Photo of Indi Young

Listening Deeply to People with Indi Young

December 16, 2020 by UX-RADIO

In this episode, Indi Young talks about the problem space where the focus is on people, not users. Her way of approaching the problem allows teams to truly pay attention to people, without letting cognitive bias and assumptions creep in.


This is UX radio. Here are your hosts, Lara Fedoroff and Chris Chandler.


The methodology of designing meaningful personas has evolved into something so inspiring, and I can’t wait to share this with you. Today we’re talking with Indi. Indi is a researcher who coaches writes and teaches about inclusive product strategy. Her work is really rooted in the problem space, where the focus is on people, not users. Indi has pioneered opportunity maps, mental model diagrams, and thinking styles. And her way of approaching the problem allows teams to truly pay attention to people without letting cognitive bias and assumptions prevent Indi has written two books, Practical Empathy and Mental Models. And her next book Assumptions Aside, we’ll cover thinking styles. She builds knowledge and community through a series of live online advanced courses about the importance of pushing the boundaries of your perspective. She was also one of the founders of Adaptive Path, the pioneering UX agency, we hope you enjoy the show.


Hi, and welcome to UX radio. I’m Lara Fedoroff. And I’m Chris Chandler. And today, we have a very special guest with us Indi Young, who has been celebrated in the industry for years. We’re so excited to have you today, Andy, I’m so happy to be here. Let’s make this happen. Wonderful. And let’s, let’s get started. Tell us about your background and how you got into this industry. Oh, wow, this industry didn’t exist. When I was in college, I got my degree in computer science. And at that point in time, we were building software for other scientists and engineers. So the way that you did that was you went and found out what the standard operating procedure was or what the standard knowledge was. And you encoded that in an algorithm. And as soon as I got out into the real working world, we started building software for people who were not scientists and engineers. So I distinctly remember working on a project for Visa International, they were interested in, they had a call center that was an international call center where if you lost your Visa card, in any country, you could call up the call center and get a replacement. Usually, this was because you’re on travel or something this was in the days of traveler’s checks if anybody listening remembers those. So the Visa card was like a replacement for traveler’s checks. And if it got lost or stolen, you had to have it otherwise, there was no way for you to pay anything. So there was this call center. And visa wanted to replace the software and the call center all the reps were using these green screens where that means not something that you’re filming CG against. But I’m a monitor that has a black background and green type on it. And you would use the tab key to go from field to field and each screen was gotten to by using the page down keys. And it was a form that you filled out when you were taking this information from this person who was desperate for their car to get replaced. And it was really cool. This call center had about 12 or 14 languages going on at the same time. So when you walk into the room, it’s like babble. Everywhere was really cool. And when the company asked me to do this to design a new, interactive mouse-based Windows-based kind of an environment for these reps. I said, Well, I have to go out there and see what they’re doing. And they’re like, Oh, well, okay, yeah. Well, I should do that. So I got to go out there. And I spent about three days with the reps just kind of going into the world and finding out that there was a lot of interaction between the reps themselves. This was the day before, the days before Google Maps. So we had an atlas at the end like I think the four corners of the giant room. So people would rush over there and look up the city and try to figure out where they could deliver the Visa card. Or if there was a bank nearby where they could pick it up or something like that. And half the time it was like, hey, Jose, you dealt with this little tiny town outside of Barcelona. Where did you have your Visa card delivered? That was trustworthy, right? And so there was a lot of interaction with the reps. It wasn’t all just paging through green screens.


So I was


I wanted to, I wanted to capture that the only tool I had at the time was from my computer science background, which was a state machine, which is typically used as a way of mapping out how an algorithm interacts with the data sources. So I was doing a state machine of reps interacting with each other and their systems and the Atlas is at the end of the aisle and stuff. And what ended up happening, was the very first time that I started diagramming the interaction of people trying to achieve their purpose, which was to get the visa card to that desperate person who was afraid that they wouldn’t be able to pay their hotel bill or something. And what happened along the way was I made the data schema too.


and there was a whole other team that was hired on to do the data schema and the state machine. When I showed it to the software architects, the team that was hired to do that. They’re all like, Oh, yeah, I could use this data schema people Oh, yeah, totally, this will work. So what I had diagrammed out actually became a sort of the guide for the entire system to come together. And so that’s where I got started.


