People Nerds

Conversations with people who share our passion 
for understanding what makes people tick

Riders, meet Drivers. Drivers, meet Riders.

Uber’s Molly Stevens walks us through the company’s recent project designed to foster moments of connection between drivers and riders—including the surprising things they don’t want to know about each other. 

Connecting the Cultural Dots

Researcher Jonathan Bean is an architect, sustainability consultant, ethnographer, marketing guru, and expert on consumer taste—and he brought all of those skills together to study the cultural and social movement unfolding at a Harlem restaurant. Bean takes us through his interdisciplinary approach to studying the current moment, and the importance of the environment around us.

Finding the "connective tissue" in human experience

Indigo Books’ Markus Grupp knows that when it comes to deeply human needs—how we’re inspired and how we communicate—algorithms don’t hold a candle to person to person connection.

ConTEXTual Feeling

Maci Peterson, founder of On Second Thought, wants to give us a chance to correct ourselves, and improve the way we communicate in the process. 

Curating Context

Credit Karma’s Yasmine Khan shows us how exhibit design can help stakeholders and product teams grasp research insights in a whole new way.

Leading research: where it is and where it's going

We’re conducting a study on Research Leaders to better understand what it’s like to grow and manage a user research practice today. 

Gorillas in our midst: Observation over conversation

People Nerd John Dominski has spent countless hours studying gorillas. We chat about how the experience taught him to be a better observer, and how his learnings can be applied to human research.

User research trends we're watching in 2018

2017 was all about breaking down silos and walking in someone else’s shoes. So, what can it tell us about what to expect in the coming year? Here, four trends we’ll be watching unfold in user research in 2018.

Advocating with impact

For the second discussion in our series about “Research Roadblocks,” dscout sat down with a group of People Nerds to ask: What can researchers do to ensure our insights actually have influence?

Field Report: Researching disasters in real time

David O’Donnell and his team at Salesforce Ignite were only a week into product development on a new disaster relief tool when Hurricane Harvey hit. Here’s how they captured first hand accounts of people’s disaster experiences, and the invaluable insights uncovered.

Field Report: The Princess Problem

Researcher Karen Eisenhauer conducted a linguistic study of the twelve films in the “Disney Princess canon” to see just what these films are really saying about gender roles.

Power of questions, power of silence

Leadership consultant Lisa Stefanac, group behavior expert, breaks down the importance of good questions, the value of silence, and everything you can learn about yourself from how you play with others.

Games with Researchers

With the 2017 Corporate Researchers Conference happening right in our neck of the woods, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to gather as many people-curious researchers as possible in one room for a night of drinks, games, conversation, and of course, People Nerd portraits!

Can We All Just Get Happy?

Ran Zilca, Chief Data-Science Officer at Happify, talks about what makes us happy—both what the data tells us, and what he found on his own personal 6,000 mile journey across the country.

The Art of Really Listening

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alexandra Nikolchev is a People Nerd whose work centers on social justice issues and immigration. Those kinds of narratives, she says, require filmmakers to leave their preconceptions at the door in order to really listen.

Fighting for Research Integrity

Recently, we convened a group of People Nerds to explore the concept of research success, the roadblocks that prevent us from getting there, and what’s really at stake when challenges arise.

Community/camaraderie for a slash generation

Allie Mahler and Scott Weiss have spent most of 2017 talking to teenagers, and they’re feeling optimistic about the future. We sat down to learn what the newest generation really wants. 

Reading the Room

Tips to better understand group dynamics, pick-up on non-verbal cues, and keep people engaged in your next big meeting.

Becoming a better researcher and a better human

Aryel Cianflone started researching researchers to get better at her job. But quickly, she learned that everyone’s approach and process is so different that it is worth sharing.

Why we like what we like

Anne Helen Petersen really knows popularity. At Buzzfeed she dissects the role of celebrities in our daily lives and what it really means to have someone as your spirit animal.

All in the family

Is curiosity a learned trait? Julie and Stefanie Norvaisas discuss working together, learning from each other, and the differences between researching for the digital and physical realms.

Field Report: The power of fandom

Susan Kresnicka’s recent 13 month study of fandom revealed that nearly everyone is a fan of something and what that means to brands who want to empower their loyalists.

Product managers are people (nerds) too

dscout’s head of product, Jonathan Fairman, talks to fellow product management nerd + people nerd, Suzanne Abate, on the 100PM podcast about why great product managers are the leaders of user empathy.

The hats of the researcher

A researcher’s job doesn’t end when the data has been collected. We asked people nerds about the other hats they wear most often and why they do it.

The power of story

Lance Weiler talks about the power of collective narrative, the medium as an innovation driver, why stories are more powerful than data, and how the human experience is at the core of it all.

Technologist, humanist, venture capitalist

Josh Elman knows what people want. A visionary product manager who helped grow some of the most prominent startups in Silicon Valley into the juggernauts they are today, Elman seems to have a sixth sense for zeroing in on what’s next.

