We don’t mean to lie. The truths we are sharing sound very convincing. Our intentions are all well-meaning. We think we’re being helpful, but it’s leading the team down the wrong path, pushing against innate behaviors and habits, even our own intuition.

“While interviews might reduce your egocentrism, just asking people what they want can produce extremely convincing — but misleading — suggestions. Psychology research tells us that people often idealize their needs and desires. Statements about personal preferences often don’t correspond to actual needs, values, and behavior.”

We tell little lies to ourselves all the time — nudges about our choices, reminders we ignore, the little voice we push aside. No harm… usually. When we ask for solutions for our fictional/perfect state, we fall short of our own aspirations, rendering the solution moot, exquisitely tailored for a state of perfection that will never be attained.

If you can’t ask people what they want or how to solve their problems, what can you do? You can observe, ask questions, poke around, invest the time to get to know the end-user. What problem do they really want you to solve? Even identifying the question(s) puts you on the right track. What can you learn from watching, listening, observing, asking? Start here.

Writer, researcher, observer