That amazing. I love that I love that. They let you talk to the reps there, you go there the first miracle that you actually got access to the user. So they know what they were, they didn’t know the problems that would come about later. Oh, the funniest part was that this was at a bank and I did not own a suit. And I was told if I was going to go out there, I had to buy a suit




frightening. So one of the things in looking at your work and your career since so much of it is public. You know, it definitely you know, I can really sort of sense an evolution. But in evolution, it not, it seems to me and evolution, more in terms of like your focus on what’s important, has gotten clearer. Yeah, right. It doesn’t seem like you’ve sort of like oh, changed your mind about big pieces of it or anything like, so I’m curious if you’re talking about that evolution, and sort of like, how you got into that focus and what the critical parts are. Yeah, that is really been interesting to me to be able to look back. I mean, I never thought I was making a career out of this. But to look back and see that I was doing the exact same thing, 30 years ago, I just have better words and more clear communication about it. So it’s some, really, it’s been this lovely experience of working together with other practitioners, and especially practitioners that are coming in from other fields, and learning some of the ways that they approach things, seeing what other people are experiencing with respect to their own stakeholders, being a consultant myself experiencing stakeholders for myself, and trying to recognize like, what works in which context? And can I give people an array of things that they might be able to adapt to their own context, that still works on the principle of understanding the people, not as they’re using our tools, necessarily, although you can do that, but really understanding them deeply with respect to their purpose. So that original one was their purpose was to get a card to this desperate traveler, it wasn’t to use the green screen, although they would have purposes around, you know, running around in the green screen are getting the atlases. So they’re the idea of focusing on a person focusing on understanding them deeply not at surface has always been around as well. So the purpose can exist in the problem space, or in the solution space, where the problem spaces that that rep trying to get the card to the person, and the person also has their own problem space, which is how to why I’m doing this next city in like eight hours, how do I get my card? Where do I get it? How do I pay my hotel bill before I go to the next city, those kinds of things. Or it can be a purpose with respect to the solution that they’re using. So when you are a person trying to accomplish a purpose, you have a lot of tools at your disposal. Some of those tools might be memory or chatting with somebody or looking at a YouTube video how to do something, they might be picking up an app and using that or going back through your own files or emails or photos to try to figure out an answer to something. And there’s a lot of tools that we have. Now, when you’re a team that’s just working on one of those tools for your organization. You tend to sort of blinker in on just your own solution and you look at the person’s use of your solution.


Sadly, a lot of companies measure their success by whether or not a person has looked at their solution through the glass.


They call that engagement.


And that’s really just for figuring out whether people are seeing ads through the glass. That’s not figuring out whether you’re helping them achieve the purpose. So that’s one thing that I want to change before I end my career. The idea, though, is that the purpose could also happen within your solution. So a person may have a purpose of, hey, if my larger purpose is to get this card to this desperate traveler, my smaller purpose is to contact their bank and say, Hey, cancel their card, so that if it got lost and picked up by somebody else, that other person can’t use it, I also asked their bank, if they could authorize a new card to replace that card. Maybe they won’t do that. I have some other purposes of like, like, Where am I going to give it to this person? Can I pay their hotel bills, so they can move on to the next city and deliver it to them there? Because it’s a physical thing. And it’s coming from a physical place. So it takes physical time to get there. So there are purposes within the solution space as well.


So in talking about the problems, the sin solution space,


you’ve worked with so many clients over the years, like, what do you find are the most common challenges, and what are some recommendations, you have to overcome those? Yeah, oftentimes, people without training, think of the problem as being only related to their solution. And that’s fine for a certain part of your career. But it’s not fine for your organization, and the sustainability of your organization. If your organization wants to be around in five years, they need to help the people that they’re trying to support actually achieve their purposes. Otherwise, they’ll leave when the next best thing comes along. So part of what we need to do is become a lot more clear in our minds about what we are doing, and what knowledge we’re lacking where our assumptions are. So a lot of the time, an assumption was defined as something that you don’t know that you’re missing. So it’s really hard to see. So that’s why I’ve developed this method of being able to look at people’s purposes, and reveal where our assumptions are. This I do, usually in the problem space, because it gives us a larger field of opportunity. So let’s say, let’s say we’re looking at working at an insurance company. So the insurance company has a bunch of things like claims, and they help you get your car repaired, or they help you with some medical issues for whiplash or something. Those are their solutions. But you in the problem space may have a different thing that you’re trying to achieve, you may be trying to achieve, like get my life back to the way it was before. Maybe I totaled my car. And I’ve got two jobs that I have to get between and the bus doesn’t get me there fast enough. So like, I need other transportation, we’re gonna run over to my sister in law and say, Hey, I know you’re going to that part of the town, could you take me at least that far, and I’ll run the rest.


