In Design Thinking, Know Your Decision-making Villains

Photo by glenngould

Photo by glenngould

As design thinkers we are obsessed with users. We spend countless hours with them, in their own environments, hanging on their every word. We seek to discover their unmet needs, urging our clients to dig deep and identify the “emotional job to be done."  Yes, the "functional job to be done" is important, but when it comes down to it, all humans are emotional.

During a project for Pfizer's Nicorette brand, we discovered that the typical 25-to-35-year-old smoker didn’t believe they were addicted to nicotine. In the minds of this smoker, they were making a conscious choice to smoke and could stop at any point, because, to them, smoking wasn’t a medical issue. 

 Our advice to Pfizer? Yes, you're right, these smokers are delusional. We all know that they are, in fact, chemically addicted. But as someone offering a service, you have to accept their reality as they’ve constructed it— as the truth. You have to drop the urge to educate them and prove them wrong with copious amounts of stats and information. Instead, meet them where they are.

Sure, as innovators, it's easy to view our users as, sometimes, irrational beings. But what we often overlook is that those of us on the innovation team are also emotional creatures. Like the 25-to-35-year-old smoker, so are we delusional too!

I’m currently reading Chip & Dan Heath’s newest book, Decisive, which poses that humans aren’t as great of decision makers as we think we are. Throughout the book, they outline the three “villains” of decision-making: short-term emotion, framing and confirmation bias. In the innovation process, the second and third villains are readily accounted for, as there are existing steps and tools in place to tackle these temptations. But for short-term emotion, which is not as obvious, there’s not as much built into the process to avoid it. 

In Decisive, the Heath brothers note two things you can do to combat this villain:

  1. Attain distance
  2. Honor your core priorities.

I couldn’t agree more with honoring your priorities. Using your company’s strategy and mission statement as a compass is key when facing pivotal decision points. It helps curb individuals’ emotions around the different paths and routes a project can take.

But I’m curious to find and try ways to “attain distance.” Do I sleep on it? Go for a walk? Use the 10-10-10 rule?  

What do you do to attain distance when you make decisions in uncertainty? Send me a message: @natalie_s_foley