Leading a Culture of Innovation from Any Seat
3 Ways to Leverage Human-Centered Design at Your Organization
By Patricia Salamone, DIrector, Client Consulting, Gongos, Inc., part of InSites Consulting
In a world where business challenges are increasingly complex, identifying your objective and framing your problem correctly is an integral way to demonstrate leadership and ensure teams don’t inadvertently solve the wrong problem. This is where a Human-Centered Design (HCD) mindset comes in—providing a groundbreaking way to define and ensure teams are focused on the right objective.
First, consider the challenge and objectives.
Not all business challenges need to be completely reimagined. Before jumping back to the drawing board, ask yourself, is there an obvious answer? Is there a clear approach to finding a solution? Can the team define what isn’t right? If you can’t say yes to these questions, then your business can benefit from the application of HCD principles. While teams understand they need to align and reframe challenges, having the proper tools in place is where many teams can fall short.
Move past traditional methods and be inspired to see challenges by taking a step back to reframe the problem:
- Align the team. Often, internal teams will have differing viewpoints on a business problem. Rather than seeing this as a barrier, cross-functional alignment can open the door for creativity and new ideas.
- Keep the focus on the issue. It’s often tempting to jump from “we have a problem” to, “here’s what we should do.” Instead, keep digging deeper. For every apparent problem definition, ask, “why does that matter?” multiple times, enabling yourself to get to the root cause and ensure you’re focusing on the “problem” rather than a “symptom of the problem.”
- Use different words to reframe. Next time your team states a problem, challenge everyone to restate it using different words. Each iteration can reveal new facets of the problem, bringing clarity to the challenge at hand.
- Zoom out. Rather than using a microscope to see details that aren’t immediately visible, approach the problem from a broader, more abstract perspective. Look at the customer’s “job to be done,” rather than what they may say their challenge is. This enables a more holistic and pragmatic view.
By making problem-reframing a habit, you are opening your organization up to greater flexibility and new pathways for innovation. This method also has the added benefit of clarifying gaps in knowledge and revealing where additional customer insight is needed.
Make empathy a daily habit.
A core principle of HCD is that empathy must permeate every aspect of traditional research initiatives. Simply seeking customer feedback to develop strategies often leads to insular thinking. While a research project-driven mindset is very much the norm, empathy in an HCD context is much more than that, it must permeate every aspect of the work.
Similar to reframing challenges, it is imperative to listen and learn from customer stories and perspectives. Here are some ways to establish daily habits and build stronger relationships with your customers.
- Advocate for the customer’s voice in team meetings. Always begin by asking questions like, “how would our customers feel about this?”
- Socialize existing wisdom within an HCD team on a weekly basis. This could look like emails containing important insights or bringing in a small group of clients together for “speed dating” with stakeholders to gain a human understanding of your customers’ experiences, wishes, and pain points.
- Obtain real-time feedback. Online research communities can enable on-demand responses to explore fuzzy, front-end ideas, rapidly iterate on new product concepts, or gather deep insights into how your customers use a product post-launch.
Apply an agile mindset.
One of the hallmarks of HCD is agility. But being agile isn’t just about being “fast,” it’s about delivering value as efficiently as possible. In practice, an agile mindset means thinking differently about how your work gets done and the ways in which a team can break through functional silos.
Not sure where to begin? Here are some tactics to get you started:
- Break up the work of the team into two-week sprints. Define what can be done in those two weeks and create measurable goals to work toward them (even if those outcomes are only intermediate steps toward a bigger goal).
- Commit to short and frequent stand-ups with your team to share commitments and highlight possible hurdles to accomplishing the goals of the current sprint.
- Portion out deliverables. Rather than focusing on your next big presentation as your deliverable, think about how you can break your work down and deliver portions of that content to your stakeholders sooner in a more informal way.
While the above suggestions are purely jumping-off points, they serve as solid examples of practical ways you can begin to transition from understanding HCD as a concept to it becoming an enabler of rethinking both your own work, as well as becoming a catalyst to higher-performing teams.
At the end of the day, embracing the principles of HCD is a long-term journey. These proven steps will help you lead and inspire teams to begin developing new habits that quickly demonstrate the strong potential HCD has in creating a new way to see innovation through the eyes of your customers.
As published in the Braden Kelley Blog.