It’s been a while since my last post. The reason – Analysis Paralysis.
What that means is I have been engrossed in analyzing the data from a recent design research study. This involves listening to hours of user interviews and contemplating the data head-on, backwards, upside down and laterally – Till I am able to filter out the noise and vacuum pack the relevant stuff into Insights. By this time, I’m also cross eyed, saturated and paralyzed as far as writing or thinking goes.
This analysis phase of research really does sometimes feels like paralysis… It is difficult to do anything much outside the data one is engrossed in. Early in my career, I had the luxury of switching off the rest of the world and hibernating into my own little research world, till all the work was done. But with motherhood, I have learnt to switch my analysis paralysis mode on and off as required – switching between ‘research zombie’ and ‘involved mommy’ with relative ease… (Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde?)
One of the challenges I love about design research is to ensure that my own context, beliefs and mindsets do not influence or change the intrinsic meaning of what the research actually says.
This is challenging because coming up with ‘Insights’ essentially means highlighting what is not obvious and presenting the obvious in a fresh and unique way. It takes some doing to make sure that one is creating Insights out of what is actually seen and heard – And not from what is thought to be seen or heard.
I found a nice parallel to what I’m trying to say in a book I’m currently reading. This excerpt is from a section of the book about ancient attempts towards discovering the cause of scurvy:
James Lind, a naval surgeon, conducted a more scientifically rigorous (and less personally risky) experiment by finding 12 sailors who had scurvy already, dividing them into pairs and giving each pair a different putative elixir – vinegar to one, garlic and mustard to another, oranges and lemons to a third, and so on.
Five of the groups showed no improvement, but the pair given oranges and lemons made a swift and total recovery.
Amazingly, Lind decided to ignore the significance of the result and doggedly stuck with his own personal belief that scurvy was caused by incompletely digested food building up toxins within the body.
On a different note – One of the things that helps relax my mind when I am analyzing data is reading. The book I am currently reading (and where the excerpt is from) is ‘At Home’ by Bill Bryson.
Here’s a short clip of Bill Bryson discussing his new book – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E491FLDzTNY
The clip and online reviews don’t do justice to the crazy genius of this book. Although not usually a fan of non-fiction, this book turned out to be one of the most hilarious and engaging reads in a long time.
Another excerpt that had me in splits and scheming to implement on my 3 year old:
‘The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb’
(A boy named Conrad is warned not to suck his thumbs because it will attract the attention of a ghoulish figure known as the great tall tailor who always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs.
And ere they dream what he’s about
He takes his great sharp scissors out.
And cuts their thumbs clean off – and then
You know, they never grow again.
Alas, little Suck-a-Thumb ignores the advice and discovers that punishment in Hoffman’s (the author) world is swift and irreversible:
The door flew open, in he ran,
The great red-legged scissor man.
Oh! Children, see! The tailor’s come!
And caught our little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snap! The scissors go;
And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snap! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.
Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands.
‘Ah!’ said Mamma, ‘I knew he’d come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb.’