Awkward Silences

User Interviews

Welcome to Awkward Silences by User Interviews, where we interview the people who interview people. Listen as we geek out on all things UX research, qualitative data, and the craft of understanding people to build better products and businesses. Hosted by Erin May and Carol Guest, VPs of growth/marketing and product at User Interviews. Take this survey and let us know what topics you want to hear next! userinterviews.com/awkwardsurvey read less
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Episodes

#146 - Building a UX Research Team From Scratch with Julian Della Mattia of the180
5d ago
#146 - Building a UX Research Team From Scratch with Julian Della Mattia of the180
Erin and special co-host Ben Wiedmaier are joined by Julian Della Mattia of the180 for a deep dive into being UX team-of-one. Julian has been the first user researcher at a number of companies and shares his top to-dos, milestones, and things to consider before accepting such a role.The episode digs into the ways a solo UXR can start making an impact, but in a strategic, sustainable way. Julian identifies questions to ask stakeholder teams, processes to consider standing up, and the tools to consider investing in from the start. We also discuss the dual hat-wearing of UXR and Ops on smaller teams/teams-of-one. Julian shares how he balances his time between executing on business-critical work and organizing research workflows so that other teams can start connecting with customers. Even if you're not a solo UXR or a team-of-one, Julian's experience building bridges between/across departments and his suggestions for aligning user research to core business goals from the start will help you and your team be more impactful. Episode Highlights03:49 - Strategies for success as the first researcher in an organization12:52 - Strategies for building bridges as a researcher in a new organization19:16 - Building essential processes for small research teams27:59 - Comparing research repositories and insights hubs30:47 - Triangulating insights from different teams35:11 - Strategies for scaling your research capacityAbout Our GuestJulian is a UX Researcher specialized in Research Operations (ReOps), founder of the180 and based in Barcelona, Spain. Whether in-house or working with clients, he repeatedly found myself building Research teams from scratch as the first Researcher in the team. This experience helped him develop a real knack for infrastructure, so he decided to fully specialize myself in ReOps. He likes to talk about this as his switch "from Finder to Builder".More Resources for Building UX Research TeamsUse this checklist to organize and build your UX teamThe steps to build and lead an impactful UX teamHow to scale yourself while avoiding burnout
#145 - Kick-Start Creativity Using Desk Research with Victoria Sakal of Wonder
Apr 1 2024
#145 - Kick-Start Creativity Using Desk Research with Victoria Sakal of Wonder
In this episode, Erin chats with Victoria Sakal, Head of Growth at Wonder, all about desk (or secondary) research—think web searches, checking internal resource libraries (like repositories), or interviewing colleagues. Desk research is a critical step when starting a new project.Victoria shares her framework for thinking about the differences between primary and secondary research, suggesting that instead of distinct categories, they exist on a continuum. She argues that primary research is sharper, more impactful, and has better ROI when it's supported by secondary research.In addition to sharing best practices for desk research, Victoria walks through research her team conducted on how organizations approach research, offering strategies to maximize your efforts based on specific company growth stages and product demands. The episode closes by exploring how desk research is changing in light of emergent technologies such as large-language models and the benefits of reading widely. Episode Highlights06:39 - Integrating desk research into your research strategy12:30 - Desk research techniques and best practices17:41 - Unpacking trends in the kinds of questions asked during desk research23:31 - How desk research is evolving alongside AI technology25:14 - The role of curiosity in desk research and innovation34:20 - How research repositories and agile methods impact desk researchAbout Our GuestWith a passion for turning complex inputs (data, research, behaviors) on customers, market dynamics, and competitors into smart strategies that drive growth, Victoria has spent the last decade helping companies ask better questions to get better data, source more powerful insights, and stay on top of important dynamics that matter. Previously at Morning Consult and Kantar, Victoria now focuses on all things demand gen, product marketing, market research, and growth strategies to deliver more value for Wonder users.More Resources on Desk ResearchHow to conduct (and write) a research literature reviewUX research is better with market research collaborationsThis database showcases AI-powered desk research tools
#144 - The Craft of Sample Sizes with Lauren Stern of WHOOP
Mar 25 2024
#144 - The Craft of Sample Sizes with Lauren Stern of WHOOP
In this episode, Carol and Erin dive into all things research sample sizes with Lauren Stern. No matter your experience with user research, you'll need to recruit folks, making this an evergreen topic. Lauren has coached both new-to-research and junior UXRs on this critical topic and she shares some of her best advice.Lauren shares importance considerations and nuances around different types of studies and even analysis approaches. She also unpacks her approach for international samples, the impact of drop-off rates, and participant compensation strategies.Going beyond sample sizes, we conclude with a discussion of how to better engage with stakeholders when advocating sample sizes, making these conversations about "how many to recruit" more informed. She also shares resources to use when making the case to stakeholders.Episode Highlights05:41 - Crafting research goals and parameters: a collaborative journey13:48 - Flexible research design: navigating sample sizes and methodologies19:57 - Tailoring sample sizes to research objectives: finding the right fit 26:30 - Qualitative confidence and stakeholder expectations34:11 - Diverse methodologies in quantitative research: beyond surveys43:05 - Departing research wisdom on sample sizes generallyAbout Our GuestLauren Stern is a mixed-methods research leader focused on creating the most human-centered technology possible. Over the last ten years her work has explored how perception and social cognition shape our experiences with automated systems from military zones to living rooms. Whether exploring individual experiences in the field or looking at large-scale data collections, she loves the puzzle of study design and coaching new researchers through the process.Resources on Sample SizesThis free calculator gives sample ranges based on your study needs.Need some research-backed sample size help? Bookmark this today.You must pay participants. This calculator helps ensure an fair amount.
