Human Centered Design Part 2

Implementation Of Internal Characteristics

By: Adam French

In my previous article , I wrote a short introduction on the concept of human-centered design. This article explains how to adopt best practices of design in order to make products that are more tuned to the needs of your users. If you haven’t read the previous article or don’t fully grasp the basics, that’s a great place to go. If you’re familiar with this topic, let’s dive in!

While thinking about implementing human-centered design, many believe that only the constant thought of users and their needs can sufficiently guide their design process to make quality, usable products. Many are doing themselves and their customers a disfavor. The practice of making the best products for your users involves a concerted effort and maybe a change in how you or your company goes about product development. Instead of picturing a theoretical customer using your product when designing it, go out and watch actual customers use it.

I broke down the characteristics of human-centered companies into two categories: Internal and External. Internal characteristics pertain to the policies of your company or norms that determine how employees interact and how ideas get generated and nurtured. External characteristics refer to how the company interacts with its customers and other forces outside the company walls. For example, think of the development and release of new marketing material by a company. Their internal procedure would be the process of designing and developing the material, while the external procedure is how the reaction of the customers to it gets measured.

Now that you understand the premise of internal and external characteristics, I will identify essential internal characteristics of a company that centers its product development and design around humans.

Internal Characteristics of Human-Centered Companies

  • Open Collaboration
  • Every department and discipline gets involved in the design of a new product.
  • Collaboration stays light, transparent, honest, and friendly.
  • Constant and Encouraged Ideation
  • Every idea carries weight, no matter the position in the power structure from which it originates.
  • Let employees dream.
  • A systematic method for recognizing and implementing good ideas from within the company.
  • Empathetic Culture
  • Diversity of thought is valued and taken advantage of.
  • Employees assist each other outside of obligations.
  • Resilience to and acceptance of failure.

The most innovative and user-friendly companies tend to possess these characteristics. So, how are they transferred from bullet points on a page to a systematic process within your company? The answer is quite simple, if not easy.

Open Collaboration is born from shared trust and experiences between individuals. The best ways to increase collaboration within an organization include team building games, shared communication channels, and unique activities to break the monotony of the workday, like an office-wide ping pong tournament. Conscious monitoring of employee chatter will give you a good idea of their communication style and whether you need to make more of an effort to create the bonds of trust and shared experiences that lead to productive collaboration.

Constant and Encouraged Ideation has become a staple of highly innovative companies such as IDEO. Making people feel like their ideas matter and will be acted upon will harness a stream of quality input from all levels in the power structure, while making the stream of ideas self-replenishing. One way to enable this is to create a slack channel or another communication platform that’s dedicated to the sharing and promotion of ideas within your company. That’s only one step, though. You must consistently give people feedback and try to incorporate the ideas into the company or your employees will think their valid input is falling on deaf ears. You can also delegate new idea management to a designated group of individuals who have guidelines for processing and filtering the ideas, making it less difficult for executives who have a lot on their plate. This characteristic goes underutilized in the vast majority of companies, with leadership not realizing the extra value idealistic and creative employees are waiting to add.

The level of Empathetic Culture in a workplace can determine it’s dynamic and creative capabilities. A place where people can relate and consider other perspectives is one where creativity, honesty, and productivity will thrive. Human-centered design anchors around empathy and putting yourself in the user’s shoes, so exercising it actively in the workplace will benefit every facet of your organization. Valuing and possessing the diversity of thought gives workplaces an edge in employee satisfaction and potential for creativity. Another staple of empathetic cultures is handling failure in a nurturing, productive way. If everyone becomes fearful of failing nobody will want to take risks, which will in turn lower the organization’s collective creative capabilities and satisfaction. A good way to handle failure systematically is to circle back to something that went wrong (let’s say a failed weekly sales goal) and to examine how and why it went wrong. Compare this week with previous weeks and examine the factors that changed. From this step, you can pinpoint the differences that caused the drop in sales and handle them as needed. Instead of placing blame on whomever the responsibility for the failure lies, this process gives them a clear path forward. It instills confidence and asserts your commitment to their growth and continued success.

The implementation of these internal characteristics will create a great environment in your company for employees, executives, and clients. Even though only executives and other individuals with power can enforce these characteristics on an organization wide scale, each and every employee has the power to contribute to a culture of empathy, value ideas of others, and be open and active in their communication. Since that’s enough information to internalize, I’ll leave the External characteristics of companies that excel in human-centered design to my next article. Thanks for reading, and I would love any feedback you have on my ideas!

Social Impact + Marketing + Design. If you need marketing or design for your social impact venture, hit my line at adam@emote.design.

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