There is a shift happening in innovative product design--and it's putting people at the center of it. Human-centered design is the practice of connecting with the needs and emotions of customers to create compelling products and services. It's driven by a methodology of connecting with and developing empathy for users, and it replaces assumptions about users' needs and preferences with actual information acquired from the field. This process-heavy, people-oriented approach includes researching existing products, interviewing and observing customers, quick and iterative prototyping, and resonance testing--all with the goal of achieving solutions that create value.
"We believe that through a deeper understanding of people, we can identify and create more successful solutions for people, companies, and society," says Brian Matt, Senior Principal Director of the design and innovation consulting firm Altitude | Accenture. "We try to get into their world, and see it through their eyes," adds Dan Ostrower, Principal Director.
The human-centered design process also requires a product team to present their findings to their organization, and often up the chain, to achieve buy in. In many cases, this is where the hard part begins. Matthew Kressy, Director and Co-Founder of MIT Integrated Design & Management (IDM), refers to this as the expression phase. "The purpose of expression is to transfer that empathy to the organization," says Kressy. "The individuals on the [product] team may care, but now they have to get the organization to care, with the obvious goal of designing and manufacturing a product that will better match with the needs of the users."
Kressy is an expert in product design and development. As an entrepreneur and founder of Designturn, he has designed, invented, engineered, and manufactured products for startups, Fortune 500 companies, and everything in between. Kressy believes in interdisciplinary, design-driven product development derived from deep user research, creative concept generation, and rapid prototype iteration, and he is passionate about teaching this approach to the design process in design schools--and business schools.
In his two-day MIT Sloan Executive Education program, Leadership by Design: Innovation Process and Culture, Kressy presents the ways in which highly successful companies, such as Tesla, Apple, and Procter & Gamble innovate continuously by connecting with customer needs and emotions to create compelling products and services. These companies have created action-based organizational cultures in which empathy is generated, trial and error is encouraged, and failure is celebrated as a source of learning.