Technology Innovation

Why You Need User-Centric Design Thinking to Innovate

We take a close look at both user-centric Design Thinking and emerging technologies and explain why they are crucial for cutting-edge innovation.

January 2020
min read
Motius GmbH
The Best Place for Techies
R&D Company since 2013
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In my last blog post, I explained how to set up a Design Thinking project, why so many projects fail and how small companies can assist big ones to create an efficient and successful Design Thinking process. In this blog post, we’ll have a closer look at both user-centric Design Thinking and emerging technologies. This prepares you for the next blog post, in which I will combine both concepts in a unique way.

Recap: Why Big Corporate “Tankers” Need Small Speed Boats for Efficient Innovation

As I outlined in the last blog post, successful efficient innovation relies on hands-on people in interdisciplinary teams who have the right tools and dare to test. Often, this can only be reached if big companies work together with small ones. While big companies have easier access to resources, we at Motius have created an ecosystem with hands-on and daring tech experts. Additionally, we have developed our own approach towards innovation where we combine user-centricity with emerging technologies. So, let’s dive into that.

Which Emerging Technology Is the Next Big Thing?

Looking at the sheer amount of technologies that have emerged over the last decade, you can get a feeling of how fast technologies come and go these days. While it is easy to just play a few rounds of buzzword bingo with them, it is nevertheless obvious that they’ve been major innovation drivers — just think about Big Data, IoT, and Deep Learning Algorithms. It is not without reason that almost 40% of global business leaders consider emerging technologies as the main reason for changing business models.

With emerging technologies, nobody really knows for sure what comes next. Different research like the popular Gartner Hype Cycle suggest various newcomers for the upcoming years, e.g. artificial general intelligence, smart dust or flying autonomous vehicles. But in the end, any of them could be the next big thing.

Why It Is Hard to Implement Emerging Technologies

The success of emerging technologies is determined by their successful application. To be honest, it simply is difficult to implement emerging technologies in existing company processes from one day to the next. Why? Here are three important reasons:

First of all, your existing processes often are tightly connected to certain established technologies. They’re like MS Windows — they’re installed and work, but they don’t really delight their users. So, the implementation of new technologies is related to work. You have to understand and then incorporate them into a bigger system. Just think about all the updates and rollouts in your company.

Secondly, your current (successful) business model relies on existing technology. But in order to succeed continuously, you have to take the courage to always challenge the business model and the underlying technology. Of course, emerging technologies bear risks. As their name says, they’re emerging. Nobody knows 100% if they are the next big thing or if they’re just overhyped after all. But if you are not challenging the opportunities of emerging technologies, probably your competitor will do it for you.

Thirdly, emerging technologies often don’t have a standard application area or procedure. They’re new on the market and you are still figuring out how to apply them best.

As we see, there is not much time to properly use and adapt new technologies when they emerge, and they carry along quite some obstacles. But how is it possible to overcome these? At Motius, it’s all about user-centric design processes.

Applying User-Centric Design Thinking to New Areas

Design Thinking, Design Doing, Design Process, you name it. Recently, more and more design terms came up. What is all this design hype about? Well, it’s not a hype at all. Design processes have been around for a very long time. Why? Because they work. There is no way a designer could do the work he does without thinking like a designer — he is design thinking. The only new thing here is the application of this user-centric iterative process to new areas, such as mechanical engineering and software development.

“Creative processes in the field of applying emerging technologies lack user-centricity.”

Companies approach innovation in the field of emerging technologies quite differently. But very often, their innovation processes are ineffective. Your meetings pass by without progress because problems don’t really get solved. And out of experience we can say that “creative spaces” don’t foster creativity all by themselves. Beanbags and swings don’t create — it’s humans who have to come up with ideas. So, the problem must lie in the processes themselves. And most often, the solution is quite simple: creative processes in the field of applying emerging technologies lack user-centricity. In order to stay customer-oriented during the whole design and development process, there are several proven methods that can help.

A Design Sprint Gives You Fast Results

Besides the standard design thinking process, one of the most widespread and successful design processes is the Google Design Sprint. In this five-day process, you shortcut debate cycles. Through launching minimum viable products (MVPs) and then getting realistic feedback, you avoid expensive commitments and stay close to the customer’s needs. Basically, each day of the process is dedicated to a new step in the process. In the first phase, you really understand the problem, make a map of the whole development process and choose a specific target within the process that you want to tackle during the design sprint. Next, everyone sketches possible solutions. These are presented on the third day and one of them gets chosen as the best. Then you go ahead and build an MVP that gets tested on the last day of the sprint. That’s the whole process. It gets you a prototype and realistic feedback in a very short time.

How to Combine User-Centricity With Emerging Technologies

As explained above, not everyone can be a designer, but everyone can be a design thinker — even engineers. In fact, combining user-centric approaches and the knowledge about emerging technologies form an explosive mixture. We have proven this in more than 300 projects with emerging technologies.

In the next blog post, we’ll find out how we at Motius combine user-centered Design Thinking with emerging technologies in order to get you the results you want.

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