Rapid calibration is a vital element within the strategic design research framework. This process is implemented during the early phase of research, leveraging an existing database of signals, trends, and insights. Its primary purpose is to accelerate the calibration process, fostering alignment and assessing common-ground among stakeholders. This ultimately leads to more effective design research and interventions.
The central goal of the rapid calibration element is to effectively make use of the existing database of signals, trends, and insights. By doing so, the process allows for the swift calibration of the challenge space and promotes a shared understanding among all stakeholders in the early phase of the strategic design research process. This alignment is crucial for establishing a cohesive direction for the research and intervention phases that follow.
Four lenses into rapid calibration
- Pilot’s Pre-Flight Check: Rapid calibration is similar to the pilot’s pre-flight check. Just as a pilot inspects the aircraft systems, fuel, and weather conditions before takeoff, this process assesses the signals, trends, and insights to ensure the research journey is prepared for any situation.
- Tuning an Orchestra: In an orchestra, each instrument must be tuned to the same standard for the ensemble to produce harmonious music. Similarly, rapid calibration ensures that all stakeholders are “tuned” to the same understanding, aligning their perceptions and expectations of the challenge space.
- Navigating a Ship Through Fog: Rapid calibration helps in navigating the ship (the research process) through foggy waters (uncertainties, gaps in understanding). It assists in avoiding hidden rocks (blind spots) and ensures the ship arrives at its destination (goals of the research).
- Briefing After Reconnaissance: Just like scouts returning from reconnaissance and giving a debrief to the troops, the process allows stakeholders to share and understand what’s been observed in the challenge space, adjusting their plans accordingly.
The methodological approach used within this element is rooted in several academic disciplines, including design research, systems thinking, and collaborative sense-making. By leveraging a curated database filled with an abundance of signals, trends, and insights, the process provides a comprehensive framing of the current state of understanding of the challenge space. This includes a complete picture of the available information and a systems map of the people, topics, and categories involved at the start of the project.
- Leverage of Existing Database: An existing database of signals, trends, and insights is utilised at the beginning of the process, serving as a valuable resource to quickly gain insights about the challenge space.
- Systems Thinking: This methodology promotes a holistic understanding of the challenge space, taking into account the interconnections and interactions within the system.
- Collaborative Sense-Making: Collaboration is encouraged, involving stakeholders in sense-making sessions to develop a shared understanding of the challenge space.
- Integration of Various Academic Disciplines: The methodology incorporates elements from design research, systems thinking, and collaborative sense-making, providing a well-rounded approach.
- Acknowledge Politically Situated Nature: The research and researchers are acknowledged as politically situated. This process takes into account various factors such as social, technological, economic, environmental, and political aspects.
- Comprehensive Framing: The process involves a comprehensive framing of the current state of understanding of the challenge space, encompassing available information and a systems map of the people, topics, and categories involved.
- Parallel Processes: The methodology often includes parallel processes, such as listening to systems, to provide a more holistic understanding of the challenge space.
- Identification of Gaps and Blind Spots: A key goal of the methodology is the identification of gaps and blind spots in the current understanding of the challenge space.
This process also acknowledges the politically situated nature of the research and researchers. It does this by taking into account various factors in its examination, such as social, technological, economic, environmental, and political aspects. Collaborative sense-making sessions often occur in parallel, integrating another research process element – listening to systems.
Relevance and Benefits
The rapid calibration process and element holds relevance for all target audiences. Its key benefits include saving time, facilitating swift calibration, and testing hypotheses with the client. This process encourages alignment and shared understanding among stakeholders.
From this process, stakeholders can expect enhanced research quality due to a better understanding of the challenge space. Improved design outcomes are also a benefit, as the design becomes more informed by comprehensive context analysis. Decision-making becomes more effective, based on a robust understanding of the challenge space. Lastly, the interventions’ impact increases through a systemic understanding of the challenge space and stakeholders.
- Promote Open Communication: Encourage all participants to voice their thoughts and insights during collaborative sense-making sessions. This will foster an environment that values diverse perspectives and experiences, and will promote a better shared understanding of the challenge space.
- Active Listening: Practice active listening during sense-making sessions. This means genuinely understanding and taking into account other participants’ viewpoints, which can lead to a more comprehensive and collective understanding of the challenge space.
- Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Encourage collaboration between stakeholders from different fields. An interdisciplinary approach can offer a variety of perspectives and promote a richer understanding of the challenge space.
- Flexibility: Remain flexible and adapt the approach to suit the specific needs and objectives of the project. This can involve adjusting the methodology or reallocating resources based on new insights or changes in the challenge space.
- Identification of Gaps: Make it a point to identify gaps and blind spots in the current understanding of the challenge space. This can help refine the research process and lead to more effective outcomes.
- Inclusion of Various Stakeholders: Ensure that a diverse group of stakeholders are included in the process. Their unique perspectives can add depth to the understanding of the challenge space.
Benefits to Organisations
The rapid calibration process in strategic design research is essential for identifying blind spots and epistemic gaps within the challenge space. This methodological, data-driven approach fosters enriched knowledge, professional growth, and better design outcomes. By facilitating a shared understanding of the challenge space and stakeholders, it enables more effective, sustainable, and scalable interventions. Lastly, this process improves decision-making and uncovers untapped innovation opportunities, offering long-term strategic benefits for organisations.