We all have to get from A to B. The options available for how you do this, however, are increasingly becoming more personalized, on-demand, and digital. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Martin Koo Rosenmejer, Head of UX and Product Design at SHARE NOW in Berlin.
A true design leader, Martin's passion lies in building and facilitating teams to create services that enable individuals and communities through design and technology. Prior to SHARE NOW, Martin has held roles as a user researcher, information architect and UX designer, building products for more than a decade at companies like Microsoft, Skype, T-Mobile, KPMG and Samsung Electronics in London and Copenhagen.
You've been a user experience and product designer for over ten years and have worked for companies including Microsoft, Skype and IBM. How were you first introduced to product design, and what do you think has contributed the most to your success?
My way into design was not so conventional. I have a degree in communications and business and during my studies, I learned about usability principles and building simple websites. Then, during my master’s in innovation management, I was introduced to design thinking. It was very refreshing to learn about design thinking as it provided a concrete process of conducting research on customers, ideation and prototyping etc. I started studying how some of the leading companies across the world were using design thinking and it got me really excited. I ended up writing my master thesis on this topic.
After graduation, I got a job in an agency specialised in UX design and research in London. I immediately loved doing user research, speaking to clients, trying to understand their business problems and connecting this with an understanding of their customers. Later on, I got to do more design work for our clients and I really enjoyed also being a part of shaping the products.
In terms of where I am today, despite that I don’t have formal education in design, my curiosity to continuously learn what’s happening in the field has helped me to adopt the discipline of design. And interestingly, I think my background in business has helped me connect the work we do as designers with the goals of colleagues in other roles and senior management.
We often hear that design doesn't have a seat at the company boardroom table. How do you ensure that your team's perspective and needs are represented in business decisions?
Depending on the design maturity level in the organisation, I think it starts with ensuring that the team is doing work with outcomes that are of strategic relevance. It might sound obvious, but it comes down to how one thinks about the value designers can bring to the organisation. I have found myself and I’ve seen others spread themselves and their teams too thinly compromising their process and therefore also not having the right level of impact.
Once the team has the impact, it’s about telling the story of how we approached defining and understanding the problem and generated outcomes in a language that C-levels understand and care about. Initially, explaining the design process may not be of great interest to C-levels, but it’s critical to advocate for what business problems design can help solving. I’ve found that the combination of speaking to the design process and the outcomes help with creating the right perception in the organization on design and over time this helps you get into more strategic conversations.
When putting together a design team, what are the main qualities you look for in candidates?
It really depends on the role, the product, and the maturity of the team.
One common thing among the people we hire is that they demonstrate a strong ability to first understand the problem space, rather than just working on solutions. This needs to be reflected in their portfolio and in how they present their work.
At SHARE NOW, for hiring and structuring the team, we use a competency model, which we have spent a lot of time creating and refining. This covers everything from craft specific competencies to communication, leadership, ability to influence, etc. Based on this model, we create a profile which shows what competencies the candidate needs to excel in. It can be anything from being a strong change agent, who’s experienced in advocating for design, selling the discipline, establishing strong interdisciplinary collaboration to someone who is very specialised in a particular part of their craft.
The profile isn’t for box-ticking but we’ll use it throughout the hiring process - from briefing the different interviewers, writing the advert to how we ask questions and assess the candidates, as it really helps us bring people in who complement each other and are right for the role. The competency model has been essential for creating the amazing team we have today.
Can you tell us a bit about your user research process? How do you make sure that you have a diverse, comprehensive user group represented?
In my experience, in-house design teams often have a challenge when it comes to conducting research as part of understanding a problem space. Far too often, designers or researchers aren’t involved early enough and perhaps don’t have the right kind of collaboration with the rest of the product team. It seems more established to have a process for validating designs in usability testing as it’s often easier to integrate into an agile development process.
At SHARE NOW, we’re doing a lot to facilitate a learning process by partnering with our product and engineering leads to always bring attention to what we don't know. For some teams, we use a question backlog that helps us keep track of what we need to learn. We continuously update and prioritise the questions, whether it's about user behaviour, competition, or best practices and we prioritise it together. In this way, we keep reminding ourselves of what we don’t know and have a conversation about our learning priorities. Thus, we don’t really have one research process, but take a structured approach to shared learning where we conduct studies that the team agrees is critical to move us forward.
When it comes to ensuring a comprehensive customer perspective, we are operating in many countries across Europe and each city has different conditions for mobility, so it can be a challenge to understand specific market conditions in detail for every research question we have.
We are in regular contact with customers across markets to understand these differences, but we always assess whether there are ways to study one market and validate the findings in other markets or validate findings with our partners in the different city locations.
We've seen design play an increasingly critical role in product design teams and even in the rethinking of company culture. How have you seen the role of design and design-thinking evolve?
At SHARE NOW, I would like to think that we, as a design team, have played a role in how we collaborate across disciplines and with that e.g. integrate more focus on learning and ideation into our process. I have already mentioned some learning practices previously but for ideation, it has been about facilitating design sprints or different ideation activities where colleagues from different areas of the business take part. For ideation specifically, we have put a lot of focus on ensuring that the creative process is not reserved to a few designers but is shared with everyone working on the product. These practices aren’t revolutionary, but it takes time in an organisation of our size to change such practices. Today, we see colleagues outside the product teams now come and request us to conduct such sessions for them because they see the value.
As we know, SHARE NOW was created from the merger of car2go and Drive Now. From a product perspective, how was this experience for you?
This was an exciting period of looking ahead and shaping what was coming. I remember the first meeting where we met our new colleagues from DriveNow. We were two companies that had competed for a long time, so there was a lot of curiosity around what the others have been doing and finally having the opportunity to ask them directly about their customers, product and business.
From a design team point of view, we weren’t so impacted by any structural changes. However, for the product, there are always challenges that come with the introduction of a new brand and the merger of two products and organisations. There are many things that need to be accounted for and there’s no real blueprint for how to do it. With all the complexity, our focus was very much on getting our priorities right and designing an experience that former DriveNow and car2go customers would love and I believe we accomplished this.
A new emphasis on unrestricted mobility has required that we think beyond cars to a more holistic vision of mobility as a service (MaaS). Do you have any predictions for the future of shared mobility and MaaS?
The pandemic has both added new economic uncertainty onto mobility providers while potentially also changing the way people move around in cities in the long term. This is added to an industry that is still immature with lots of experiments, and providers coming and going.
In general, many large cities face serious challenges with congestion and air pollution and have been experimenting with a wide range of different mobility modalities and ownership models. Neither one mobility offer will help solve all the problems for cities nor will one modality solve the mobility challenges that the people living in the cities are facing.
Therefore, I believe focus is critical to finding the place in people's complex travel habits where your product can serve them well in a sustainable way. What mobility jobs for the individual and the cities can you do better than any other services? Car sharing won’t work for all mobility jobs for people, but with the right focus, we are able to serve some mobility needs very well and that’s exciting.
We're always excited about meeting product leaders in our local communities and if you'd like to talk to us about ux design, the future of mobility, or your latest challenge you can contact our local team in Berlin or Munich and we'll happily invite you for a coffee.