IDEO approached their work for Sloan-Kettering the same way they approach other design challenges; they put themselves and the clinic’s staff in the shoes of patients. In essence, they asked patients what their concerns were.
And, to Sloan Kettering’s surprise, the research revealed that patients did not mind the waiting time for treatment, which averaged 80 minutes at the busiest clinic; “patient” indeed. Rather, patients were troubled by another step in the process – waiting for the results of a test that determines if they are strong enough to receive treatment on a given day. The uncertainty of not knowing if they’d be able to get their treatment out-weighed the wait. In fact, many patients preferred making two trips to the clinic – once to determine if they were up to the treatment – and a second to receive treatment. There were other improvements Sloan-Kettering made to their patients’ care and management as a result of this work, but you get the idea.
Now, back to Law Land. Obviously, the main point here is the value of asking. Even so, as powerful as asking is – it’s not enough unless you and your firm respond to what your client tells you. In the many, many interviews we’ve conducted, clients have demonstrated that they are more than willing, nay often eager to let you know what they need and value. Also, you are likely to hear ways to increase your work with that client – as long as you are listening and acting on what you hear. Another point is – if you just can’t ask the questions yourself – you can hire someone to do the asking for you. The important thing is to ask.