Thursday, May 22, 2014

Live from FEI 2014: Tom Graznow and Andrea Klemm on Human-Centered Design Thinking

At any conference on innovation, one of the terms that will get kicked around a lot is "design thinking," which can make it seem almost like a disembodied construct that lacks any kind of human significance. In their presentation, Stryker Medical's Tom Graznow and Tribune's Andrea Klemm remind us that, even when designing products or machines, design is by people, and for people.

Because of how easy it is to overlook the human element in design thinking, Graznow warned that it is important to put the people side into the innovation framework so that it becomes part of the discipline, or perhaps even the primary focus of design endeavors. While this missive may seem like it requires some sort of formal process to integrate, Graznow suggests just jumping in and getting started, and just maintaining a focus on people.

At first blush, the implication seems to be an orientation towards customers, but while no one would suggest that a company do otherwise, both Graznow and Klemm were primarily looking at the innovators themselves. Many of the guides to innovation and design-thinking are full of great advice and ideas, but the trouble is that they were not written with a specific company's culture in mind. To that end, Klemm warned "Don't let the theory fool you!" It is imperative to reverse-engineer the given advice to fit the culture of the company and the innovation team, and likewise the tools that they find effective.

Another big issue with design thinking is that it is often presented as a clean-cut process. The reality, acknowledged Klemm, is a whole different ballgame. Designing and innovating is a non-linear and messy process that has the potential to get stymied by any number of company gatekeepers and procedures, which means playing through failure, contesting bad calls (and playing politics!), and expecting the unexpected.

Critically, human-centered design thinking is about going beyond the numbers of research and into the hearts and minds of people. It is about understanding problems, knowing that they have a human side, and then remembering that the people who solve them are human, too.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics