The Lab is an innovation ecosystem where we envision new products or business models through lean design methods, rapid prototyping and new technology using a human-centered approach. Exploring these future experiences helps us leverage the power of narrative to understand how technology may play a role in the future lives of customers and employees.
The output of the Labs is a series of deliverables both visual and written that communicate a conceptual digital product story and direction.
Organizations are continually tasked to re-think their digital products and do it within the confines of their current business units and teams. They often lack the ability to formalize and maintain the scale of effort required to anecdotally validate and communicate a concept to senior leaders within their organization.
The Universal Mind Lab process contains a set of processes that allows organizations to accelerate the conception and validation of these innovation ideas:
Meeting kickoff - Meet with stakeholders and learn about their pain points and concerns. Use information such as rules and regulations as a reference and design with them in mind without limiting the design process. Learn about existing demographics so you can decide how to design the screener.
Schedule interviews - Submit a screener on a public forum to gather participants to interview. Draft an interview script and be flexible since what you learn in the interviews could affect the questions you ask.
Conduct interviews or contextual inquiry - Observe and interview research participants in their natural environment. Follow best practices and leverage a 2-person team to conduct the sessions, one facilitator and one note taker. The schedule should allow for breaks between sessions so that findings can be analyzed and changes made to the research approach.
Analyze results and synthesize findings - Analyze the transcripts and notes from observations keeping track of important themes and pain points along a user’s journey. This will help you form archetypes, personas, and Journey Maps, which will help you identify the main user group(s).
Secondary research - Avoid designing in a vacuum. It is important to know the pain points that the current industry faces so you know if you are discovering new trends in your research (no need to reinvent the wheel). Creating a competitive analysis is useful for understanding the status quo and where there could be areas of improvement over competing products or experiences.
Checking in - Make sure to check in with stakeholders to confirm you are on the right track and that you’re factoring in important information along the way. You don’t want to surprise clients with the final presentation. More likely than not, something will get missed. This also gives clients the opportunity to own the process and ideas.
Tying everything together - Now that you have your data, archetypes, Journey Maps, industry knowledge, competitive landscape, and stakeholder feedback, you can begin to solidify your product/experience vision. In Labs, we create a storyboard that introduces our main archetypes and how they would interact with this service or product. One can pull from the Journey Maps to understand where conflict may arise and how the solution could address the pain point. An illustrator is an impactful contributor. Utilize their talents.
Even in organizations that want to innovate, there are problems that can occur in the implementation which cause a derivation from the ideal state in the Labs process:
Lack of leadership and accountability - One of the stakeholders must be in charge of making decisions. If a group is in charge, there is a lack of accountability and the decision making process can be delayed or incorrect. Labs initiatives move fast, so efficient leadership is necessary.
Lack of feedback and cooperation - If stakeholders don’t attend meetings, they may be surprised by the results. In order to avoid surprise or a wrong turn, you should continuously check in with stakeholders throughout the project. Check-ins ensure an efficient project path.
Organizational friction - Many companies may be looking for a silver bullet, but design is a process. The research and process of uncovering the complexities of a problem will allow clients to investigate further and discover the right solution.
There are multiple tools and methodologies leveraged during the Lab process.
Contextual Inquiry (interviews and observation of users and SMEs)