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Conference Program

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Opening Remarks Day 1

Theme 1: Excellence in Strategic Influence

The layoffs that have disproportionately affected research and insights teams have only exacerbated an existential crisis that was brewing long before recent events. For years we’ve been asking how we can have more strategic influence because we fundamentally believe that evidence-based decision making and businesses that prioritizes humans are the best ways out of the extractive and unsustainable systems we’ve inherited and advanced. The talks on day one approach this challenge from a plurality of perspectives. Whether you wield positional authority or lead through influence, these talks recommend tactics that are appropriate for all of us to consider, advocate for, and apply. If you’re eager for Research/Insight teams to yield more strategic influence in your organization, today’s talks are for you.

The layoffs that have disproportionately affected research and insights teams have only exacerbated an existential crisis that was brewing long before recent events. For years we’ve been asking how we can have more strategic influence because we fundamentally believe that evidence-based decision making and businesses that prioritizes humans are the best ways out of the extractive and unsustainable systems we’ve inherited and advanced. The talks on day one approach this challenge from a plurality of perspectives. Whether you wield positional authority or lead through influence, these talks recommend tactics that are appropriate for all of us to consider, advocate for, and apply. If you’re eager for Research/Insight teams to yield more strategic influence in your organization, today’s talks are for you.

Theme 1 Intro

We’re all ultimately charged with making our products as useful and beloved as possible, but in order to do that, researchers must widen the aperture of user research. Usability, user journeys, and the like are critical, but the reality is that wider cultural factors provide the filter through which people experience your product. We need to dedicate more attention to how wider cultural factors shape what people need from a product experience—the dialogue between the wide and the narrow apertures are crucial to creating beloved, essential products.

In this talk, Neil Barrie, Co-Founder and CEO of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, shares his perspectives on research’s role in helping companies build deeper, meaningful relationships with customers based on his work building the brands of the likes of Airbnb, Pinterest, Headspace, Pepsico, Monzo and Bumble.

His talk will address:

  • How culture is the lens through which people experience products
  • Why products are the catalyst to purpose, facilitating behavior changes that can take marketing years to achieve
  • What we can learn from insider cases of culturally driven UX innovation from leading unicorns like Flo Health, Pinterest and Airbnb

When research is siloed it can lead to duplicative research of variable quality. In this talk, Andy explores the benefits (and challenges) of having a unified research & insights function, based on his experiences leading teams at Airtable, Instagram, and Dropbox. Further, Andy presents practical strategies to align diverse insight-generating functions, offering guidance even in situations where forming a unified team may not be possible. Through a detailed examination of real-world scenarios and Andy’s professional journey, attendees will gain valuable lessons and recommendations aimed at fostering a cohesive and effective research ecosystem.

Break

Moving the research function out from UX can transform how insights influence product-making in an organization. In this talk, Nalini explains how and why she led this shift for her team at Salesforce, as well as the move’s effect on their work and impact. Nalini will also share lessons learned in the process – “the how to’s” and the “absolutely how not to’s” – that may inspire and guide leaders and individual contributors alike.

Researchers must adeptly navigate a dual remit in organizations. The initial challenge involves delivering insights that matter. The subsequent task requires discerning the necessary adjustments the organization must undertake to effectively act upon those insights. In this presentation, we’ll talk about a model of change and a theory of power to enable researchers to embrace and fulfill their dual mission. It is at this intersection of meaning and action that research can impact lives.

Break

Imagine a future where UX Research Operations (ReOps) is not just part of research execution, but a pivotal force driving business performance and competitive edge. In this session, we will explore the hidden and often untapped superpowers of Strategic Programs already available in your team. Discover how ReOps can evolve from a supportive function for research alone to a strategic linchpin that fuels your business competitive position, at scale. Through engaging case studies, actionable program plans, and measures, this session will equip you with a practical roadmap to assess the current research lifecycle, effectively advocate for resource gaps with research intelligence, and creative approaches to your research hiring & people strategy. Don’t miss the opportunity to transform your approach to Research Ops into a strategic pillar of business strategy. This evolution will lead to a significant shift in research perceptions, excellence, and maturity.

