Day#351: Is empathy all you need to be a great researcher?

Day#351: Is empathy all you need to be a great researcher?

Hey Researchers today I want to discuss something that I have noticed becoming a trend in the UX industry. I am someone who really becomes a fanatic about questioning things and with that this post is going to seem really controversial but so be it. Is empathy all you need to be a good researcher? Absolutely not, I don’t think that at all, if you take a baseline researcher who has only empathy and no methodologies on their belt to conduct sessions how will they run sessions in a professional and well coordinated fashion. How will they be able to synthesize the data collected and know what will affect their data. Having knowledge of psychology will also help here, and not understanding how people think, and what drives people will also lead you to think that everything is a mystery and perhaps that patterns are just a surprise. I do think that certain patterns I have noticed in the past have been surprising, in relation to cultural norms and evolvoling industries but having the baseline of behavioural psychology will always help. 

So how has this happened how has empathy becomes the most important word in an industry that is based on science and facts. Well because in corporate and tech, it became evident that organisations are not understanding their users pain points. From physical environments to digital environments slowly running sessions with users became important to know how to design solutions for said users. For me empathy is yet another tool to ensure you understand the users experience, that you know what they are going through as they are going through it and can remember those feelings when sharing with the team whose work is being researched. Don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that I think that empathy has no place in this UX space, I obviously think it does. But I think as long as they mention they have empathy that that makes one a good researcher. To me I think being a good researcher means always being curious, always putting yourself in uncomfortable solutions to find the truth. Seeking the truth and being open to change is crucial, if you are stubborn about a certain resolve or just in general it will prevent you from finding true depth in the work you can produce. 

I think this industry has a lot of people clambering to get into it over the past few years. It’s a great industry and I totally understand why, the pay is great and that can generally attract a vast majority of people. I know that I wanted to get into a few industries when I was still searching and looked at pay as a defining factor. But not that I have found UX and Research in general it seems like a happy coincidence that I make good money for this work that I do. Working on understanding the core methodologies and best practises that will be expected within the industry is really going to make you stand apart from the rest of the people who are just discussing empathy as the most important skill. Yes what what I do as a qualitative researcher is in its nature more sentiment related and less to do with large data sets but it is still very based in methodologies and processes.

I think similar to Tim Harford’s reference to Keith Jarret is so relative here. You can read more about the topic on my post Improvisation and the Mess” a book that Tim Harford wrote. But basically it encapsulates the story of Keith Jarret who played one of the most beautiful pieces of jazz in a situation where the piano was giving trouble, how did he get to that level of perfection with issues on the piano though? This was because he had a baseline of understanding how to play the piano, this applies to empathy and my thoughts on it. There are many other tools that can make a great researcher, empathy is one of them. Having empathy when conducting some research may not help you pinpoint areas of distress for the user, however if you have the tools to do it you can reach new heights by using creativity in conceptualizing interesting research sessions with your participants. Happy researching until next time

Bye for now

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