The objects that define us

How many things have you touched today? Your phone, most likely. Your favorite coffee mug? A toothbrush? The clothes on your back? What else? If your answer is “nothing,” Paula Zuccotti suggests you think harder.

What's your motto?

We asked the professionally curious researchers, strategists, designers and storytellers for their number one research rule and why. Here’s what drives the people nerd tribe.

The business of memory

Dr. Brian Levine is a neuropsychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and at the University of Toronto, who’s specialized in memory for over 20 years.

Mapping the unmapped

Hsu, sees a very clear through path in their diverse work: “Anywhere I’ve gone I’ve always tried to figure out a research question that could better serve the community that I think is underserved.”

Heidegger, Ford and the art of sensemaking

Madsbjerg argues that in order to really understand what’s going on around us, we have to place the same value on the humanities as we do on data and science. 

Amplifying the individual voice

We chat with Kat Lee to learn how Square, the tech unicorn, breaks out of their bubble, the importance of individual voices, and what it takes to make a true “People Nerd.”

From Kickstarter to LostArts, Charles Adler’s mission is creative fulfillment

Adler’s most famous as a founder of Kickstarter; he enabled regular people to help other regular people to realize their entrepreneurial dreams. And then he scaled the process.

More than checking the empathy box

For Martha Cotton, the promise of design-thinking is in continually solving problems driven by ongoing development of empathy. We discuss building deep human understanding into design at Fjord and how she teaches it at Northwestern. 

Starting a research mini-movement at InVision

InVision’s Prinicipal Researcher and design anthropoligist, Charles Pearson, chatted with dscout recently about how he’s weaving qualitative, discovery-oriented research into InVision’s “ship, ship, ship” agile environment. 

The how and why of building UX teams from scratch

Natalie Hanson has had anthropology on the brain since at least the third grade. She’s followed her curiosities in the decades since, from her Ph.D. in anthropology to building out the UX teams for both SAP and ZS Associates.

On UX research at start-ups and asking "why"

Rick Bond has conducted, scaled and evangelized research at startups across the bay area. We discuss how he builds the story for research within organizations and what it takes to be an effective design research leader.

An interview with Google Living Room researcher Supriya Gokarn

Google is a data driven company, but big data doesn’t always explain ‘why’. Supriya Gokarn chats about how she brings empathy to Google Home in our first live People Nerds event.

Breaking bubbles in 2017

After the US election in 2016, it became clear that we are living in our own bubbles. So, we asked our people nerds how they plan on breaking their metaphorical bubbles.

A lifelong obsession with patterns and people

Kelly Goto is obsessed with patterns and people. It drives her evangelism for great design and impactful research, which led her to launch gotomedia and gotoresearch.

People Nerds inspirations for 2017

Storytelling is such a big part of the life of people nerds—both finding and sharing the stories of others. We wondered then, what stories and storytellers do they recommend we add to our reading lists this year?

Netflix global head of insights, Adrien Lanusse

Lanusse sat with dscout to share his passion for curiosity and empathy, his own multicultural background, and his understanding of the threads that connect viewers and consumers around the world.

CX leadership: A congruence of heart and habit

Jeanne Bliss, a Chief Customer Officer, is an advocate for caring about the people who care about people. We chat what makes CX team and why CX needs UX. 

Changing the world with user research

With a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, Aruna Balakrishnan has devoted her career to understanding what makes people tick, and how that ticking works with technology.

Shopalong or remote research?

Myles spent 20 years at P&G studying the intent of in-store shoppers and became an expert in knowing what it’s like in the aisle. Now at ChaseDesign he uses new tech to replace dated techniques.

Google UX researcher Sara Cambridge

Sarah Cambridge is Google’s unofficial diary study expert for good reasons. Over her career, she’s taking research to lead design teams and brought design thinking to research organizations. 

Cultural anthropology for entertainment

Anthropology has its place in business. In fact, Susan Kresnicka would tell you every company needs a few anthropologists. She explains how studying culture and ideas creates better products. 

Transforming user insights into business value

Combining a love for science and a need to understand people, Katy Mogal has designed her research teams to provide guidance in every product decision. User Experience means much more than just product validation. 

A storytelling pioneer in design research

Christopher Ireland, a design and research leader, talks about how storytelling is half of a great research project and what it takes to get to the core of a design solution.

Experience design and the creative revolution

Dan Makoski has seen true innovation happen and he knows the great ideas rarely come from the design leads in the room. The most-loved ideas come from the most ordinary people.

Superhero capes in the researcher's wardrobe

Journalists and qualitative researchers — the best ones anyway — are usually people nerds: humans obsessed with understanding their fellow humans. But not all of them are extroverts.


Nominate a people nerd

Know someone you’d love to read about in a People Nerd profile? Tell us why