Human-Centered Design: an Introduction
As the world becomes more interconnected and disconnected at the same time, our challenges have become more complex. We are faced with insurmountable challenges with no real promising solutions in sight.
As a society or an organization, we cannot continue to innovate in this new world using old ways of thinking. If we are going to solve these challenges and achieve positive and sustainable change in the future, we have to find a new way of working together.
Human-centered design (“HCD”) requires us to re-think what is possible and how to connect and interact in a new way. The core of the process is about our own humanness and building greater human capacity. It is about increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Here’s why: The process encourages us to question ourselves before questioning others, to listen before being heard, to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and at the same time, to see failure as a success.
Here are a few of the core characteristics that make HCD unique:
HCD starts with empathy and observation that goes deep instead of wide. Instead of surveying 5,000 people like older outdated design models, HCD observes and gets a deep understanding of 50. Why? Most individuals struggle to verbalize their needs and desires to those close to them. The process of HCD allows us to discover these unarticulated needs associated with the challenge that have the potential of becoming game-changers.
As the process moves from the empathy phase to the curation phase (ideation), it shifts from going deep to going wide. In the past, 5 designers would huddle in a closed conference room trying to solve the problem. HCD uses as many as 500 colleagues, clients and even strangers off the street to help design. This diverse and inclusive group of stakeholders provide a richer perspective of opportunity. It allows us to discover a more dynamic and unique treasure of clustered insights, patterns and beliefs. Both the opportunities and the wide selection of input from stakeholders become the tipping points for decreasing sabotage and increasing stakeholder engagement, buy-in, and early support of the project.
It tells us we don’t have to wait for permission from someone else to change things - just pick a place in your own sphere of control and get started. Listen. Immerse yourselves in the life of someone you want to create value for. Then try a small experiment. In general, HCD is a powerful human engine that democratizes innovation.
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By C. Pate Moore, Senior Human-Centered Design Strategist