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Watch Our 60 Second Introduction.

What college should be about and why UX research is tough

3 minute read | By: Scott Hutchins

Last week Patrick Donnelly and I were on the beautiful college campus of UC Santa Barbara.  We were doing some interviews around our Higher Education and Academic Program for qualified universities and research facilities to gain access to Truthlab’s Customer Experience Management (CXM) solution for no cost.  Students were everywhere.  Working at Starbucks, hanging out on the Quad, and going between classes.  This got us thinking, “What’s all this for?”.  It’s a huge financial commitment on the students, their families, and the country as a whole.  Is it worth it?  How would you quantify the value?  What other benefits to society exist by having a more educated populace?  Are you wrong to even question the efficacy of the higher educational system?


It was a good deep discussion to cap off a week of pitching, selling, recruiting, and meeting with academics.  At first, the discussion drifted to the problems.  You accrue all of this debt at school, then need to find a job that can pay it back.  Plus, almost nothing you learn at college is directly applicable.  Everything is learned on the job for most professions, so should folks just go straight to the workforce?  Then we went into a Quarterly Business Review (“QBR”) with a power user of ours on the UX team at a fast growing publicly traded company and everything came into focus.


Hardly anybody in the user experience or customer experience space is over forty years old.  The academic literature isn’t set.  The best practices aren’t set.  The supporting software isn’t set.  Everything is up in the air and some very young, talented, creative professionals are left to figure it out.  And this is where the conversation clicked.The college experience and learning to learn


Patrick and I were trying to navigate a complex discussion about the effectiveness of higher education.  To tackle such a multi-faceted political, moral and abstract societal system we need to ask the right questions.  We needed enough knowledge to start the conversation and enough skill in working together to be able to incorporate each others’ perspectives into a collective of experiences bigger than any individual person can directly measure.


What any of you recent grads should take out of college isn’t any of the things you memorized.  Or even in my case from engineering school, not how to build a “self-driving bumper car” with a bunch of Op Amps.  But instead focus on how to use the tools and frameworks for approaching new problems.


It’s humbling to sit with great UX researchers during a QBR process, because they have learned to ask great questions.  Questions that are well constructed and drive at: pushing conversation further, disambiguating responses, or making people feel more comfortable.


College and learning to problem solve

While college doesn’t force you develop these problem-solving skills, it is a great platform for developing those skills.  And for those who are leveraging that investment in themselves to the fullest, it is a training ground for honing the skill of conversing.  Talking and listening to organically extract as much valuable content from a conversation without feeling like a moderated survey can be the difference between gaining authentic and valuable insight and missing an objective.  That’s what those who succeed in the future need to learn, and it’s that dynamic that is on display today in SaaS CX research groups.


With this challenge facing grads, we want to be part of the solution.  Truthlab’s (CXM) platform allows for research to be templatized, cloneable, repeatable, auditable, and coachable.  For this reason, we are releasing the platform through our Higher Education and Academic Program.  We want the CX leaders of tomorrow to have access to the best tools available and maintain a network of curating best practices and pushing their teams, companies, and the industry as a whole forward.