Researchers use our work to drive organizational action, by closing knowledge gaps, clarifying user needs, or identifying opportunities. But the extent of that action is often limited. We frequently want our research to be about strategy, but that’s not how organizations usually work. Our stakeholders want tactical research on tight timelines. By contrast, Peter highlights a different, and distinctive, approach to making strategic impact: considering research as a form of “robust action,” work that solves specific problems while visibly expanding the organization’s field of future possibility. Peter gives examples of work he’s done in this fashion at Intel, Autodesk, and Airtable, and provides some guiding principles to help make our work more valuable.

Break

What is “impact” in the context of research? Should we strive for influencing product decisions or shifting organizational thinking? Is it measurable or qualitative? And what does it take to achieve it? Join our expert panel as they share their unique perspectives on defining and achieving research impact, offering illuminating examples from their own experiences. Don’t miss this lively, thoughtful discussion that transcends traditional metrics and explores the profound ways in which research can make a lasting difference.

At Advancing Research 2024, Tricia Wang—renowned social scientist and research thought leader—will address the transformative role of UX researchers in the AI era. Emphasizing the need to shift from passivity to proactivity, Tricia advocates for a radical reimagining of what it means to be a researcher—from being mere data gatherers to becoming shapers who collaborate creatively with AI.

Drawing on her extensive experience in ethnography, data science, and her work with leading global companies, Tricia will explore how AI tooling presents an opportunity for researchers to leapfrog past longstanding issues that have plagued the field. She’ll explore three concrete ways AI will change the work of researchers:

  1. To make research artifacts more accessible
  2. To amplify the voice of the customer, citizen, or constituent
  3. To become strategic partners

Tricia will point researchers towards a new paradigm where their role is to be empowered architects in an AI-driven world, translating customer needs into actionable insights that will inform decisions that are more far-reaching than what we can imagine today.

Opening Reception

Enjoy light bites, an open bar, and an absolutely unbelievable view of the Manhattan skyline at our opening reception, courtesy of Sprig. End an intense day chatting with your new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

Sponsored by:

Enjoy light bites, an open bar, and an absolutely unbelievable view of the Manhattan skyline at our opening reception, courtesy of Sprig. End an intense day chatting with your new friends and reconnecting with old ones.

Sponsored by:

The Cozy Juicy Real Experience: Connect (Virtually) with the Advancing Research Community

Join us the evening of Monday, March 25 to play Cozy Juicy Real—an engaging online board game where the purpose is anything but trivial: creating authentic and truly meaningful connections with your peers.

This is an interactive session and spaces are limited. RSVP is required!

Looking for a fun and unique way to (virtually) connect with others in the community? Then this one’s for you!

Whether you’re looking to expand your network, meet your next client or connect with collaborators, this is the perfect opportunity to make it happen.

Cozy Juicy Real has been played in 71 countries and is proven to create stronger team bonds at the world’s most successful organizations – including Google, Adobe and the UN.

“You will connect. Cozy Juicy Real is the best way to foster connection online.”
– Marcia Goddard, Chief Culture Officer, The Contentment Foundation

Learn more…

?️ Teams edition

❤️ Friends edition

⭐️ Top-Rated on Trustpilot

Opening Remarks Day 2

Theme 2: Excellence in Our Craft

User research as a discipline is still in its infancy, with much to learn—from adjacent fields, our roots in the social sciences and HCI, and those emerging voices advocating for new practices. To defend against the swingeing contractions like those which have plagued our field in recent years, we need to ensure that the human insight we craft is undeniable in rigor and richness, and indispensable in how it tells this story. The talks on day two will challenge us to advance the methods we use and the way we communicate insights, based on non-extractive and transformative approaches. Our speakers will push you to reconsider the core foundations of our craft in order to achieve excellence in our day-to-day work, advance the ways in which we do research, and prepare ourselves for a future where, now more than ever, we must mature.