To get to my job, right? That is part of the way that I’m solving this bigger problem. The organization may not be aware of these other things and their opportunities. This one company USA that has done this kind of research also has a bank that also finances car loans. And when they realize that when a person has a totaled car and has this sort of situation, they’re like, hey, wait, we can help we can help them get another car faster, without like extra costs and things that go beyond what they were barely able to handle in the first place. So let’s put something in place. That’s a new opportunity that they never saw before. They didn’t realize that they have that assumption that you know, people would be able to get on with their lives by filling out a claim. In fact, one of the things that they told me was that everybody who comes in has to be an adjuster for a little while and so everybody gets a sense of what it’s like to go through a claim and in doing that they think I am we understand our customers, but they also get this mindset that like when the claims over the customers happy everything’s done. And it’s not it’s just the solution side of everything that’s done the the customers still like getting a ride with their sister in law.


Running away to work.


So this is what I mean by broader set of opportunities. There’s also another way to multiply the kinds of opportunities that are out there, which is to understand different thinking styles. So while somebody has a larger purpose, they may go at it in different ways. So for example, with the, with the car accident type of thing, there was a mindset that people would say, Let this be a lesson, it’s going to be a lesson to me so that I never do it again, never get that close to an accident or, or hurting somebody or you know, whatever it was that happened. Or this has to be a lesson to other persons, that other person doesn’t run into anybody else like they did to me. And that let this be a lesson, there were a couple of other thinking styles as well. But just putting a pinpoint on that idea of Let this be a lesson opens up more opportunities for the insurance company, the insurance company can definitely reach out to the person who was to blame if it was clear, and say, Hey, here’s some training that we could give you so that, you know, this doesn’t happen to you again, because you know, we’re all human. And here’s some skills maybe, or maybe it’s more of an authority, sort of an issue where you have to, as an insurance company, reach out to an authority and the authority can make an announcement, for example, one of the stories was that there was ice on a certain road. And the person spent out and ran into a telephone pole and totaled her car with that silly little thing. And she’s all like, Okay, first of all, I want to learn how to steer out of a spin. Not that you can really do that on ice. But second of all, I don’t want anybody else to take this road today. This morning, please got ice on it. How do I tell the authorities let everybody else know how do we like get this on Google Maps. So everybody gets routed around it, we’ve got the capability of doing that that’s an opportunity the insurance company can help with that can be a conduit to it, or somebody else can be a conduit to it, that the insurance company can sort of point out and say, hey, look, here’s an opportunity. This is for supporting people, this is for longevity of your organization. It isn’t necessarily for direct profit. And I think that’s the place that it breaks down when we’re trying to convince our stakeholders, right for helping them draw that line. How I mean, I love thinking sauces, the perfect example of what I what I meant there, right, a framing device, sort of just a way of thinking, thinking style in itself. Maybe.


Tell me a little bit about how like, when did that occur to you as like the, you know, when did you realize that was, you know, a secret ingredient or a magic key to zero? Grammys? That’s a super good question. I originally called them behavioral audience segments, because that’s what they are. They’re behavioral audience segments, you might also know them as archetypes. That’s another word that people use for them. And how did I come up with that?


That’s a really good question. I don’t remember the roots of that it was a long time ago, and has always been part of it, what you see if I can reconstruct it, one of the things that I do is when I go and do listening sessions with somebody, which is where I set up a formal session, to understand their inner thinking around that larger purpose, that purpose that they have, not my purpose, their purpose. And it could be a purpose in the problem space, it could be a purpose in the solution space. But we need to understand somebody’s inner thinking, their emotional reactions and their guiding principles. Those are the three things the triad that I’m always after, if you don’t get down to those, you aren’t developing cognitive empathy, you can’t take their perspective, if you stay up at the surface, where you’re just hearing their explanations, their guy, their opinions, and preferences, their scene -setting their statements of fact, their sort of conjecture about the future, we’re not getting any of that depth. And so we cannot do perspective-taking we cannot form cognitive empathy with them, we need in our thinking, emotional reactions, and guiding principles. So those are the three things that I typically elicit in a listening session, and then pull out of the transcripts, I pull them out, I summarize them and then I start doing some affinity synthesis. Now, at some point, I must have recognized that when I frame my study based on the purpose I also recruit based on some things that we want to elicit, we want to explore and one of the things that I recruit on is behavioral segment.


