The Importance of Being Impressed

You become like the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose Carefully

Much has been written about how your friends influence you and how you become the people with whom you choose to associate. It’s easy to find great quotes about this and I believe them wholeheartedly. I also believe they apply to your work colleagues, especially when they’re also your friends. Choosing to surround yourself with people who can teach you more than you can teach them simply makes you better at whatever you do.

I consistently find myself in meetings and presentations, whether they’re with clients or internal, where my colleagues are speaking and I’m thinking, “Man, this is so impressive.” I don’t mean they just had a great one-liner or a pretty slide. I mean the quality and depth of thinking, the detailed analysis, findings and recommendations, the command they have of the room, and yes, sometimes the pretty slides — it’s all truly impressive.

There are tremendous advantages to this:

people-surround

It makes us excited to come to work.

We’re constantly looking for new ideas and ways to solve problems and we want to see what our coworkers come up with. It might be a completely new approach to a project or a new way to organize and present the data, but they continue to push for the best way to do it. We’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time and it’s fun to still see something new so often.

It makes us trust everyone we work with.

We know they’ll do great work every time. We can collaborate on the big picture and then know everyone is focused on the details until they come together into a clear, cohesive deliverable. This level of trust allows us to be incredibly honest each other. When we review each other’s work and get it back marked up with lots of edits, we know it’s about high-quality service delivery, not about putting each other down.

It makes us want to continuously improve.

With all this great work going on, everyone is raising the bar and we want to keep up. We see one of our coworkers create a great findings and recommendations report or final presentation and immediately start asking how we can do it even better next time.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common to hear stories from people about their experience with the opposite reactions:

eagles-soar

I’m not excited to come to work.

“Nothing new ever happens.”

“I’ll just put my time in, nothing more.”

I don’t trust my coworkers.

“If I want something done right, or done at all, I have to do it myself.”

“I don’t want to share my work with anyone else because they’ll say they did it or they’ll just tell me it’s all wrong.”

I have no incentive to improve.

“When I first started I had all these fantastic ideas about how we can do things better, but my boss dismissed them all so fast and so often I just stopped even thinking about it.”

“We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.”

It’s easy to see which scenario provides a better overall experience for employees and clients. I can’t wait to be impressed again tomorrow.

Allison O’Connor Speaks on Healthcare Operations

Allison O’Connor has been invited to speak at the 2016 Insignia Health Client Summit on Health Activation in Portland, Oregon. Allison will speak as part of a panel on May 4th that will be addressing the topic of implementing, managing and optimizing an activation-based approach to care. Attendees include large and small provider groups and systems from around the country.

Allison leads strategic planning, operational improvement projects, and M&A project management for Evantage clients. She has worked with national provider and payor systems, regional health systems and critical access hospitals and clinics. In 2012, Allison was awarded the Top Women in Finance award by Finance & Commerce magazine.

Design for the Caring Professions: New White Paper and Slideshare

Yesterday I had the opportunity to present to 45 UX professionals at TC UX Meetup. I chose to speak on a topic that has become close to my heart over the past few years:  what it’s like to work on the front lines of healthcare and social services as a caring professional. We explored methods for doing in-depth user research and guidelines for designing effective solutions once you understand the user needs.

This topic is also covered in a white paper I recently wrote. Analyzing data from nearly 200 individual interviews, the paper explores how the unique needs of caring professionals are shaped by how they think about their work, the environments in which they perform it, and their interactions with other people. In addition, it provides concrete guidelines to help those who are designing for this specialized user group to maximize the effectiveness of their solutions.

Download the paper for a deep dive into:

  • The mindset of those who have chosen to work caring for people,
  • Constraints imposed by the environment in which they work, and
  • Expectations placed on them by others.

 Design_for_Caring_Professions_Icons

Gaining a deep understanding of how care professionals approach their work, spend their days, and adapt to their organization’s expectations enables the creation of systems and procedures that work for this unique user group.

The same techniques used for this research and analysis could be applied to most other user groups with similar success. With meaningful and directed curiosity, a user experience partner can uncover the authentic needs of your users and create designs that exceed their expectations.

Download Whitepaper  View SlideShare Presentation

 

How Might We… make a better world in just one weekend?

“It’s amazing what can happen in just three Earth rotations…”

This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in the Twin Cities gathering of the Global Service Jam 2016, both as a coach and observer. A “service jam” brings together small, local groups to use design thinking techniques to brainstorm, research, and prototype completely new services inspired by a shared theme.

Friday kicked off with revealing the secret theme for this year’s Global Service Jam. “Jammers” were surprised to hear an audio clip of what sounded like someone (or something!) splashing into a pool of water. They then took out their Post-It notes and pens and started brainstorming things that the splash reminded them of; first individually and then as groups. Ideas were sorted into related themes and groups of two to four “Jammers” used the themes to create their preliminary “How Might We” questions.

Haven’t heard of a How Might We question? The term is used frequently in design thinking activities to describe a question that acts as a foundation for research and design inquiries. It describes the problem you are trying to solve, and is stated optimistically to reinforce the feeling that a good solution is possible. A How Might We (HMW) question is usually brief, allows for a variety of answers, and inspires ideation and creative thinking.

