Here is a selection of my top user research books, which I want to share with you because they have each helped me at different stages of my career. Whether you’re new to the industry, an experienced pro, or simply interested in upping your business-communication game, these are all fantastic resources.
Thinking, Fast and Slow
By Daniel Kahneman
This award-winning bestseller by the Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist is an excellent read for anyone interested in learning more about how the mind works. For researchers in particular, it provides enlightening insights that can enhance the way we conduct and analyze user interviews. For example, Kahneman discusses how people often answer a different question than the one actually being asked. Without intention, they simplify the question to make answering it less challenging. Researchers need to be aware of this “substitution” when crafting questions and analyzing the answers they receive. Kahneman’s book, published in 2011, is already a classic and can help even the most seasoned researchers improve their craft.
Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
By Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell, a bestselling author and host of the popular podcast, Revisionist History, has melded the two media formats and created a new, immersive experience in his latest release. To get the full effect of Talking to Strangers, we highly recommend listening to the audiobook version. Rather than simply reading about his interviews with respected experts, you’ll hear their actual voices, an experience that brings the book to life in a unique way. As qualitative researchers, much of our work involves talking to strangers, and so Gladwell’s examination of how easily we make quick—and often erroneous—judgments about people has powerful implications.
Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business
By Kindra Hall
Storytelling in business, whether it’s for an internal or external audience, is essential for influencing both customers and company leadership. This is especially true for researchers, who often struggle to get buy-in for ongoing projects. However, by learning to convey your research findings with excellent storytelling, you can show leadership the importance of user research and make the case for future investment. Hall, a world-renowned communication consultant, clearly lays out the steps and methods for creating “stories that stick.”
By Adam Grant
At Tetra, we believe in always innovating and iterating the way we conduct research and empowering others to do the same. Yet, we know how easy it can be to carefully develop your own set of “best practices” and move along to other matters. Originals, an exceptional book by the Wharton School of Business’s top-rated professor Adam Grant, encourages never settling for the status quo and discusses how to build a culture that values new—and even disruptive—ideas. This book is a can’t-miss for anyone in business from one of the best minds in organizational psychology today.
Story Smart: Using the Science of Story to Persuade, Influence, Inspire, and Teach
By Kendall Haven
Have you ever presented interesting research, only to find it was ignored by stakeholders? The reason might be that you chose an ineffective format in which to share your findings. Once I discovered the work of Kendall Haven, I realized how important the concept of story format is in getting people to pay attention to (and act on) research. In this book, Haven explores the psychology behind the storytelling elements that attract and maintain attention. We have learned that video, in particular, is key to creating compelling research reports. If you’re interested in learning more, watch a recording of our webinar, The Science of Influential Research.
Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences
By Nancy Duarte
The purpose of qualitative user research is to synthesize findings and present them in a way that spurs action. This book’s premise is that to be effective, presentations must make the audience the hero, not the presenter. It provides researchers with methods to create thought-provoking, attention-grabbing research stories that create genuine reactions to your hard work. This book is infinitely helpful in teaching you how to visually present your work in a persuasive and articulate way.
Let us know what books have helped you in your research career, and sign up for our newsletter, The Insightful, for more tools and resources.
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