#143 - Harnessing AI For Better Insights with George Whitfield of MIT and FindOurView
Mar 18 2024
#143 - Harnessing AI For Better Insights with George Whitfield of MIT and FindOurView
Carol and Erin welcome George Whitfield, an expert in applying AI to the analysis of qualitative data. George discusses the intricate challenges of leveraging language models to interpret expansive open-ended data (like interview transcripts), emphasizing the importance of context and not just keyword or topic identification.They'll dig into the crucial role of human oversight in AI, what preliminary analysis might look like using AI, how to check and refine the work of an AI assistant without derailing your project delivery date, and recommendations for etiquette regarding the reporting of AI-informed results.The episode closes with an exploration of the limits of AI and where user experience researchers can play a larger role in its development. George believes AI can (and should) inspire new directions of research, but not dictate them.Episode Highlights03:48 - Innovating consumer insights using AI12:21 - Importance of human involvement in AI tools20:04 - Enhance discussion sections with  AI tools26:50 - AI-inspired insights provide inspiration, not guidance34:12 - Interpretation beyond analyzing transcripts36:46 - Applying engineering rigor to the process of building a businessAbout Our GuestGeorge Whitfield is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and CEO at FindOurView. As CEO of his most recent company FindOurView, he launched a Gen AI product to help user researchers synthesize insights faster from high volumes of customer interviews. George holds 4 patents and has 3 degrees from MIT including a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and a Masters and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering.Resources on Qual Data and AIOur AI in UX Report shares findings from a survey of over 1,000 researchersWhat does it mean to "code" qualitative data? This breakdown explains it all.Interested in trying an AI tool for your analysis? Here are 20 worth considering.
#142 - Quantifying Research Impact with Ruby Pryor of Rex
Mar 4 2024
#142 - Quantifying Research Impact with Ruby Pryor of Rex
In this episode Carol and Erin are joined by Ruby Pryor, founder of Rex, a consulting firm specializing in UX research and strategic design. They explore the world of measuring the impact of UX research. with Pryor introducing a four-level impact assessment framework. Ruby shares a four-level assessment framework and the conversation moves to prioritization, making "strategic" decisions, and increasing your research influence.This episode also gets into what it means to demonstrate the "business value" of one's work, specifically how researchers can and should quantify their impact in terms that are tangible to the company. Ruby will share ways to score early wins, build momentum, and overcome communication frictions to find shared value.Episode Highlights03:14 - UX researcher impact: insights, optimization, prioritization, strategy09:14 - Understanding organizational structures and strategy development collaboration20:22 - Challenge of quantifying impact and strategic level21:33 - Measuring strategy impact: challenges and indicators30:04 - Prioritizing investments based on strong market indicators38:51 - Stakeholders prioritize growth, revenue, and cost reductionAbout Our GuestRuby Pryor is the founder of Rex, a service design and UX research consulting firm. Her previous roles include UX research at Grab, strategic design at Boston Consulting Group and management consulting at Nous Group. She has taught courses on increasing the impact of UX to learners from 5 continents and has spoken about design and UX at conferences in Asia and Europe.Resources on UX Research ImpactHow to Track the Impact of Your UX ResearchLeading an Impactful User Research TeamUse Stakeholder Interviews to Drive Impact
#141 - The Chaos Theory of Event Networking with Bryan Dosono of eBay
Feb 21 2024
#141 - The Chaos Theory of Event Networking with Bryan Dosono of eBay
In this episode of Awkward Silences, Carol and Erin dive into the world of conference networking and planning with Bryan Dosono, a staff UX research lead at eBay known for his extensive experience curating and organizing conference programs.Bryan share insights on how to prepare for conferences such as using apps to schedule meetings and emphasizing networking over solely focusing on content. He also discusses strategic scheduling to align conference participation with career goals and offers advice on making spontaneous, serendipitous connections.The conversation also covers practical tips for adding value during small talk, how to approach and connect with other researchers, and the importance of being open, vulnerable, and willing to face rejection in the pursuit of meaningful interactions. Bryan provides guidance for both newcomers to the UXR field and seasoned professionals: overcoming imposter syndrome and leveraging transferable skills from related fields.Episode Highlights03:58 - Navigating the Unpredictable: Strategies for Introverts at Networking Events.08:24 - Strategic Networking: Maximizing Opportunities Before and During Conferences.12:33 - Networking strategies for academic and professional growth.22:36 - Balancing Attendance: Prioritizing Conferences with Active Roles.28:03 - Maximizing Remote Networking: Strategies for Engagement in Virtual Conferences.33:07 - Conference Insights: Making the Most of Your Experience through Pre-Planning.About Our GuestBryan Dosono, PhD, is a user experience research leader in the consumer technology space. He applies human-computer interaction research methods with visual storytelling to modernize the design of global marketplaces and online communities. He currently volunteers as a Conference Chair at UXPA International and serves on the User Interviews Research Council.Looking for a UX community? Here are 16 to join for networking and development.
