The key question is – What is the user trying to do

If you’re in the business of producing anything for anybody; I’m sure this question may have popped into the back of your mind every now and then – What is the user trying to do? Perhaps it has always been there but just hasn’t come to the forefront.

I have great respect for people at work and outside of work who just simply seem to be able to focus in on that question so often. We all get caught up in the daily fire fights, focusing on resolving the issue of the day that we forget the big picture. What problem is the user facing? and are we solving that? or are we just trying to get stuff out the door?

Every time we decide that something is good enough, are we really thinking – Is it good enough to help our users solve what they are trying to do? or is it just good enough to satisfy our immediate need to declare success?

This could apply to politics or product development or research or what have you. For example – Politicians should ask themselves – What are our citizens trying to do? or what problems are they trying to solve? and how can we help them solve their problems?

The question of course is not – Can we solve it for them? Its how can we help them or how can we enable them or how can we provide them tools that can help them solve the problems by themselves.

In the coming days there will be some news on Elsevier’s effort to provide people the tools to solve some of the problems for themselves. More specifically related to finding and using scientific articles. Hopefully that’s more along the ‘what is the user trying to do’ line of thinking and I sincerely hope people see it that way. Will be great to find out.

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