So it might have been the idea that we were guessing we’re totally guessing there was a, a University here in the Bay Area, Cal State East Bay. We were doing some studies with them.


In their marketing department had, like, yeah, we know who are our incoming freshmen are, they are the people with high-grade point average or low-grade point average. And the people who have trouble financially, and they need assistance. And there was one other, which I can’t remember right now. But anyway, I’m like, Okay, yeah, those are just demographics, guys.


When you put a demographic like high GPA out there, and me, your brain starts thinking of all these subconscious bias things. Like, oh, this is a studious student, they must come from an environment where people are also think of education as important, they must, you know, have these ideas in their heads about where they want to go with their career. And that’s true, it might correlate, but it doesn’t cause this kind of thinking. Okay, so what I did, in that case, was I said, Okay, we have to throw this out, we can’t do that.


We have to make up some sort of another way of recruiting people by behavioral segments. So let’s take those and let’s pretend there’s something else, let’s say, here’s a group of people who are excited about going to college to be independent, away from their parents. Actually, I’m doing this backward because that’s what came out of the data. Let me see if I can go back to the forward the beginning, we’re going to recruit people who have trouble getting in and staying in, who are worried about getting in, who are worried about staying in college. So that was one of our recruits, that was based on kind of the low income, need financial aid sort of thing. But I’m like, let’s, let’s make it more human.


And then there was another group that was, I am serious about my study, I’m trying to remember this, I’m serious about my study. And there was another group that was like, I’m gonna go to college. And I’m only just now sort of getting serious about the rest of my life.


So what happened was when we got done with the studies and I pull those three things out of the transcripts, and I find the affinities that way, that builds a city skyline that builds something I call a mental model diagram, that doesn’t validate, or build anything with respect to those audience segments, those behavioral segments. So what I did was I started looking at the data, same data separately. And what came out of that was like, Oh, my God, it was so clear that there are some people that have a calling, whether they had high grades or low grades, they had a calling, whether they were 18, or 58, they had a calling, they were going to go to school to fulfill this calling, I’m going to be a nurse, because this is what is, you know, such and such happened in my life. And it’s like resonating with me. And I feel called to that. And there was another group of people that they kind of knew where they wanted to get in life. And they were like, working at back to see like, what careers could get me to that point. A lot of them wanted to stay in the Bay Area, they knew the Bay Area was an expensive place to live. And they needed a better career, they would also see their parents struggling, like I need a better career if I’m going to stay around here, especially if I’m going to support my parents staying around here. Because family’s important, or family might not have been important. Maybe it was just that Porsche that was important.


So, so that was another group of people that was a thinking style of like, Okay, I need to hit that goal. I’m gonna do that way. There was another group of people, though, that we’re told, hey, college is the next best step for you to go to college. And they’re all like, okay, I’ll go to college. Some of them were 1718. Some of them were 36, there was one woman whose children had just gone. All of them had gotten into the school. So they were gone for the day, most of the time. And her husband’s like, Hey, you always want to go to college, now’s the time, you’ve got some time, I think she was 36 or something. And so she finds herself in college, and they have no goal they want to hit they have no calling, they were just told college is the next best thing. So that was another one of our thinking styles. So that might be a good explanation of how I came up with them that the way that we see the mental model diagram then is based on little slices of everybody’s approach, but then we decorate each of those slices with the different thinking styles that belong there. And then you can start to see certain slices. That doesn’t happen very often, but certain slices are like very specific to certain thinking styles. Like back to the insurance example that makes this be a lesson. Let this be a lesson. There were some


Certain slices were definitely just that one thinking style, and nobody else was thinking about them. So you’ll see that and what happens then is that underneath all these slices underneath the city skyline that’s decorated by the different thinking styles, you can start to put all the different support that you have all the capabilities, all the call centers, and reps that specialize in different things, and documentation and apps and everything, you get to put those underneath the slices that they’re supposed to support and start to see how weak they are. Either they don’t support everything in that slice, or they only support one thinking style, or they were built for the mythical average user. And they don’t really support anybody in that slice. It’s just sort of like, here’s our, you know, our easiest to create. The solution, let’s throw it at the wall and call it done.


