We're interested in hard problems, particularly where it's not clear what the real underlying issue is.

We tackle these problems using a large, integrated set of methods that we have collected from a diverse range of fields. These enable us to see what is really going on, and to identify new solutions.

Example: The store detectives

G4S wanted to know why some of their store detectives were making more arrests than others. Simply asking the detectives wasn't the solution, since there was no way of knowing how realistic the answers would be.

Instead, Gordon trained two of the G4S staff in using think-aloud technique and laddering, so they could gather information from the store detectives. This combination of techniques swiftly showed the G4S staff that the detectives were all capable of making plenty of arrests, and that the problem wasn't ability. (It turned out to be whether or not the store managers would back up the detectives if they made an arrest.)


Some "usual suspect" problems that we deal with

What do they really want? A lot of our work involves cases where people are unable to say exactly what they think, or want, or know, even when they want to. This is a particular issue when designing new products and services.

It's the system structure. Many problems can be easily explained by classic systems theory and game theory; for instance, when you improve some parts of a system, but the system as a whole doesn't improve, or gets worse.

What are we missing? A lot of errors involve missing opportunities and possibilities. One common case is clients who want to improve their products or services radically, but don't know where to start. Another is clients who know they have a problem, but don't know what the root cause is. These are the types of problem that our Verifier approach was designed to handle.

Contact us about consultancy


Our backgrounds
All of us have multidisciplinary backgrounds, and experience both inside and outside the academic world. We're used to dealing with academics and with non-academics, and we're used to thinking about the practical and financial issues involved in a problem.
We're all familiar with a range of methods for gathering information from human beings, and for making sense of the information that we gather. Our work with the film industry draws on a particularly broad range of methods, that enable us to give new insights into the design and the evaluation of film, from initial script to final marketing and spin-offs.
The publications below give an idea of the range of methods and fields that we work with, and of how we find ways of translating concepts such as "novelty" into something that can be measured and handled rigorously.
Selected publications
Rugg, G. & D'Agnese, J. (2013). Blind Spot. HarperOne.
Rugg, G. & Holland, N. (2011). Quantifying Novelty in the Archaeological Record. Palaeoanthropology 2011.
Rugg, G. (2007). Why don’t customers tell you what they really want? British Retail Consortium Solutions Magazine, 2007.
Rugg, G. (2006). The Science of the Hunch. SecurityWorld Magazine, 2006.
Rugg, G. & McGeorge, P. (2005). The sorting techniques: a tutorial paper on card sorts, picture sorts and item sorts. Expert Systems 22(3).
Rugg, G., Eva, M., Mahmood, A., Rehman, N., Andrews, S. & Davies, S. (2002). Eliciting information about organisational culture via laddering. Information Systems Journal 12.
Rugg, G. & Hooper, S. (1999) Knowing the unknowable: the causes and nature of changing requirements. Proceedings of the EMRPS’99 workshop, Venice, 25-26 November, 1999.