Into the belly of the beast - March event on 'Research in the field'


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by John Waterworth at the Research Thing, March 2013

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  • Into the belly of the beast:Lessons learned from research with the staff of large corporations.Contrast to public, citizens, consumer. Large corporations. Many of us like small. LicenseCopyright © 2013 John WaterworthThis presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
  • People you need to see, systems you need to review are hard to get at. Inside the organisation, behind security, in different locations.Tempting to fall back on remote working.Work hard to go and see people, see how they work, meet them face-to-face.
  • Cost of access is having a minder. Feel like a restriction, like an old fashioned chaperone.But they know so many more people, and so much more about the company. They know the right way to book meetings and rooms and get into places.Explain over and over what you want to do and how you want to do it. Eventually that start repeating it for you. An additional advocate.
  • By their nature the inside of most corporations are more complex than the parts the customers see. Limit to complexity of consumer facing. Intermediary.Inside large organisations can have specialists, professionals who have taken years to learn what they do. And you will have to learn. Knowing what to learn in detail and what not is important.But being the naïve outsider is important. It’s part of what they’ve brought you in for.Can be useful to separate immersion and learning from research.System is the technology, plus people, plus all the rules and regulations, policies, objectives, …Create different views: Soft Systems Rich Pictures, Service Blueprints,
  • Stakeholders. Lots of people will be interested in what you are doing … or should be. Few concerned stakeholders is an alarm bell.Embrace the stakeholders. Use them for immersion and learning. Ask them to give you their take on policies, objectives, vision. Look for conflicts, contradictions, lack clarity.Understand how you can make the most impact.
  • People think their coming to another bloody meeting. Or an appraisal. Or some old fashioned time and motion study.Or their manager already gave IT our requirements, so why are we wasting our time.Or whatever we say nothing ever changes, so way are we wasting our time.Or they’re here to tell you how everything should be.Make sure you draft the invitations. Maybe even speak to people before the sessions.Did a remote session, with screen sharing, with someone who was using to communicator to moan to a colleague about having to do the session.
  • People will try to teach you. Tell you the policy. To tell you their requirements.Keep bringing things back to them and their experience.Start interview by getting them to talk about themselves. Use you, your. Frame questions so they can’t give generic, or official answers.People will often want to tell you how things should be.Accept suggestions, but ask your why’s. Ask for suggestions until the end.
  • As we all spend more and more time doing information work, less about classical ergonomics and interaction design.So motivation: mastery, autonomy, purpose, behavioural economics, organisation theory, activity theory, distributed cognition.I meet many managers who still believe that people will follow policies accurately because you tell them to, and punish them if they don’t.So basic knowledge of affective emotional psychology, particularly how to relates to productivity at work.
  • Will stumble into people and groups with conflicting goals. Mistake is to treat that as politics that’s somehow separate from what you are researching.So ask different stakeholders to describe goals, policies and, diplomatically, report back the conflicts.That includes conflicts with wider organisational and brand objectives.
  • Hopefully, we know about cognitive biases. They’re generally manageable. Few people straightforwardly lie. Many cases in consumer we are interested in persons memory of experience and interpretation of it, so the fact that that is irrationally constructed isn’t so much of a concern.But with staff are much more likely to lie. Think hard about how you reduce the chances of people lying to you.Improving their experience. Non-judgemental. Outsider. Ditch your minder.But what if they do lie. Can you spot it.I ask similar questions in different ways. Could partly be because I’m getting old and forgetful. But it helps unpack contradictions. And usual probing tends to reveal lies too.And of course lies are data. If they lie and you can find out why, that can be important. Even if all you can do is manage the next interview a little differently so that people will open up to you.
  • Everything will take two or three times linger than you would like. Time to schedule meetings is particularly frustrating. Not like recruiting for research sessions over three days.Even then people will cancel at the last minute, or just not turn up. Frustrating if you’ve travelled a long way.But also take your time to really immerse your self in their culture, organisation norms, really see how things work. How they operate.Really help you understand, give the best insights, make the best recommendations, and present them in a way that works for that organisation.
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  • People spend a long time at work. Sometimes we’re part of a project that will have a significant impact on the working lives of 1,000s of people for years. So if we’re involved in a case like this, let’s at least make sure that whatever does happens it’s based on good evidence.
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  • Into the belly of the beast - March event on 'Research in the field'

    1. 1. Into the belly of the beastLessons learned from research withthe staff of large corporationsJohn Waterworth, @jwaterworthResearch Thing, November 2012
    2. 2. AccessPhoto by Stephen Woods (protohiro) at 2
    3. 3. MinderPhoto by Kim Smith (Squid!) at 3
    4. 4. ComplexityPhoto by Klaus zARTh (voodoo2me) at 4
    5. 5. StakeholdersPhoto by Michele Ficara Manganelli at 5
    6. 6. ExpectationsPhoto by Mark Hilary at 6
    7. 7. PersonalPhoto by Jen Kim (smallestbones) at 7
    8. 8. MotivationPhoto by rosipaw at 8
    9. 9. Agendas9Still from Othello by Castle Rock Studios
    10. 10. LyingPhoto by Tom Hoyle at 10
    11. 11. TimePhoto by Toni Verdú Carbó (ToniVC) at 11
    12. 12. 6. It’s about theirexperience7. What’s in it for them8. Politics are in scope9. Lies are data too10. Take your timeTop tips1. Go where they are2. Coach your minder3. Embrace complexity4. Use stakeholders forimmersion5. Write the invitations12
    13. 13. 80,000 hoursCartoon Copyright © 2010 Scott Adams at 13
    14. 14. 6. It’s about theirexperience7. What’s in it for them8. Politics are in scope9. Lies are data too10. Take your timeTop tips1. Go where they are2. Coach your minder3. Embrace complexity4. Use stakeholders forimmersion5. Write the invitations14
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