OCLC: Design Research and Workshops

Icon of a mountainThe challenge

How might a global cooperative gather institutional insights while training product managers? 

Icon of a case studyAbout the Project

OCLC provides technology services, research, and programs for the library community. The company wanted to better understand the needs of their Tipasa clients. (Tipasa is a cloud-based inter-library loan system, enabling institutions to easily manage the loaning and borrowing of their inventories.)

Photo of Edward Stull leading a design thinking session with a large group of participating library representatives Edward Stull, OCLC, and library representatives

Edward Stull Consulting proposed a comprehensive research program to assist OCLC’s efforts, including a 5-hour and a 2-hour version of a workshop. Each version of the workshop contained several exercises, designed to produce actionable and scalable research data. The exercises leveraged design thinking and game storming techniques, such as empathy maps, north stars, and journey mapping.

radar chart emphasizing research and strategy

Scripted workshops




Major findings


Research reports

Design Thinking Exercises

Empathy maps uncovered the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of workshop participants. North star exercises revealed the interconnected relationships among users, systems, and workflows. Journey maps articulated step-by-step processes employed within participant client organizations.

Two participants having a good time as they work together on an empathy map. Two of the participants Empathy mapping exercise Empathy mapping exercise ( View image )

Scripted Workshops

A detailed, written script drove the workshops. It covered the facilitator’s oration, presentation cues, and participant exercises. Designed to be precise but flexible, the script noted everything from a shopping list of supplies to a full matrix of research exercises, prompts, and goals.

Screenshot of the script document. Workshop script ( View image ) Detail view of stickman showing facilitator relation to whiteboard Diagram from workshop script ( View image ) Five Whys exercise Five Whys exercise ( View image )

Quant and Qual Findings

The workshops solicited both practical and emotional responses from participants. The responses generated qualitative and quantitative research data, which could be tracked over time via longitudinal studies. Upon completion of the pilot workshop, Edward Stull Consulting created several internal-facing research reports for OCLC.

A tightly cropped photo of participants working on a journey map. Participants creating a journey map Persona card Persona card

“Each one of our libraries is distinct. Therefore, what we’re doing to serve them is distinct.”

A group photo of 24 participants. Workshop participants

The reports detailed topics covered during the workshop, such as participants’ desired workflows for Tipasa. The resulting insights enabled OCLC to examine users’ underlying motivations, evaluate institutions’ customizations, and assess customers’ willingness to adopt their products. By doing so, OCLC improved their product offering and enhanced their relationships with users.

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