Supergluing insights: How to make your research stick with stakeholders


Supergluing insights: How to make your research stick with stakeholders

Continuous Discovery

From recruitment through to synthesis and insights, a lot of effort goes into the research process—but what happens next? If insights don’t stick with stakeholders, the overall impact of research is dramatically reduced.

Dovetail’s star Product Designer, Jodie Clothier, sits down with Adyen's Vice President of User Experience Katarina Bagherian to chat about how she makes research impactful for her stakeholders. In this session, Katarina will walk through four methods, drawn from education theory, that help make research output stick and drive outcomes. This session isn’t to be missed, and we’ll be finishing with a spicy fireside chat too!

Hi everyone and welcome to today's session. My name is Jodie and I'm a product designer at Dovetail and Research, Analysis and repository tool for all your research needs. Super excited today to be bringing you this session around Super Living Insights, which is all about how to make your research stick with stakeholders. For today, I've brought in an expert on the subject, and I'd like to welcome you to Katarina, the VP of User Experience at Adyen. Over to you, Katarina.

Hi everyone. I'm Kat and I'm originally from San Francisco but I now live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with my husband and my poodle pup pictured here named Mousey. I'm a researcher by training and I cut my teeth in start-ups. Then I went the consultancy route, worked with really big companies, and then found my sweet spot at Adyen when it was still a scale-up. And I currently lead the UX org Adyen, which includes product design, research, UX writing, and we work closely with UX analytics as well. All of these disciplines are hiring right now globally. So do reach out to me if you're curious.

So you may not be familiar with Adyen, but chances are your money has passed through our platform at some stage. We are a payment service provider, so we work with international companies Uber, Spotify, and H&M, you name it, and we help them accept and manage payments online and in-store, providing insights and other financial products all in one single global solution.

So what triggered this talk? Well, essentially, again, I've gotten a lot of questions about how to make research insights, stick and have an impact. There are lots of different people in different players doing research again. There are marketers, there are product managers, there are product designers, and everyone in between. And so when they come to me and ask this question, I do a quick Google search, looking for some quick tips. And I couldn't ever really find something that would get at the heart of making them stick.

So I decided to write an article about it and put it out there to see if it might spark discussion among others. And you can find that article by clicking below.

So the ultimate goal of doing user research at the end of the day is to drive business and prior to improvements, we want to measurably improve the user experience. So it's important that if we're putting a lot of energy into gathering insights, analysing them accurately, all that stuff, then we should also put emphasis into making sure the insights stick that they're applied in the products. And I sometimes find that there's not a lot of focus on that. There's not a lot of focus and energy spent on making sure that these insights stick and are really relevant to the audience. And so, again, what I've seen happen is if people might spend months or weeks gathering answers to important user questions, they're doing this research, but then even months or years later, we don't see outcomes. And that's a big shame. And so the challenges I've seen from not making insights stick are the products aren't necessarily significantly improved. Product teams might undervalue research because it didn't end up leading to product improvement. And then as a result, people who do research might be demoralized. And of course, in the audience today, we don't only have researchers listening to this session. There are people who also are either involved in research or have to consume the research and then build something with it.

And so my hope is that this talk will empower you to either tell the researcher that you do work with what will help stick for you and really make the insights very applicable for you or even better for you to dive in and get involved in the research yourself as well.

So I've been teaching for half my life in some capacity, whether it's tutoring, teaching courses, facilitating workshops, etc. And I found that some principles from education theory when I apply them to share insights, have a much longer shelf life. They're more likely to be applied to products and then result in better products. So today, I want to let you in on this approach and perhaps you'll find it useful for your own research as well.

So these are the four principles from education theory I'll focus on, mainly because these are best practices that are tried and tested in many different contexts. And I found them useful for the classroom to the boardroom.

So let's dive in. The first one is making sure that your insights are relevant. And so I think we've all been in a situation where someone might be giving you information that's not relevant to you and therefore you're less likely to remember it. But if it's something that you're genuinely interested in, then it will be more likely to stick. And that's why it's much easier to learn and advance in a topic or a field that you're genuinely interested in.

This is because the brain finds it much easier to learn and latch on to information like this. There's a great quote by Clayton Christensen that I like to use where he said, Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven't asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go. And it really gets at the heart that it's important to get your stakeholders or whoever is going to be using your research insights to ask the question. If they ask the question about user needs or what they're experiencing, they're more likely to then absorb the answer and be able to do something with it, because they've created that space in their mind for the answer to go. And so something for you guys to think about is what are the questions that you have and make sure that you are sharing those with whoever is doing research on your team. So how do we make sure that these research insights are relevant? One way is to involve stakeholders at the start of the research process, and I don't just mean, the main key stakeholders, the main decision-makers, but anybody who needs to use these insights and build something with them. And so one way that I do that is to involve them at the very start of the process. This is where we're scoping the research, where we are figuring out what are the questions that we're going to answer.

