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Human centric innovation
4 minute read - by Evelien Hesters

Strategies for making your innovation processes human-centered

Today, every business, big or small, is trying to keep up with fast-moving innovation. However, it is no longer enough to just be quick or have cool tech anymore. Instead, it's about ensuring that we prioritise people in everything we do.

Putting people first is important because it ensures what you create is actually useful and wanted. It’s about crafting solutions that address real problems and fit into people’s lives. This way, you’re not just making another product; you’re making something that really matters to someone. Additionally, when you think about everyone, not just a select few, you create things that appeal to a broader audience. However, it is not solely about people. Thinking beyond to how it influences society and our planet is crucial. This approach ensures that we’re not only benefiting individuals but also making a positive contribution to the world around us.

We’ve got some tips on how to keep your business focused on what’s most important: people. Learn how to stay ahead in a fast business world by putting people at the center of your plans. This makes sure your hard work pays off and helps you connect better with everyone you’re trying to reach.

1. Walk a mile in their shoes: the empathy game

Let’s kick things off with empathy, the cornerstone of any product or service that really hits the mark. It’s all about genuinely getting to know the people you’re designing for. What makes them tick? What keeps them up at night?

How do we master this?

  • Real talks and real visits: Roll up your sleeves and dive into the lives of your users, clients or prospects with user research. It’s as easy as it sounds: every chat, every sales call, every real-life encounter,.. take to opportunity to listen to their wants and needs.
  • Map it out: Use empathy mapping to turn insights into actionable insights. It’s about painting a vivid picture of your users’ world, ensuring you’re solving the right challenges.
  • Keep the dialogue open: Innovation is an ongoing process. Keep checking in with your users, fine-tuning your creations based on their feedback.

This isn’t a one-off task; it’s a constant weaving through your entire innovation journey.


2. Spell it out: defining human-centric challenges

Got a grip on empathy? Great. Now, let’s get crystal clear on the challenges you’re tackling. This is about framing problems in a way that’s clearly human-centric.

And here's the game plan:

  • Insights to action: Translate those insights into sharp, actionable "How might we" questions that serve as a launchpad for innovation. For instance, if your research reveals that parents are overwhelmed by the variety of educational tools available, you could frame your challenge as, "How might we simplify the process of selecting educational tools for parents, making it easier for them to support their children's learning?" This approach shifts the perspective from stating a problem to exploring potential solutions.
  • Mix it up: When you gather 5 safety experts to tackle a problem, unsurprisingly, you'll end up with safety-centric solutions. Similarly, convene 5 social workers, and you'll receive proposals steeped in social care. The magic happens when we blend these diverse viewpoints. By integrating different departments and perspectives, we inject a rich complexity into our problem-solving approach, breaking free from the usual patterns and challenging the status quo.

Defining clear human-centric challenges sets the stage for solutions that truly resonate.

3. Cultivate a culture where innovation thrives

With a solid understanding of your users and the challenges they face, it’s time to foster an environment where innovation isn’t just welcome; it’s expected.

Creating the right vibe involves:

  • Empathy workshops: Regular sessions that help your team see the world through your users' eyes can spark groundbreaking ideas.
  • Celebrate diversity: Diverse teams bring diverse ideas. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration to enrich your innovation efforts.
  • Cheer on curiosity: Foster a workspace where questioning and exploring are celebrated. Reward those who bring new perspectives and solutions to the table.
  • Narrate and iterate: Embed user stories in your daily dialogues. Make prototyping a two-way conversation with your audience.

This shift in mindset ensures your organisation remains human-centric at its core. Are you ready to drive change in your organisation, rather than just reacting to it? Then you need to create and stimulate an innovation culture.


4. Beyond Human-Centric: preparing for the next wave

Looking ahead, the integration of AI into our lives signals a pivotal shift in innovation. We’re not just making technology work for us; we’re shaping a future where technology and humanity evolve together.

Here’s how we navigate this future:

  • Embrace the evolution: Recognize that our tools are becoming extensions of ourselves, influencing how we live, think, and interact.
  • Think ethically: With innovation comes responsibility. Prioritize ethical considerations to ensure our tech-driven future aligns with human well-being.
  • Design for tomorrow: Anticipate a world where design doesn’t just meet current human needs but shapes what it means to be human.

This isn’t about reacting to change; it’s about proactively crafting a future where technology amplifies our humanity.

5. Think global, act local: championing sustainable innovation

In the face of environmental urgencies, adopting sustainable and regenerative design principles is non-negotiable. It's about ensuring our innovations contribute positively to our planet.

Sustainable steps include:

  • Lifecycle thinking: Consider the full journey of your creations, aiming for circularity and sustainability.
  • Widen your lens: Factor in the well-being of all inhabitants of our planet, not just humans.
  • Lead the charge: Be a beacon of sustainable practices within your sphere, demonstrating that environmental stewardship and business success can coexist.

This approach is not just an obligation but an opportunity to pave the way for a thriving future for all.

There you have it — 5 strategies to guide you through the maze of innovation with a human (and planet) first approach. The “Forward 2024” report is your toolkit, co-designed with Belgium’s finest. Download the full “Forward 2024” report now.


Marketing Manager

Evelien Hesters

Evelien is an experienced service designer and product manager with a focus on developing strategies, products and services that always start from the end-user's needs, in close cooperation with key stakeholders and a clear focus on achieving measurable business objectives.

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