Verandah February 2023: A Step Down

How can we better understand our users?

When we were growing up in small apartments in the tropical city of Kolkata, our balconies doubled up as verandahs (or if you prefer, ‘veranda’).

A place of luxury – these verandahs momentarily allowed us to escape the four walls of our mundane daily life. They opened up to trees and birds, where you would see the occasional dog chase the cat and, in a reversal in fortunes, the cat chase the rat. If the day was particularly entertaining, you saw a mother chase an errant child and an awkward teenager woo the love of his life.

These verandahs provided a top down peek into life flowing by. You as a spectator, were inconsequential, an important place to be in, to gain perspective for self reflection.

As cities became more vertical, standing in verandahs started feeling a lot more hazardous. On the 25th floor, the breeze was a bit too windy, the ground seemed a bit too far away and the birds looked at you in contempt.

Verandahs became absolute no-gos , and we found ourselves bolted in.

At X-Leap, speaking with others who are working at the crossroads of transformation and change, we’ve picked up on the same problem of being bolted in.

For example, those driving digital transformations are struggling to have their product gain traction with their users. And while their product teams are technically very sound-fingers are pointed at how they may not be assessing user needs very well upfront.

A bit like this trash can 👆🏼 – the planners and designers who put this here, probably didn’t realize the kind of waste this location was going to receive

We wonder if it’s a case of staying in a proverbial high-rise, where they only momentarily get the chance to peek down at their users? It’s likely that some of us have gotten cocooned in the comforts of our desk – at office or home.

While you may have all the tools and gadgets at your disposal, you lack a space that allows you to gain perspective on people around you – your users.

Since demolishing an edifice may not make much sense, would it be more useful if we stepped down once in a while to go to the park and sit there, observing nature and life around us.

Maybe it will help our ‘designers’ – not just digital ones but everyone who is crafting something for us like cars, crockery, loan products, houses – to plan an immersive journey into the life of the potential user, not by reading some research but augmenting that through a personal journey.

A Step Down.

Here’s an example of how one of our teammates stepped down recently, while conducting user interviews for a side-project (click image to see the full post).

A version of this article appeared in the February 2022 issue of Verandah – our expression of looking at change management, differently. To stay up to date with more thought leadership like this, sign up here:
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