Creative Sessions: The set up

27‑11‑2017 Didi Groenhoff 3 min.

Research goals and picking the right users

In Dutch we have the saying “good preparation is half the work”. When organizing a creative session this also goes.

Earlier we shared the challenges we met when speaking to users. These challenges are primarily connecting to our users, creating and holding a positive and constructive vibe in the session and staying on topic. This combination allows us to go in depth on a pre-defined subject. Dealing with these challenges shaped our creative sessions. While taking them up we always kept in mind the primary goal of a creative session: acquiring knowledge about a certain subject, with the help and input of our users. Facing challenges in our preparation gives us a firm base to work on.

One of the challenges we defined was staying on subject, allowing us to address the chosen subjects in depth. Another challenge was making sure the subject is viewed from as many different angles as we can think of, offering us a complete picture.

The initial things we need to prepare a good creative sessions:

  • A clear research goal to keep us on track
  • A diverse group of users to offer us a complete picture
  • Exercises / assignments to keep us going down that track

Research goal

First we set a clear research goal: we pick a specific aspect or part of an application on which we want to know how we are doing, and what improvements can be made. Narrowing down the subject makes that we have time for getting down to the nitty gritty. Also, we avoid wandering off in personal issues or getting generalist results that tell us little to nothing new.

Getting a diverse group of users

Next we select a group of users of whom we know they have experience with the topic at hand. In our group of users we strive for diversity: we want as many different voices, user roles and views as possible. These different angles are used to create a complete picture of the subject, and prevent tunnel vision because of listening to one person or only hearing one user roll. Also we have the experience that interaction in a diverse group of people makes it easier for them and us to step back and have a critical objective look at their workflows and different tasks. Comparing modus operandi leads to insight.

To accomplish diversity we use our clients. Would we put out an open invitiation to our users or contact users that have contacted us with good ideas in the past, we would reach a distinct subset of people: those who use our application a lot, are in a position to be free to decide to put time in development of the application and take initiative to do so. Experience shows that we would always hear the same small group of people, which is not very diverse.  So instead of inviting this small group for a session, we explain our wish for diversity and hearing as many different user roles and habits as possible, and ask them to suggest other people in their organization we could invite to achieve this. Doing this it is very important to draw management in the process: they have to allow members of their team to spend time and energy on improving our application. Management therefore has to be aware of the value improvements will have in the form of a better work flow leading to efficient use.

Keeping that vibe

Now preparations are almost in place: we have a clear research goal setting the boundaries for our session and, with the help of our client, a diverse group of users.  Next challenges to pick up are creating and keeping that positive, productive vibe and staying on subject. For that we use exercises  and assignments to be performed during the session.  Considering our research goal and the specific users that will attend we set up a set of tasks to work on during the session. Of course we have different goals to reach with each exercise.  Even though setting up these exercises and assignments certainly belongs to the preparations of our session, describing them as how they unfold in the session makes more sense when trying to understand why we do what. Curious? Read how we create that positive vibe and how we get to the nitty gritty in our follow up blogs!

Follow up blogs:

Creative Sessions: How to get that positive vibe

Creative Sessions: Getting what we really want

Moxio Users Creative sessions EN

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