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Hacker Name & Organization:

Sandy Staling,

(Organization: Cummins Inc.)

Hack Challenge

The company repeatedly had skeptics as stakeholders on projects that would have to heavily build on ethnographic studies and ‘subjective’ user insights. Often these people were convinced (after they got presented the results from such research), that the insights were nothing new to them, rather something they already knew before the start of the project. The innovation team however asked itself: If they really knew already, why didn’t they act on these insights in the past? Thus, they needed a way to show that qualitative user research would result in something different and better than the traditional approaches (confirmatory market research, focus groups, customer satisfaction surveys) and that the skeptics were biased with ‘wisdom of hindsight’.

Hack Description

Before every project that involves qualitative social research, the innovation teams made it a habit to first spend lots of scarce but important time on what they call ‘Internal Assumption Workshops’. These kind of pre-workshop sessions (often part of the workshop days) are used, to extract the ‘we-know-it-all’ thoughts, hypotheses and solutions from these stakeholders before the beginning of the ethnographic research. Although doing so in-depth eats up lots of valuable workshop time, it was the only way to prove the over-confident skeptics wrong.

Hack Outcome / Effects

The time investments paid off. In nearly every workshop the innovation teams could confront the preceding stakeholder assumptions with findings from the research and show that they were not accurate. Once the skeptics the evidence in ‘black and white’ they realized that such an approach brought the ‘right’ direction – they became believers and champions of the approach (here ‘design thinking’).

Ideas for Improvement

In the beginning you might not get done too much content work if you have to spend 1-1,5h on assumption mapping. But that’s the way it is: It’s hard to really innovate in a workshop where your focus still has to be mindset change.

Innovation Barriers Adressed


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