So this is where I want. And I’ve actually seen one org, I’m not allowed to tell you who it is, start to model how well they are supporting in that slice each of the thinking styles based on usability data. So what they’re doing as they’re setting up their usability studies based on the slice or a set of slices, so that they can map it back. And they’re starting to do metrics on how well they’re supporting people achieving the people’s purpose. That’s amazing. There’s, I am so inspired by the level of analysis that goes into the mental model the opportunity map and thinking through their inner thoughts and emotions, like you said, and, and I’m really curious about the triad that you’re talking about. And mainly, if you could talk a little bit more about guiding principles. Yeah, yeah. So there’s, um, those three things


sound easy to recognize. And when you’re actually in conversation with somebody and you’re trying to build trust, and get them to go deep and tell you their inner thinking their emotional reactions that are guiding principles, becomes out slowly, and you come back around to it again, later at more depth. And the guiding principles don’t come out necessarily first. So the definition of a guiding principle is that it’s a rule that you use throughout your life to make certain decisions. So you can have guiding principles with lots of different levels of granularity one might be a friend of mine was ever borrow anything, I always return it in better shape than it was when I borrowed it. It might be a little bit, you know, more minor than that. It could be a guiding principle around Gosh, anytime I have a choice between seeing somebody or sort of being with somebody and doing some sort of tour, I’ll do the being with somebody because I lost somebody in the past. And it wasn’t with them enough. And so I want to be with people, right? I don’t know, that’s kind of major, not minor. Let me think of another minor when


I’m making these up as I go. There was a this is not made up, there was somebody who wouldn’t go into hospitals. So a friend of hers had a baby, and all her friends were going to the hospital to see the baby and the mom. And she’s like, No, I’m not going to do that will Why? Because I have a guiding principle of not going into hospitals. And I’m like, well, well, where did that come from? So we started talking about the source of that. And she said her mom and her aunt both died in the hospital, she had gone to visit them in the hospital. So she associates visiting people in the hospitals with death. Now that might be more of a superstition than a true guiding principle. But that’s what she uses to make a decision in the event of her friend saying, hey, come see me in the hospital with my new baby. Like, no, oh, wait till you get home.


That’ll be good.


So, guiding principles can be based on things like superstition, they can be based on things like what your kindergarten teacher told you when you were little about sharing.


They could be things that you’ve evolved over your career, or by having your own family yourself. It could be things that you learned from a book about listening to your own kids.


It could be based on a lot of different things, including values like if you have a value of I don’t know being spiritual, that’s going to be the base of a couple of different guiding principles that you’ll have in your life. So oftentimes, I used to communicate the definition of guiding principle as a belief, but the problem is that in English and in Spanish and probably in a couple of other languages, people will say, I believe, to preface an opinion and an opinion is not a guiding principle. It might even preference I mean preface a preference


You would think a preference is a way you make decisions. Like, I’m going to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate, because I like dark chocolate better. But that’s not a guiding principle is something that’s more like an operating instruction. It’s like how do I behave in these circumstances. And sometimes we go against them, there have been people who their guiding principle is, hey, if it’s so I live in a northern climate, maybe very southern to during our summer, we get sunshine during our winter, we don’t. So in the summertime, my way of relaxing is to be outside in the sun. Because suns important to me, that’s my guiding principle. But you know, there’s this particular thing coming to town, it’s inside, I really want to go and see it. So I’ll break my guiding principle for this thing. Does that answer what you were after there, Laura?




I think so I guess in more in context to some of the examples of working in digital and the digital world,


like the insurance company example. How do you incorporate that guiding principle into the analysis, ah, right there, they’re all equal all three of them? So when I, when I go through a transcript, what I’m doing as I’m looking for those three types of things in or thinking emotional reactions and guiding principles, and I’ll pull them each out and summarize them, the problem is, is that they are they’re referenced again later. So I pulled that and put it together with that. So it makes one concept and, and maybe they reference it here, and I put it there as well, right. Or maybe they’re talking about something and explaining something that’s actually two or three of these things mixed up together. Doesn’t matter which of the three types it is, I just need to pull them apart into their disparate concepts, so that each summary is very clear. And the reason I do summaries is to make the next step easier. And the next step. So one of the things that I do is I write them according to a certain formula. The formula then makes it easier for me to see affinities between things, the formulas based on a verb, not a noun, we’re so into making affinities between nouns on our sticky notes. And that is rife with bias, rife with assumption rife with intuiting, meaning to a noun. Whereas if we take a verb and then the key point that person was making right after the verb, and maybe a couple of supporting details that makes a summary. Now we’ve got an action, a thought, and an emotional reaction or a guiding principle. And we look across all the other summaries that we have from other people because it’s only one concept, we’ve taken all the parts from this person and put it together in one concept. It’s like a guiding principle that they have, we look, we don’t care if we’re looking for other guiding principles. We look for anything else that’s happening by other participants in the study, based on their focus of mental attention. So in the insurance area, if we’re talking about this idea of like, Okay, I’m going to learn how to steer out of the skid. Right? That’s a Let this be a lesson to myself. But what I’m doing is I’m teaching myself a new skill. Now there was somebody else who almost t boned somebody, early on, on the way to a client meeting, and was terrified the almost caused injury. But it was because he wasn’t sleeping well. So what did he do, he, instead of picking up a new skill, he did something related, which changed the way he runs his business meetings, changes the way he does his travel so that he gets better sleep so that he never puts himself in that situation again. So that’s similar focus of mental attention, I want to change something. So we’re starting to see kind of a biggest squishiest kind of group, we’ll find other people who have similar focuses of mental attention around picking up a skill or changing the way that they’re doing something and we start to put them together. There might be emotional reactions in there, there might be guiding principles or might be in our thinking, but they come together based on that focus of mental attention, not doing it based on nouns. Because nouns imply a bunch of stuff that mean different things to different people from different backgrounds. It’s not research, that’s research theater. What we’re trying to do is actually get what people are telling us out there so that we can see it clearly.


