Participate to Innovate – Marty Gage

I found Marty’s talk interesting because lately I’ve been thinking about how to conduct research in cultures where people do not like to be watched, particularly in work environments. That makes it difficult to do ethnography.

In that context, participatory design techniques can be great tools to create situations where a researcher can still observe behavior and language people use via artificially created contexts. Marty talks about one of these techniques that he has mastered.

He laid out his research method in a 4 part process:

  1. Prime
  2. Dream
  3. Embody
  4. Evaluate

1. Prime
Give participants a home work. Marty first interviews the business stakeholder and SMEs about the domain and what they want to accomplish with the design effort. From that, he preps photos and words along with instructions and a experience board to send to participants as homework. I’m going to try my best here to illustrate how those artifacts might look like, since Marty didn’t make his slides available yet.

words.gif pics.gif pic2.gif

In the homework, he asks the participants to write down the steps that they take to finish do a thing. Think about the feeling you want to have at each step and also pick a picture to represent that feeling. Draw a line through the middle of the poster board. Above the line, write down feelings you would like to have when completing that step. Below the line, describe feelings you would not like to have. Each of the participants are asked to do this before showing up to the study.


2. Dream
Once the participants get together. They are each asked to present their “experience map”. They each get to see how the others want the experience to look like. This is a great opportunity for the researcher to observe and listen. While the participants share their dreams, the collective aspiration serves as the dream foundation for the group.


3. Embody
Then, the group is asked to put together one experience map and summarize each step in the process to further define the ideal experience. They have to get consensus on the step, what the feeling they want is, and pick an artifact to represent that feeling. The observer can just watch them interact and learn how they made that final decision.

What does everyone have in common. What are some of the steps that are common in the group? What do they want to call them. What are some common pictures in those steps? What do they mean? The moderator helps the participants get to consensus. Through that process they embody the experience that vision.

4. Evaluate
Based on the study observation, the design team come up with concepts and go back to the participants to test the idea against the benchmark they came up with.

5. Convince
Look at the qualitative data quantitatively. After doing the same thing with many different groups, the researcher sums up the patterns found. Communicate the experiential model visually and pitch the concept to stakeholder.
Marty wrote an article on the topic on Boxes and Arrows.


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