the future you will address which segment
- Measure how well your capabilities fit your segment in addition to measuring the market potential
- Address the problem rather than simply adding to your feature set
- Clarify where and when to create different solutions or nuanced customizations for different segments
Reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles are the components you forge into deep understanding when you take the time to really listen. Get past the explanations, opinions, and preferences, down to the deeper cognitive functioning of a person’s mind–to understand not just the reasons why someone decided something, but the reasoning, reactions, and guiding principles that guided that decision. An understanding of this inner landscape of a person’s thinking gives you much more to work with. This is developing empathy. This is the source of all the data in mental model diagrams and behavioral audience segments.
Outcomes of developing empathy:
- Gather stronger, more actionable data for mental model diagrams and behavioral audience segments
- Also apply listening and developing empathy within the solution space
- Strengthen your ability to think from other points of view
- Enable your organization to become more truly user-centered
- Apply listening skills to direct reports, peers, and managers around you at your organization to strengthen collaboration and success
- Product Strategy: Clinging to Assumptions, Interactions May-June 2016 XXIII.3, page 66
- Look at It Another Way, A List Apart, issue 267, September 09, 2008
- Intelligence vs. Understanding, Scroll Magazine, inaugural edition, September 2008
- Select the Perfect Method for Your Research Goal, UXmas, December 22, 2014
- When to be Hasty with Product Research, Medium, April 18, 2016 (PDF)
- Describing Personas, Medium, March 14, 2016 (PDF)
- Not Against Empathy, interview with To The Best of Our Knowledge radio host Steve Paulson, Feb 23, 2017 (transcript)
- UX Convention & Trash at the ConveyUX Conference, February 10, 2016 (transcript)
- A Practical Type of Empathy at the O’Reilly Velocity Conference, May 28, 2015 (transcript)
- How to Use Empathy to Build Software Products on Femgineer TV with Poornima Viyashanker, May 20, 2015
- Supporting People Instead of Persuading Them on Together London Podcast with Jonathan Kahn, July 22, 2014