The Elephant in the Room: Moving Beyond the User to Solve for Systems

Remember the fable of the blind mice encountering an elephant? The mouse closest to the elephant’s ear thinks the elephant is a fan. The trunk is a snake to another mouse, and the tail is a vine to the third. Unable to grasp that these parts might make up something bigger, the mice are literally unable to see the elephant in the room. As designers focusing on the user, we are susceptible to becoming the mouse. When tackling complex and intractable design problems, the user is just a single player in a series of causal and correlating events. To get to the root of the issue and create responsible solutions, we must reach beyond user-centered design to approach systemic problems with systems thinking. Systems thinking recognizes the elephant for what it is.

In this session, discover how Sheryl used systems thinking to take on one of the most complex and critical design challenges of our time: social media. Recognizing social media not as a broken product but a broken system, you will:

• Understand the relationships that support social media’s status quo

• Analyze the drivers of the status quo to identify root cause

• Prioritize interventions to achieve desired outcomes

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