Design Research + Tools for Thinking + Using Research Well with Terri Herbert — DT101 E55

Terri Herbert is a design researcher and experienced research manager at Asana. She’s fascinated by the complexity of the world of work and interested in researching and modeling complex systems involving people and technology. We talk about doing good design research, ways to ensure design research outputs are used effectively, and how a design researcher supports a team throughout the design process. Show Host: Dawan Stanford

Show Summary

Terri’s journey into design research began in the business world of marketing and communications strategy, where she often worked with survey results and collected data. It was there she first came into contact with the concept of user experience and began to use some design thinking ideas in the iterative process of finding solutions. This led her into UX design and she went back to university for a Master’s degree in human-computer interaction. During this time, she discovered her love of research and modeling systems, which has been a part of her work ever since.

At Asana, Terri’s focus is on understanding how people work together as a team, and on providing ways for teams to work better together. As part of this, she studies team dynamics and team behavior, and looks at individual team member’s skills and abilities. She uses what she learns to motivate team behaviors that foster and maintain a high-functioning work environment.

We’ll hear more about design research and how Terri uses it to discover insights about how we work, and how she and her team strive to make their research accessible and easy to understand for those who need its insights, and the importance of seeing research itself as dynamic and never-ending.

Listen in to learn more about:

  • What design research is
  • How team dynamics affects a team’s ability to perform and succeed
  • Tools Terri uses to help people connect with and understand her research
  • Ways design and design research are changing as a result of the current health crisis
  • The importance of revisiting and refreshing design research as conditions evolve and change

Our Guest’s Bio

Terri is a design researcher and systems thinker fascinated by the complexity of the world of work. At Asana, a leading work management platform for teams, she heads up research focused on helping teams adopt better work practices. Her background in group and system dynamics, collaboration, and interaction design enables her to apply theory for impact in the real world. Terri holds an MSc in Human-Computer Interaction and has worked with organizations across e-commerce, culture and tourism, transportation services, agriculture, and more.

Show Highlights

[01:07] Terri talks about how she got into design research as a career.

[02:57] A high-level look at the work Terri does at Asana.

[04:40] How Terri structures her research when she’s studying team dynamics.

[05:20] Secondary research sources that are part of Terri’s work.

[06:01] Understanding a team’s dynamics is the key to improving how a team can work together better.

[07:10] Ways Terri and her team ensure the outputs of their research are understood and used effectively by stakeholders.

[08:05] Question mapping as a way to find the key questions and concerns the stakeholders have about the problem space.

[10:09] Terri talks more about how design research gets applied in real contexts.

[10:15] How Terri uses the discovery debrief to provide a team with tools for thinking and action as they move forward in the problem space.

[10:43] Helping the team narrow the scope and bring the problem space into focus.

[12:27] The benefits of role-blending in work environments when it comes to working as a team in the design problem space.

[12:56] How Terri works through situations where she meets resistance to her findings and insights.

[13:09] Using the opportunity tree tool to ensure the team’s work is actually going to address the identified problem.

[14:48] Methods and tools Terri uses to help teams understand and connect with the research.

[15:25] The value in revisiting earlier research on a regular basis to spot trends and long-term insights.

[16:35] Research is not a static, permanent object; it is dynamic, always needing refreshing in response to change.

[18:16] How Terri’s research team has been impacted during the COVID-19 health crisis.

[20:00] The virtual tools and frameworks Terri’s using in her work now.

[20:56] The opportunities and insights occurring in design research as a result of the health crisis.

[23:52] Terri talks about wanting easier ways to help people get past their biases to allow them to go deeper into their own motivations and behaviors.

[26:01] Resources Terri recommends for those interested in design research and design thinking.

[29:29] How to find out more about Terri and her work.


Her Twitter

Her LinkedIn

Terri on Medium


Getting Emotional: Our first steps with affective interaction

Book Recommendation: The Social Life of Information, by John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid, and David Weinberger

Book Recommendation: The Service Innovation Handbook: Action-oriented Creative Thinking Toolkit for Service Organizations, by Lucy Kimbell

Book Recommendation: Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows and Diana Wright

Book Recommendation: The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, by Dacher Keltner

Book Recommendation: Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust, by Adam Kahane

Book Recommendation: Turning People into Teams: Rituals and Routines That Redesign How We Work, by Mary and David Sherwin

Other Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Problem Spaces, Understanding How People Think, and Practical Empathy with Indi Young — DT101 E6

Design Thinking + Learning Science with Adam Royalty — DT101 E18

Designing Your Team + Teams in Design Education + Coaching Design Teams with Mary Sherwin and David Sherwin — DT101 E49


Thank you for listening to the show and looking at the show notes. Send your questions, suggestions, and guest ideas to Dawan and the Fluid Hive team. Cheers ~ Dawan

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