How Harry Potter Defeated Voldemort Using Design Thinking: A Guide for Potterhead UX Researchers
In the light of Harry Potter’s birthday, as a Potterhead and literary analyst, I explored how the book series can help us develop critical skills required for user experience research.
Provocation: Harry and his friends brainstormed the most unreal and radical ideas. They thought outside of the box to design potential solutions for defeating Voldemort. From fleeing from Gringotts, breaking in to ministry, using Polyjuice potion, saving Sirius Black’s life with time turner, casting Expelliarmus in front of the most powerful and evil wizard of all time, to Harry being descended from the third brother of the legendary three brothers.
When Harry was killed by Voldemort and met Dumbledore in Kings Cross station in the seventh book, he asked about whether what he is seeing is real or not. Dumbledore tells him: “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Empathy: Harry’s main reason for success was his insatiable sense of empathy and love toward his friends and family. In the seventh book, Lupin wants to abandon Tonks and their child to join Harry and his friends. Harry does not let him do so, because Harry -who is an orphan-knows how difficult it would be for Lupin’s child to grow up without his father. He empathizes with the child and opposes Lupin’s decision. In the first book, Hermione says: “Harry — you’re a great wizard, you know.” “I’m not as good as you,” said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him. “Me!” said Hermione. “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things — friendship and bravery.” The main reason why Harry survived was his capability of love or understanding people’s emotional and physical needs. It was something Voldemort lacked.
Inclusion and Diversity: Harry and his friends did not denigrate people because of their race, shape, etc. They treated different blood statuses of wizards, werewolves (Including Lupin), half-giants (Including Hagrid and Madam Maxim), and house-elves (including Dobby, Kreacher) with the same respect and equality as the wizards. Everyone helps Harry conquer Voldemort. Voldemort, on the other hand, narrow-mindedly relies on a specific group as his allies and considers others inferior. Voldemort and death eaters use offensive words like “mud-bloods” to call muggle-born and wizards.
Including all creatures in their team also made the recruitment process for the Order of Phoenix easier. For instance, they sent Hagrid and Madam Maxim — both half-giants — to recruit giants and half-giants. Moreover, having a diverse team helped the Order of Phoenix broaden their perspectives and be aware of their biases. For instance, Hermione warns Ron and Harry about gender stereotypes when Ron expects Hermione to do the domestic chores while they were looking for Horcruxes in the seventh book. She tells Ron: “Harry caught the fish and I did my best with it! I notice I’m always the one who ends up sorting out the food; because I’m a girl, I suppose!”. Having Lupin (A werewolf) in the team helped Harry and his allies learn that they should not judge an entire group based on stereotypes.
With Muggle-borns in The Order of Phoenix, the group learned how to communicate with muggles more effectively, and consequently, Muggles could trust them. They did not even recognize that Kingsley Shacklebolt — a wizard member of The Order of The Phoenix who was assigned to guard the Muggle prime minister, acting as his secretary — was not a muggle.
Members of The Order of the Phoenix had different characteristics and skills. Some were very brave, some curious, and some easy-going, etc. For instance, Snape was misjudged by many characters but was trustworthy in the eyes of Dumbledore. In the sixth book, we learn that although he had some bad characteristics, he was one of the bravest members of the team. In the fifth book, Sirius tells Harry: “ The World isn’t split into good people and death eaters.” People are more complex, and they all might have good sides and bad sides.
Critical thinking: Hermione gives a great example of the kind of critical thinking needed for a design research. She always reminds Ron and Harry about the broader context of the problems by bringing facts from the books like Hogwarts: A History. Hermione asks people to bring support for what they say. For instance, in the seventh book, Xenophilius Lovegood strongly believes that the fairy tale about Three Brothers and the Deathly Hallows in Beedle the Bard is real, and ignores Hermione’s skepticism saying she is very close minded. Hermione says “Do you expect me to get hold of — of all the pebbles in the world and test them? I mean, you could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!”
Flexibility: The Order of the Phoenix’s plan was not static. They had a holistic view of fighting Voldemort and used different methods. For instance, Harry’s strategy toward Voldemort was mostly relying on the trio’s (Ron, Hermione, and Harry) skills and Dumbledore’s knowledge. However, with the return of Voldemort, they learned how to collaborate with others. They initiated Dumbledore’s Army where Harry taught some of his schoolmates, Defense Against the Dark Arts. Later, they were all assigned duties for The Order of the Phoenix. They helped Harry to break into the ministry, break into Hogwarts, find Horcruxes, combat with Death Eaters, and finally, defeat Voldemort.
They used flexible modes of communication such as fake Galleons to hold their classes when Umbridge banned any activities in the school. Or they sent messages with Patronus, a more reliable mode of communication than owls, when the ministry was under the control of Voldemort.
Collaboration: Harry and his friends empowered each other. As Hermione says, Harry needs them to find the Horcruxes and kill Voldemort. For instance, with the encouragement of the other team members in Dumbledore’s Army, and his own perseverance, Neville Longbottom, who used to be mostly a shy and clumsy student, became courageous and powerful ,and played a great role in the battle of Hogwarts. At the end, he killed Nagini, one of the last Horcruxes.
In their team, everyone was valued because of their unique skill set. For instance, although Ron was not as skilled as Harry and Hermione, his kindness, and bravery was very crucial in the difficult times. Moreover, his skills in playing chess helped Harry to save the sorcerer’s stone in the first book.
The Harry Potter series has influenced our lives in many ways since we were children. Reading it through the lens of a UX researcher reveals many skills that the book offers us to improve our design research.