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  • Keith Hopper

Making the Case for Continuous Learning using Learning Swimlanes

It can be difficult to introduce learning activities like Continuous Discovery into a project once it’s underway and racing towards a deadline. Stakeholders can feel overly confident the current project direction is correct, and any new information that is gathered might threaten the timeline or worse, their opinion as to what should be built.

To address this, you might consider introducing what I call Learning Swimlanes.

A Learning Swimlane is a process that runs in parallel to a project or product launch, focusing on gathering information and insights about users as they are first encountering the new solution. It uses planned observations and interventions to ensure that the team is able to learn from the new customer experience, developing meaningful insights that can help answer key questions and explain successes as well as issues and barriers as they emerge.

Ideally, Learning Swimlanes are set up and run alongside the work the core team is doing to execute and launch the new project and avoids distracting the core team from launch. This parallel approach facilitates buy-in on integrating a swimlane and helps ensure learning isn’t de-prioritized by firefighting post launch, when learning can be most important.

Learning Swimlanes can be particularly useful during the beta or pilot phase of a project, when there is significant uncertainty and the organization needs to maximize learning. Swimlanes can involve monitoring user behavior and support requests along with connecting directly with users to gather insights through activities like qualitative interviews, spot surveys and requests for feedback.

By quickly developing a holistic understanding of the new user experience, Learning Swimlanes can help identify issues early and provide a deeper understanding of what’s behind the issues - for example, why users are behaving the way they are and what project assumptions might be revealing themselves as incorrect.

By being on the ready with critical information that explains issues and addresses questions as they arise, Swimlanes can demonstrate the power of Continuous Learning vs. learning as an afterthought. This subsequently can be used to make an argument for integrating Continuous Learning and Discovery earlier in the next project’s lifecycle to avoid future issues before they arise.

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