In their words, we don’t use their word slavish Li, we make it in a summary that is easy to understand. So we don’t have to go, reconstruct what that data meant later when we’re using it. And what happens is those little summaries appear in the slices. In that opportunity map, they appear in the top part, the mental model diagram part. So you can read them, and you can see these people and we can, you know, categorize them by which thinking style that person fell into in that context. That’s actually speaking of context. Another important thing about thinking styles is that with respect to personas, you can call thinking styles personas if that works in your car in your organization better. But the key point? Well, the real key difference is that there are no demographics and a thinking style. There’s no picture, there are no preferences, like, Oh, you know, they like handbags from images, or whatever they call that and,


and their favorite sport is blah, blah, blah. There’s none of that. It’s only about the purpose, the thinking styles described by about four sentences, the sentences, our inner thinking, emotional reactions, and guiding principles, mostly guiding principles, especially because these things are guiding the way people are approaching their purpose. And they’re written with respect to that particular purpose that person has, there are no pictures, we define them by a word that that person would use to describe themselves. So let this be a lesson was the word that we described that one thinking style, and it’s contextual. So it might when you’re skidding on the eyes, be in that mindset, but when you’ve just had a teeny fender bender in the parking lot because you’re both backing out of parking spaces at the same time.


It happens. That’s what insurance is for, okay, we’ll get each other’s names, we’ll just fill out the things whatever. That was another mindset. That’s another thinking style. It’s contextual, it’s not your personality. So many personas masquerade as horoscopes. I had a team at an airline, I discover at the airline that most of the employees there think of the people on the planes as grumblers.


Or as like, oh, there are the assets in the first class and the masses and economy.


So I think this is common knowledge now, but I’m not so keen on their passengers. So they wanted to call one of our thinking styles, the grumbler. And I said, no one would ever say, Hey, I’m a grumbler. They also wanted to describe it as like, they probably shout at their kids and like honk their horn and traffic, like no, that’s not air travel.


No, no pullback. Let’s just look at this one purpose. And let’s go back to these transcripts. I want you each to read when these transcripts and tell me what are the words people are using to describe themselves. We come together in our meeting the next day, and they’re frustrated.


So that’s the name of that thinking style. And something that somebody would be fine describing themselves as, and it’s contextual. You’re not always frustrated with your flights, right? You might have flights that are perfectly fine. You might have flights that you’re in a hurry, and you dash through the airport. There are different mindsets, different thinking styles. So sorry, I just like I made up another question for you. on that one.


Ah, I know that you just recently finished a course on listening deeply. Yeah. And I. And so I’m curious when you teach. What did you learn this last time?


taught? What was that? I mean, or added to? Yeah, yeah. So actually, you and I have talked earlier. And one of the things I love about teaching is that I learned so much from everybody participating. And one of the things that I realized this last time that I taught listening deeply live is a four week course, each week, I teach the one class twice so that I can cover all these different time zones. And I have different prices for people who are coming from countries with extreme currency exchange rates and things. However, one of the things I get like amazing participants from all over the world, one of the things that I realized is that there is a difference between listening deeply and the listening session. And I need to make that clear. We can listen deeply to a television show. We can listen deeply to a debate. We were actually doing the course during the elections for the US. So listen to a debate. See what you can


Discover, see what people are saying, try to figure out if they’re staying at the surface. Or if they are going to depth, that’s the key thing you’re doing when you’re listening deeply. And when you’re turning it into a listening session, that’s when you’re present where you can actually start to interact with that person to form some trust. So that other person feels okay about saying some things about themselves, that you might judge, they’re feeling okay because they’re noticing you’re not judging them. So far, they’re noticing that you’re being very supportive. And that you’ve actually heard some of the things that they said that normally people just talk over or respond to and tell them, you know, like, well, that’s your opinion, my opinions, this bla bla bla bla bla bla, like, no. And this experience of feeling heard of being listened to is so rare, around the world.