User research as a discipline is still in its infancy, with much to learn—from adjacent fields, our roots in the social sciences and HCI, and those emerging voices advocating for new practices. To defend against the swingeing contractions like those which have plagued our field in recent years, we need to ensure that the human insight we craft is undeniable in rigor and richness, and indispensable in how it tells this story. The talks on day two will challenge us to advance the methods we use and the way we communicate insights, based on non-extractive and transformative approaches. Our speakers will push you to reconsider the core foundations of our craft in order to achieve excellence in our day-to-day work, advance the ways in which we do research, and prepare ourselves for a future where, now more than ever, we must mature.

Theme 2 Intro

Most efforts at advancing research to be more inclusive focus on methods or methodologies or participation. Though helpful, those efforts have unfortunately not been sufficient for inclusion and we continue to be constrained by stronger forces which go to the root of what research means and the definition of inclusion. To be fully unconstrained and reach true inclusion we must learn to let go. Do we have the ability to do that? Let’s talk about that. Join us for a half-hour of becoming undone, joyfully.

The research industry struggles with effectively communicating complex findings, meaning valuable knowledge is often misunderstood or under-utilized. Dense reports and impenetrable data presentations can carry the blame for much of this. However, embracing visual frameworks and storytelling techniques can make complex data more digestible and engaging. Frameworks thinking not only helps findings spread further, but empowers stakeholders to “think with the ideas”—enhancing both the impact and audience of insight. The session will look at some examples of powerful visual framework to enable attendees to learn how to transform complex data into engaging visuals and narratives, and give clear strategies for making insight more accessible and impactful.

Break

Join Savina Hawkins as she presents a focused exploration of large language models in User Experience Research (UXR). This talk zeroes in on practical, actionable strategies for leveraging these advanced AI tools to enhance UXR outcomes. Savina will discuss the dual nature of large language models, illuminating their potential to both revolutionize and challenge UXR practices. Attendees will learn to identify and mitigate risks while maximizing the benefits of these models in real-world scenarios. The session promises a clear, concise roadmap for UX researchers to effectively integrate large language models into their workflow, ensuring positive, impactful results.

UX research is inherently future-oriented. As researchers, we are often on the lookout to understand what users expect, what they anticipate to happen, and what they hope will come next. How we orient ourselves towards the future is part of how we experience the present. By drawing attention to the nuances of different future orientations in everyday life, we can unlock new depths of understanding to improve product and service design. Join this session to learn how to center the future as an object of study and apply frameworks from futures anthropology to advance tactical and strategic research.

Break

Session description to come

As the first-ever user researcher at McKinsey, Megan Blocker pioneered the practice of UXR at the firm, establishing and growing the team to more than 50 researchers, data analysts, and data scientists. But “growing up” as a user researcher in management consulting meant she was unburdened by many of the expectations researchers face in more traditional contexts – instead, she was able to combine the best of management consulting with research and design practices to break barriers for how and where research was applied.

In her talk at Advancing Research, she’ll share how she applied core management consulting practices to her research work and how those same practices can help you succeed from study to study as well as when scaling research across your organization.

Break

Insights wither and die when they gather dust on the shelf. Excellence in research is only excellence when data is turned to insight, those insights made actionable and are told in stories which engage, inspire and provoke. Our esteemed panel of research leaders will be sharing their best practices for ensuring that insights are heard, acted upon and given the power to become received wisdom which drive business’ forward.

Over the past 25 years, Steve Portigal has seen tremendous growth in user research as a community of practice, as an industry, and as a career. Steve will look at some of the changes that he’s experienced and observed—positive, negative, or otherwise. He’ll share some of the potentially overlooked opportunities to advance our field, issues that demand our limited attention and concern. He’ll also share his perspective on the directions we can drive towards.