#140 - Should You Leave Academia? Advice for Researchers with Joe Stubenrauch
Nov 30 2023
#140 - Should You Leave Academia? Advice for Researchers with Joe Stubenrauch
The decision to leave academia can be difficult. Often, it involves giving up a stable career path and a lifetime commitment to a particular field of study. But as Joe Stubenrauch explains, the move also offers researchers the opportunity to pursue new career paths, improve work-life balance and geographic flexibility, and reinvent their lives.And he should know: Formerly a professor of history, he walked away from tenure to join a big tech company as a UX Researcher at AWS. In this episode, Joe discusses his decision to walk transition to the private sector and shares thoughtful advice for others considering a similar move.Highlights from the episode[04:06] Joe reflects on feeling burnt out, bored, and doubtful in academia [11:23] What makes you happy? Joe weighs the pros and cons of things like mental health, geographic mobility, and proximity to family and friends.[19:41] Breaking into a new field, experimenting, and talking to people. [34:47] The importance of having a portfolio that includes compelling stories [41:35] Tactical advice for job seekers (resumes, LinkedIn profiles, job interview strategies, etc)[44:23] Working in a team environment as a former academicAbout our guestJoe Stubenrauch is a former professor of British history at Baylor University, and the author of a prize-winning book published by Oxford University Press. During the height of the pandemic, he walked away from tenure and joined a big tech company in order to redesign his life. Now as a UX Researcher at AWS, Joe has found unexpected similarities between his work as Victorianist and his work in the cloud. He also writes regularly about the transition from academia to industry and is obsessed with how people can reinvent their lives and careers.You can follow Joe on LinkedIn.
#139 - Content Design and the Power of Simple Language with Erica Jorgensen
Nov 8 2023
#139 - Content Design and the Power of Simple Language with Erica Jorgensen
How often do you think about content design? The answer, most likely, is: “not enough”.The work of a Content Designer involves fitting the right words in the right places, understanding the nuances of things log in vs. sign in, and knowing the right words to use to engage customers. Content Design is an important part of the user experience—and the ROI is high. Like, “millions of $s saved through content-testing” high.Erica Jorgensen is a Staff Content Designer at Chewy.com and the author of Strategic Content Design: Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX. She joined Erin and Carol on the podcast to discuss the ins and outs of content design, the importance of clarity for effective communication, and how to involve your audience in content design.Highlights from the episode:00:02:03: What is content design in the context of UX research?00:06:48: Gaining clarity by thinking about the words you use frequently 00:14:00: How Erica used simplified language to get customers to buy more insurance plans00:26:42: Using cloze testing to ensure general content clarity00:29:26: The importance of syllables and length 00:39:46: Resources and guides for better content design00:42:56: How Microsoft saved $2 million through content testing  Sources and people mentionedBrainTrafficChewy.comCloze testing — “Cloze Test for Reading Comprehension,” NN/g.Curtis Kopf, Chief Experience Officer at REIDylan Romero, Affiliate Instructor at University of Washington, UX at MicrosoftFlesch–Kincaid – Wikipedia Hemingway EditorJorgensen, Erica. Strategic Content Design: Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX. (2023) — GET 15% OFF AT ROSENFELD MEDIA WITH CODE AS15MeasuringU (Jeff Sauro)Merriam-Webster DictionaryMetts, Michael and Andy Wefle. Writing Is Designing: Words and the User Experience. (2020)Scott KubieSystem Usability ScaleTracy Vandygam, Senior Content Designer at MozillaVisual ThesaurusWinters, Sarah. Content Design. (2017)About our guestErica Jorgensen is a staff content designer at Chewy.com and the author of Strategic Content Design: Tools and Research Techniques for Better UX, published in April 2023 by Rosenfeld Media. She's a content designer, content strategist, and team leader determined to bring greater respect to the content field. To that end, Erica speaks frequently at conferences including UXDX USA, UX Lisbon, Microsoft Design Week, the Web Directions Summit, and Button: The Content Design Conference, and on podcasts like The Content Strategy Podcast with Kristina Halvorson and Content Insights podcast with Larry Swanson. In addition to working in content roles for companies of all sizes, she has taught at the University of Washington and Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. Erica earned her B.A. from the University of Connecticut and M.A. from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. In her free time, you can find her exploring Washington State’s wineries or hiking with her husband and rescue dog, Rufus.
