Week 2: Redefining Someone Else’s Problem

My team and I are only in the second week of an eight-week project with We Are Blood; in the thick of participant interviews and site visits. Our research plan has changed dozens of times. At one point we were defining up to six different types of participants, each with distinct interview questions and visual exercises. It was a bloody mess. What could we be doing to mitigate the division of our focus statement into these isolating variations? How can we synchronize the many players on both ends of the blood bank’s service?

Looking at our own behaviors as designers crafting a research plan, perhaps we took the stakeholders’ suggestions too literally.

When the client you work for has a strong sense of direction and an idea of what they want to discover about their own organization it is easy to regurgitate their words as a research plan. It smooths the stress of having to prove to the stakeholder and yourself that the direction you are taking the project is a worthwhile one.

But when we skipped that step, we skipped the opportunity to redefine the pain point of our client. They are familiar with their issues securing repeat blood donors out of a young generation of Central Texans. Chances are that they’ve thought a lot about how to resolve that issue. That problem persists. But have they thought about how to ask the question differently? Have they thought about asking foundational questions about why people do humanitarian deeds? Instead of asking, how do we get young Texans at We Are Blood, we could ask, why do young Texans do what they do? What moves them to do something out of the ordinary?

I think the ultimate achievement for a non-profit would be for the community to support your cause with no coaxing or coercing, just plain and simple mutual interest in doing good. Reaching that level of sustainability must be a goal for all non-profits of all different shapes and sizes.

All of a sudden we’ve put the user at the center of the universe, we’ve given them the agency in future service design, and we are designing “with” not “for.” At the same time we’ve created a scenario to ask interview questions differently. The CEO of the company could be asked the same questions as the community engagement team, the supervisors, the operations managers, and the phlebotomists.

I feel we have much better footing and confidence to get better data from our interviews while asking a variety of people the same questions. We are no longer manicuring questions to fish for answers we are hopingĀ for.