Prediction can create a false sense of certainty – at great cost. Can uncertainty establish a more effective foundation for product development?
by HELI RANTAVUO, Spotify
Foresight. Tends. Megatrends. Forecasting. Speculative design. Predictive modelling. Impact estimating.
These are some of the established methods that researchers and analysts use in trying to understand what the future might look like, and how the organisations we work for and with approach the future. A variety of research and design techniques are available for us to make sense of the future in a structured way. Ethnographers and anthropologists know how to study the present in order to speculate on the future; design teams employ futurecasts and speculative design; futures research employs a wide range of methods that cut across disciplines. With the availability of big data, forecasting and predictive modelling is growing more and more sophisticated.
Sometimes I wonder, does the maturity of our methods and frameworks make us feel too confident about...
by ADRI REKSODIPOETRO (Nation) and ALEXANDRA MCCARTER (Spotify)
Through the art of exhibition, curators immerse people in new worlds and new points of view, whether by transporting visitors to 18th century India or through challenging art history’s colonial gaze. The goal of an exhibition is a shift in perspective, to move people to think differently about something than they did before.
Researchers do something similar: our first task is to learn something new, but the ultimate goal is to share what we learn in a way that shifts the perspectives of our colleagues, organizations or clients. In this article, we show how we applied curation techniques for a project we worked on together at Spotify. The project focused on understanding people in Indonesia who bought Spotify Premium, and the exhibition served as our main deliverable. The exhibition jump-started a new way of thinking about Spotify users because it enabled our colleagues to experience a different understanding of value and music streaming in the country.
Why an Exhibition,...
This contribution is a case study of Spotify, a popular music streaming app, which uses automated recommendations to provide a better user experience to its listeners. Automated recommender systems have mostly been built around understanding user needs and user goals. Our case study presents a meaning-oriented approach aimed at understanding what users regard as meaningful and how an automated recommender system can forge meaning and offer experiences that help develop existing connections to music and generate new ones.
Following the meaning-oriented approach inspired by Lucien Karpik (2010), we were able to better understand how different audience segments engage with music and experience music as meaningful. We identified 2 cultural engagement models that listeners use to relate to music: (1) musical engagement during which music is the focus of the experience; and (2) non-musical engagement, during which the listener is the focus of the experience....
by CHLOE EVANS, Spotify
As an ethnographer and user researcher in industry a lot of my work depends on speaking to people face to face, understanding how they live their lives on their own terms and in their own spaces. Since the onset of Covid-19 both academic and industry researchers alike have been recalibrating how they conduct research in non-physical spaces by relying on remote tools and technology. Conducting research in a non-physical space has unexpected benefits as well as some challenges.
The Importance of "Being There"
The time corporate ethnographers have in the field is incredibly valuable; compared to academic ethnographers, we are able to spend far less time with people. Being in the same space is vital for us to understand how people use products and services for the companies we work for. For example, in a past role, I would have not understood the intricacies of how people experience pet store spaces in the US if I had not physically traveled there, spoken with dog owners, and followed them around the stores. Likewise,...
by SARA BELT, Spotify
(This article is also available in Chinese)
Instead of asking how we can further speed up research itself, the question becomes how we can better integrate research into the product development practice and speed up organizations’ ability to learn and iterate overall.
For many years, insights was seen as peripheral to product development because of the perception that user research had low validity. I spent the first part of my career advocating for why teams should systematically listen to the people using their products, why anyone should trust qualitative insight to guide their decisions, and why research is a field of practice that requires specialized skills.
Debates about validity have diminished as the research practice has gradually proven its ability to contribute value. Approaching product making from the perspective of data, evidence, and empathy is pretty much a given these days. In companies such as Spotify, the pendulum has swung the other way, where growth in demand for research has pushed...
by SARA BELT and PETER GILKS, Spotify
Sara Belt and Peter Gilks respectively lead the Creator and Free Revenue Product Insights teams at Spotify. In this article, Sara will explore the practice of User Research at Spotify, and Peter will lay out how Data Science and User Research work together to drive product decisions.
Part 1. User research at Spotify
Sara Belt, Head of Creator Product Insights
When I say I work in user research at Spotify, folks' minds tend to travel in two directions: they figure I research either the kinds of music people listen to or the music itself: melodies, harmonies, rhythms, and how they impact people. Because, you know, what else is there to research with the world’s biggest music player?
Over the past few years, Spotify has grown to be much more than that, and the research scope has grown with it. My team, for example, is focused on artists and the music industry ecosystem—how Spotify can help artists grow an audience, express their creativity, and thrive. We research fandom and how it...