Using hypotheses to hold together your learning, thinking, and making

Hypotheses are a great way to hold together the learning, thinking and making in an agile and user-centred team. But lots of organisations struggle to use them well. At Interaction 20 in Milan I’ll be presenting my take on hypotheses and the practices you need in place to make them effective in your organisation.

A screenshot from the title slide of John's talk

A screenshot from the title slide of John’s talk

You can view the slides here: Using hypotheses to hold together your learning, thinking and making slides.

The structure of a hypothesis

A good hypothesis looks like this:

  • Because [of something we know]
  • We believe that [doing something]
  • Will achieve [some valuable outcome]
  • Measured by [some tangible change]

Or more specifically:

  • Because [research findings]
  • We believe that [improvements ideas]
  • Will achieve [desired outcome]
  • Measured by [performance indicator]

Hypotheses are only as good as their ingredients

Pulling together those different parts means that hypotheses can be the glue to hold together your learning, thinking, and making.

But it also means that hypotheses are only as good as the ingredients they’re made from.

They depend on clear, agreed outcomes with associated performance indicators, and improvement ideas to achieve those outcomes that are grounded in solid research findings.

In my talk, I’ll describe the common problems that I’ve seen, and identify a set of techniques that teams can use to create the right ingredients for effective hypotheses.

Techniques for clearer outcomes

I’ve seen many teams start without clear, agreed outcomes. Or with outcomes that are too big to achieve in one leap.

So, I’ll share techniques you can use to break down an unclear brief and reshape it into a clear outcome. And I’ll show how you can use a theory of change process to identify achievable, shorter term outcomes that build up to achieve the larger, longer term outcome.

Techniques for stronger research findings

Many teams are now doing some good research. But too often they don’t know how to analyse what they’ve seen and create strong findings that encapsulate what they’ve learned.

So, I’ll share collaborative techniques that teams can use to broaden their research activities, to make sense of what they see, and to produce clear statements of the important things they’ve learned.

Techniques for better improvement ideas

At an interaction design conference, it feels like this should be the easy part. But for many teams the organisation has already decided on a solution, or the team is only ever allowed to explore one idea.

So, I’ll share opportunity and solution mapping techniques you can use to open up the space to create, prioritise and justify many different design ideas.

A theory of change for hypotheses

So before adopting hypotheses, ask these questions:

  • Does work start with clear and valuable outcomes?
  • Are outcomes an actionable size?
  • Are teams producing solid and useful research findings?
  • Do teams have the space to create and try out different improvement ideas?

If those things aren’t happening, start working on those first.

Building those foundations will help you create good hypotheses and use them effectively.

And, improving each of these practices is a valuable outcome in itself, that will help to make your teams more agile and user centred.

Slides

Here’s a PDF of my slides: Using hypotheses to hold together your learning, thinking and making slides

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