Making research work – Todd Wilkens

Slides & what I got from it:

What is generative research, what makes good user research?
Generative research is good for generating insight and empathy within an organization

Features to Experience is like
Lab studies to Meaning

More qualitative and contextual work = more empathy

It’s NOT about listing what they need or said, it’s about what’s meaningful in their lives. Let’s say that again!

A little bit of empathy in the hands of a designer is hugely more powerful than listing what people need and the features we will offer them…

Case study: People and their possesions.
The magic of things: symbolism and meaning: Motivations (lead to) —> behaviors (establish) —> connections

Interesting stuff doesn’t make research successful, why does good research fail?

Because no one understands its value, its relevance or how to make of it.

Who create successful products?

YOU! You create successful products. Designers, developers, business analysts, customer service, product managrers, researchers, executive manager…. WHOLE ORGANIZATIONS MAKE SUCCESSFUL PRODUCTS

We help organizations make successful products


Throwing research data over the wall -> so little of it is documented and gets thrown over the wall…

Todd calls this the “research martyrdom”

Research has to be actionable and durable:

Actionable: designers should be able to know what to do with it, not the 10 recommendations, they know how to do their job.

Insights should have longevity beyond the research findings meeting. someone else learned something and then someone else goes out and learns the same thing again.


1. Integrate research and design
2. Improve communication


Do analysis with them there

If you can’t get them to do this with you, then the next best thing is to communicate:

research reports: where good insights go to DIE!
Wilken’s law “the effectiveness of research is inversely proportional to the thickness of the binding.

Good research deliverables:

  • Are clear and straight forward —> people can do something with it
  • Engage the audience —> how is this relevant to various audiences.
  • Tell the stories —> stories aren’t told in bulleted lists, we have to be good story tellers: connect with metaphors, values….


  • Insight meets empathy
  • From the persona behavior and motivations drove a lot of the design
  • Obstacles, given situations, triggers, highlight problems
  • Archetype is not stereotype, stereotype loses empathy

Show your ideas to users in the field, even in the mist of research:
Fidelity doesn’t matter, whatever you can do:

  • Comic book
  • Hifi
  • Lofi
  • Prototype a strategy
  • A box
  • A pitch
  • A scenario

Find ways to develop empathy

Example: Dan strapped a pound of rock to himself and walked around with it for 2 days to see how it feels to carry the insulin machines around when he was doing the charmr project.


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