The Clarity of the Aha Moment

It’s been a hectic couple of weeks so this post is way later than it should be.

When got together for our first download session, it was clear we were going to have to repeat this process. While you may take your own time constraints into consideration, you totally forget about those of the people you are interviewing. When you add the fact that you are trying to do an immersive in someone’s home or observe them whilst they going about their daily business, it’s simply not that easy to coordinate. Thrown in an unexpected


when you haven’t thought of a contingency plan and you have the perfect blend of “Oh S@*&!”. Perhaps we had spread ourselves too thin by trying cover so much, either way we decided to stick to our guns.

We met twice in a week as we needed more time to get our interviews done and we still missed a couple of interviews. What I noticed was how different the two sessions were. During out first download session, we diligently stuck to the guidelines simply relaying the facts, anecdotes and quotes as was spoken by our interviewees. Anyone who tried to deviate was quickly brought back in line with a reiteration that should simply stick to the facts. The only time we broke the rule was when we wrote our post it notes from our own interviews. We knew this was going to be another long night.

It didn’t get any easier when it came to clustering. There were a fair few points that we unanimously agreed were significant and there were others which each team member wanted to dig into further. The clustering was a serious head mess as we initially struggled to put them into themes. We were pushed to dig deep, look behind our choices to really understanding the meaning of what we were reading.

When we left, we were feeling a little deflated as we simply couldn’t see where all this information was leading us much less where a solution might emerge from. We also had accepted that evening that we were going to miss our submission deadline as weren’t due to meet until the day after the submission date. We were officially missing the peer review.

Our second download session was almost an exact reverse of the first one, each team member spoke and we all took notes. However, rather than simply relaying the information, there was a lot of discussion based on our interpretation of what we were hearing. For me, this was another realisation that human beings, by their very nature,  are wired or have learned to infer meaning from action and it’s not that straightfoward to switch this off. It’s part of the reason why the ‘5 whys’ can be so hard to practice or is simply ignored. By the time, we get two questions deep we assume we have the answer. I mean at school, we are taught Comprehension which is purely about inference rather than what is actually been said. HCD, on the other hand, requires a strict discipline of non-inference, pure observation of the facts. Despite this deviation, these last few interviews were the ones that provided the ‘Aha’ moments, we started to see connections, reasons and possibilities – understanding of behaviours and habits as well as how these could be changed. The tenuous connections of the previous interviews suddenly became solid ones. We were very clear about elements that we needed to add into our prototype if it was to succeed. The insights gained from analogs once you dig below the surface cannot be underestimated. My biggest surprise was which of our interviews provided the greatest ‘Aha’ moment suddenly stitching everything together. For us, this was the learnings from Alcohols Anonymous.

It’s funny how differently, you view things when you revisit them. When it came to adding the new insights to the clusters, there was one particular theme just didn’t make sense. Two (or three, can’t quite remember) of the postit notes were correctly themed but the other two had no place there.  Because we got so attached to insights we wanted to explore further, we’d initially struggled to step back and see these insights value in the bigger scheme of things. Now, we were happy to be ruthless, we got rid. We had our themes and we moved on to our insight statements.

Again, we were stomped by the need for objectivity rather interpretation. This was partly due to the not writing enough quotes during the download sessions. A word of advice while downloading, quotes, quotes and more quotes! We eventually got there and got together on Skype a couple of days later to do the ‘How Might We’s’.

If there is one thing that you can be certain of, it’s that there will be uncertainty but you just have to trust that the resistance to interpret will result in clarity, direction and themes for solutions.