In the movie Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner hears a voice that tells him, “If you build it, they will come.”

Over and over, he hears this voice from out of nowhere until he eventually decides to plow down a good portion of his cornfield, throwing out much of the year’s harvest, and risking everything to build a little baseball field on his land.

Who are “They” and why will they come? No one knows.

But come they do, in long lines of cars stretching as far as the eye can see, night and day. So, it all worked out.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that too many companies are using this as a business strategy.

They build something they feel is the right thing and are shocked to find out nobody is coming.

A report from CB insights last year on The Top 20 Reasons Startups Fail cited “No Market Need” as the #1 reason for failure. “Poor product” was #6 and “Ignore Customers” was #9.  How ignoring customers ended up lower on the list is a little bit of a mystery given that this is  almost always what leads to developing products that the market doesn’t need. But you get the point.

If you’re reading this and feeling safe because you don’t work in a startup, not so fast. The corporate world is also rife with failed products, services and programs. It’s just harder to document.  The real question is: Do you want yours to be the next?

Of course not.

What can you do to avoid building it and having no one come?

And what single step can you take right now to CYA in 2016?

Start by checking your assumptions.

That’s where Journey Mapping comes in.

This powerful UX tool/methodology allows us to validate assumptions and find out where they are wrong. It also provides rich insights that you would most likely miss if you were to just charge ahead based on what you think people want and need.

The bottom line is that journey mapping offers one of the best ways to gather intel on your customers.

What exactly is Journey Mapping?

Remember the old saying, “If you want to understand a person, you need to walk a mile in their shoes”?  That’s journey mapping in a nutshell.

Journey mapping is a group exercise that seeks to understand what it’s like to walk in your customers’ shoes throughout their journey to complete a goal they might have.

The goal might be to find the best deal on a car online, or to choose a banking product or sign up for health insurance. One of the most well-known examples of journey mapping was actually a map of what it was like to be a customer traveling through Europe by train, documenting the customer experience — highs, lows, frustrations and likes —  for Rail Europe. Although journey mapping has been around for the better part of a decade, its use for healthcare organizations is relatively new. But the advantages in getting something to market that is not only timely, but also on target with what the market wants are undeniable.

When we do a journey mapping  workshop, we create a large visual representation of the journey a person makes from the beginning until they accomplish their goal.  This map hangs on the wall and guides your team/organization as you move forward. Often, teams will refer back to the map to make sure they are not overlooking an important point or operating on an old assumption.

From this map, you and your team gain a deeper understanding of how your customers see things. You can align people from various internal groups who have been thinking about the product or service in very different ways, get everyone to share the same mental model and speak the same language about the customer experience on this journey.

Part-II of this article can be found, here.

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Rebecca Lord is an accomplished UX professional with over a dozen years of experience in the field, specializes in creating simple, elegant, and human-centered digital experiences. As Vice President of User Experience at Medullan, Rebecca works with some of the biggest names in healthcare, such as Illumina, helping them to crack the code on designing digital health solutions that drive adoption and impact. Prior to joining Medullan as a UX manager in 2013, Lord spent seven years at Oracle Endeca as a UX designer in consulting, engineering and marketing. She also spent five years at Forrester research as a web designer. Lord received a BA from Connecticut College in anthropology, studio art and art history.

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