Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Topsight 2.0 > From analysis to design

At the end of the first edition of Topsight, I exhorted readers to use their new insights—generated from a field study, processed through analytical models—to design better solutions. But taking that next step, I said, went beyond the scope of the book.

That ending always bothered me for two reasons.

One was that, although I could point to other resources, readers would likely find it difficult to join their Topsight-generated insights with a given design approach.

The other was that I did know how to join these insights with a design approach—participatory design. I had written several articles on PD, one of which is my most broadly cited article, and I had already integrated PD methods into my field methods class. But when I was writing the first edition of Topsight, I hadn't worked out these connections, and I wanted the book to get out there.

In the intervening five years, however, I developed materials for better integrating the Topsight approach with PD. Among other things, I articulated the connection between Topsight-generated insights and design approaches and I emphasized the "fail faster" aspect of design work. The latter was influenced by my recent work with entrepreneurs, who (at the early stages, when their offering is still malleable) must continually reposition their offering to interest stakeholders—a process that encompasses design as well as argument, application, and financial model.

These insights were driven into Topsight 2.0. In this second edition, I add an entire new section—six chapters—discussing how to turn Topsight-generated insights into design decisions. The section covers PD techniques such as prototyping, organizational games, and future workshops, providing step-by-step directions and discussing when each might be brought into play. And, critically, it discusses how to feed the results of these techniques back into the design process so that readers can continue to develop insights and quickly iterate them.

To be honest, there is a ton of information on using prototyping, and much of it goes deeper than I can in Topsight 2.0. But you'll be hard-pressed to find much material on organizational games—an intriguing technique for understanding organizational relationships and routines, one that is a great match for the Topsight approach and that I discuss in detail here. Similarly, future workshops can help stakeholders to understand the deeper contradictions underlying their organizations so they can talk through these contradictions—but this technique also does not have a lot of published material.

Why this dearth of material? I think it's because design research has moved away from organizations and toward consumer software and products, an arena in which organizational games and future workshops don't make as much sense.

But for readers of Topsight 2.0, who want to design new solutions in the context of an organization, organizational games and future workshops are a great fit. If that sounds like you, please pick up a copy and let me know what you think!