That’s when I decided I needed a different perspective just to make sure we weren’t going circles. So I met the devil himself in the form of a Design Director from a different team. He wasn’t a part of our project and that meant personal biases could be done away with besides the fact that this guy had a reputation for being super-straightforward with his opinion.

So, five minutes into our keynote discussion, and he interrupted me saying, “Dude, what the f*** is wrong with you? Why would you call these students — heroes?”

I was quite enthralled to hear this comment. “Sorry. What? Why not? I have the data!” I responded.

To this he replied, “Screw your data! Most of these kids in my opinion are suckers! They didn’t study when they had the chance. These kids wasted all their years, made their parents lose all their savings, and now that they are without a career. All of a sudden, they’ve realised that they need a quick way to get a fu***** degree and that’s the only reason they’ve enrolled to this Distance Education program!”

Boom!!! There was absolute silence in the room. I was wondering if this was really happening. Our team had spent more than a month researching on this area and somebody just contradicted our entire Design Intent. And, I was in no mood of letting go.

“Dude, I don’t understand the reason as to why you are pissed off with these kids taking up distance learning programs” I fought back. “May be you are a bit too harsh by generalising them as losers? We did meet students who were sincere and really wanted to score good grades. What about them?” I said.

And to this he replied, “Listen Kasi, I do understand there are students who really see this as their source of hope, but for the vast majority, like it or not, they aren’t the genuine learner type.”

Now the conversation began heading somewhere. The guy did have a point!

“They aren’t the genuine learner type.”

He then continued, “Think about it! This is the most expensive institution in the country. These kids chose this college and did not bother applying to a government run college where the fee is low. That means, they aren’t poor and definitely aren’t the ones who can’t afford education. They need an easier way to get a University degree and want it without having to sit through class. So, may be you might want to re-assess the persona you are designing for.”

That was the final nail in the coffin. Not only was his perspective radical, but it sure did bring a whole new angle to our thought process. We realised we missed out on one of the most important aspects.

‘Are these students genuine learners or are they here to just pass their exams?’.. ‘Do they really study while traveling by bus to work or are they the ones that open their books a week before exams?’.. ‘Are most of these students well planned with their studies or are they procrastinators who waited till the end?’

What just happened here? How did a team that put out their hearts into a project, miss out of something as crucial as getting the persona right?And, how could someone who wasn’t even part of the project suggest the best design direction?

The answer to this is, we went too deep into the in the quest for the ideal solution. Our intent was sincere, but since this outsider lacked any awareness of the project, his thought process had a prespective that was totally different from that of ours. And, that in turn helped us get out of the trap before it was late. Was it the team’s fault? I don’t think so.

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