#138 - Designers as Change Agents with Maria Giudice
Oct 18 2023
#138 - Designers as Change Agents with Maria Giudice
“I realized that design is about helping people make sense of the world. And I looked at the world differently then… treating everything like a design problem that's solvable [...] [Design leaders today] don't use the power that we have to engage people, to activate people, to help them believe in something bigger than themselves.”Maria Guidice, author of Changemakers: How Leaders Can Design Change in an Insanely Complex World, joins Erin May and Carol Guest in this episode of Awkward Silences. Together, they examine the qualities of effective change agents and discuss how designers, researchers, and passionate folks can hone and apply these qualities to drive change within their organization. Throughout the episode, Maria draws on her experience leading global teams at Facebook and Autodesk and a decade of research into the interconnectedness of leadership, design, and change to offer practical advice on how to approach change through a designer mindset.In this episode, Maria, Erin and Carol cover:What is a “changemaker”?The qualities of effective leaders and change agents.How designers can employ their skills to drive change at scale.Treating design as a mindset.Building support and working with people who share a creative and open mindset.Why we need to believe in progress and continuous improvement.Highlights00:04:23 – Design is about helping people make sense of the world00:09:34 – Maria’s research into the connection between leadership, design, and change00:13:50 – The importance of understanding people’s resistance to change00:16:28 – What is a changemaker?00:18:04 – Design as a noun, a verb, a mindset that can lead change at scale 00:24:30 – Qualities of effective change agents00:33:19 – Why Maria hates the term “change management”00:36:12 – Embracing failure as a learning opportunity00:39:46 – The importance of passion, purpose, and a belief in continuous progressAbout our guestFor three decades, creative teams and business leaders have sought the provocative vision and mentorship of Maria Giudice, GEW DEECE. After founding the pioneering experience design firm Hot Studio and leading global teams at Facebook and Autodesk, Maria’s mission today is to build the next generation of creative leaders. Through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and team-building workshops, Maria unlocks the potential hidden in executives and the people they lead. A popular speaker at design and business conferences, Maria is also the author of four design books, including Rise of the DEO: Leadership by Design, and most recently Changemakers: How Leaders Can Design Change in an Insanely Complex World.
#137 - Practical Strategies to Foster Customer Obsession with Prayag Narula, CEO and Co-Founder of Marvin
Sep 27 2023
#137 - Practical Strategies to Foster Customer Obsession with Prayag Narula, CEO and Co-Founder of Marvin
What company isn’t “customer obsessed”? Well, a lot, as it turns out. That’s not for lack of caring—but building a customer-centric culture is easier said than done. And how you do this depends on whether you’re starting from square one or trying to change a company’s culture from the inside.According to Prayag Narula, CEO and Co-Founder of Marvin, changing a culture towards customer centricity requires starting from the bottom-up. Building something new? Leaders should be obsessing over customer feedback, actively placing research and customer insights front and center from the very beginning. In this episode of Awkward Silences, Prayag sits down with Erin and Carol to discuss his strategies for building a customer-centric product culture at Marvin. Tune in to learn more about what it means to obsess over customers, doing research versus using research, how customer centricity is put into practice at Marvin, and more. 👇Highlights: [00:00:31] The origins of Marvin[00:04:40] Building a culture around customer centricity[00:08:35] Why leaders should obsess over a customer centric culture[00:13:59] How the rest of the team can keep customers front and center[00:18:04] Balancing doing research and using research[00:21:46] “Capital R” versus “lower case r” researchers [00:28:21] Getting researchers more involved in strategic conversations[00:30:35] Practicing customer centricity at Marvin[00:39:36] The Marvin repository[00:46:53] Prayag’s parting words of wisdom: talk to your marketSources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwardheymarvin.comAbout Our GuestPrayag Narula is an entrepreneur and trained researcher with a passion for building technology he always wished for when conducting user research. He is currently the Co-Founder and CEO of Marvin, a qualitative data analysis platform and research repository for user-centric teams across the globe. He is further the Co-Founder and a Board Member for LeadGenius, a demand generation automation company automating and accelerating outbound sales and marketing for mid-marketing and enterprise companies across the world.
