⫹⫺ Human First | Guest Post 🤝
CMMN WLTH 101 - Cheat Codes for Creators, Makers and Doers
This week I have the pleasure of introducing CMMN WLTH’s second-ever guest writer, Andrew Leslie.
Andrew is one of the best Product people I know, simply because he is one of the most genuinely curious people I know.
This curiosity has led him to leave a corporate career and start a consumer insight lab; the motivation for which he explains below.
Please enjoy this special curation and share it with your closest collaborators.
My name is Andrew Leslie, and I run a consumer insights lab called COMN (COMN, not CMMN 😉 ).
We partner with health and fitness brands looking to ground their ideas in real human needs.
From my experience in innovation teams in CPGs, there is a general understanding of the value of injecting real customer insights and testing into their creative process. As a result, the successful ones grow, but growth often leads to a shortage of time and resources.
Sadly insights are too often deprioritized, with the viewpoint that they’ve already found the problem to solve.
Thanks to large budgets and excitement around “the new” I lost count of how many times we defaulted to technology-driven creation. We built and frequently redesigned costly prototypes to help with diminishing internal buy-in and navigated long runways to eventually roll out these new technologies.
On the flip side, during my time downstream in product creation, I experienced countless examples of market or retailer-informed creation. In search of a quick return we often found ourselves losing our identity and copying others.
Educated in human-centered design thinking I’ve been taught to start with just that — humans.
And, to take time to evolve the understanding of the actual problem to solve before you go all in. I’ve found that when the “human” piece is layered into the possibilities of tech, and the reality of the market, it typically results in a home run.
That’s why we started COMN.
To be a trusted resource for brands and help them put real people at the heart of their decision making.
In the past 6 months, we’ve helped brands like Tonal, adidas, and Lululemon.
Through qualitative research and concept testing, in our LivingLab© in the Pacific Northwest, we have enabled them to connect authentically with current and future customers.
We love helping these teams feel connected to real people and communities rather than putting a consumer persona at the center of a bullseye on a PowerPoint slide.
I chose the title "Human First" because I think it’s a simple approach that is too often overlooked or retrofitted in product creation today.
It’s an incredibly straightforward methodology for the modern generalist (more on that here).
Now more than ever, with the exponential advancement of technologies like AI, we need to upskill in areas technologies lack (at least this week); empathy, iterative thought, and sense-making.
Skills that I feel are critical to deep qualitative research.
The links below are thought starters for 3 big topics I’m curious about at the moment.
CMMN WLTH and the surrounding community is a constant source of inspiration in today’s noisy world.
Thank you for having us,
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In this week’s email:
Product - What if AI could express empathy? A robot using AI, that might one day replace me as a researcher.
People - Are you experiencing a reorg? 70% fail. Could Design Thinking help HR teams and people managers manage change?
Process - Next time you're boss asks: ‘how’s your research going’, try answering; ‘it’s too early to know’ and use this process to make sense of your data.
Out of Office - What most people think of qualitative research.
Moxie - The Robot Companion
“We believe that through the power of robotics and AI, we can create a more empathetic world where everyone has access to the tools they need to succeed."
- Paolo Pirjanian, Founder of Embodied.
AI has the potential to be a universal translator that can revolutionize education and help kids learn in a more personalized way.
Effective communication requires more than just words. 93% of communication is nonverbal and it's difficult to understand the world without physical experience.
Since AI is a reflection of society, bias is inevitable. Therefore, it is crucial to raise robots like Moxie with good values and ethics. I believe Moxie's ability to interact with people and the world around them can facilitate the development of empathy, ensuring that AI is used to help people flourish. (If you haven't, go watch ‘HER’, a very possible future of empathetic robotics and ai).
Design Thinking - Crafting the Employee Experience
“Design thinking casts HR in a new role. It transforms HR from a “process developer” to an “experience architect.”
70% of brand transformations fail, yet there is a never-ending stream of CPG brand reorganizations. This raises a crucial question: while we often employ iterative Design Thinking in product creation, how frequently do we apply the same principles to how we attract, engage, and inspire our employees?
In this article and a related survey by Deloitte, companies that derive the most value from their HR programs are nearly five times more likely to use design thinking than their peers. This highlights the significant impact that human-centered design can have on employee satisfaction and organizational success.
Recent perspectives continue to suggest that HR leaders and people managers can harness the power of Design Thinking to create human-centered workplaces. By empathizing with employees, observing their behavior, and experimenting with new approaches, we can develop innovative solutions that foster adoption and success. Even amid large cultural shifts like the transition to a hybrid work model.
Making Sense of Research with a Sense-Making Process
As counterintuitive as it sounds, the highest accolade of a project can be that the insights become common sense. - Jan Chipchase.
I had the privilege of attending Jan Chipchase’s masterclass on 'Sensemaking for Impact' and I still recall one key takeaway: the need to allocate an equal amount of time to making sense of the data collected, as the time spent collecting it. Although it may sound straightforward, my prior field research experience consisted of back-to-back interviews and observation sessions, where meeting more people could justify our travel budget to leadership.
To unearth truly actionable insights demands an evolution of understanding. Starting with identifying a hypothesis, collecting data, organizing and transcribing it into information, clustering, searching for patterns and a shared understanding to create knowledge, before contextualizing and testing to form insights.
Jan's masterclass taught me 10 critical learnings, which Joanna Ngai, a UX designer summarized perfectly here. You can learn more about Jan's story and his approach here.
*Out of Office
Many people’s opinions on qualitative research ↓
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