Our clients come to us with really cool ideas for web, mobile, and embedded apps. Usually, they know their domain inside and out, and they’ve come up with a great way to improve the world with some custom new software.
Human-Centered Design (HCD) practices help companies develop innovative product concepts. From my experience, extending HCD practices inward to include a company’s information technology team increases the chances for success.
What is Human-Centered Design?
IDEO (a leading global design consultancy) recognizes that HCD involves viewing solutions through the lenses of Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability and building products that live at the intersection of all three lenses.
In developing an online product, it can be difficult to maintain perspective on the overall purpose and user experience. When and if you run out of ideas, take time to get out and test your assumptions by bringing in an outside source.
On our product team, we recently reached a point in development where we wanted to get some fresh perspective. We were almost a year and a half into development on the application. But we were about ready to embark on creating a new feature in the app, and a lot of time had passed since our original concepts, so we decided to brainstorm with several people from inside and outside of the industry in which our app is used.
Brainstorming isn’t always easy. It can be messy collecting the information and deciphering which way to go when you’re done. Therefore, we drew from a brainstorming process entitled Focused Innovation Technique (F.I.T) for our session to facilitate the best outcome.
From the website:
“The F.I.T. encourages groups to be creative while building on each other’s expertise in a high-energy process that promotes team spirit and the alignment necessary to support implementing the results. Innovation Project Design helps you to target the right challenges in the right way.”
Our brainstorm process using this technique was comprised of 3 main stages:
We often hear that “design is an overloaded word.” This must be one of the biggest understatements of all time! Often when I’m communicating with others and the word design is dropped, we need to ask ourselves: are we talking about visual design? User experience? Markup? Tangible design? Tactical design? Strategic design? Or simply aesthetics?
Given all of the confusion, as I was skimming the Table of Contents of Bettina von Stamm’s Managing Innovation, Design, and Creativity, the appendix titled Categories of Design immediately jumped out to me. I thought, “ah, perhaps this will help build my understanding of the word design.”
Walker’s design family tree1 courtesy Plymouth University
Atomic Object has helped many companies design and implement new software products. I’ve noticed different environments at companies that are primed for innovation and companies that are not.
Roger Martin’s knowledge funnel concept describes how business practices become more algorithmic as organizations scale and strive for efficiency. As companies scale, their technology departments develop an operational mindset and become more focused on efficiency and stability than on creating opportunity.
Dedicated, poly-skilled project teams are more effective at delivering innovation projects than well-honed, departmentally-distributed, operationally-focused teams.
The choice of using an internal vs. external team is often considered when planning how to take on a significant innovation project.
Internal expertise and capacity are two common factors used to assess the viability of the internal team.
Even if internal expertise and capacity predictions appear sufficient to internally pursue an innovation project, a departmentally-oriented organizational structure introduces subtle forces that can significantly increase the risk of late delivery and reduced differentiation. Innovation will be unintentionally suffocated.
Not long ago, I was selected to participate on the jury for a civil case. Through the course of fulfilling my civic duty, I noticed a number of interesting similarities between the dynamics of jury deliberation and how we work through product definition. Specifically, I saw that many of the skills that make an effective jury foreman are also useful for leading a collaborative discovery session. In either situation, the members of the group must work together to arrive at an agreeable conclusion, based on the evidence given, navigating through differences of opinion and the questions that will arise along the way.
Innovation Games® are serious games designed to help solve business problems in sales, strategy, marketing and product development. There are three parties involved in a game: the trained facilitator (with support staff), the client, and the client’s customer. For example, a client who makes mobile phones might invite some of their customers to participate in Product Box. This game is open-ended. The client learns what benefits and features their customers care most about as they create a physical product box and then sell it to the other participants. Innovation Games represent a new approach to market research.