…being aware of how to ask semi-structured and open-ended questions, making as few assumptions as consciously possible, understanding my own subjectivity…
Synthesis and Storytelling Skills
UX Researchers are often responsible for study design, data collection, synthesis of findings and report out. “Anthropologists are good at synthesis because they are used to moving from details to abstraction, quickly and with many different sets of data. This thinking helps with pattern recognition and pulling insights from disaggregated and qualitative data, and in making connections between different data points.” (Fleming 2019) In a business setting, researchers must work quickly to bring user insights to teams that will, ideally, use them to create change to products or services. Synthesis skills are critical in UX research as they allow researchers to see themes and generate meaning out of large amounts of raw data efficiently within rapid business timelines.
UX research, like anthropology, has a focus on storytelling as a means to communicate findings and “lead with the heart.” (Interviewee 11, pers. comm) Aysha L. Preston, Ph.D., User Experience Researcher, noted when asked about what anthropology brings to UX research that other social sciences (such as psychology and sociology) may not, “At the core, all of the listed social sciences focus on the individual or groups of people. What makes anthropology different is the methods and how we look to connect with people to identify a problem or tell a story. In my short experience in the field, the other disciplines do not emphasize the individual experiences as much or the power of qualitative research. Numbers are important, of course, but so are the stories and experiences that really bring people to life.” (Aysha L. Preston, pers. comm) Ross Mitchell, Research and Strategy Lead at Woah Agency, echoed this sentiment, “Anthropology provides the greatest training in telling stories about research. That is a lot of what anthropology is, after all. And ultimately in research for a business context, if you’re going to be successful, you have to know how to tell a compelling story.” (Ross Mitchell, pers. comm) Storytelling is a vital skill for UX Researchers — these stories are the seeds of change that can alter and influence stakeholder opinions, shape a product manager’s decisions around a new feature, etc. The ability to tell an engaging story is important not only for general communication of findings, but also for persona development and task/scenario development for usability testing.