How do we do this?
With the right approach everyone can innovate!

“Are you a designer?” We all are! Welcome to the club! But becoming a good designer and one that is human centered might take a little extra effort. It really takes practice, confidence, a network and the right tools and that’s hopefully where we come in. Modern society becomes more complex every day and faces many different crises/transformations on a very short term. This situation and these wicked problems ask for people who can run through and facilitate a Human Centered Innovation process, coming up with solutions for complex social challenges like poverty, climate change, aging societies, overpopulation etc. But this isn’t all Design Thinking and Human Centered Innovation can do, applying different elements of this way of thinking and this process within existing organizations or processes can also spark a general transition which could provide answers to less complex but just as important questions like ‘how do we enlarge our client base without losing the personal contact we currently have with our clients’, ‘how to get a better relationship with my neighbors’ or ‘how to make my dreams a reality’. So hopefully we triggered you enough to make you wonder: How does Human Centered Innovation and Design Thinking work? And maybe even more importantly: how do you do it? How can you design a Human Centered solution? And what can AIaD do to help you design this solution? So let’s start with the basics: What do we mean specifically when we use the terms Design Thinking and Human Centered Innovation?

  • Design Thinking (DT) stands for applying design-specific cognitive activities and a designers mindset, to other broader, more social or ecological related questions. By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking has been able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems, humanity and society.
  • Human Centered Innovation (HCI) is the process we use, which allows us to create and implement solutions based on people’s needs, using design and innovation processes to create maximum result fast! It is important to note here that this process isn’t a linear, gated, by-the-book methodology, but an iterative, creative, flexible and unpredictable journey from a problem, to a solution and implementation. It involves rolling up your sleeves and doing stuff, in rapid iteration, until you’ve created something amazing.

 

The Design Thinking mindset

By formalizing the tacit values and behaviors of design, Design Thinking has been able to move designers and the power of design from a focus on artifact and aesthetics within a narrow consumerist marketplace to the much wider social space of systems, humanity and society.

The role of the designer shifts to a more facilitative one during (parts) of the design process. Gaining empathy by developing a genuine interest in humans and their needs and harvesting the insights through observation and other action research methods becomes more important. Using visual thinking and storytelling throughout the whole design process helps make the learning’s and insights during research, design and implementation more vibrant and easier to grasp.

Design thinking asks for a collaborative approach in multi-disciplinary teams. By using the different angles from the different members during the design process in short iterative design loops, you can come up with more meaningful results fasts. By constantly evaluating the outcomes through a learning-by-doing mentality, implementation of outcomes that eventually will work in the real world is faster and innovation-development time is reduced significantly. 

Introduction to the HCI process

The Human Centered Innovation process is based upon the fundamental belief that gaining a deep understanding of the needs, hopes, and aspirations of potential customers and the lives they live, yields incredible inspiration for new solutions. From this in-depth exploration into people’s experiences and environments, human-centered designers identify patterns and opportunities for concept development. And then it’s time to get tangible quickly, turning concepts into live prototypes and in-field experiments. The process helps users hear the needs of the people and communities they’re designing for and implementing solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts. Centered in optimism and embracing constraints and complexity, the HCI process helps users ask the right questions and take the right actions. Human-centered designers learn by doing and evolve their solutions based on real-time feedback. The reason this process is called “Human Centered” is because it starts with the people we are designing for. The HCI process begins by examining the needs, dreams, and behaviors of the people we want to affect with our solutions. We seek to listen to and understand what they want. We call this the Desirability lens. We view the world through this lens throughout the design process. Once we have identified a range of what is Desirable, we begin to view our solutions through the lenses of Feasibility and Viability. We carefully bring in these lenses during the later phases of the process.

Hear, Create & Implement

The Human Centered Innovation process that AmIaDesigner uses exists of 3 phases; Hear, Create and Implement (although not necessarily in that order): Hear: in the Hear phase you will focus on gathering sufficient information to be able to conclude something about the desirability of your project. Create: in the Create phase you will focus on gathering sufficient solutions to consider and the feasibility of these solutions. Implement: in the Implementation phase you will look at the implementation options and struggles of your solution(s) by looking at the viability of your project. The biggest difference between our approach and that of other human-centered design firms is that we added entrepreneurship and business development principles and methods such as the ‘business model canvas’ and the ‘lean start-up approach’ to the implementation phase to increase the chance of success when implementing solutions. We did this because we strongly belief that a great design which isn’t implemented has no value and creates no real impact.

The biggest difference between our approach and that of other human-centered design firms is that AmIaDesigner added more entrepreneurship and business development principles and methods such as the ‘business model canvas’ (by A. Osterwalder) and the ‘lean start-up approach’ to the implementation phase to increase the chance of success when implementing solutions. We did this because we strongly belief that a great design which isn’t implemented has no value and creates no real impact.

The AmIaDesigner tools

AmIaDesigner believes that Design Thinking and Human Centered Innovation should be available for everyone that wants to make a difference. That is why AmIaDesigner developed a toolkit which helps you design the innovation you want/need in your own context. The AIaD toolkit helps you to facilitate the Human Centered Innovation process via a step-by-step approach using design tools and a designers mindset.