#136 - Designing Generative AI at Notion with Linus Lee
Sep 19 2023
#136 - Designing Generative AI at Notion with Linus Lee
AI is a big part of Notion's strategy for the future of knowledge work, and they're exploring ways to use AI to make people's lives easier.Linus Lee, a Research Engineer at Notion, spends his time researching and learning about AI—how users interact with it, the challenges of building trustworthy AI systems, and its - potential to help people work more effectively.In this episode of Awkward Silences, he sits down with Erin and Carol to discuss Notion’s approach to designing interfaces for Generative AI tools. Tune into this episode to learn more about the challenges of instructing AI, the importance of user feedback to the AI design process, security considerations, use cases, and more. Highlights: [00:05:03] Tools Linus is excited to see come to market[00:06:50] Generative AI and its function at Notion[00:10:22] Recognizing AI is useful versus finding the use cases for it[00:13:58] Lessons from the Notion design process[00:22:09] Breadth versus depth in workflows[00:26:10] Learning about models in the wild[00:28:52] Security considerations with AI products[00:32:13] Understanding the difference between AI generated and human written text[00:36:34] Should we be scared of AI?About Our GuestLinus Lee is a Research Engineer at Notion, prototyping new software interfaces for augmenting our collaborative work and creativity with AI. He has spent the last few years experimenting with AI-augmented tools for thinking, like a canvas for exploring the latent space of neural networks and writing tools where ideas connect themselves. Before Notion, Linus spent a year as an independent researcher in New York City.
#135 - How to Influence Stakeholders with Strategic Research with Andrea Amorós, Associate Principal Researcher at ADP
Aug 30 2023
#135 - How to Influence Stakeholders with Strategic Research with Andrea Amorós, Associate Principal Researcher at ADP
“I think people really connect when you are just genuine and not transactional. I think it's much more easy to get to those kind of opportunities because they just feel genuine.”According to Andrea Amorós, Associate Principal Research at ADP, giving research a seat at the big table is all about building meaningful connections with the people you’re presenting to.Andrea joins the Awkward Silences podcast to provide insight into how she learned to make research meaningful for stakeholders at higher levels of the organization. Having been hired to conduct discovery but with no plan set up for her, she took the initiative to interview the leaders within the company to understand their needs and identify opportunities for strategic research. Tune into this episode to hear Andrea’s advice on building relationships with stakeholders, approaching push-back, and creating meaningful change in the current research landscape.Highlights: [00:00:50] Andrea’s motivation to give research a seat at the big table[00:07:46] What bringing research to the big table really means[00:11:06] Presenting research to bigger audiences versus smaller audiences[00:14:08] Making presentations meaningful to the audience[00:17:47] How Andrea made it to the big table[00:22:26] How product-specific research can be escalated to the big table[00:24:53] The marginalization of research today[00:30:27] How changes in research apply to other fields[00:32:23] Andrea’s advice for building courage[00:36:17] The possibility of getting to the big table without presentations[00:38:46] Navigating push-backSources mentioned in the episode:📘 Awkward Silences blog🔗 Andrea's LinkedIn📘 Andrea's article: How to Present Research Insights to Executives with Ease🎁 Get 3 free participants for your next research project with User Interviews✍️ Take our survey to let us know what you want to see nextAbout Our GuestAndrea M. Amorós is the Associate Principal Researcher at ADP, a payroll solutions provider leader globally. She has always been a really deep thinker, curious about understanding human behavior and the unconscious mind. Her expertise lies in conducting strategic research and discovering patterns at scale to improve people's lives. She has a background in Design Engineering and has worked in various startups, consultancies and large-scale corporations.
