Testing Concrete Experiences

I stress to my clients that in commercializing software innovations, it is important to create concrete experiences and then test them with users. But “users” should be generalized to “stakeholders” including the developers themselves.

As described in Microsoft Secrets, one way Microsoft did this was to require engineers to spend time handling customer service calls. This gave engineers a deep, experiential understanding of the problems their software creates, both for end users and for customer support personnel.

The following anecdote is another example of stakeholders using concrete experiences to test ideas as well as discover risks.

One of our very first clients was Telesensory Systems, creating reading machines for the blind. Team members were taken to their own house, blindfolded, and told to try making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Fumbling around without the benefit of sight, some couldn't find the jars, others the bread. Spreading the peanut butter was tough. They gained a small but tangible appreciation of the challenges of blindness. —The Art of Innovation, by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

Tags: Design, Reading

Updated at: 29 January 2011 9:01 AM