Designing with Understanding

By | September 1, 2013
Wroblewski 2007, Designing with Vision

The last 6 years have been nothing more than constant proving of this philosophy and approach, as embodied in the design pyramid as captured by LukeW back in the day. As an ardent proponent of exploratory user research (Chipchase and Jung, 2007) this conceptual image just burst into a million twinkling stars of potential and understanding inside my whole brain. Take the thought of designing with vision one more step further and begin with understanding the landscape on which this vision will lie. For example, if you are going to build your castle of dreams on Cloud 9 then I wanted to begin by describing what Cloud 9 looked like first.

What was the operating environment like – or, rather, in the case of the way it turned out for the rural economy in the developing world or lower income segments in urban sprawls of South Asia and East Africa – how was it different from mainstream consumer culture in which most of the worlds tech innovation and product development seemed to be taking place?

In the case of the rural economy it seemed like the natural seasons and their rhythmic impact on farmer’s purchasing power were the key differentiators for successful consumer product launches and market entry strategies including payment plans and business models.  These characteristics emerged initially in the form of design constraints and criteria for filtering concepts for further development after the initial brainstorming, that is, they emerged as “actionable insights” from the “analysis and synthesis” phase after reams of data had been collected by primary user research methods as well as secondary desk research aka “Immersion”. A very crude and simplified blocking out of the basic user centric process (for more or less anything really, product, service, payment plan or business model, value chain et al)

All the nuance and strategic visioning has been stripped out, as have the iterative arrows in every which way, the point is to be nimble and poised to pivot, based on the data coming in from this wholly different operating environment.

We don’t need scientific citations to state with great confidence that daily life is very different in urban Western Europe than in rural East Africa. That every assumption we make, as we conceptualize, design or develop any solution, is across the gap in mindset and values of the erstwhile base or bottom of the pyramid. (BoP). To be honest, BoP was a good concept while it lasted, but just like Third World or Hindoo, these are labels that have done their duty in their time. Now they are obsolete. That is all.

But because the entire product_service_revenuemodel ecosystem is so very different, it makes sense for us to first understand that context in which our future solution will be utilized (or implemented, sold, used…). We would need to take a lens to this Environment, Economy and Ethnology in order proceed to beginning to see any kind of emergent ecosystem which could fill an urgent need worth micropayment or create a market much need further upstream in the sustainable agricultural value chain.

My methodology and approach are outlined here and this gives an introduction to the philosophy underlying the frames of reference I use for conceptualizing market entry strategies for emerging global middle class consumer markets.

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