No one cares what you think (and why that’s a good thing)

Aadarsh Gautam explains the struggles our digital team have faced this year, and how the philosophy of  ‘no one cares what you think’ has helped us tackle them. 

The aim of RedSTART is to provide financial education to 1 million children by 2025.

A year ago, I was asked to lead the digital effort of RedSTART, to scale up our curriculum of face-to-face days to reach this objective.

The team would have the backing of an engaged Trustee Board, a bunch of very smart people who’d worked on multibillion pound pension fund decision making and a clear end-goal. How hard could it be?

This blog would be pretty pointless if I was right.

The first few months was like this February’s snow – no one was prepared, there were lots of complaints and ultimately we kept falling over when trying to get to work.

Our content got polite, but ultimately lukewarm, feedback from teachers. Despite how much we believed in what RedSTART was doing, our message wasn’t sticking.

This blog would be even more pointless if it didn’t say what we’ve changed to make it better.

Rather than thinking, ‘We’re smart people with experience’, we shifted to the much more useful mindset of  ‘no one cares what you think.’

We had a way of thinking about the world and weren’t stepping out of it. By instead having the mindset of ‘no one cares what you think’ – there was a lot more self-reflection on why things worked or didn’t work. A product is only useful if it helps with things the consumer cares about, not what the producer cares about! Here are some examples in RedSTART’s case:

  1. We thought people loved our content – what if they just loved our offices?

Our face-to-face days typically involve school kids making the journey into the city to be taught in a shiny, floor to ceiling windowed skyscraper. We found kids were attentive and engaged in these sessions.

But when we started trying to get this material into schools, we didn’t get the same glowing feedback. We were focussing on what we thought was good about our RedSTART days, and not what the kids/teachers thought was good – i.e. the fact that it was a day trip for them to a fancy office.

  1. Our marketing / branding is great! Why does no one like it?

When we started working with designers on our new website and marketing material we’d been going through a Redington (our parent company) branding exercise so we felt like we knew what to look out for. Sleek and functional, make sure people can get to what they need when they need it.

Unfortunately, we wanted function when we should’ve wanted playful.

The users of our product weren’t going to be adults. They were kids, and people working with kids. So again, no one cared what we thought.

How did this shift in mindset help us in practice?

The past year or so has been hugely successful for the digital team. We’ve launched a new website which has gained hundreds of sign ups, we’ve received great feedback from teachers and we’ve partnered with Twinkl, one of the largest educational resources in the UK, which means our material will be sent out to 3.5 million teachers and parents!

I attribute a great deal of this success to the team’s change in mindset.

For example, we took the time to understand what teachers liked about the days – it was clear that while they liked the material, ultimately they would struggle to teach it in a classroom given all the other material they had to get through. This led us to think about how we could redesign our material to be more ‘classroom friendly.’ Rather than thinking ‘how do we get our material across’, we thought, ‘how do we make this easy for teachers to teach?’ Reframing our direction like this meant we designed products that were much easier to use.

When it came to the website, we stopped looking at websites we liked or found appealing for reference material. Instead we looked for websites where the aim was policy making for children. This research led us to a website called ‘Shoo the Flu’; a not for profit campaign in Oakland California. Their aim was to increase the take up of flu vaccinations in the area. The animation style was incredibly useful guidance for us. They used very colourful, playful animation that was clearly designed for kids and wrote succinct, informative text for adults. By stepping out of our own mindset (remembering that no one cares what we think) we managed to design something far more useful for our audience.

Some final thoughts

Maybe you’re thinking this is obvious or that we were stupid not to realise this in the first place. But I think the philosophy of ‘no one cares what you think’ is one not enough people adopt.

It forces you into the shoes of whoever it is you’re trying to help. It bridges the gap where solutions are being designed by people with one mindset – yet the audience with the problem have a very different mindset.

Think how many poorly designed online forms you’ve had to deal with in your life. They are clunky and dis-incentivise you from signing-up to a product. Companies who make those kinds of online forms care about the information that they need from their customers, but I don’t think they’re focussing enough on the fact that no one cares what they think.

RedSTART can only be effective if people know what we do and how we can help them. With these lessons learned, we’re a lot closer to helping those 1 million kids.

Aadarsh is Head of Digital at RedSTART.