This week, we were asked to reflect on our tendency to be "problem-solvers." When we were assigned our in-class activity, we were asked to discuss how we would begin the process of addressing challenges in communication between students and professors that were seemingly impacting academic success, using the 5 modes of Design Thinking. Nearly every group had offered some sort of solution by the end of their presentation, including mine. Rather than putting more effort into the details of "how" we would go through our process, get to know our users, and really capture the problem at-hand, it was obvious that much more effort was directed towards the proposed solution. In my last reflection, I had specifically addressed this tendency to problem-solve, yet fell for the behaviour directly after. Why?
Perhaps it's the result of over nearly two decades of education, which tends to push us to offer results, answers, and findings. My third grade music teacher did not care for me to demonstrate all the different ways I had attempted to play the recorder before finally figuring it out, she was merely thankful that I had presented the final piece she had assigned without compromising her hearing. She was grateful I had found a solution for myself so she would never have to listen to me play "three blind mice" again, no questions asked. No probing to learn about my challenges, thought process, or methods. The problem was solved.
I believe it also comes from a place of over-enthusiasm and sometimes, empathy. I have always been an individual who loves to discover, to be challenged, to solve the problem in many different ways. The tendency to jump to the conclusion also comes out when emotions are involved. I learned this repeatedly during undergraduate education, where I studied Child and Youth Care (misleading title: definitely did not take care of children. Think social work, but specifically with youth). Interestingly, I have begun to notice a lot of similarities between what we are currently learning in this course and the knowledge I gained in my undergraduate degree. During counselling simulations, even when we thought we had asked a decent amount of questions, our professors would often stop us and tell us -- "you're still missing something," or "take your time building the rapport. Of course you want to help, but learning about your client is an essential first step and should be your main focus first."
I heard a lot during my training at Apple, too. Probe. Get to know the customer. Uncover their needs. Get the full story. Do not assume you have gathered every single detail or user need just because you feel successful about having uncovered one or two -- search for more. When we move too fast, we risk acting on assumptions, misunderstood information, or incomplete knowledge about what's really happening and who we're really helping!
It feels almost like the ironic result of being super enthusiastic, but not fully trained. We're so excited to be gaining all this information about our user so we can help! But ironically we completely limit the quality of our solution by being too excited to help and offering the solution too soon! It's important to acknowledge that, to take that step back, and to slow down. There's certainly great value in being excited about getting to know our user, to begin opening the doors to building something really amazing. But that enthusiasm has to become trained, levelled, and focused throughout the "gathering" process. I will continue striving to correct myself when I become too focused on the solution, and refocus my enthusiasm back to the most important element -- getting to know the user, and the real problem at hand.
Master of Public Service Candidate at the University of Waterloo. Self-motivated and enthusiastic learner. Passionate about public health, societal wellness, science & technological innovation, food, crime shows, and dogs.