Cover the Blind Spots

The VP of Product at KISSmetrics, Steve Cox, said something really interesting about user research last week at our weekly one-on-one meeting. I had asked him if he had any feedback for me. While I ask him this at the end of every one-on-one I have with him, this time he had something that stuck in my mind.

Think about your role as knowing more than anyone else in this company. Think about it like being one step ahead of everyone else. Keep up with trends. Cover the blind spots.

I've never really thought of it that way.

But I've come to terms that design research does encompass everything from organizational, competitive, user, and evaluative research. When you've accomplished knowing so much about your own company, the competition and market forces, the people that use your products, and the problems that surround it, you really do have a lot covered.

Management will come with questions regarding what business processes could be improved in every department. Sales will come with questions about how to combat objections based on competitor features. Marketing will come with questions about how users incorporate the product into their workflow. And product and design will come with questions about usability, fulfilling jobs-to-be-done, and impact on the user base.

While it's nice being the "go-to person" if people need to validate assumptions, I have to really be careful about the amount of information I'm dealing with as to not lead the company in a direction that was misinterpreted by me. There's definitely some pressure involved when someone asks you whether or not a feature should be axed. Luckily, that's balanced out by positive feedback or people giving us another chance when we get it right.

For your own company, cover the blind spots. You'll be one of the most valuable people in your organization. Sounds easy, right? After all, research is just asking questions.