#133 - Driving Actionable Decisions from Insights with Pejman Mirza-Babaei, UX Research Consultant
Aug 16 2023
#133 - Driving Actionable Decisions from Insights with Pejman Mirza-Babaei, UX Research Consultant
As a researcher, you know the value of using research to drive business decisions—but other stakeholders might not. In order to drive action from research, you need to create alignment with key decision-makers and the research you do. Pejman Mirza-Babaei joins the Awkward Silences podcast to discuss how to transform research insights into actionable design decisions by collaborating with stakeholders. With over fifteen years of experience doing UXR and interaction design on various applications, Pejman shares insights on the importance of effective communication and collaboration; the need for actionable and cost-effective research; and the challenges and biases that can arise in decision-driven research.Tune into this episode to learn all about the intricacies of decision-driven research 👇Highlights: [00:01:53] Pejman’s extensive experience with games and user research[00:04:40] Making good, directed, actionable decisions from research[00:08:53] The inspiration behind The Game Designer’s Playbook[00:13:14] Collaboration with stakeholders to determine research necessity[00:16:53] Ensuring alignment between decision-makers and researchers[00:23:30] When decision-centric research backfires[00:27:31] Avoiding marketing your company to your participants[00:30:07] Specificity in context [00:32:28] Navigating difficult decisions stemming from research[00:37:03] Successfully seeing research insights through to action[00:43:46] Life motivations mirrored in gamesSources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwardThe Game Designer's PlaybookAbout Our GuestPejman Mirza-Babaei is a UX research consultant, author, and professor. His latest book, The Game Designer's Playbook, was published in September 2022. He also co-edited the Games User Research book (2018), a compendium of insights from over 40 experts on UX research in games. He has over 15 years of experience doing UXR and interaction design on various applications, from mobile apps to VR games and everything in between streaming content, console, PC games, and even delivery robots! He worked as the UX Research Director at Execution Labs (Montréal, Canada) from 2015 to 2017 and was a UX Researcher at Vertical Slice and Player Research (UK) from 2009 to 2013.
#132 - Unveiling UX Insights with Competitive Research with Rachel Miles, Research Lead at IBM
Aug 2 2023
#132 - Unveiling UX Insights with Competitive Research with Rachel Miles, Research Lead at IBM
Competition can be scary. But in UX, competitive research is insightful.You don’t want to chase your competitors, but you need to know what they are doing to know how you can improve.Rachel Miles joins the Awkward Silences podcast to discuss the value of competitive research in UX and design. As the UX research lead at IBM, Rachel integrated competitive research at IBM to measure their products’ performance and to align their existing internal measures with external measures. She shares insights on selecting benchmark competitors or metrics, communicating competitive insights, and navigating legal challenges. Tune into this episode to learn how competitive research can inform your product development and strategy 👇Highlights:[00:00:41] Rachel’s interest in competitive research[00:02:27] What makes up competitive research?[00:05:54] Choosing your competitors to benchmark against [00:10:08] Determining benchmarking metrics[00:16:33] Rule #1: Avoiding over fixating on the competition[00:21:37] Opportunities for non-researchers to do competitive research[00:23:28] Creating and sharing benchmark assets[00:27:95] Managing participants for competitive methods[00:30:11] Navigating legal challenges[00:34:56] Priming participants for fake scenarios[00:38:05] Teamwork makes the dream work in competitive researchAbout Our GuestRachel Miles, UX Research Lead at IBM, is a user experience researcher and strategist. A self-proclaimed nerd of all trades, she loves to learn about everything that crosses her path. In her spare time, you might catch her reading, drawing, traveling, or working on her blog where she talks about where technology meets wellness.
