An effective starting point for designing new technology is to clearly identify an existing problem or user need. Finding a big problem or need often yield an untapped opportunity for design. Observing people can also help you build empathy and think from their point of view, walk in someone else's shoes, or maybe wear someone else's gloves. The author and designer Mike Kuniavsky gave me the example of Qualcomm and their work making devices for truckers. Apparently, with an early version of the system, the responses were often blank, or when they were there they were pretty minimal. These devices had small buttons. And one thing that emerged through participant observation is that unsurprisingly truckers often have big hands. And furthermore, because they're lifting heavy things, they often wear gloves. So the small buttons were completely impractical. The resulting redesign featured a large touch screen. Additionally, because it was an interactive touch screen where you can change what is beneath the button, the most common response at particular locations was always featured there prominently. This dramatically reduced the amount of typing that was needed, and a stylus was introduced to be able to provide precise input on the rare occasions that it was needed. I think this is a wonderful example of the great philosopher Yogi Berra's insight that you can observe a lot just by watching. The techniques in this video are inspired by the field work strategies that anthropology has developed to study culture. Here, you see a picture of Bronislaw Malinowski. And in 1914, he travelled to the Trobriand islands in Papua New Guinea. While he's there, World War One breaks out, and he has two options. He can either stay on the island, or he faces internment. He was an Austrian citizen. I think you can guess which option he picked. And during this period, he developed the practices of participant observation, which remain a hallmark of ethnographic research to this day. In this photograph, Malinowski's being taught to play a string instrument. This kind of immersive user research has gained prominence over the past decades. And it's an example of what Anthropology PhD and now Intel Executive, Genevieve Bell, calls deep hanging out. What she means by that is that by spending time with people doing what they do, doing their work, living in their lives, you can get beyond the surface things that people might say in a focus group, to learn about what they actually do and care about. If you've ever lived in another country, I bet you found all sorts of things that are normal to the people there, that are completely unfamiliar to you. There's an old saying that fish don't realize that they live in water. But as an anthropologist, if you swim with fish, it'll be really apparent to you. Here are some questions that you may want to ask when doing field work. What do people do now? What values and goals do they have? How are the particular things that you're observing embedded in a larger ecology of artifacts and social networks and broader career and personal and professional goals? And what are some similarities and differences across people? Do you see everybody in a particular community doing the same thing? Or are there are some things that are more idiosyncratic? Both can be valuable, by the way. For example, if you were going to redesign the transportation experience for someone, you wouldn't want to narrowly look at somebody as they ride the bus. You might want to ask what led them to get on the bus there. If they were picking up food, or running an errand, the redesign experience might involve bringing that stuff to them. Or it might involve an alternative to the bus entirely, in other ways. You want to train your eye to be able to pay attention to all the artifacts. And in particular, one of the best strategies for design observation is to look for workarounds and hacks. If you ever see a post-it note on a photocopier machine or fax or elevator, a light switch that's taped over, these are examples of something where the users of a design situation needed to modify what they made because the natural tendency when using that system wasn't what would work. So these errors, hacks, workarounds are great ways to look for design intervention opportunities. Here's an example I really like that illustrate the benefits of observation in gathering real behavioral data, over asking people what they might want. Several years ago, Walmart asked people in focus groups whether they would like the isles to be less cluttered. With a leading question like that, the kind that you'll know better than to ask, many people said, yeah, we would love it if Walmart stores were less cluttered. So Walmart spent hundreds of millions of dollars decluttering their stores. They culled 15% of the inventory, and what happened was actually sales went down. So, while people said that they wanted less cluttered isles, by the behavioral measure of people leaving the store with the stuff they wanted, having more stuff readily available was a much more valuable design experience. Now, that's not to say that there aren't other kinds of rearrangement that would work even better. It's simply to point out that if you ask people what they want, as opposed to observing what they do, you can easily be led astray. So, what you learned here is the importance of trying and doing like Branislaw Malinowski did with the string instrument. you learned how to ask and listen to be able to find out what people's real goals are. And you learned to watch and observe rather than simply convene a focus group to be able to unearth real behaviors and needs.