I like to involve people from across the company, and I do this via a workshop that I call to research the right thing. You can read more about it on the Dovetail blog and there's again a link below for you to read more. But to just summarize quickly the gist of it, I do this kick-off workshop for research and gather people from across the business together in a room. These will be people from the onboarding team or who know your customer team or the point of sale team and the marketing team. People from all across the business are interested in this audience and work with this audience in question. And I get them together in a room or in different rooms and get them to plot out What are the things that we know about our users, about this audience, and then plot that based on confidence. And these are essentially great ways to then seed questions. For the second part, these are the things that we need to know about this audience that we don't yet know. And these end up turning into questions. And these ones, we then prioritize on a matrix based on the feasibility of actually finding the answers and the business impact that the answer would have. And then we focus on the ones that fall here in the top right quadrant, and these end up being the main research questions that we scope into the research project.

So here's a picture of research, The right thing workshop that I facilitated. I essentially got stakeholders from different parts of the company into this room, and I had their brain dump on Post-its. Right here on the left-hand side, you could see what we know about the audience of interest? And then had them rank those in levels of confidence and then also have them plot out. What do we want to know on the board here? And then they took these Post-its and ranked them, as you can see, my colleague doing here on a this would be useful to not so useful to a very useful spectrum and all the meanwhile I was taking notes in Excel to capture everything and then share it with the stakeholders to keep us on the same page about scope throughout. And the impact of doing this was that it actually led to the first Strategic Research Project Adyen insight-sharing which brought a lot of visibility to UX research and was the foundation for us actually starting a team that's now eight people strong.

So the second education principle that I apply when sharing insights is to incorporate various learning styles when I'm sharing. So back when I was learning education three years ago, there were three primary learning styles that I learned about by applying these learning styles to sharing research insights. I found that they're much more likely to stick. So let's walk through each of them in turn and give some examples.

The first learning style I want to walk through is visual learning. And visual learning is all about processing information through the visual sense. And so to appeal to learners that learn best in this way, you could consider including these types of deliverables in your insight sharing presentation. The first one here is the classic Journey Map, and here's a picture of one that I created for the terminal support journey, specifically for franchisees that weren't working with again yet. We were doing prospective franchisee research, and journey maps are a great way to visualize an experience that users are having, and they're a great tool to really bring attention to pain points, for example, that different types of users might have. And you could do that by precipitous drops like this in the map.

Another visual learning device that I like to use is diagrams, And we've all grown up with lots of diagrams and textbooks and whatnot. So this is very common in education, but it's a great way to visualize and simplify and really make coherent, more complex topics. And so I found that these diagrams that I've shared here have helped people to make more sense of the information and the insights that I'm sharing. The first one at the top here is a representation of communication models and information flows between my company and other partners that we work with. And I needed to represent this visually, I felt because it would help product managers to really think through how the information would need to flow from their product and updates would need to flow to the different audiences and to take that into account when we're building new products as well.

And then on the bottom, one is an example of how I've shown the different ways that we segment the audience for a study. I visually do this and I animate them to give a sense of, okay, this is the different audiences that we talk to and see the diversity of that. And the impact of this has been I've heard people who weren't even in the insights sharing talk for this presentation, talk about the triangular communication model. So it seems to have helped this concept stick.

Another tool that helps with visual learning is to show videos. And videos are great tools for showing the emotions and humanity of our users. So they're really good for empathy. And I like to keep the videos that I share of users and user interviews really short. So 10 to 15 seconds ideally are best to capture people's attention, but still zoom in on how personal experiences can be. And studies have found that personal stories tend to work better than statistics at building empathy among audiences. So this is definitely a great tool that I like to use.

And finally, the last visual device that I like to use is illustrations. I find illustrations are a great way to tie together themes and patterns that we're seeing and sharing in the research, insights in memorable ways. And we have an awesome brand design team Adyen, and they have an illustrator that really helps bring to life some of the insights that I find. And she does this through these custom illustrations. So here, for example, I was trying to convey that sometimes experiences that some of our users have feel like missing puzzle pieces. And so I created this metaphor and then we created an illustration to go alongside it to really help bring these insights to life.

So now moving into the next learning style is auditory learning. And this is learning by hearing, sounds, music, patterns. And I found that one device for helping with auditory learning is to discuss insights in breakout rooms. So when I'm sharing insights over Zoom, as we had to over the course of the pandemic, I then like to and the end break the audience into different breakout rooms and allow them to hear the insights from different angles by having the people in that breakout room share their main learnings and findings, and by hearing these insights from all these different angles and voices, it really helps to reinforce them for the audience.