#131 - Designing Beyond the Product: Systems Thinking with Sheryl Cababa, Chief Strategy Officer at Substantial
Jul 19 2023
#131 - Designing Beyond the Product: Systems Thinking with Sheryl Cababa, Chief Strategy Officer at Substantial
In design and UX research, context is king. Your work doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it’s a part of a wider ecosystem of stakeholders, beneficiaries, and more.Sheryl Cababa, Chief Strategy Officer at Substantial, recognized a clear gap in design methods that only addressed the individual user and the immediate product benefits: designing beyond the product with a systems thinking approach. As the author of Closing the Loop: Systems Thinking for Designers, Sheryl says, “My goal is not to suddenly become a systems thinking methodology practitioner and leave my job as a designer behind. I need to figure out a way to integrate [systems thinking] into my practice in a way that is actionable and accessible.”She joins Erin and JH today to discuss how systems thinking can address the complexities and interconnectedness of products and their ecosystems, sharing practical strategies for integrating it into your own design practice. Tune into this episode to learn actionable advice on adopting a systems thinking mindset when designing user experiences 👇Highlights: [00:01:18] The appeal of systems thinking[00:08:45] Ethnography as a bridge between traditional UX methods and systems thinking[00:14:29] Understanding when a problem calls for systems thinking versus when it does not[00:22:37] Avoiding “chaos” when integrating systems thinking[00:28:04] Systems thinking as a mindset rather than a set of tools[00:31:30] Recognizing when methods are producing valuable results[00:36:17] Utilizing systems thinking for speculative design[00:41:34] The importance of multi-disciplinary groups in systems thinkingSources mentioned in the episode:Closing the Loop: Systems Thinking for DesignersWant a copy of Sheryl Cababa's book?Use discount code: [cababa-awkwardsilences] for 15% off your purchase of Closing the Loop: Systems Thinking for Designers at https://rosenfeldmedia.com/books/systems-thinking-for-designers/.About Our GuestSheryl Cababa, Chief Strategy Officer at Substantial and Author of “Closing the Loop - Systems Thinking for Designers,” is a multi-disciplinary director with over two decades of experience in product design and consultancy, mainly focusing  on systems thinking and evidence-based design. Her current role at Substantial, a design and software development consultancy, involves conducting research, developing design strategies, and advocating for human-centric outcomes. In her book, “Closing the Loop - Systems Thinking for Designers,” Sheryl introduces readers to a powerful systems thinking mindset.
#130 - The Art of Great Facilitation for Better Collaboration with Marsha Acker, Founder and CEO of TeamCatapult
Jul 5 2023
#130 - The Art of Great Facilitation for Better Collaboration with Marsha Acker, Founder and CEO of TeamCatapult
There are 6 key qualities for great facilitation:Starting with your core beliefsMaintaining neutralityStanding in the stormHonoring the wisdom of the groupUpholding the agile mindsetHonoring the group’s agendaAccording to Marsha Acker, Founder, and CEO of TeamCatapult, “The job of facilitator is not to become the agile process police that says we have to have a daily standup and every day we have to answer these three questions…Facilitation is all about reading what's happening in a group, [and] tapping into the collective intelligence and wisdom of that group."In this episode, Marsha sits down with Erin and JH to discuss the art and importance of facilitation in group settings, focusing on the 6 key principles of great facilitation she wrote about in her book The Art and Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams.Tune in to hear her approach to facilitation, including methods, the preparation process, and how to build your facilitation skills.👇Highlights: [00:01:05] Defining facilitation: the art of leading people through a process towards a goal[00:04:50] Reading the room and speaking the language of others[00:06:08] Maintaining neutrality as a leader[00:14:24]Standing in the storm of conflict and handling differences[00:20:43] Honoring the wisdom of the group[00:23:25] Enhancing agile processes with intentionality[00:28:54] Honoring the group’s agenda [00:33:12] Familiarity versus externality: the pros and cons of different facilitator types[00:35:57] Guidelines for facilitating workshops[00:44:56] The importance of navigating invisible team dynamicsSources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwarduserinterviews.com/awkwardsurveyThe Art and Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams Build Your Model for Leading ChangeAbout Our GuestMarsha Acker, CPF, CPCC, PCC, is the author of Build Your Model for Leading Change: A guided workbook to catalyze clarity and confidence in leading yourself and others, available now. She is the founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, a leadership development firm that equips leaders at all levels to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioral change. She is also the author of The Art and Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams and the host of the Defining Moments of Leadership podcast.
#129 - How to Upskill Product Teams in UX Research with Helen Devine, UX Research Manager at The Economist
Jun 21 2023
#129 - How to Upskill Product Teams in UX Research with Helen Devine, UX Research Manager at The Economist
How can UX researchers enable other teams to do research? Show, don’t tell.According to Helen Devine, UX Research Manager at The Economist, upskilling product people to do research means letting them observe, sit in, and be present during each stage of a research project—not just being told what to do.Helen went from doing scrappy research with 0 researchers to supporting 50 product people at The Economist to conduct great research with the help of 2 other UX researchers.Tune into this episode to learn how she established UX research as a valued discipline at The Economist, plus how to balance developing research as a craft while supporting non-researchers at the same time. 👇Highlights: [00:04:11] From 0 researchers to 3 UXRs and 50 product people [00:13:30] The art of observation and note-taking during moderated interviews [00:18:59] Generative research? Bring in a pro researcher[00:24:34] Helen’s biggest wins in instructing others on how to do research better[0:31:07] Researchers develop the craft, but they don’t own it. [00:33:54] Actionable tips on setting guardrails for non-researchers’ researchSources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwarduserinterviews.com/awkwardsurveyAbout Our GuestHelen Devine, UX Research Manager at The Economist, is a user-focused research expert with experience in insight, ethnography, design, and user research across commercial, government, and non-profit sectors. Her current role involves telling user stories that uncover opportunities and inspire action across the organization’s portfolio of digital properties. Before joining The Economist, Helen has had an illustrious career involving positions at The Guardian, a housing and homeless charity shelter, Lloyds Banking Group, and Asda. Recently she spoke at the Insight Innovation Exchange 2023.
