A million years ago, ( early 90’s) when I was still a student at the Amsterdam University in Information Science, I bumped into a family of American tourist who asked me the way to the ‘Rijksmuseum’. I decided then and there that I would love to show ‘my’ Amsterdam and one of my favorite museums ( before the 10 year renovation) to people from a whole different continent. I offered to walk with them and show them around. It became a truly wonderful afternoon. Not only was it a joy to show off my Amsterdam, have them experience it enhanced with my stories. It also gave me insight in their world view. How they perceived ‘us’ and characterized ‘us’ as a nation through the images that they accumulated in their lives. They had constructed a conceptual model of the city and their inhabitants based on the few things they had experienced in media before. It was something I didn’t realize at the time, but it did throw us in lengthy conversations on common uses and experiences from both sides. And we enjoyed that very much. In return for my time, they offered to drive me home, just outside of the city at that time. I declined at first but they insisted, ‘”they would love to see the suburbs and the way people lived there”  they said. They dropped me of, we said our goodbyes and we never did see each other again. (There was no Facebook to keep in contact.)

But the experience is one that is still lodged as a very positive one in my mind. I sometimes wander through the city, trying to look at it through other peoples eyes. Trying to see what they see. Experience the beautiful or the unique in the commonplace. I love this wandering, contemplating on little things of beauty,  points of irritation or  weird things I didn’t realize where beautiful, irritating or weird before. It makes me see things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

It is good to apply that to your product as well sometimes, what is commonplace for you might be something beautiful, novel, or highly irritating to the people that use it, or look at it for the first time. Try to look through their eyes, their conceptual models, their experiences and see what they see.


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