This interview is a few years old but it’s still brilliant. David Kelley is the founder of the famous design consultancy IDEO; they designed such products as Apple’s first mouse, the first laptop computer and even the world’s first no-squeeze standup toothpaste tube.
In this podcast created by students of Stanford University’s Business and Design Schools, David Kelley makes several points that really speak to me. The first one is that the end user often does not know what problems they have with an existing product. To find out what’s really important to a user, you have to watch them. Look and see when they are frustrated, when they curse, and also when they smile. And then try to design that moment or that experience to be better.
“You first find out what he cares about; I mean, the analogy that I recently worked on is look at gas stations. You watch somebody, and if you ask somebody, ‘Do you have any trouble pumping gas at the local gas?’ they say no, no problem. Then you watch them, right? First they come up, they have trouble getting the car close enough to the thing, to the pump, I mean, and then cause it’s not clear, how long is it? And then, my latest one is, they just changed where you have to enter the zip code, and I saw a lot of people leave without getting gas; they were too embarrassed to go inside because it says enter zip code, but it doesn’t say enter zip code and then enter key. So, they put in their zip code, mine, 94301, and then they wait and nothing happens. You look for those things.”
People may not be able to tell you, but you can figure it out. It’s important to always keep user experience in mind, because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you like something or find it easy to use, it’s whether your client finds it user friendly and if it can make them excited.
The importance of having a prototype and being prepared: the quicker you can put your idea out there, the better. “One of my buddies always says never go to a meeting without a prototype, and he always wins.”
On fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace:
“Instead of saying things negative, you, every time you think of something negative, you figure out how to improve, and take that insight that there was something wrong with, that you think was negative, and take that insight and think of that as an insight rather than stating that out loud and building on that, and come out with a better idea based on your insight about what was wrong with the other guy’s idea, and saying the positive solution to what was wrong with it.”
When a creative person, who loves coming up with innovative ideas and solutions, suggests something that could potentially help the company and it is shot down straight away, it discourages future input.
“In a group where the boss talks all the time, or in a higher operation where, like people suck up to the boss or the boss’s ideas are implemented more than the receptionist’s ideas, there’s a problem there. In an innovative culture, everybody feels able to talk and will talk a lot. In a non-innovative culture, the boss talks the whole time.”