Here are three ways you can form great How Might We Questions:

  1. Refine the scope. It’s important to have a statement that sets helpful boundaries. Avoid questions that are so narrow that they shut down creativity (“How Might We build more community spaces for relaxation?”) or too broad (“How Might We redefine how people spend their free time?”). A right-size question leaves room to be surprised by your research findings and iterate solutions, but doesn’t feel overwhelming or unfocused. One team eventually settled on “How Might We remove barriers that keep people from finding peace and relaxation?” and after interviewing several users, decided to focus on one persona that seems to have the most barriers to relaxation: Millennials.
  2. Remove embedded biases and assumptions. By Saturday morning, another team had coalesced around the question, “How Might We raise awareness of individual water consumption so that people reduce their global footprint?” By writing down as many assumptions as they could think of, the team realized that they had started wading in to “solutioning” before even beginning their research. In order to identify the most effective ways to get people to reduce their global footprint, the team needed to be open to any number of solutions, not just the solution of “raising awareness.”  Another way to avoid type of assumption is to focus on the ultimate benefit or change you want to bring about. While it is natural to imagine the best way to get there, those perspectives should come later and be based on user research.
  3. Let the facts speak for themselves. On the other hand, do rely on available facts to inform the background of your user research. This same team also wondered if they had gone too far by assuming that individual water consumption has a negative environmental impact. They questioned whether they should do user research to determine causality. While asking users if they think their individual water consumption has an impact on the environment could be an interesting area to research, it’s not necessary to support this particular How Might We—this information has been proven through scientific research and is easily found online. The team decided to move forward, and their final prototype of the weekend outlined a campaign that began with awareness of consumption and then grew into a competition engaging communities, large corporations, and even governments.

I could not have been more impressed by Sunday’s team presentations. In just 48 hours the “Jammers” had become very comfortable with terms like “insights,” “personas,” and “failing fast.” Their prototypes were solidly based in research and they were able to articulate the needs they had uncovered and how they had iterated their solutions as they got more and more feedback. Not a bad way to spend a weekend. You can view all of the projects from the Twin Cities Service Jam and others around the world here.

Prototype from Global Service Jam

Prototype of a community to address the question “How Might We help millennials find more opportunities to relax?”

GSJ2016_1

Prototype of a five-part campaign to address the question “How Might We increase community members’ capacity to positively affect water consumption?”

 

Useful Data Visualizations

There are a lot of ways you can visualize data, and there’s no shortage of best practices out there for making your charts and graphs. Best practices only take you so far, however. I’ll be talking about how a user’s context and goals inform useful data visualizations at the UXPA’s February meeting, next Thursday, February 11. Event details are here. Also: jokes. Hope to see you there!

View Jeff’s SlideShare Presentation

Jeff Harrison Earns Designation as Data Visualization Domain Expert

Jeff Harrison, Senior UX Consultant, Data Visualization Domain Expert

Jeff Harrison has been promoted to senior UX consultant, data visualization domain expert. In this role, Jeff makes us, and our clients, smarter about how to analyze and present data in a visual form.  As Jeff says: “Like presenting and writing, communicating data effectively is broadly applicable to projects across our practice areas. Visualizing data is a skill that can be improved upon by understanding principles of human perception, becoming proficient with tools, and practicing.”

Mentioned In Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Rachael Marret Joins as Managing Director

Rachale Marret

Rachael Marret

We are excited to announce that Rachael Marret has joined us as Managing Director. In this role, Rachael will serve as a growth catalyst, helping to establish strategic direction for the firm and providing consulting services to clients.  Rachael brings global experience, both as a corporate leader, as well as an agency manager and consultant.  Her most recent role was SVP, Consumer Engagement for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group where she had responsibility for ecommerce, mobile, social media, digital marketing, loyalty/CRM, consumer insights and data & analytics. From 2002 to 2013, Rachael worked for the McCann Worldgroup organization, first leading the Minneapolis office of their digital agency brand, MRM Worldwide, and later joining Campbell Mithun as President.

Read the article at StarTribune

Bret Busse Promoted to SVP, Consulting Operations

Bret Busse

Bret Busse

We are happy to recognize Bret with a promotion to SVP, Consulting Operations & Technology in acknowledgement of his contributions to clients and the company. Over his 10+ years at Evantage, Bret has developed a reputation among his clients and colleagues alike for steady leadership and effective delivery.  In this new role, Bret will build upon his current responsibilities of client consulting work, data security, and technology leadership, to include firm operations.

Mentioned in Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Visualize Nothingness

By Jeff Harrison

It’s an exciting time to be me! If this email I got from LinkedIn is any guide, my career is about to really take off.

linkedin

Also, this email from my bank shows my rewards balance on this credit card remains at an all-time high. (I don’t know what “Earn More Mall Earnings” means but as someone who lives within a hypothetical short drive of the Mall of America I’m pretty stoked.)

rewards

To top it off, according to this visualization in ClassDojo, my kid is rocking Spanish class. The chart helps me see that all of the feedback from his teacher is positive.

class dojo

All these displays have one thing in common: underwhelming data. I do not actively promote my profile on LinkedIn [edited to add link to LinkedIn profile], and my son’s Spanish teacher never got into the habit of using ClassDojo to communicate with parents. I never signed up for the rewards program for which I receive the monthly grid of zeroes above; they just started showing up in my email a year or two ago. (The program is attached to an overdraft protection feature that Wells Fargo couldn’t figure out how to implement without issuing me a second debit card, which I routinely cut in half each time I get a new one.)

It’s easy to imagine the design reviews for these interfaces. Colorful charts! Insights! Engagement! When there’s a match between the data in these displays and what customers care about optimizing, magic happens: think of all the Fitbit users who consult their apps to monitor their steps and optimize their day for physical activity. The data contributes to a feedback loop, and more people take the stairs. However, when there’s a mismatch the displays aren’t motivating. They just feel kind of lame.

Do your user research. Get it right. And stop sending me notifications that suggest my life is somehow disappointing. Because LinkedIn and my mom would both tell you different:

allstar

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