Empathise phase of the design thinking
(I would recommend giving this a quick read first 8 aspects to be aware of whilst doing Design Thinking)
Most of us, when we hear about a problem, we automatically start thinking about the ways to solve it. These mental solutions stay with us throughout the process of the development of a solution. However, at this point, focus on identifying the problem. Hold your horses right at the start and forcefully ignore the ideas for now.
Be the user:
- Even if you think you know the user, talk to them. Do what they do. e.g. Arunachalam Murunganatham, commonly known as Pad-man, actually used sanitary pads on himself and artificially introduced blood through a football bladder. Almost for every situation, you can be the user. Want to understand the problems of a cab driver, try carpooling.
- Managing egos of a teammate, who thinks s/he already knows the user, could be tricky. On many occasions, your teammate may actually be right. Acknowledge that and ask her/him if s/he could share details of the users they have been in touch with, so that you can learn more about them.
- You could also create a survey and ask you teammate if s/he could spread it around to have more data for future reference.
- Additionally, write down the pointers that your teammate claims to know and see if you can validate them during your user interviews.
- Let the users talk. It is ok if they take more time than expected. Have your questions ready and try to get them answered. Any additional information is always a bonus. You would always need your users throughout different phases of Design thinking. The more you listen, the more are the people invested in what you work on.
A couple of additional pointers:
- Talk to 6-12 users; above that the answers may become repetitive.
- Try and identify the stories(need) behind the actions of the users. e.g. I bought a Beetle because I have memories of my father driving me around in a beetle.