Humans are incredibly goal oriented. And yet, while this can lead us to some great ideas and solutions, it is also one of the reasons why we fail to realise that some problems are simply never completely resolved.
In business, finding solutions is an essential part of expansion and growth. But finding a single solution rarely does the job. Instead, you need to be prepared to solve the same problem over and again by identifying areas that could be further improved. Even an elegant solution that seems to have solved all your problems won’t last forever.
Lots of businesses list productivity as one of the main things that can help them bring greater business success but all too many businesses fail to interrogate exactly what that means. So, here’s how to challenge your solutions and get even better results.
Since we humans can’t see everything, it’s a good idea to incorporate some automated testing into your business model. Automation testing best practices will reveal bugs in your software systems that could affect your users and cause problems later down the line. This is particularly important if your current model is effectively an extension of a previous model as you may have conflicted code within your software.
The main benefits of automated testing are the speed and precision with which it can be achieved. You can test a large system with relative ease and often find problems that humans wouldn’t necessarily think to search for. This is particularly important when you are buying software from a developer. Because you both have a vested interest in the software working perfectly, you may not look for faults extensively, so may miss some issues.
Automated testing is great, but if you want humans to use your system, you had better make sure that they are capable of doing so! Intuitive design is difficult to master and relies on people having an inclination to do what you expect of them. For example, while a person may not recognise a hamburger icon for what it is, they may be persuaded to click on it to find out, thus learning what it does and how to use it in a single click. Now, most people know what a hamburger icon is because they have seen it before.
Intuition isn’t just important in software solutions, though. Any product designer can tell you that intuitive design is necessary across the board, taking in both the idea of user experience and aesthetics. These are things that an automated test are unlikely to be able to tell you but a human would be more than happy to point out that a particular color jars with the branding overall.
Do bear in mind that what humans want isn’t always the same thing. Human testers often come with their own biases (something we will come to later) and may provide feedback that isn’t really related to what you are trying to achieve. It’s important that you learn to recognise what is useful and what isn’t. Remember, not everyone who tests your solution will know what you are aiming for.
Asking the Right Questions
Of course, it doesn’t really matter who is testing your idea – an automated programme or a human – if you aren’t asking the right questions. To test a design prototype, you must always ask which problem your product is solving and whether it is doing so in a way that actually works. Does your prototype inspire intuitive use? Does another company have something similar or better? Does your target audience even need this solution?
These questions are not limited and the more specific you can be in your interrogation, the more likely you are to find flaws. It can be difficult to do this yourself because you are so tied to your product, both in terms of investment and personal contribution. Asking a focus group for their thoughts is a great idea, but you must be prepared to discover that your product has totally missed the mark!
Focus groups are actually really interesting for another reason: sometimes what people think they do and what they tell you they do are slightly different. Focus groups may also show you that what people think they want is different to what you think they need. Finding a balance between these two concepts is where businesses often really shine. You can learn a lot about your audience at this point, including how you could create a marketing strategy to appeal to their desires, hidden and declared.
Combining what you learn from a focus group and usability testing, you should be able to build a strong foundation to work from. Now you will be able to see what is good and what needs to be improved much more clearly. And that is the first step to getting better results.
Breaking Down and Building Up
When you start with a problem, finding a solution in one go that fixes everything is quite rare. This means that every problem you face should be broken down into its constituent parts so that each area can be thoroughly examined first.
There are a few ways to break down and simplify problems and choosing the right method can be just as tough! So, instead of boxing yourself in, it’s really important that you approach your problem from several different angles. For example, you might break a problem down by imagining that you are explaining it to a child. Then you can take the problem a little further and break it up into its elements, or you might decide to list the things that you don’t understand yet and put them to one side.
In the office, problem-solving often works best as a team but you need to have the right mindset to make this work. Encouraging your staff to come up with creative solutions and to express their thoughts can be really difficult in a standard meeting setting. Equally, asking them to bring their ideas to solve the whole problem at once can be daunting. A better option is to ask staff to do some research around the context of the problem. This can inspire different ideas taken from a wide range of other industries and settings and could just spur you on to a cool solution.
Once you understand your problem more clearly, you can begin to build solutions that are tailored to the specific issue. From here, the world is your oyster as you can integrate solutions and figure out a more streamlined approach.
Step Outside Your Biases
Biases are thoughts that tend to limit the way we think by assuming particular facts. In evolutionary terms, these biases can be really useful because they can keep us safe and prevent us making the same mistake twice. However, biases can also be unhealthy and may prevent further learning. In an office setting, you probably don’t need to worry about the danger of ignoring biases so understanding what they are and identifying your biases as they come up is really important.
Confirmation bias is one of the most common biases in business. This bias makes you search for the evidence that agrees with your predetermined position and doesn’t allow you to see the flaws. For example, you might have had a brilliant idea for a system that onboards new clients but confirmation bias will prevent you from seeing that another framework could work even better. It might also prevent you from seeing that your solution doesn’t always work.
Avoiding confirmation bias is important if you want to challenge your solutions and there are a couple of ways you can try to eliminate it. Firstly, you should never make an instant decision. Give yourself time to ask new questions and consider other ideas before you settle on one. Asking others for input and further ideas is also a good way to test your solution and to see if someone else has a better option up their sleeve. You may need to put your ego aside for this to work!
Step Back and Start Again
Perhaps the most important part of challenging your solutions is the understanding that any solutions you come up with aren’t the end of the line. You should be prepared to solve the same or similar problems over and again and to do this you have to repeat your processes. Test your new solution, ask others for their input and consider alternative solutions.
However, when you are in the rhythm of challenging solutions, it can be difficult to settle on any one idea. If this is a case, it might be useful to look at your problem in phases. In phase one, you solve a particular element of the problem and even though you aren’t fully satisfied, you can launch the solution. This way you have something to build on while you turn your attention to phase two. This is how most tech companies work and is a useful model for any business.
So, now you know how to challenge your solutions, it’s time to get to work!
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