Data & Human-Centered Design

October 23, 2013

This post is by Ann Spencer and cross-posted from O'Reilly Strata.

During a trip to Chicago for a conference on R, I had a chance to cowork at the Datascope office. While I had worked with co-founders Mike and Dean before, this was my first time coworking at their office. It was an eye-opening experience. Why? The culture. I saw how this team of data scientists with different backgrounds connected with each other as they worked, collaborated, and joked around. I also observed how intensely present everyone was… whether they were joking or working. I completely understand how much work and commitment it takes to facilitate such a creative and collaborative environment.

Over the next few months, this initial coworking experience led to many conversations with Dean and Mike about building data science teams, Strata, design, and data both in Chicago and the SF Bay Area. I also got to know a few of the other team members such as Aaron, Bo, Gabe, and Irmak. Admittedly, the more I got to know the team, the more intensely curious I became about the human-centered design “ideation” workshops that they hold for clients. According to Aaron, the workshops “combine elements from human-centered design to diverge and converge on valuable and viable ideas, solutions, strategies for our clients. We start by creating an environment that spurs creativity and encourages wild ideas. After developing many different ideas, we cull them down and focus on the ones that are viable to add life and meaning.”

So when Mike sent me a note inviting me to sit in and film one of their two day ideation workshops at their office, I agreed. Roger Magoulas, O’Reilly’s director of research and a chair of Strata Santa Clara 2014 also joined.

I attended the workshop as I wanted to see how Datascope's process and techniques enabled a group of people to openly discuss their data challenges, reach consensus on potential ideas to address those challenges, and turn them into opportunities to act upon. I also wanted to see if I, in collaboration with Datascope, could capture some of the process, tips, and techniques and then share these insights with the Strata audience. This post is a first in a collaborative series on human-centered design and data.

Mike and I have chatted a lot about about finding the “why?”, the problems, or opportunities that improve business. As result, I wasn’t surprised to see this covered in the two day workshop.

Oftentimes, innovation happens because people experience frustrating use cases or challenges that they would like to see a solution for. Again, I wasn’t surprised to learn how the workshops got started.

Many thanks to Datascope for collaborating with me on this integrated text and video narrative experiment. Please check the Strata blog for further collaborative posts within this series on human-centered design and data.

contributors to this post

headshot of Dean Malmgren
headshot of Mike Stringer
headshot of Brian Lange
headshot of Aaron Wolf
headshot of Irmak Sirer
headshot of Bo Peng
headshot of Laurie Skelly
headshot of Gabriel Gaster