The physical toolkit consist of an overall innovation process tool which we named the HCI canvasses (Hear, Create, Implement) and separate toolcards, worksheets and mindsetcards which are designed in a manner that they can both be used together and individually. We use the toolkit mainly in workshop settings and many of the tools are supported by PowerPoint sheets, games etc. to make interactive learning experiences.

The different materials are also designed in a way that they can be used in very low tech/low budget manners. All the tools are in black and white and can be printed/copied on A4 or A3 white paper. This especially helps when we work is less developed contexts and countries but is also appreciated by our western clients that value the sustainability aspect of using as little paper, ink etc. as possible.

We use the toolkit in almost all our services. We use it to design ourselves, we use it to train others to use the design process and we use it the help us guide us and our partners during consultancy projects. For specific users or context we might even translate the toolkit or adapt it to the context of the project.

dschoolosterwalderstickdornT&D Kelly

This AIaD toolkit is standing on the shoulders of giants like Alexander Osterwalder, Tom and David Kelley, the D-School, Ideo.org, Marc Stickdorn etc. and we are happy to acknowledge that. All the tool descriptions within the toolkit which are based on tools or work from others include references, so it is easy to trace them back to their origins and dive deeper into other publications about their application.

Introduction to the HCI Canvasses

canvasses

AmIaDesigner believes that Human Centered Innovation should be available for everyone and not only for designers and highly educated people. That is why we developed the HCI Canvasses which help facilitate the Human Centered Innovation process via a step-by-step approach. But just like a Game of Goose this isn’t a linear, gated, by-the-book process, but an iterative, creative, flexible and unpredictable journey from a problem, to a solution and implementation. It involves rolling up your sleeves and doing stuff, in rapid iteration, and collaboration until you’ve created something amazing. The 3 canvasses will help you Hear the needs of the people and communities they are designing for, Create innovative human centered approaches to meet these needs and Implement solutions that work in specific cultural and economic contexts. The canvasses encourage constant brainstorming, reflecting, iterating and evaluating and provide an easy-to-use method for the user to define and research their own problems, to ideate, design, develop and test their own solutions and to help implement the developed solutions in order to improve the chance of success. The canvasses are designed in such a way that we hope they can help us democratize design. They can be printed on almost every printer at minimal costs, the design isn’t so fancy that people feel encumbered to adapt it to their needs or that it doesn’t fit within specific cultures or languages and they should be easy enough to use for a teenager in Kenya to work with them. Although we think every HCI process needs to include a Hear, Create and Implementation phase in order to really work, you take on these phases not necessarily in that order. That is why the canvasses are designed in a way that you can change the order of the process easily, but still can keep track of what you are doing and still need to do. If your starting point of the innovation process is a problem, you start with the H canvas, but if you already have an idea you start with the C canvas and if you want to start with an idea for a business or an organization you start with the I canvas.

To start working with the canvasses print them out and hang them on the wall so you can brainstorm on them with other people. We advise teams of up to 5 people per design challenge. Your innovation process could also contain more than 1 H, C or I phase because you need to keep iterating until you come to a desirable, feasible and viable solution for your problem. Practically this means that if you find out for example that after your C phase your idea is technically not possible or for example already implemented by someone else that you either go back to your H canvas or add a new H canvas to the process. Most of the work however will not take place on and around the canvasses. You will have to leave the canvasses regularly to do fieldwork, visualize your outcomes, visit partners, interview users, run pilots, get funding etc. To make it easy we marked a minimal of those moments on the canvasses. So how long will it take you to research, design and implement an innovation? That will depend on how big the design challenge is, how big and experienced your team is, how much time you have and how successful things are. We advise you to take minimally 1 day for every canvas, but we also used the canvasses to guide processes of 3 weeks, 3 months or even a year.

What to keep in mind when using the HCI canvasses?

Be very critical after every phase when you reflect on the process and the outcomes. If you’re not proceeding in the right direction, don’t hesitate to take a few steps back and start again – that is exactly what iterating means. Besides the HCI canvasses, AmIaDesigner uses design tools within the different phases such as brainstorm techniques, observation techniques and interview tools, clustering and decision making tools, prototyping and test tools, customer journey maps, stakeholder maps, visual thinking techniques and business development tools such as the business model canvas and the validation board. The tools we use during our workshops are adapted by us to match the HCI canvasses but we encourage you the user to also use your own tools. When going through the HCI process you could hire us or another professional to facilitate the process or you can do it yourself. When you do the facilitation of the process yourself and work in a team, you have to consider that you are probably not too experienced in facilitating these sorts of processes and that your outcome might be limited by your own facilitating skills. Working through the different steps on the canvasses is more than a matter of performing physical actions like clustering post-its or drawing ideas. The different actions, which we incorporated in the design of the canvasses, are designed to to facilitate discussions, stimulate you to make adaptations, reflect, improve decision-making, etc. If you want to learn more about facilitating Human Centered Innovation or the HCI canvasses in particular consider joining one of our HCI facilitation courses. Download the individual canvasses below.

HCI HEAR CANVAS
HCI CREATE CANVAS
HCI IMPLEMENT CANVAS