Recap: AMA with author Tomer Sharon

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  • Tomer Sharon - Research Systems workshopDuring our “Ask Me Anything” with Tomer Sharon, author of Validating Product Ideas, we touched on subjects ranging from product testing, to lean UX and how to change a company’s perspective on how to do usability testing. Read on for a recap of the session, and please join our Slack here to stay informed about when our next #rm-chat author AMA will be!


    Q: What are your thoughts on adding more features to an already somewhat complicated tool that there is potentially not much helpful use out (according to past studies) but is something the higher up’s have said needs to be implemented. I was thinking of doing some prototyping and having interviews with users to see how they interact with addition to help potentially build a case for potentially not adding the feature. I personally think based on my research, they’re not addressing the root use – but the symptom of a larger issue.

    A: Proceed with care, but if you are trying to make a point to higher ups, consider running a usability test with them as participants. Sometimes they need to literally be put in their users’ shoes to understand the effect of their requests and decisions. I tried it once and it worked like magic. But I can see how it can go south. If you have data to back up your recommendation, that helps.


    Q: I’m wondering what you would recommend for starting out with sharing atomic insights with teams that are more familiar with traditional decks or reports? I would love to start developing and leveraging a research repository, but I’ve been asked to demonstrate a proof of concept using our existing software suites (i.e. Microsoft).

    A: I would argue they are eager to get answers to their questions and that the format/tool is less critical. Sway the discussion away from the tool to the essence.


    Q: What are some books you’re currently reading that you’d like to shout out?

    A: When I read, I always read several books simultaneously. I’m now reading these:


    Q: What have you found to be most persuasive in convincing a team to invest in getting a pulse on competitive research insights?

    A: Your best success in persuading people will be to convince them about something they are already invested in. Start with their questions; what do they want to know? Why? What is the knowledge gap? Once you identify it, answer the questions and fill the gap with knowledge. If the gap is about competitive research insights, so be it.


    Q: As a UX’er who wears many different hats, do you have any advice on how to reduce fear or anxiety from others who may think you’re overstepping when trying to validate ideas – when you’re really just trying to complete a project that was given to you by your boss? In my case, I’m not a manager but an internal consultant – and as I get more high priority/impact projects – my boss expects me to ask these difficult questions. I’m sensing a bit of annoyance and animosity from those I was originally close with. I’ve explained that I’m there to understand and work with them to improve where necessary and that we’re a team who impact thousands of users so working together to deliver a validate product is really important.

    A: It sounds as if you are doing the right thing. My advice is to continue communicating with people directly and openly. Talk with people, not about them.


    Q: For a new product, what questions are you typically using to validate interest vs. likelihood to purchase vs. likelihood loyalty?

    A: I don’t. I am not interested in questions about the future. I am interested in problems of the present and recent past, motivations, and behaviors. What people tell us about their future interest and behavior is not trustworthy. Not because they lie to us, but because they have no way of correctly predicting their future behavior. Especially in a research situation, when people want to be perceived as helpful, smart, and friendly.


    Q: I’ve just started working as a first user researcher in a company where designers and product managers are doing the research. I am not supposed to replace them, I should be leveling up their research capabilities and start with reops stuff. I was told they were doing lots of discovery but soon realized it’s all about usability testing. It seems to me the it comes from Marty Cagan’s book Inspired (simplification to discovery and delivery). The book is the company’s bible and I am not sure how to approach the change of the mindset so that we can do more exploratory research.

    A: If they already do usability testing, that’s a great start. I would recommend you run one such usability test (off to help someone who is stressed out in time) and dedicate some of it to traditional usability testing and the rest to exploratory research. My experience is that at first they won’t understand why you do that, and then they’ll be more interested in that than the usability test.


    Q: Are there any successful Lean approaches at regulated organizations (e.g. financial services, healthcare, etc.) where you can’t just experiment and measure live as some Lean UX methods advocate?

    A: Yes, experimenting in heavily regulated companies is hard. But if there’s a will, there’s a way. Might take a lot of time and effort to make it happen but it’s doable. If Goldman Sachs did it, anyone can. Trust me…