The Power of Observation

Sep 24, 05

A Few Observations Are Worth 1,000 Questionnaires

A great interview with IDEO founder David Kelly by Morgan McLintic

Excerpts from the interview:

?The second phase is built around observation. We feel strongly that to understand people’s latent needs, you have to observe them. You can’t just listen to what they have to say. We haven’t gained a lot of benefit from distributing questionnaires?asking people about their needs and experiences. If you watch what they do, however, it’s a different story. If I were to redesign a gas station, I’d go stand near the pumps and watch what goes on. Eventually I’d see the problems people were having. But if asked those people about their experience, they’d say it was fine.?

?Innovation is a team sport; I don’t think anybody would disagree with that. You put people on teams, and suddenly you have many viewpoints, which in turn leads to more interesting innovations. In the mechanical engineering department, we taught project classes, but if you put four mechanical engineers on a team?which is what we always did?your answers always take the form of mechanisms, whether you’re trying to make it more fun to wait in line at Safeway or something else.?

Visit Thoughtless Acts? to preview a quirky book by Jane Suri and IDEO that show ‘how people behave in a world not perfectly tailored to their needs’ .

I recall Hemu Ramiah, CEO, Landmark, a pioneer in ‘book retailing’ in India share how she used ‘the power of observation’ to make business decisions.She facilitated browsing since she noticed that shoppers liked to read a little before deciding to buy a book. She reduced floor space for greeting cards when she observed the trend of sms messages being used to convey wishes instead of greeting cards.

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