That it’s this really special little bubble that grows for the two of you to be in a listening session is always only one on one. And it’s typically premeditated. It doesn’t have to be premeditated, you can do a listening session, just sort of on the spot. Generally, it’s like, hey, let’s get on the phone, or let’s get together. And I want to hear your thinking about this particular purpose that you have, I want to hear what’s been going through your mind about it. But if you do an on the spot one, if you want to do some listening deeply, it’s more about noticing what’s going on whether the person’s at surface or depth, if there’s a way that you can catch or snag or hook a purpose that they have, and ask them more about their inner thinking about that purpose, then you can get them to go to more depth, okay, with a listening session, you have that purpose set up in the beginning, you start there, that’s your germinal question. And then it unfolds from there, and you follow people wherever they want to take you, which is you know, associated with them with respect to this particular purpose. So your job is only to make sure that they get to depth, inner thinking, emotional reactions, guiding principles, we don’t get those. We don’t have rich data. One of the services that I offer is to go through people’s, like interview transcripts, and go through and show them where they’ve got depth where they’ve got inner-thinking where they’ve captured some emotional reaction and guiding principles. And generally, it’s like little snippets at the beginning of something, and then they get cut off because the interviewer has another question to ask and wants to move it along. And so you only get the start of it. Generally, in a listening session transcript, I will get between 40 and 120 concepts in depth. In most of the interviews, transcripts that I get I see between four and 10. There was one that had 16 concepts at depth. Wow. Yeah.


I’m in the “you have accomplished so much already”. But one question that we love to ask is, what would you like your legacy to be? Ah, what I would really love my legacy to be is a lot of organizations thinking of themselves as supporting people accomplishing the people’s purposes, so that they have a long future together. And part of this is understanding that there are different thinking styles, there are different approaches. And that there’s, there’s a long road ahead of going and sketching a little bit more detail in about particular purposes or particular thinking styles and starting to support them. This is something that’s going to take decades, it’s an ongoing thing, but it’s just opportunity after opportunity. The second half of that is that I really, really want these organizations to begin developing support that’s different for different thinking styles, different tone, different context, different mechanics or interactions, different hook different way to connect with people. But treating everybody with the same piece of software does no one any good. Everybody has to sort of make it work for them. Whereas if we start creating algorithms that can start to recognize the way somebody is interacting, maybe they’re learning as a person’s interacting with a sort of like the generic version or like, you know what, I think you’re this thinking style. We will have to do human research to understand what the thinking styles are in advance. The algorithm is not going to be able to figure that out. They’re not that smart. They’re not smarter.


But they can have that data and they can say, Hey, I recognize this behavior, this thinking style, can I sort of let you know, hey, I recognize you, I’m going to turn you on to this more bespoke interaction or experience so that it works better for you. Right? And, and the opposite, what I want to have happened is when the algorithm doesn’t recognize them, and their behavior, first tell us, hey, we’ve got something going on here that we don’t have data about the second of all, to tell that person, hey, I’m not supporting you very well, because I’m not recognizing your thinking style. So I’m doing the best I can. But you’re getting sort of this, you know, not very good interaction, this average user interaction and to actually let that be part of the way that people are


negotiating their way toward their purpose, with their tools, this is, this is something that we do, if each one of our tools was another person, we work that way, this is a very human way of recognizing the limitations of what a person can do for us.


And the biggest goal of all is that then hopefully, that will make it less likely for us to swear at our software tools.


I mean, the whole point of that is, if I understand what you’re saying it is, it would be nice if the system’s had a little bit of humility if they were able to say, right, like, because in the interaction, what you’re getting at is like, hey, you’re sucking system, right? Like, this is very generic, this is not very helpful. You’re not supporting me. And it’d be nice if this system was able to acknowledge that in any way, right to set the contrast of like, You’re right. I love that, like, sorry, you’re getting the default interface. It’s just the best I could do right now.


