Business Origami

User Experience Design (UX design) is all about the process or steps that an individual takes when interacting with your product, these products mostly include things such as websites or applications. The amazing thing about conducting UX tests is that there’s not just one way to do this. The process is never so cut and dry, there’s always various different methods of collecting data to see how users interact with your product. Personally, I think that’s the best part of UX design, I love the variety of choices! I could go on nonstop talking about the different ways to gather data but I want to talk about one method that is one of my favorites called Business Origami, created by the Hitachi Design Center.

I know what you’re thinking and no, sadly we’re not making tiny cranes, no matter how fun it might be. The Business Origami method invites participants to either take on an observer or stakeholder role and explore the service of the product. I really like uxpamagzine and service-design-network’s explanations of the method respectively,

“The goal of business origami is to have end users create a “map” of the various people involved in the ecosystem surrounding a specific product, design, or other solution”

“The Business Origami method involves gathering stakeholders for a participatory, semi-structured workshop about new service models to accelerate shared understanding and decision-making amongst stakeholders. It involves participants arranging simple card components to build up complicated service opportunities, whilst creating empathy and consensus amongst stakeholders often situated in socially complex relationships.”

If it seems a bit confusing that’s okay! The Business Origami method is one that you need to participate in yourself to really get a feel for it and understand the results you’re getting out of it. But to better understand the method aside from just explanation, let’s examine two research studies that use the method.

The Hank Ke Design team used the Business Origami method to solve the problem of the new Costco Sharing app. Costco Sharing is a new service designed for the people who are concerned about buying a huge amount of items at Costco, and sometimes find the final prices are much higher than expected because of the “bulk” method that Costco uses to sell products. As a result of this customers will choose against buying something in the store and trying to find it somewhere else for a cheaper price.

After doing some basic research and going to Costco to understand the shopping experience there the Hank Ke Design team began their Business Origami experiment. The team mapped out their purchasing experience by playing different roles with the origami creations, with the purpose of understanding what factors will influence users to make different purchasing decisions.

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After the Business Origami method the designers came up with five reasons as to why users would abandon their products. The volume of the product is too large, it is risky to try a new brand because of the packaging, they’d rather wait for a discount, the total price is too high and that they have limited storage for the product. After discovering the problems the team went back and created a second origami business model to look for solutions.

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As a result of their second Business Origami the team created a possible solution. A secondary product called Share Service. If a user thinks the volume of a kind of goods is too big, he/she can share the rest of the product with other users. Obviously this idea is just a rough draft and would need some workshopping, but that’s the thing about the design process, you can refine and repeat steps over and over again, there’s no real end to it!

Another example of Business Origami comes from the team at uxpamagzine. The design team was tasked with “understanding the workflow and interactions involving developers on the IBM Watson Solutions teams who worked with IBM’s clients to create software such as Watson for Oncology and Watson for Clinical Trials Matching.”  The goal was to “use this information to help design new web-based software to help less technical clients build their own similar products for different industries beyond healthcare.”

The Business Origami model featured numerous paper icons to outline the various people, places, and communication methods that are involved in their day-to-day work in order to map out the processes. They noted that it was important to have every possible factor accounted for in the icons for maximum efficiency.

A photo of a completed business origami activity made by the IBM Watson Solutions team to illustrate the IBM and client stakeholders (as well as the interactions within and between these groups).

Unlike the previous example this method in this particular example did not have any concrete answers or lead to any possible problem statements. This is completely normal! As I mentioned above there is no right or wrong way to collect data and it’s important to keep in mind that with methods like Business Origami, you’re not trying to solve problems but instead to collect as much data as possible in order to later come up with solutions.

Business Origami is just one of the many ways to understand User Experience, personally, due to the inherent crafty nature of cutting out icons and gluing things down I find this to be one of the more fun methods. But does fun equal results? Maybe! Letting both sides of your brain work can be a great way to look at things from a different perspective that you might not have perviously considered. So next time you need to collect some UX data try Business Origami, no tiny cranes involved but just as good results in the end.

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