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Human-Centric Innovation in a Nutshell

The starting point should be identification of a “valuable need”!

Companies don’t like to mingle around needs. For most of them, needs are clear and easy to pinpoint. Where is the magic in finding a need? The hard task is to create a desirable, viable and feasible solution for any need, right? As a result, most innovation efforts in corporations are idea driven. Companies try to hunt for solution proposals. This is a troublesome approach. We will cover why it is so in another article.

Not all needs of everybody are obvious. In some cases, uncovering them may become more difficult than creating a solution for them. Additionally, not all needs are valuable. Some needs are important but not urgent. Some are vice versa. Some appeal to large groups of people with little money. Some appeal to a small group of people with lots of money. The level of importance and urgency of a need, and the consumption capacity of the people who appeal for the need determine the value. When you discover a valuable need, which is partially or completely unmet for a group of people, it is a good starting point for an innovation challenge.

Then, it is necessary to understand the “desired experience”!

A myth circulates around about Apple. The myth claims that Apple has never listened to its customers and has always created unprecedented and admirable products with the help of the technology vision of Steve Jobs. On the contrary, it is possible to claim that Apple gives the most popular examples of Human-Centric Innovation.

After Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he started a new program to help the company get through the hard times of his absence. The slogan of the program was “Think Different” and the focus was on the customer rather than technology and product. In a speech at the World Wide Developer Conference in 1997, Steve Jobs said:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology then try to figure out where to sell it.”

Steve Jobs, 1997

Human needs are complex. All needs have functional, emotional and social facets and there are different dynamics in play at each step of the customer’s journey to fulfill the need. The journey starts when the customer becomes aware of the need and extends to the post-fulfillment phases. In order to ensure that an innovation succeeds, it is necessary to capture this complexity and map out the complete experience desired by the target customer group. Focusing on the desired experience is the best guide for innovation.

Third comes the design of the “total solution”!

We prefer to call both the solution itself and how the solution is delivered as “total solution”. Delivery model includes details regarding business model such as how the customers are engaged, how the solution is priced and provisioned.

It is important to start designing the solution with the desired experience first. After understanding how desirable solution alternatives look like, technical and economical aspects of it need to be studied. When the total solution matches the desired experience and also seems technologically feasible and economically viable, success becomes inevitable. However; true human-centricity requires fulfillment of one more thing: Your solution must also have a small ecological footprint. Ignoring the environment means ignoring the well being of people for now and future. Genuinely human-centric solutions pay attention to this aspect, too.

Preferred route is the “incremental delivery”

When you have a solution vision in mind it is easier to work out how to build it. It may not always be possible to build and deliver your solution incrementally. But it should be the preferred route whenever possible. Starting small and expanding incrementally only after testng the previous increments and being sure that they succeed is critical for success.