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Diving Deeper: The Double Diamond Approach

Roy Bendor Cohen
March 9, 2021

When approaching any type of design, it’s often said that, “The devil is in the details.” This same sentiment is applicable to the application of frameworks.

User researcher Steve Bromley published an article entitled “How to Run the Right Kind of Research Study with the Double-Diamond Model.” As a response and expansion of his thoughts, I’ve compiled my two cents below, written from my perspective and background in behavioral science and innovation. Since our team at Q Behavioral Thinking utilises the foundation of the Double Diamond (a model created by the UK’s Design Council) to approach and resolve our clients’ questions, I felt it worthwhile to share these details that can’t be overlooked.

“The double diamond is a model created by the UK’s Design Council which describes a process for making successful products.”

I suggest that the double diamond is a process that is applicable beyond products; it is useful in developing strategies, designing services, communicating, problem solving or redesigning processes. For example, our team at Q has applied the framework to help businesses overcome customer churn, nudge behavior, address low conversion rates and more (all of which have had little or nothing to do with the product itself).

“The first diamond describes how to come up with a suitable problem that a new product or feature should fix. It requires understanding what problems users have, and prioritizing them to focus on a high-value area. This avoids the risk of building something that no-one is going to use.”

From my perspective, the first diamond invites us to focus, stay and even “be” in the problem rather than jumping directly to solutions (which is typical of human nature). Think about it— talking about products is by itself a solution-focused conversation that runs the risk of limiting exploration. Doing this assumes that adjusting a product or feature would be the only possible solution, thereby narrowing the often expansive solution space.

Instead, I believe that the first diamond should be based on exploration that depends on the description of the goal / objective / challenge / problem. To do that, there’s a very simple, yet powerful tool that every 5-years old already knows how to employ (often excessively). It comes down to asking “Why?” (and its mirror question “So what?”). This helps reformulate the problem to better understand the real need.

“The most effective way of understanding the problem is to get true first-hand experience of users performing real tasks in context. This is best done by applying ethnographic and observational methods to identify the range of problems that exist, then prioritizing them using methods such as surveys.”

While these methods are often necessary and utilized to solve problems, a crucial component is missing here. Circumstances and context will define whether ethnographic research comes before surveys. Sometimes, you will want to start with a survey to gain a better understanding of the areas to focus on for the qualitative study. Moreover, surveys are great tools to collect subjective reports from people in order to apply statistical methods.

Yet, it’s vital to measure implicit behavior (what people actually do) because as anthropologist Margaret Mead so aptly put it, “What people do, what people say, and what people say they do are entirely different things.”

To further this point, it is useful to know that there are at least four types of studies one could conduct:

Q Behavioral Thinking´s 2x2 Matrix for types of Behavioral Research

“This valuable behavioral information is only uncovered only by watching people do real tasks and asking them questions to uncover their motivations and issues.”

From the perspective of a behavioral scientist, two important things jump out here. Firstly, since science is more than just experiments, anyone seeking answers to questions should review the literature to gain some background. Based on this information, they can create hypotheses that are top-down, instead of bottom-up. While watching people perform tasks and asking questions is surely valuable, it’s important to first define hypotheses so that you can focus your observations in order to either refute or confirm your predictions.

Secondly, there’s more than just “motivations and issues” that need to be examined. For example, beliefs, habits, cognitive biases, cultural context, expectations, perceptions, mental representations and self-narratives are just a few of the terms one should be able to approach to get to the root of the real problem (and be able to find sustainable solutions).

Parting Thoughts

The Double Diamond is a remarkable framework. Within each of its stages, it calls upon best practices from different fields of behavioral science and other disciplines. Applied in an interdisciplinary manner, the Double Diamond results in impactful answers and outcomes.

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