Analytics and inspiration

October 31, 2008

Geoffrey Moore (of Crossing the Chasm and Dealing With Darwin fame) and I spent yesterday speaking with a large group of analytics folks brought together by analytics software company SAS. I have to say that I have always considered analytics to be a long way from design thinking but I left yesterday's session with a new point of view.

One of the biggest problems in design is knowing what questions to ask. You can take the intuitive approach but this seems to be very random when you are thinking about more strategic and upstream problems. At some point the potential area of exploration covers 360 degrees and goes to infinity. It seems to me that using clever pattern recognition through software analytics might point out interesting areas to explore. I heard about one example yesterday that is connected to a project IDEO did a few years back. When we helped Bank of America develop the savings service, Keep the Change, I had assumed that the consumers we observed were picked based on intuition. One of the BofA analytics folks was in the audience and she told me that her team had worked on the project and analyzed consumer data to identify some target groups of users that the company were interested in understanding better. So it turns out that analytics helped point us toward a segment that ended up inspiring us to create a pretty successful service.

I wonder what interesting patterns might emerge from the use of analytics and be a source of inspiration for design thinkers if we put some thought to it.

By the way, the graph above is the Google trend for use of the term design thinking over the last four years.