First, what validation isn’t

It’s not testing an idea to see if it is valid or will sell or resolve a problem.  It’s at the other end of the process.  It’s getting a real understanding of the question you are addressing.  It’s getting “street smart” – getting the flavor and texture of what it is you are working on.

Now, what validation is

An example may clarify what we mean by validation.

On one project, we worked on improving the admissions process to a hospital.  We had members of the group go through being admitted to their own hospital as well as neighboring hospitals.  The people sat in the waiting area.  They experienced sitting across the desk from the person interviewing them and asking for their insurance information.

The idea is that you 100% experience what you are working on.  It seems like such a simple idea but it is amazing how many different times people don’t understand what they are going to be working on.

How often do people on the other side of a procedure experience what their customers do?  That is called a direct validation.  An indirect validation involves looking at and experiencing the principles behind the issue you are working with.

Following a real life example

While looking at the admissions procedure to a hospital, we also studied how people are admitted into hotels, into restaurants, car rentals, even a local Navy recruiting office.  You see, we were there to study the admissions process, not necessarily a hospital process.  The ideas just come pouring out.  They are “close to the customer” kinds of ideas.

Through your customers eyes

I remember one  physician who ran an emergency room.  We had her go through being admitted to her own ER.  She was dumbfounded at some of the things her “customers” were going through.  Suddenly it wasn’t just another process – ti was a blood and guts “Let’s get this thing straightened out and stop doing this to the people coming to us for our services!” sort of issue

Work first, then validate

Don’t begin a project immediately with a validation.  Work the subject for a while so when the group does validate they have more “mental hooks” to hang things on.  They will be more mentally sensitive to things that might happen in the validation than they would have been without that preliminary work.

In preparing people for validation, have them take pictures and make sure they have cards and markers so they can capture ideas as they surface.

Tell your participants to look for what goes right and glean from that, then what is wrong so they can formulate ideas from that as well.

Use all of your senses

Get your participants to “five sense” the experiences so they don’t just observe visually.  You can even have them switch perspectives.  Have people go through it as a person new to the experience, someone who doesn’t speak English, some who is visually impaired, etc.  Be creative in how you set up your validations.

The validations don’t have to take a long time.  They can take 20 minutes to an hour.  But, on a major project, you may want to take hours or days.  It also is a tremendous team building experience.

Touching the real issues

Once again, validation is not to see how well the answers or action ideas work.  It is to get the participants in touch with the real issue and the nuances behind it.  It simultaneously drives the importance of that issue up, in many cases, to a white-heal level of thinking.  You don’t have to worry about “motivating” people.  Validating can do more of that than a thousand “Win one for the Gipper” speeches.

Do you validate everything?  No.  Does it add richness and insights into your work?  Absolutely.  Use it when and where appropriate.  Good luck!


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