Finding global common ground in telecoms

Do different people in different companies have the same conversations? Is the language people use influenced by context, culture, technology – or even all three? That’s what STBY have recently been trying to determine in a major project conducted for a multinational telecoms firm. Working with our Chinese and Spanish partners from the Reach Network, we designed a study that analysed how the cultures people live in can influence the type of language they use.

Working on such a broad topic was a challenge in itself – as indeed was conducting a simultaneous study in 3 separate timezones – but one of the benefits of the Reach Network is how quickly these projects can be up-and- running; both planning and preparations benefit greatly from the network company approach.

The first step in this case was to create a matrix of existing knowledge, developing a framework of relevant issues from a wide range of literature (in 3 different languages no less). This was then further focused on the topic at hand via a series of in-depth expert interviews. We spoke to a range of leading academics, journalists, and designers in order to build our own analytical framework that was capable of refining a hugely complex issue into a series of hypotheses. These initially helped shaped an interview script, before they were subsequently used as a ‘lens’ to provide differing perspectives on the research data gathered.

Once developed, we then applied this framework to a series of in-depth ethnographic immersions. Going out into the field in London, Barcelona, and Shanghai, we conducted a series of intensive interviews with a wide range of different people. This generated an incredibly rich amount of data, which our framework helped shape into a workable format; namely, a series of wall-sized ‘conversation maps’ that were used for a collaborative workshop in London. These maps allowed all the partners to work with the client on the data that had been gathered, displaying a series of conversations organised around the insights that emerged when the framework was applied.

This complex, multi-phase project proved how design research techniques can be applied to all kinds of issues, from concrete to abstract, helping in this instance to maintain a grip on the broad topic of communication. It also proved how the network-company approach adopted by Reach can allow such projects to maintain a global focus, incorporating cross-cultural differences (and universal similarities) into the earliest possible stages of a design process.