Another device I like to use is mnemonic devices and poetic patterns to make either concepts or, for example, in this case, personas that we found through the user research stickier. And so in this case, there were two key personas that came out of some research that I did. And in order to make them very memorable, I worked with our UX writer to give them a name and we chose to monitor Milo on the left and drive Dre on the right. And this was more than a year ago that we shared these insights, but I still hear the persona names monitoring Milo and driving Dre throughout the organization. There seems to be something simple, poetic, and sticky about using alliteration for persona names. And much like children throughout history, learn through fables and stories. Our brains are wired to process information easier when it's organized in a storytelling format. And then there are common threads throughout. We're exposed to movies and books throughout our lives that are or stories are organized in a certain story arc. And so this is a great device to use when you're sharing insights, especially if they're more complex to put in this storytelling format. And here, one of my amazing colleagues has actually outlined some of the key storytelling formats that are most popular. And I like to actually format my research insights story into these types of formats.

So I can walk you through an example of how I've done that. One was with the franchise research where I used the hero story format for this one. And it's all about somebody, the hero of the story going on a journey. And in this case, I wanted to franchise these, this potential audience that we were going to serve to be the heroes. And so I started by interviewing them, entering who they are, what their roles are, what their responsibilities are, and what a day in a life looks like. And I did that through those different devices we talked about before. Videos, journeys, maps, all that stuff. And then as I introduced them, I added more colour and colour and colour into who these people are, what matters to them, what doesn't matter to them. Now, why do they do this work? And then I really wanted to show something that they're struggling with. And that was that drop that you can see in this story map here, which is they struggle with terminal support when they're working with some of our competitors. And so that was the precipitous drop to really show this is something that they're really struggling with and I used a lot of different devices to share that. And then finally ending on a high note with, well, if we do this, if we offer this, or if we really focus on these types of solutions for them, we could really impact the quality of their lives and resolve their major pain points. And so that's an example of how I've used the hero storyline in sharing insights in a presentation. And here I just shared a little snippet of, Yeah, this is how it looks in the process. It's a series of Post-its that I line and try to create this story.

And the next and last learning style that I'll share with you is tactile learning, and this is processing information by physically interacting and engaging with it. And so one way that I like to do that, and I alluded to it earlier, is to have the audience actually engage with the insights in some way. And so when I'm doing insights during the presentation, at the very start, I'll share with everybody in the room a Google spreadsheet, because it's collaborative in real-time. And I'll have everyone write their name at the very top in each column and then below their name. I ask them to take note throughout the presentation of anything that stands out to them as interesting, surprising, or something that they can apply to their product or service. And so while I'm sharing, people are filling out this spreadsheet and this writing while hearing information is an age-old tool for helping to aid with memory. And I found even weeks later after these insights presentations, I go back to this spreadsheet and I'd see that some of the participants are still revisiting it and have it open.

Another way to have the stakeholders in a research project interact with the insights is to create an interactive research insights museum where people can physically move through space or interact with the insights in some way. And so before the pandemic, when that was more possible, I would do it this way. And this is where I had a client actually interact with a journey map. Part of it was filled out and we had her actually fill out the rest of it. And through this process of physically putting on Post-its with insights onto the wall, it helped her to remember them and interact with them. And then, of course, there's a device of playing and gamifying. This is a great way to get the brain engaged. And so, for example, creating persona cards or some sort of way to have people interact and create a game out of the insights. And so all in all, when all these different learning styles are incorporated into the sharing of your insights, you're more likely to have the insights be memorable and applied to your product.

So the third education principle I'd like to share is to present stakeholders with a challenge. And the human brain really loves to noodle on a challenge or a puzzle. It's a way to get engaged and interested in the content. And so in addition to using all the devices I mentioned before, what I like to do is to position an insight as a challenge that the audience cares about. And so an example of how I've done this before is to use the devices I mentioned before sharing the insights and the challenges our users are facing through a colourful journey map, through videos, explaining the detail of their experience, and direct quotes that actually show monetary and time implications of their experiences. And then at the very end, framing it as all as a how might we challenge to discuss.

So in this case it was how might we demonstrate the speed of our support to our merchants? And then this was used as a foundation for a discussion after the insights sharing again in those breakout rooms, people were formed in groups where they would discuss this, and by framing it as a challenge, people really had to engage and already start to think, okay, how can I apply these insights? And I found that it really helps people to remember them better.

So the fourth and final educational principle that I'll share today is to keep it minimal. We've all had the experience of a lecture that included way too much information, and we were left not really grasping anything. And so one way to prevent that is to prioritize the challenges or the insights that we're sharing. And I like to do that through an impact feasibility matrix, where on one axis you have user value. So in terms of how much pain does this insight cause the users? How painful is it for them? How much value does it offer to them? And on another axis, the effort by our organization to resolve this. What would it take? And when I map those, I really focus on the top two high user values, of course, but also effort by the organisation, this one being the ones that we might call the low hanging fruit and the ones we should address immediately. Those are the ones I'll really focus on first when I'm sharing insights, presentations, and these ones. When I've shared the first time as well, it has also increased over time.

