Creative Sessions: How to get that positive vibe

03‑01‑2018 Didi Groenhoff 2 min.

Breaking the mold and removing issues

One of the biggest challenges when speaking to users is how to create and maintain a positive, constructive vibe in which you can work on your research goal in depth. We want to avoid distractions, so we can get to the nitty gritty. In this blog we’d like to explain how we start off our creative sessions, and make sure the whole group gets into that ‘zone’ of productive interaction.

Imagine you’re holding that creative session today, hoping to speak to them and get as much quality input as possible. (Wonder how we got here? Read about our challenges  and the preparations we made.) You’re meeting up for an in depth creative session on a specific research subject. What could make you go off track? If you’re preparations are good, the biggest other factor is: your users.

One thing we must realize at the start: not only we, but also our users have gone down a path before arriving here. When people agree to join one of our sessions it sets them thinking. They come in with an expectation of what the session will be like, and more often than not enter with a list of issues they’d like to address. At the start of our sessions we usually find a group of users in conference setting, hiding behind their laptops and ready to share wishes and problems considering our application. Although we very much appreciate the engagement shown, this is not the setting we prefer. Remember how were going for that relaxed, positive and productive atmosphere?

Step one: we get rid of the laptops. During the whole session we do not use computers, or the applications the users work in. We want to get the users out of their ‘normal’ user zone, and into a zone where they can objectively think about their work process, why they do things in a certain way and what the core needs are. By removing the application we avoid a lengthy discussion on moving buttons and adding specific functions, and move the conversation to a higher level on the research goal.

Of course we still want to get issues out of the way. As said, users usually prepare. Concentrating on when to share what they had in mind distracts them, sharing these issues during exercises may divert us from our research goal. Besides: the issues they meet in their daily work may be off topic, but very valuable information for us to discover what we could work on next. So we start the session with an exercise in which users can communicate their issues by simply asking them to write down:

  • What they like about working in our application
  • What they don’t like about working in our application
  • Where they encounter problems in their workflow

We get useful input, and they get to clear their minds.

After this is written down we sort all remarks and go through them. This gives us the chance to ask for some clarification where needed, and clearly show that their issues will be picked up on. Very important: we ask them to (voluntarily) tell us who made what remark, so we know who to contact if we have further questions. And yes, we do process all remarks, positive and negative, the positive ones telling us where we are headed in the right directions, the negative ones where to possibly make a change. And we do ask further questions and act on it when needed, and communicate afterwards what and when the users can expect adjustments.
Following this exercise hearts and heads should be empty, and we’re ready to go to the next level. One thing though: often we are still in a rigid setting. Laptops may be gone, but people are still in conference mode, neatly spread around the table. To break this we do an energizer. If possible we divide them up in teams and have a fuss ball contest; because that’s wat we love to do best to clear our minds at Moxio. If the client does not have a fuss ball table (we still don’t get how you can work without one) we do some other fun game that gets users out of the strict setting, divides them up in groups of people they normally would not have met or worked with, and opens up their minds and spirit.

We’re about half an hour into our 2 hour session, and ready to start working on our research goal. One quarter of our time ‘wasted’ on clearing minds and playing games? Yes to one quarter of our time, no to ‘wasted’. This preparation is what we need to get that relaxed, positive, constructive and productive atmosphere. We are very happy to invest time in this, as it leads us to where we want to be: ready to get down to the nitty gritty on the topic we proposed and prepared, with comfort and trust, without distractions.

Follow up blogs:

Creative Sessions: Getting what we really want

Creative sessions Users Moxio tafelvoetbal EN

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