Can you remember the last time you felt like you were in flow? Flow is that state where you are ‘in the zone’. It is when thought is not getting in your way.
Flow is your natural state, and you will tap into it more regularly than you realise. This is important when you seek to understand your customers, and the methods you use to capture information.
Influences in the workplace arrive from all angles, from other peoples’ opinions to market trends to big data. Daily, I see organisations making reactive, deadline-driven decisions, focused on progress over understanding. It is only when we stop and take a step back, that we make proactive and truly informed decisions for long term effectiveness.
Turning to the data has become the default. The graphs and charts not only provide insight into what customers are doing, the numbers also provide back-up. A tangible report to fall back on to justify the decision. You do not need intuition if the data is staring you in the face. Though you might find, if you stop to listen, that your gut-feel is suggesting that something is missing.
Tricia Wang in her fantastic TED Talk on ‘the human insights missing from big data’ says, “Relying on big data alone increases the chance we’ll miss something while giving us the illusion we know everything.” We can become fixated by numbers and scale; it can be appealing.
It is easy to point to data to justify any decision, but to gain true clarity we must lift our heads, breathe the air, and remember who we are. We are humans, and our customers are humans, and as humans we are emotional beings. To deliver successful websites and digital products our creation must come from a place of intuition so we can connect to our customers at a human level.
In the words of author Neil Gaiman, “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.”
Prior to the digital boom (but still occasionally seen today) there was often a gap between the software engineers’ output and the version that ended up in front of the end customer. The facts and stats did not paint the whole picture so, to ensure successful engagement, interaction designers had to look beyond the brief and tap into the user perspective.
Moreover, you will no doubt be inundated with other influences too, namely from or via other people in your organisation. They are trying to help, or trying to get their view across, and they might have a valid point. The difficulty for you then comes not only in trying to make sense of the input, but also to delicately manage other people.
This generates noise. And noise compromises the human perspective, no matter how well-intentioned.
What Is Your One Source Of Truth?
To help you make and communicate definitive decisions, choose one of these many inputs to be your one source of truth. This is the primary factor on which you base all decisions. All other inputs can then be used to validate or challenge this.
Your one source of truth must remain throughout your project and working culture. Decisions and communications become easy when you build your project team and stakeholders around your one source of truth.
Focusing on your customer provides the right perspective to help you step back and see a clear path through all the noise.
And so, you need to understand your customers, but not through the eyes of your organisation, rather through their eyes. Remembering that customers are people is difficult in the fast-paced world of business but, we must connect to them at a human level. This requires stepping outside and literally (or virtually, for now) sitting with your customer, to get to know them as real people trying to use your digital interface.
Confusion To Clarity
When you talk to your customers you can gather many opinions, but if you can go beyond that and harness a perspective of when a user is in Flow, that is when you get the gold. You’ll begin to see between the lines. What you need to do to improve user experience for both your organisation and your customers becomes clear. Now you can manage all the noise.
Now you can use your intuition from Flow to make the right call, to see it through, and deliver success. That is when you feel connected to your work.
The goal is to look to remove those layers between organisation and customer; drop the assumptions, park everyone else’s perspective, push the data aside, and look to your one source of truth to understand what is really going on.
With this insight you can return to the numbers and use them in context; you can explain clearly to your colleagues, you can assess which trends matter, and you can create a website or digital product that has more depth and connection to users.
With your customer as your one source of truth, you can trust yourself and work from a place of Flow.
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