The first step in the process is what we call the Understand phase: if you’re going to work in a certain area you really need to talk to experts. We’re generalists, we’re expert at process but if you really want to do something, if you’re going to design a new medical device, you have to really immerse yourself in it. So in the first step you end up studying the state of the art, going and talking to experts, doing research to bring yourself up to speed. You’d be really surprised how quickly you can get up to speed, even in a highly technical area, just from doing a little research and talking to experts. They’ll tell you a lot more than you can use, more than you could ever imagine.
Then there’s the Observation phase. There’s plenty to learn from interviewing people but we think that you learn a lot more from being there. So we jump right out, we go around the world, we go wherever there’s interesting people. If we’re going to design a new gas station we’ll go and see how they pump gas in Japan. How do they get gasoline where there’s no gas station whatsoever? We just hang out, watching over and over and seeing what the issues are. We find that if we’re going to have some kind of breakthrough, a lot of times we see it by just being there. We’re watching nurses and we see how nurses have trouble with the shift change, or we watch somebody using a vending machine.