Separate the user’s needs from the solution

In a conversation about your user’s needs, it’s natural to start throwing out solutions almost immediately. Someone brings up an aspect of the user’s needs, and someone knows how to answer that aspect. But suddenly, that one aspect is all you’re talking about. You’ve just blinkered your view of the user to whatever can be handled by a single, almost random solution. Did you speak up first? Let’s talk about what kind of docs the user needs. Did the client engineer beat you to it? Let’s look at some UI bugs.

If you resist the urge to throw out solutions, the conversation stays focused on the user. You get a chance to fully articulate the user’s needs, free of the assumptions a proposed solution bakes in. It’s probably best, at this point, to take a break. Let people think for a while about everything they’ve learned about the user. A full understanding of the problem and some thinking time will lead to a creative and comprehensive solution.

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