Place them into a formal hierarchy of impor tance3

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place them into a formal hierarchy of impor- tance.3 This hierarchy later guides decision mak- ing during the product development process, when tradeoffs can be made according to options that serve the more important needs. Reframe the research. After observing and talking with a few customers, one is likely to find that the research questions should change and the needer group should be redefined. For ex- ample, after beginning a study of how touring motorcyclists use and obtain the things they need on a ride, one might find that the needer group should be sub-divided into bikers whose travel is generally limited to day trips, and those who enjoy longer journeys. Object use may differ greatly between the two groups. At the same time, new questions may emerge from the ongoing design work. The designers may find unanticipated issues that must be answered to advance the design. Each of these four stages should be repeated to pro- vide an increasing level of focus and detail. The process is analogous to developing a pencil sketch from a marker rendering into a solid-body model and finally a physical form. In each iteration, the activities appear quite similar. Yet each revision in- creases the designer s sense of certainty as he or she moves from ambiguity to clarification. 2. See Stanley Payne, The Art of Asking Questions (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1951) for a particularly useful discussion of how to phrase research questions. 3. Karl Ulrich and Steven Eppinger, in Product Design and De- velopment, ch. 3 & 4 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995), offer a rigorous method for creating and prioritizing need statements. tomer can use relevant props in the surroundings to illustrate their points. These references to ob- jects in the environment often trigger the customer to recognize previously latent needs. Record information in
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the customer s terms. When documenting a discussion with a cus- tomer, record the person s Once data is collected, the final stage of the Needfinding process is to interpret the findings and revise the research questions statements in his or her own words as much as possible. That person s choice of words can carry meaning that would be lost if the researcher were to translate them. That said, though, the customer may make statements that are too gen- eral to guide design work. In such cases, use follow-up questions to get to the desired level of detail, still recording the subsequent answers in the customer s words. Open-ended questions are especially useful for this purpose, as they give customers an opportunity to describe situations in their own words. In addition, it is often useful to have customers interpret video recordings of their own activities, explaining the motivation for their actions in their own words. INTERPRET & REFRAME Once data is collected, the final stage of the Needfinding process is to interpret the findings and revise the research questions. Information collected in the customer s environment helps refine one s understanding and prepares the team for another iteration of research. Product development can then
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