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Human-Centred Innovation
Human-Centred Innovation
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"Design Thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success."

- Tim Brown, IDEO. 

This quote is a reminder of the traditionally disparate threads that Design Thinking weaves together in providing an approach, toolkit and process for innovation. In terms of approach, we find it useful to focus on four key elements: 

  • Leading with empathy to challenge and reframe the problem. 
  • Co-design, bringing together key stakeholders, specialists and the audience groups themselves. 
  • Failing fast, through quick prototyping and feedback loops. 
  • Designing for end-to-end experiences rather than just one-off events.

That said, here are some of the models we use in our Human-Centred Innovation approach. Some are predictable and common ones, but there are also a couple of less traditional inclusions. 

As always, please click on each for more practical techniques and examples of how to use them. And join up as a member to save them to your personal Latticework and use our Learn function to embed them into memory. 

This Playbook includes the following sections, select a heading to jump to that section.
Before we get into the traditional Human-Centred Innovation tools and models, let's start with some related models to get you in the mood.
Nonviolent Communication
You probably didn't expect this here. Traditionally used as a tool for communication and connection, Nonviolent Communication helps you to empathise and dig beyond initial needs so adds new dimensions to being 'human-centred'. There's a reason why Satya Nadella shared this approach with Microsoft Execs when he became CEO.
Ten Types of Innovation
This model is not technically part of human-centred design but is a useful addition. Many innovation processes focus on rethinking the product or service and user experience as a result. Using this framework upfront can help to broaden your scope and perspective.
Amazon's Working Backwards
While not technically just about human-centered innovation, Amazon's working backwards process is definitely worth calling out here. The starting point from the customer's point of view and end experience baked into the process forces a customer-centric culture.
Now let's get into the heart of Human-Centered Innovation with the core model behind it.
Design Thinking
This is obviously the core model in question, focusing on the classic 'double diamond' five-step process. Dive into it for more about what it involves.
Human-Centred Innovation is driven by empathy and reframing the question. Use these models to help.
Empathy Map
We pretty much incorporate Empathy Maps into all of my Personas. Or a version of them anyway. After generating a persona, we'll ask what will they 'feel, think and do' in regards to the change we are trying to create?
Personas are commonly used in this process to empathise with parts of your audience. That said, we've seen them used as shortcuts with no empathy at all and worse, as stereotypes. Click into this model for some specific recommendations to use them to illuminate and empathise.
Journey Mapping
Journey mapping adds the dimension of time to your Personas and Empathy Maps. More than that, it adds touch points so you can identify weak spots or challenges in the experience. We've placed it here as an empathy tool, but you can also use it at the end of a process to preview and even Prototype the experience.
Once you've empathised and understood your audience, resist the urge to jump into ideation. Instead, take a moment to 'question the question'. Click into this model for a range of practical techniques how. And remember, you might need to win impatient stakeholders over to spending time on exploring the problem.
5 Whys
This is one of the ways you can Framestorm, a simple but powerful model that allows you to dig deeper and get to the real question worth solving.
Once you've created your Personas and explored the world from their perspective, be sure to apply that point-of-view regularly and creatively. This model which combines roleplays and brainstorming will help.
The next steps involve ideating solutions that you must prioritise and then iterate to improve.
Impact Effort Matrix
After you Framestorm and Ideate a bunch of options, you're left with... well, a bunch of options. Use this model as part of co-design sessions to quickly sort through them and decide what goes to the Prototype stage.
Once you have chosen a way forward, ask 'how can we preview and test this experience?' You might consider combining this with Journey Maps as part of your Prototyping, and bringing back Empathy Maps as a tool to better understand audience reactions.
Feedback Loops (& Homeostasis)
Not a usual inclusion, but it's a reminder to iterate. That might look like Agile inspired sprints, or other inbuilt Feedback Loops to constantly rate the reaction of your audience and improve accordingly.
IKEA Effect
Finally, a reminder of the power of co-design and co-creation. Yes, it can help you better empathise with the audience and gain innovative perspectives from cross-functional groups, but it can also help build 'greater perceived value' from those groups with the IKEA Effect. This is no small thing if you need to generate champions to drive change.

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