And so when we have taken all these educational principles, we've prioritized the challenges, and we've limited our presentation to the most relevant insights. We incorporated three learning styles, and we involved stakeholders early to submit research questions. We've gone from insights presentations that looked like these ones to ones that look like way more engaging and most importantly, way more impactful. The insights ended up actually getting applied to creating better products much faster. And these products are actually aligned with the user's needs.

So in research projects where we apply these insights, these sticky tricks, we see that the user experience is significantly improved. We see product roadmap changes such as new features and flows and new channels are created for our users, such as apps that they can use and manage their payments on the go. At the end of the day, the user experience is improved through fewer support ticket tags for topics like finding something in our products or a faster time for users to complete their tasks. Because at the end of the day, a lot of them come in to try and complete a task. Another benefit is that people who do research end up being more moralized. We see that the likelihood of people doing research again and getting involved in research again significantly increases and that researcher career paths and interests increase in the organization as well. And we've recently had some transfers into the research team from other teams as well. And finally, research is valued and this creates, of course, a virtuous cycle. We see that research will be cited at all levels throughout the organization. We see the research team grow from two people to eight people in a matter of one year. We also see that research requests increase quarterly by more than 20%, that research insight are used for different means. So the presentations that I've created are now used to also train new team members and new joiners to the add-in. And we also see higher engagement during insight sharing and especially over Zoom, you could see that pretty easily in the Zoom chat. So hopefully by applying these sticky tips, you can have the same impact on your products as well.

Awesome. Thank you so much, Katarina. It was amazing to see how you brought across those different education principles and applied them in a way to really make insights that sort of resonate and drive impact, which I think at the end of the day is what we all want. I have a burning question I guess, you've gone through all of that detail about how to actually go through that process. But as you mentioned, in the beginning, there's often a lack of content around that. And the focus is more on sharing the inside out and not necessarily about making sure that it sticks. What do you think of the hurdles that are actually at this end, part of this research process?

So I think some of the hurdles to start are, often as researchers or even non-researchers, people who do research, doing research can be a very consuming task. It can take a lot of time. It can take a lot of effort. Analysis can be very mentally draining. And so once this researcher has gone through that whole process, and found the insights, it can be really tempting to just great, find them, share it real quick, and let's move on to the next project and not really make a lot of time at the end for sharing that and really formatting the insights sharing in a way that will make it stick. Another reason, I think, is maybe it's not in the toolkit for a lot of researchers, the skills that it takes to set up a study, recruit the right participants, actually run the study, execute it, do the analysis. Those skills aren't exactly the same ones that it takes to create a sticky presentation. There are different skill sets. And so it's almost asking researchers or people who do research to learn a whole new skill. But I do think it's super important to get down because I've seen the impact of doing that.

Yeah, absolutely. It shouldn't all be on the research, though. So I guess on the flip side, for these product teams who are consuming this research, how can they actually empower their researchers? Like what can they do to support them in helping them along in this journey?

So one thing that product teams can do first off is, well, even ask for research and want to do research. That's a great start. And when that does happen, to get involved in the kick-off and really bring questions to the table, thoughtful questions that they need to be answered for their product, and it helps to think about, for example, what's the experience that we're trying to achieve here with this product and what are the meaningful ways that we might be able to do that? What is missing right now? What are we not knowing about? What are some assumptions that we're constantly repeating or that we're building this based on? Those are all good seed or trigger questions to then bring proactively to a kick-off session so that we can make sure that the research that is being kicked off is comprehensive and is asking or answering the most important questions. And another way that product teams can help out is to actually get involved in the research. I mean, that's a whole other way. And so this presentation is really focused on the insights sharing part. But a good way to learn about the insights is also to be involved in gathering them because it gets at that tactile learning style when you're engaged with something, engaged with information, you're hearing it, you're trying to process it, you're analyzing it, you're more likely to remember it. And so also getting involved in research and asking to be involved in the interviews or usability testing sessions or whatever is happening even in the analysis as well. We found great success with doing co-analysis before. These are great ways for everyone to learn about the insights, and that's definitely something product teams can get involved with.

Awesome. That makes a lot of sense. I can definitely relate to that. I think getting in, getting your hands dirty. There's nothing like customer empathy, like sitting there and actually experiencing their pain with them. So I think that's something we can definitely take on board. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful insight today. It's been amazing to chat with you and hear from you, but I think that's all we have time for. So let's wrap it up. Thank you so much, Katarina.

Thank you.