At the beginning of this month, PSFK invited Nokia researcher Jan Chipchase to present some of his research at their Good Ideas Salon.
For anyone not familiar, Jan is a cultural ethnographer and designer for Nokia. According to The New York Times, “His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company.” That’s a pretty tall order.
His presentation consisted of a series of photographs and short stories of observations he had made during several of his research outings. Each vignette was explained and analyzed, revealing a deeper level of social motivation and cultural idiosyncrasy. Though the presentation was not designed to draw a specific conclusion, it was clear that there was an implicit lesson involved.
As the presentation progressed, it became clear that Jan’s strength as a researcher did not stem from impeccable organization (though he clearly possesses a knack for it) or access to superior resources, but rather his ability to question basic assumptions we make from our own experiences; To analyze what emotional, social, and logistical needs drive cultural and situational behaviors.
To that end, the lesson here is learning to ask the right questions. Here are some of the questions I started asking myself during the presentation that feel pretty relevant to what we, as a digital agency, do on a daily basis. (Note: These pictures are from Jan Chipchase’s blog, Future Perfect, at www.janchipchase.com. Jan and Nokia, are very generous to share this research with the world, so if you use it, please make sure to attribute him and provide a link!)
How simple can things be and still achieve their purpose?
What seems essential that could be left out?
What do you need to show your consumer to earn their trust?
How much transparency is necessary to convince someone that you are legit?
What underlying psychological or social needs might drive a user’s actions?
At the end of the day, we’re only human.
People are already solving their problems in creative ways… can you solve them better?
Can you identify the problems they are struggling with?
This last one did not come from Jan, but was rather inspired by his analysis on my walk home.
What information is critical for the user to know?
What’s the quickest way to deliver it?
What other questions should we ask to inform our ideas and designs?