By: Sanya Uppal

The Understand phase made me realize the importance of listening and then reflecting. I realized this process involves not only asking questions and recording answers but also engaging with the stakeholder and thinking critically of the different backgrounds and perspectives that they bring to the table. It is definitely the hardest phase, particularly as it extends beyond this week as well. As we work with our stakeholders and users, through feedback and iteration, we continue to understand their needs and refine our assumptions and observations.

I found that gaining empathy for the user meant understanding their hopes and desires without jumping to solutions. To me, this included listening without judgement – taking in all unique perspectives as important without being influenced by a solution-oriented mindset that tries to frame insights into the outcome I desire.

This week, we interviewed over 15 individuals: students, faculty, and student support staff. It resulted in a dynamic process as our initial assumptions informed our later questions and focus. It was difficult not to make this focus too narrow in our later interviews as we came to define a problem space, but I think we worked well to reframe our questions in context while remaining open to broader insights. I think this was my area of greatest impact, trying to remind myself and my team to process and observe insights from our users and stakeholders effectively before rushing into characterizing our problem space and engineering a solution.