5 Ways Design Research can benefit your Business or Organisation
Studio Notes | Long Reads
Studio Notes | Long Reads
by Sean Casey, Service Designer.
Design research is all about getting a deep understanding of the people who use, and the people who deliver your service. A variety of methods can help you learn from these people and their experiences, and to design a service to better meet the needs of everyone involved.
So is “Design Research” for you? Here are some of the ways that it can help…
1. Identifying & Defining Problems
Good design research should help your organisation to better identify and define problems, providing focus and direction to improvement efforts. It’s especially beneficial for creating alignment between teams as to those priorities. The evidence design research creates includes stories, examples, and themes – things everyone can understand. This helps people agree as to the problems that need to be solved.
2. Challenging Assumptions
An important aspect of good design research is that it helps organisations and teams to challenge their own assumptions.
Often, an organisation has a set way of thinking about their services and may not consider alternative solutions or approaches. There may be assumptions about the people using a service, the people delivering a service, partners involved in a service, or the technologies needed to support a service.
Design research helps to break down these assumptions and encourages teams to think outside the box and question things they may previously have taken for granted. This can highlight new opportunities to better meet the needs of service users.
3. Uncovering the “Why?”
Design research can complement the quantitative data you might already have from surveys, web analytics, or other performance indicators. Hard data is very good at showing “what” is happening, design research can help to figure out “why”.
This is because in most cases, design research will take a qualitative approach, using tools like interviews, shadowing, mapping, or collaborative workshops. These approaches help build a nuanced, in-depth understanding of the needs and experiences of people involved in the service, and why things are the way they are.
Through understanding the “why?” we help to guide good design and innovation within the service.
4. Getting people on board!
Involving the people that work to deliver the service and getting their input during a research effort can really help them to feel more invested and connected to the project, which improves buy-in and engagement. This is especially true under circumstances where the research outcomes may result in a change in operations or new responsibilities for the team. Early engagement is key, and because design research means conversations and collaboration – it can help build the relationships that underpin great service delivery.
Seeking input from the people who deliver the services can lead to more inclusive and effective design and can help in building trust and collaboration between team members. Being part of change, people are more inclined to support change.
5. Empathy & Alignment
Most services are delivered by multiple teams, across silos and sometimes even across different organisations or continents! Design research methods highlight the lived experience of the people who use a service – these stories foster a sense of empathy for the customer, or service user, in a way that hard numbers don’t. Aligning teams around who your user is and what they need is a key function of design research.
But it’s not just limited to alignment on customer needs – sometimes teams need to align on what’s actually happening within a service… this is the purpose of system maps, and journey maps – both common outputs of design research.
What these maps do, is to “make the invisible visible” – to capture in a way that all stakeholders can see, visualising the way your service works and the systems and processes underlying the service. This can be the first step on the road to service innovation – aligning everyone’s view of what’s happening ‘on the ground’.
How do we get started?
The good news is that design research is all about understanding people… and assuming you too are a person, you’re well placed to make a start!
There are lots of resources online to help with planning, executing, and understanding design research. On other occasions it can be helpful to get a “neutral” outsider, such as an external agency to support – and to help teams align around the research as part of their work.