In tech culture, everyone is hell-bent on coming up with answers and solutions. We all assume we know what the person’s problem is: make everyday life more efficient, keep track of information, get more productivity out of a day, coordinate teams better, etc. Rarely does tech culture start at the very beginning, understanding the variety of approaches real people have to their real purposes and different moods and contexts. Instead, tech starts with an idea – a solution – and builds it into experiments to see if the idea solves the imagined “problem.”
Sound familiar? We can’t go on solving things based on our own thin understanding of how others perceive the problem. We can’t go on assuming everyone is in the same mood and context. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Indeed, we have done a lot of accidental harm in the world with the assumption that the tools we design are “neutral.” We need to get better at paying attention. We need to slow down and gather a richer, more nutritious understanding of the people we are trying to support. And we need to point a beam of light into possible future outcomes.
Let’s put equal emphasis on the problem. Spending equal time in the problem space generates rich understanding. Understanding the depths, perspectives, horizons, and histories of the way people achieve their purposes opens up loads more opportunities. We can begin making solutions that eschew “engagement” to truly support different people in different ways.
The problem space deserves more attention and a slow cycle all of its own.
Indi Young is a speaker, writer, and UX researcher. She empowers makers to know their problem space, and create inspired product designs through empathy and deep understanding of peoples purposes and variety of approaches. She is the author of two books, Mental Models and Practical Empathy, and has spoken at over forty conferences across the globe. Her online courses, training, and personal coaching bring empathy to the designer’s table, building knowledge of users’ needs that goes beyond the data.
You can reach Indi on Twitter @indiyoung, or through her website: indiyoung.com