User research is a team sport. Why?

A quick trawl through the internet with this blog post as the search term throws up lots and lots of results that all assert that user research is indeed a team sport. However, far fewer seem to go into why it’s important. Sure, the “usual stuff” about collaboration leading to better solutions because the problem is being observed through different lenses is certainly true, but that’s really about collaboration, and not about user research.

So why then, is user research specifically a team sport?

One thing I’ve observed, is that participation in user research sessions tends to make a somewhat abstract notion of a “user” rather more tangible. Painfully so, in cases where your users are vulnerable segments of society. It builds empathy.

Empathy’s a powerful motivator. One common effect is it can instil the desire to “do the right thing” especially if it helps someone. An effective team is one that has a shared purpose. And worthwhile purposes (i.e. helping someone) are fantastic motivators. If only half the team are motivated in this way and want to “do the right thing” and the other half aren’t, then you’ve probably got a problem.

It’s more than the pithy slogan “user research is a team sport”. The whole team need to feel motivated to “do the right thing” and user research makes it possible to tell just what that is. Just one reason why research should be a team sport. Surely this one’s enough?

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