Asking the right questions is critical to design thinking. A cornerstone of the design thinking approach involves ethnographic research, spending time observing and interacting with people in their everyday lives. The generating of ethnographic information about customers relies on a researcher’s ability to listen well and direct the interview or conversation. But what happens if, as a researcher, you are unfocused? Tired? Nervous? Got lost on your way to the field site? Intimidated by the person you are interviewing? How is the ability to listen and observe affected by one’s own bodily experience and processes? If you are in fight or flight, can you really pay attention?
We in the research community and anyone interested in using research can no longer really afford to ignore the mindfulness movement. Being mindful is an act of consciousness, it’s being aware of something, bringing your attention to external experiences of the present. We hear about mindfulness all the time and the backlash has well and truly begun. Yet, I feel the question we ought to be asking is how mindfulness can support our efforts to listen, connect, empathize, and translate the experiences of others into powerful research insights.