#128 - The Value of “Scrappy” Research with Varun Murugesan, Co-Founder of Apple and Banana
Jun 7 2023
#128 - The Value of “Scrappy” Research with Varun Murugesan, Co-Founder of Apple and Banana
What does good “scrappy” user research look like?According to Varun Murugesan, Co-founder of Apple and Banana,“You could throw anything at Jason Bourne and he would solve it... Would it be effective? [Yes—and] that's what I think about. I don't need all the fanciest tools or software.”Being good at scrappy user research is like being the Jason Bourne of research: being effective with what you have, even if you’re shot down by a tight research budget or limited in bandwidth.Varun joins Erin and JH to discuss his tips for doing scrappy research, advice for finding and utilizing creative techniques in research, and the potential positive and negative effects of the AI explosion.Highlights: [00:01:38] The value of “scrappy” research in tough economic times[00:05:50] Being “scrappy” is about speed[00:08:51] Innovating with scarce resources during the pandemic[00:17:33] Enhancing creativity through messiness[00:21:40] Sources of inspo for creative research[00:25:07] Re-evaluating your work and success[00:31:03] Research during the AI explosion[000:35:55] 7 years strong doing research, plus new opportunities for the futureSources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwardfruitful.appleandbanana.orgAbout Our GuestVarun Murugesan is the Co-Founder of Apple and Banana, a UXR training and development company helping to build better products through fruitful research. He is also the author of Fruitful, an online UX research library and toolkit of resources for researchers and UX teams aimed at conducting user experience research that drives impact. He is also the Senior UK Researcher of SeatGeek, a mobile ticketing marketplace. Before these positions, Varun worked in UXR roles at Best Buy and Facebook. An entrepreneur, author, and researcher, Varun has spent his career immersed in psychology, technology, and design, and has been featured on a various media platforms sharing fruitful research and his personal UXR career journey.A gift from Apple & Banana and Awkward SilencesInterested in trying Apple & Banana for your next research project? Use our code AWKWARD-FRUITS-35 to save 35% on Fruitful, an advanced UX research repository used by 100s of teams around the world.
#127 - The Power of Failure with Kevin Kelly, Publisher and Founding Editor of Wired
May 24 2023
#127 - The Power of Failure with Kevin Kelly, Publisher and Founding Editor of Wired
“There’s a certain amount of forgetting that we need to do in order to learn something new.”– Kevin Kelly, Founding Editor of Wired magazineWhether you are designing a research project, prototyping a product, or carving out your career path, unlearning plays an important role in learning new things. But how do we embrace them in a practical way that leads to viable success?For Kevin Kelly, Publisher and Founding Editor of Wired, leaning on failure is a crucial aspect of the creative writing process—and the motions of life in general. From giving advice on embracing mistakes to finding true joy and fulfillment, Kevin Kelly shares a raw perspective on applying important life lessons to both work and life.In this episode we discuss:Understanding “known failures” and “unknown failures”Forgetting and unlearning your bias. Prototyping and experimentation in research and in lifeCareer advice, tips, and hacksHighlights:[00:01:51] Navigating failure: tractable vs. intractable failures[00:05:37] Understanding other people's beliefs and questioning our own[00:12:25] The value of prototyping and experimentation in life and your career[00:16:47] Redefining success and exploring unique opportunities[00:22:15] Learning what to ignore and discarding unnecessary information[00:33:44] Kevin's current project on a 100-year desirable future!Sources mentioned in the episode:userinterviews.com/awkwardhttps://kk.org/books/the-inevitableAbout Our GuestKevin Kelly is an accomplished author, speaker, and “evergreen optimist,” known for his work on technology, innovation, and the future. As the founding executive editor of Wired, Kevin has been instrumental in shaping discussions around technology and its implications on society. He has authored several influential books, including "The Inevitable," which delves into the technological forces that will impact our future. Currently, Kevin is working on a project envisioning a desirable 100-year future.