If you present insights that result in a mere shrug or "We know that already" then perhaps you're answering the wrong question. You may be too focused on WHAT and not paying enough attention to SO WHAT or why it matters.
If people say they know it already, then maybe what's missing is why it matters so much. So instead of focusing on what the problem is, focus on why it matters to users and the business and you're likely to encourage a more productive and engaging reaction.
But first let's try to work out what's going on. There's a possibility that the team are desensitised to the people they're supposed to be serving.
Consider the following:
Ever been to a new place and you're hit by the whole new world in front of you; new language, new scenes, new colours, new noises, new food, new smells even? On the other end of the scale, how do you perceive tourists in your local city? Find it annoying perhaps as they hold up pedestrians while they pause, look around or take photos? That's the difference between being energised by the new or de-sensitised by the norm.
When you get used to something (or somewhere) you are what some describe as desensitised. We've been over-exposed and any reaction may be unnecessary or even irrelevant.
Sometimes we want to desensitise others so we can actively use over-exposure as a technique. Take phobias for example. Desensitisation techniques may be very effective to helping someone take more control over their lives:
- The high or over-sensitised person (i.e. a person with a phobia)
- Avoids the sensitising agent (e.g. spiders)
But if you repeat exposure (in a controlled way) to spiders, in other words over expose them, it may help them realise their fear is irrational and has no tangible negative impact on your well-being. Their fear or anxiety becomes more and more irrelevant overtime until the person eventually stops reacting. We can use the same technique when we want others to get used to experimenting and potentially failing - so learn and fail fast! - we can look at that in more on that in a separate blog.
Back to desensitisation. The same happens with stories or new information. If people hear something over and over, it stops being a surprise. Furthermore if their response to something is repeated invalidated i.e. does not result in any change, this can be very desensitising. People simply stop responding because 'there's no point'.
I've observed plenty of tell-tale signs:
- "We've known about these issues for a long time."
- "It's normal," (to have this level of complaint).
- "That's just the way it is here."
These statements are loaded with resignation and you need to figure out why. Check for people's perception of how relevant previous responses were listen out for red flags like these:
- "I've raised that issue so many times but nothing's changed so I don't bother anymore." (my response was irrelevant - nothing changes)
- "I shared my feedback but no one came back to me."
- "It's too complicated, it would take too much effort or financial investment."
- "What's the point?"
In my experience when people say things like they're usually jaded driven by a cycle of over-exposure and an emotional or emphatic response being largely ignored. When you get this combination, apathy eventually replaces empathy and very often people stop engaging at an emotional level.
So how do we shift from desensitised to sensitised? We're aiming for:
- Enough exposure to new data or insights
- An emotional reaction that proves both necessary AND relevant
We need both these elements, not either or. People need to engage and also see that their response can make a difference.