Delve helps pharmaceutical and medical device companies develop human-centered design cultures.
By Ami Verhalen, Vice President of Design, Delve
When your innovation and new product design (NPD) inputs are focused on the customer, it’s likely your data set may be well informed, but not well inspired. It’s the kind of mindset that focuses on narrow opportunities, optimization, and incremental improvements. You miss the larger context of human perceptions, motivations, and the broader influence of people’s lives. You’re developing empathy, but only in a narrow view.
When your business is structured around a human-centered design process, it enables and fosters an open and expansive mindset that includes a customer’s life. It allows you to keep the context of what those people care about in balance with their role as your customer and the value exchange. This kind of mindset allows you to inspire and identify bigger opportunities for your bottom line with offerings that provide more meaningful impact and higher value in the marketplace.
There are four key components to successfully implementing human-centered design within an organization:
Organizations can focus on the bottom line and still de-risk the future by planning for and operating in three areas. McKinsey & Company’s Three Horizons of Growth suggest how companies can manage their portfolios over time. The way your organization addresses these horizons includes different business constraints and therefore, you can purposefully apply a human-centered approach in different ways to each. While Horizon 2 has the most obvious contribution toward human-centered design, Horizons 1 and 3 can be significant opportunities and including them can increase synergy potential for meaningful impact.
Horizon 1 is focused on maintaining and defending your on-market offering. It requires operational excellence, so you may be excelling here already. Sales staff, while not actively designing, should be human centered in their approach to relationships and providing services. The opportunity here is with developers and engineers who are likely optimizing and fixing on-market products. They are seldom provided opportunity to be human centered since they are focused on incremental improvements that provide the greatest profits, cash flow, helping improve performance, and maximizing the remaining value for each of your businesses.
To amplify human-centered design in Horizon 1, consider providing these employees with opportunities to: 1) participate in field research with your customers to experience and empathize with their human side and 2) rotate Horizon 1 NPD positions with Horizon 2 NPD positions so they gain experience with quantifiable responsibilities of applying human-centered design to their work. Finally, make sure your design staff has visibility to these projects, so they can spot opportunities to integrate human-centered design when they may have been overlooked.
Horizon 2 is where creative business teams and NPD teams are focused on bigger innovations and human-centered value. Human-centered design in this horizon requires iterative in-field research to inform and inspire design and ongoing design decisions. Leverage this horizon to serve as a training ground for your human-centered mindset.
In Horizon 3, businesses identify and foster ideas for profitable growth farther into the future, considering small ventures like research projects, pilot programs, and minority stakes in new businesses. In this horizon, it’s important to balance business and empathy building tools to match viable opportunities with meaningful and desirable opportunities. The human-centered opportunity here is building in discovery research to uncover meaningful insights and providing design the opportunity to inspire strategic opportunities.
Whether your company uses a Stage Gate or an Agile NPD process, design must be an integral part the process. That means planning in time for iterative design, prototyping and testing with users. It also is very important to be clear about the differences between market research and design research, a common failure mode.
In a Stage Gate or waterfall-type process, it would be easy to skip building empathy to identify user needs. Account for design iteration and multiple touch points for user feedback to inform design decisions. These steps are often compressed or skipped, so be intentional to include them as part of the planned process. Include creative and design staff in project definition so they have the chance to get firsthand inspiration and help define requirements.
Alternatively, Agile is an excellent process for updating or maintaining an existing product, especially for software. For new products, build in time for discovery, design, and, if applicable, user testing activities ahead of each development sprint. This helps the combined team build empathy for users and make human-centered recommendations. The development team can also react to new discoveries and re-prioritize their backlog as needed to keep each sprint focused on delivering value.
Human-centered design can be practiced using various tools and approaches but establishing a corporate-wide methodology will set you up for success. Someone must own this methodology and it needs to be socialized, demonstrated, taught, and practiced so it can become well established. The methodology can be customized to your organization and processes but should be based in well-established design practices such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Google Venture’s Sprint.
Opportunity to differentiate
Human-centered design offers your organization the opportunity to build a corporate mindset and culture that can yield different, better, and bigger results. It enables you to design meaningful products, services, and experiences, and connect with them as a brand that cares.
Customer-centered design helps brands compete in the marketplace. Human-centered design is what drives brands to win. Which do you want to be?
Learn more about Delve at delve.com.
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