And, you know, maybe voice interaction will help with that or not, I don’t think voice is the only way forward are that everything’s going to switch to that everything’s contextual. But we’ve got a lot of opportunities, and it will be desperately difficult to continue the way we are right now. All of us have experiences with all sorts of apps, all sorts of services, all sorts of call centers, where it’s like, well, then you’re starting to swear at them, right?


That’s like your grumbler. Yeah, exactly.


I’ve won many, many fewer of those experiences, and we can do it, we’ve got the tools, what we need to do is understand people deeply. And we’ve got the tools to do that. And putting it all together when I was just having a conversation with Lou Rosenfeld this morning. And he was saying, well, because he’s running a group called Quan versus qual are trying to get the groups together. So he’s asking me about it. And I’m like, you know, I think of it like qual research, like studies that you frame carefully around a purpose, and go out and collect data about and then take your time to analyze that data without your own bias curating it, or making assumptions about it. When you get qualitative, what you’re doing is building a nervous system, you’re building senses. And the quality is like the memory in the brain. And we need kind of them to interact and work with each other. quant from what I know that there are people who actually go and form a carefully organized study that gets quite data back. But those are few and far between most of its a bunch of research theater. And a lot of the court folks think that the qual folks are a bunch of research theater, folks because a lot of the cool folks don’t know how to frame a study correctly. So I teach a course on framing studies because it’s important to do it right. It’s important to recognize what you need as knowledge out of this, and where that knowledge needs to take you in terms of the tools that you’re going to choose from. And it’s super important to frame it by the purpose of your doing call. The way that you know that you’ve gotten good data back is by the patterns that come out of it. And if you don’t frame it correctly, you’re not going to get patterns. You’re going to get anecdotes you’re going to get one-off stories. And as Sam Ladner writes in her book, mixed methods, enough with the anecdotes, newer anecdotes, what we need are patterns. Okay, and that’s the best part about qual. Being able to work with the quant folks is if we can create knowledge that is not based on research theater, then we can start working together a lot more strongly.


That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been such a pleasure having you on the show. Indeed, if I assume everybody is already following you on Twitter, but where can people find out more if they want to know about your courses or upcoming events? Yeah, so I’m in Indi Young on Twitter, I’m Indi on LinkedIn. My website is, I have a newsletter that you can sign up for there on my website, the courses are all listed on the website and the courses.


I’ve got one version out right now. It’s actually live courses that I teach once a year, each course is four weeks long, it’s a deep dive into it, with homework and everything, and you can get a certification if you take all six of them. However, for those of you who can’t wait that long, I have those recordings available. What I’m also working on is a self-directed version of all the knowledge building where it can work. My God, the woman I’m working with, it’s just like, blowing my mind. She’s a Ph.D. in self-directed online learning. Wow. So so we’re gonna, like, we’re gonna have branches, and it’s going to be amazing. But that’s going to take me a couple of years to roll out. So that’s in the works. The books are available at Rosenfeld media. And they have some discount codes. unison crows, plural 20. So anyways, 20% off on any Rosenfeld media book. So if you already own mine, you can get one of their others. So that’s cool.


On the website, you can also find links to my audible version of practical empathy, or just go to audible and look for Indi Young. And you’ll find practical empathy there. So if you want, I narrated it, and people say they love listening to it.


So we’ll see


better. After this, they will not be able to get enough listening to Andy. Yeah. And speaking of on my website, under the knowledge section, I’ve got all of my essays listed there, and organized by topic. But also all of these podcasts that I’ve been doing, I’ve got on there and each podcast slightly different. So pick and choose and see if there’s something there that meets your fancy. Or consulting. What do you not do? Haha.


Oh, I think I forgot to ask you about your next book. Oh, yeah. So I’m supposed to be doing a book in January. That is about thinking styles. So I’ve taught the class on thinking styles the whole course, about five times now, I think I’ve gotten it to a point where it is clearer. It was a bit of a sort of magic write when I would do it with my teams. And I had to figure out how to explain what that magic is and make it replicable. And now I think I’ve got that. So that book is going to be called assumptions aside. It’s about recognizing how demographics can give us assumptions, demographics have a role to play in certain scenarios, such as when you are studying discrimination, when you’re studying something to do with physiology, a couple of others. But most of the time, the demographics are just about assumptions. I’ve written a bunch of essays about it, too. So yeah, there’s a lot of branches off of the website where you can go get more. Wonderful. Well, thank you again, so much. Yeah, thank you.


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UX radio · Listening Deeply to People with Indi Young