Encouraging Ethics Conversations – May Wrap

In recent years, the harm caused by technology has come under greater scrutiny. Whether at an individual product level, or the ecosystem created by a combination of products. 

  • How can we anticipate and mitigate against harm?
  • Bring an ethical lens into the product design process?
  • And map the potential bias in the systems we create.

If you’re struggling to find an answer, you’re probably not alone. 

After numerous years working in tech companies and startups, Laura Summers identified a lack of tools to facilitate ethics conversations. This led Laura to found Debias.AI, and create Ethical Litmus Tests – a deck of cards with prompts and questions to help reframe a scenario, and apply different lenses during the design process.

We were fortunate to have Laura join our May session, and using the Litmus Tests, take us through an interactive exploration of ethics in product design.

https://twitter.com/summerscope/status/1263290459217989639

Why is it so important?

Making trade-offs is part of designing and building products. But have you ever deeply considered what the impact of those options could be? Do you justify the decisions with yourselves, for the net (or greater) good?

But would you feel comfortable explaining your choices to a close younger relative?

Or what if the user was your elderly grandparent?

By applying these types of lenses, would you change the way you approach these decisions?

How does the Ethics Litmus Test work?

Define the motivator or driver

Describe the problem or scenario. The motivating concern can be either broad (eg, I’ve got a niggling feeling about this outcome), or very specific (eg, what if data was misused). 

Pick a litmus card at randOM

Select a card to help you reframe your view.

Write down your responses individually

With the litmus card in mind, spend a couple of minutes to consider:

  • Opinion: your position to the scenario
  • Questions: if you need to know more information
  • Next steps: action items

Share your responses

  • Compare and contrast your responses. 
  • Are you surprised?
  • Explain your thinking.

Some alternative activities to share your thoughts and responses:

  • The Blind Advocate – pass your response to another participant, and take turns to argue for another person’s opinion. A true exercise in empathy!
  • The Brainstorm – good for bigger groups, share your thoughts on post-its, or a digital retro board (like FunRetro), and then you can sort the responses into themes.

In this session, we all had some practice and fun, as Laura ran through several interactive scenarios with the Litmus Tests. Using the breakout rooms, we were able to discuss each scenario in small & bigger groups.

Resources and Further Reading

Read more about Laura and her work:

Thank you to our host: A Cloud Guru

Thank you to A Cloud Guru for hosting us online again this month. A Cloud Guru’s mission is to teach the world to cloud. We’re hiring

Using Mental Models for Product Success – November Wrap

Can you believe that another year has flown by? With so much happening, it’s not surprising that it has gone by so quickly. Eight meet-ups, ranging from roadmaps to Wardley Maps, exploring continuous discovery and mental models, diving into OKRs and NPS, and putting ourselves in the shoes of some entrepreneurs. Amongst all this goodness, we also had another Leading the Product Conference and Product Camp!

For our final event of the year, Tafida Negm, an independent Human-Centred Researcher and Designer with a background in Marketing and Psychology, took us through the Mental Models framework by Indi Young.

The Problem Space and the Solution Space

Most of us will be familiar with Gartner’s Design Thinking, Lean Start Up, & Agile Delivery diagram. However, according to Indi, that’s all part of the Solution Space where past work informs future work. Why do we feel so comfortable here? Because we’re rewarded for ideas – and we’re rewarded for speed of delivery.

With mental models, we try to move earlier in the cycle and focus on the person and what they are trying to achieve.

  • What are they thinking?
  • How are they reasoning their way towards their intent?
  • What are they feeling?
  • What are their beliefs that underpin their (in)decision or actions?

If we can understand this & develop true empathy, then we can have a better opportunity to design an aligned solution and have the customer think:

‘Wow, it’s like that product was made for me’

What are Mental Models?

This is a bit of a loaded question, as it is applied in so many different contexts, from psychology, to machine learning and behavioural perspectives, there are little different nuances.

Indi Young defines them as: “Mental models give you a deep understanding of people’s motivations and thought-processes, along with the emotional and philosophical landscape in which they operate.”

You may have seen them represented as a skyline, but we’ll delve into that a little more in a moment.

Listening Sessions, Cognitive Empathy and Patterns of Intent

Tafida led us through a few exercises because what better way to learn than to get hands-on? We started with listening sessions, where we used active listening to try to develop cognitive empathy. 

The aim of cognitive empathy is to gain that deep understanding of people. You want to understand so well that you could walk in their shoes and make decisions exactly as they would.

How many listening sessions should you do? As many as you can, until there are no new themes coming through.

After conducting listening sessions, it becomes time to document and synthesise the results by grouping or looking for patterns based on intent (which creates the towers in the skyline visual). We group the towers into mental spaces.

Next comes identifying the different mental spaces that people are going through. Then you can start arranging the concepts into your own skyline.

Once you have built your mental model, which includes the thinking styles that people go through, you can use it in many ways:

  • Map your organisation’s support underneath the respective towers to show where you have gaps.
  • Overlay competitor capability for analysis.
  • Broaden your market by supporting more thinking styles.
  • Overlay other data (usability metrics)
  • Many more…

When to use Mental Models?

There is a range of scenarios where researching Mental Models can be useful, such as:

  • When you want to innovate in a new direction;
  • Strategise broader and farther than your current solution;
  • When you spend a lot of time re-architecting / re-inventing;
  • When your existing user research is fragmented; or
  • You recognise you are out of touch with your audience:
    • You think everyone is your user
    • Make-believe and assumptions drive design decisions
    • No improvements after test and iterate cycles.

Another great benefit is the research can be re-used for other problems, as we’re not focusing on solution space.

Resources and Further Reading

Tafida Negm’s key takeaways from Indi Young’s Mental Models Methodology

Thank you Envato for hosting our last event of 2019, and all our Prod Anon volunteers that have helped throughout the year.

envato

The next Product Anonymous will be February 2020. Sign up for the newsletter, follow on Twitter or Meetup to stay in touch over the break. Have a festive amazing couple months!!