Phase 1: Envision Future Scenarios
Unit 2: Conducting the research in the field
Interacting with the internal and external environment
In this unit:
The lab explored in greater depth the existing product and platform strategies of the organisation, understanding their marketplace, existing users and strategic industrial partners.
The main aim was to establish people’s future needs to understand which contexts are relevant to future users and therefore determine what scenarios should be created and used as the basis for design challenges. By going into the field and speaking with real people, the lab team could de-bias the work and develop knowledge that would later enrich the scenarios.
In the previous unit, the lab team had defined the scope of their exploration and aligned their strategy with the client’s.
They were now ready to start the research into the key societal dimensions of change relating to the topic of health and happiness.
At this point, two streams of work were happening in parallel:
The first was a consultancy project. At the time, the client was interested in developing a platform to incorporate all their projects. The lab carried out work to identify the client’s business and market opportunities. By looking at what the company was doing internally and what opportunities were available in the market, it was possible to understand how to frame this platform
The second was field research. It focused mainly on understanding the future by learning from extreme users.
Understanding the company business strategy
In parallel to the extreme users’ research, the lab team concentrated on defining the client’s strategy as a platform and identifying new opportunities in new markets where the client could play a role.
This work was a combination of traditional service design consultancy work and business strategy. The objective was to determine how the client’s products would sit in the context of a broader ecosystem. In particular, the lab team wanted to better understand the role that the client wanted to play in mental health and happiness for young adults going ‘through life transitions’. As the starting point, the lab used the key themes they had prioritised with the client to look for other market opportunities.
Internal company research
Concerning the platform, the lab team did some further research into the client’s strategy and work. They tried to identify the client’s core capabilities by looking at the technologies they were using, the ethical considerations they were committing to, and their access to scientific knowledge.
The lab team collected all this information, established the main value propositions behind the client’s strategy, and analysed the key mechanisms they were trying to build within their products and services.
The key mechanisms were the core interventions they had developed to encourage behavioural change in users.
External industry overview
To complement their research on the company, the lab team also explored the context, i.e. the other markets.
At the time, the client was part of a larger organisation. For this reason, the lab team conducted a study on the other industries the organisation was exploring.
Using desk research, the lab team conducted a sectoral analysis, collecting information on the potential markets the client could address. For each one, they identified the key players, the jobs to be done, and the opportunities for the platform.
They then assessed these markets and selected the one they identified as the most aligned with the client’s current strategy.
Learning from extreme users
During the Envision Sprint workshop in Unit 1, the concepts that were created were overly similar and seemingly biased toward issues that would not represent the general population. Consequently, they acknowledged that their general vision was biased due to their culture, class, and project involvement. They needed to challenge their thinking more, so they decided to interview people who were already experiencing effects from things similar to the societal change they had predicted. They called these people ‘extreme users’.
During this stage, the objective was to collect insights from these users to get a broader understanding of the implications of trends on specific groups of people and the possible effects in the long term.
Extreme user mapping
To find these extreme users, the lab team searched for early signs of the effects of the societal change that they had predicted.
They focused their search for these people around the UK and through their contacts. They reached out through different communities and individuals to find people involved in these trends and who were perhaps already influenced by the societal dimensions of change.
The objective was to collect as much information as possible about people’s view on happiness, their needs and issues and to catch glimpses of the future people who might emerge in the context the team were exploring.
The lab team implemented a strategy to plan and map their interviews. They took each one of the societal dimensions of change and defined extremes on both sides. For each extreme, they brainstormed groups of people who fit into those characteristics and prepared a plan to reach those people.
For most of the interviews, the lab team used guerrilla research techniques. The strategy was to conduct interviews with strangers they had met in critical locations identified through the extreme user mapping. They therefore needed ways to conduct quick but meaningful interviews.
They prepared a set of essential questions focused on happiness and what it means for the people they were engaging with. Then, they went out and spoke to people. In addition to the guerrilla interviews, they filled in the gaps with online interviews arranged through other connections.
During the interviews, the lab team collected valuable insights and expanded their perspective by talking with extreme users.
The next step was to review all the answers they gathered and arrange them into profiles. They mostly kept them very similar to the real people they interviewed or combined some of them. They created more than 40 profiles, each one included the interviewee’s interpretation of happiness and what they associate happiness with, as well as how they see trends affecting them in the future.
Envision Future Scenarios
Unit 1: Defining the scope for the Exploration
Exploring the strategy of the organisation to define the scope of potential future contexts.