Using the Persona Map to Refine Services

The Persona Map, page 91 in The Designing for Growth Field Book

The Persona Map, page 91 in The Designing for Growth Field Book

It's a challenge for a business to be self-critical. Stopping to ask if the business objective has been designed to meet a customer need can slow down timelines, budgets, and take more resources. Yet, these moments of reflection are integral to determine the course ahead—what features to design, what experiments to run, what partnerships to build. Integrating customer insights in a human way informs the trajectory of a project for an innovation team. The Persona Map, is a simple and useful tool to help organization identify and empathize with their customer. When UVA's Darden School of Business sought to rethink their business and experience strategy for MBA students, Peer Insight, along with students, used the the Persona Map to help identify the unmet needs to solved for. 

The Persona Map

What is it?
“Personas are archetypes—fictional characters we create that typify different types of stakeholders.” —The Designing for Growth Field Book.

We use the persona tool to synthesize what we know about a user— as a person, not as a data point. Personas are designed to help us think through a service experience from different perspectives. We use the 2x2 matrix format to step back from the business objectives and think through the specific design criteria that our archetype requires.  A good matrix will have axes that are psychographic, and will pick two dimensions that are broad enough to scatter users over at least three quadrants.

Why are we excited about this tool?
The 2x2 matrix is simple but experimentation is required. It requires a depth of knowledge about your user, teamwork, and a willingness to tinker before you compose a suitable pairing of dimensions. In the end, you will have a clear line of sight into how you should proceed forward in testing your new service or business.

When have we used it?
We used this tool with students from UVA's Darden School of Business to make recommendations on how to better serve their students. To the business student, school is more than grades—it's a lifestyle. After many stakeholder interviews (with both students and administrative staff) we identified the important themes and created several possible dimensions. We realized that we could think about the Darden MBA students as spanning these two dimensions:

Y= academic outlook

  • Academic Pragmatist
  • Academic Purist

X= cultural niche

  • Identify with the dominant culture
  • Identify with the micro culture

The matrix looks like this:

How did it make a difference?

The point of this exercise wasn’t to create a better marketing campaign or to streamline a sale. We wanted to know: what type of school experience is most valuable to, Steve, the Map Maker, as opposed to Linda, the Mainstream MBA? How can we create an excellent grad school experience and better support students on their journey?

A Map Maker is more focused on academics and less socially inept. While, Mainstream MBA has both a good social and academic experience. Which persona do you think seems more ripe for innovation? 

With this new reframe, Darden was able to hone in on specific aspects of the student experience and have new conversations about the nuances of the work to be done. 

Whenever I use the persona tool, it brings to light something I’ve heard our CEO, Tim Ogilvie, say time and time again: We may not know, but we know how to know. The tools in The Designing for Growth Field Book provide the means necessary for managing how to get there, and in innovation, navigating the journey is where the magic happens.

Have you used the persona tool in your work? Tell me how it made a difference in your project. Download the persona map now. 

Mesasge me: @alissa_joelle