Gorillas and I.T. – Go to the jungle

Tom Kelly is an Industrial Designer for one of the most successful industrial design firms, IDEO. He writes in his book The Art of Innovation, “Your customers may lack the vocabulary to explain what’s wrong and especially what is missing.” Bingo! One has to start to ask the question, “If your customer does not know what he or she wants or cannot articulate what is wanted, then how exactly should the requirements process work?” Kelley writes, “It is common for well-meaning clients to duly inform us what a new product needs to do. They already ‘know’ how people use their products.” His firm does not rely on customers telling them about their problems. His book is full of stories recounting where customers were wrong about problems and possible solutions. His firm has learned to study customers and not rely on what they say. Kelley’s views are not unique, and his views are shared by many other industrial designers. Now if Kelley is right, and customers cannot articulate what they want, and especially what is missing, then how should the requirements process work?

Too often software development teams ask customers what do you want.  The problem is customers cannot articulate what they want.   Customers are unable to describe their own requirements.   The whole idea of gathering requirements is just wrong.

Gorillas and I.T.
Jane Goodall studied and learned about gorillas by studying them. She learned a lot from just observing and sometimes being among the gorillas. She utilized a technique known as ethnological study.  The best insights come from observation, interviews and informal conversations.

If you want to learn about your customer, then you need to go to the jungle.

The bottom line is software developers can learn a lot from industrial designers and other researchers.

Read more at Reboot! Rethinking and Restarting Software Development.

Jane Goodall Institute

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