Observation is a method to study the behaviour of people and the situations they encounter. Ideally, you should be as inconspicuous as possible and just observe people without actively taking part in the happenings.


You can use this method to witness a variety of people in a situation, thereby gaining a better understanding and identifying patterns in the situation. You will often find lots of inspiration for innovations in the contradictions between what people say and what they actually do. The observation is a helpful way of detecting unconscious behaviour – we are watching people as attentive observers.


No specific team roles necessary. Each team member has the same tasks and responsibilities.


  • Pen and Notepad

  • Camera


1. Preparation

Using the stakeholder map you created in the initial phases, decide among your team who you hope to gain inspiration from. This group of people should be subject of your observation.

2. Observation

2.1 Stalker: Assume the role of a “stalker” for a while – track and observe the selected person as if you were a private detective. You should not get actively involved in the happenings.


2.2 Study: Study how these people find their bearings, what tools they use, what decisions they make, when, why and how, note when and why they become unsure of themselves, etc.

2.3 Documentation: It’s important to precisely document what you see. Take notes and photos, if possible! You could also make sketches to visualize the actions you see.

Additional Tips:

  • Distinguish interpretation from observation

  • Don’t let your expectations affect your observations

  • Look for anything that surprises you, that you may find irrational, that may question your assumptions, that prompts shifts in (routine) behaviors

  • Take field notes, photos, videos, recordings

  • Try to picture the scene from different standpoints and perspectives

  • Capture everything you experience, see, hear, feel, and taste

3. Follow Up

3.1 Reflect: Reflect on all of your notes. Try to search for characteristics and real abnormalities in the behaviour of different people. What works for them? What doesn’t?


3.2 Question your observations: Try to really understand the root causes of every characteristic you have observed. Why did people behave as they did?



© 2018 University of St. Gallen / ITMP