As part of this year’s Seattle Design Festival: Design in Health, I attended a “design-thinking” workshop. The design leaders at Substantial executed a hands-on workshop that illuminated the first step of problem-solving within the context of creating a minimum viable product (MVP) in an agile environment.
Ryan Harasyn and Steve Shapero first talked about how an agile environment means having a shared vision with both the developers and designers at the table for the initial stages of the project. The three steps in creating great solutions, they said, are: Discovery, defining the problem; Stabilization, where you consolidate resources and data and start defining your solution; and Repeatability. During the discovery phase, you’ll wittle down your hypotheses after foreseeing problems, considering assumptions, and doing a fair amount of research into a minimum viable strategy. After validating this strategy –with more research!– then and only then should you start to develop the minimum viable product based on that strategy.
Each group was to discuss the problems and assumptions of the scenario and begin to form hypotheses. Members of the presentation went around the room to individually assist each team how to deal with the vagueness of the prompt. In my group we talked about the definitions of “chronic illness” and “engage.” We also discussed how targeting a particular segment of the patient population would make it easier to identify specific foreseeable problems and areas of research or clarification. We wanted to know what are role was in this. Were we part of a team of medical experts or are we hired by them? One of the Substantial team members said ti was important to identify the players and some of their needs. The players include stakeholders, investors and the users. They called this part, the mapping of your understanding. Having both developers and designers at this stage was vital to creating a shared vision, better cooperation and a better end product.
After about twenty minutes of this, the presenting team instructed us to find a partner from a different group for an Interview. It was interesting because they didn’t tell us what to ask. Forming an interview from no time to prepare was a little nerve wracking. I focused on one part of my hypothesis to help steer the conversation. Through the understanding process, I was convinced that a solution for chronic illness was something that needed to be a routine. I was interested in how my interviewee developed habits. I asked “How do you begin to engage with something often?” He said discipline building, immediate results, a profess bar of some kind and positive reinforcement were factors that would affect his ability to form a routine. I asked him about a specific activity that he regularly engages in and he said jogging. I asked why he did it regularly and he said “I like it. It’s good for me and I feel immediate benefits.” He also said it was encouraging to read up articles written by fellow joggers that recommended amounts of jogging per week, ex. three times a week.
I was his interviewee as well and he asked me about insurance companies and if they issued a program for preventative care, would I follow it and other things related to that scenario.
This is a truncated process, very quick and insufficient for a real MVS, but it was amazing to see what we could get done in less than an hour!
So, we regrouped in our original groups of five and discussed our findings and invent a way to validate our MVS. Most of us had some nuggets of wisdom from personal testimonials but our answers were only as good as our questions. One person had an interviewee with chronic lower back pain and was able to pin point a clear MVS to bring back to the group. She said the MVS should be “We believe that walking daily and socializing will help alleviate chronic lower back pain.” I thought this was too specific and didn’t really speak to the how of the solution. I wanted to include something like building discipline over time creates a capable patient or something to that effect. But, a Substantial team member came by and said that this woman’s MVS is great, very concrete and actionable. Having a strategy that you can go back to is important when coming up with solutions, the strategy must be addressed, otherwise you’re not solving the problem you stated you’d solve.
The Presenters talked about how validating a strategy is important and doing experiments on a small test group can help you get data to support your strategy.
Summary of Discovery Process
- Build trust between you (the organization) and the client.
- Ask yourself, does the client need to be trained on something to be “business-ready?”
- Tackle a broad problem.
- Map your understanding. What is the client looking for?
- Get to a place where you can start to look for validation.
- Conduct research. Interview people. Aim for both positive and negative feedback. Aim for data-driven feedback.
- Regroup and take a stab at a Minimum Viable Strategy (you have to start somewhere) Use the phrase “we believe that…”
After some discussion with your client about your strategy and the go-ahead to explore that line of inquiry, start on defining some key user experiences. Prioritize these and work on the ones with high impact. Break the project into smaller chunks to learn more quickly about the nature of your solution. Get more data to validate your direction.
I loved this workshop. This was my first user experience workshop and I feel a lot more confident in my ability to make apps that actually solve problems with an elegant and experimental process. The lessons learned here can definitely apply outside of the healthcare industry, though I am really excited about putting more power into patient’s hands regarding their health.