The unexpected challenges and solutions created by human-centred design strategy

Posted on: 16/07/2018

Break Through Innovation Event Summary

The work done by the KTN Design and Innovation Effectiveness team, since its inception in 2014, has focused on promoting human-centred design as a strategic tool for business. It is increasingly understood that bringing designers to the table in early-stage innovation processes makes a crucial difference. For start-ups, strategic design helps get brilliant ideas to the right market. For established businesses, it helps reposition or expand their offering.

Notably, KTN’s work has emphasised that making products and services look good is not the only service designers offer. Working as multi-skilled consultants, designers execute targeted research, think creatively around a problem, test ideas on a low budget, offer much-needed facilitation and, finally, the best design work will also make the end result visually appealing and easy to use.

Thanks to increased awareness about the benefits of human-centred strategic design, more businesses want to bring designers on board in the early-stages of innovation, but companies can often struggle with finding or justifying the budget required for such a collaboration.

The funding offered by Innovate UK affords businesses the opportunity to work with designers. Most recently, 93 businesses of varying sizes were awarded funding for collaborations with designers to identify innovation opportunities and find viable routes to market. £4 million was awarded through the Design Foundations programme over the last 12 months.

Now these projects are coming to an end, it is time to see the results. At a day-long conference in May 2018, designers and entrepreneurs involved in the Design Foundations projects were invited to share their experiences of working together with a wider audience. KTN presented this event specifically as a way to ‘Break Through Innovation’, offering a space where businesses could continue the momentum of collaboration and start planning how to get their products to market.

This series of articles below (released throughout the week) looks at five stand-out insights of the day, which illuminate both the perceived challenges of going through a human-centred strategic design process and the lucrative results it can produce.

1. Does following a design formula help or hinder?

2. Does success depend on the size of the business?

3. What does it mean to have your ideas challenged?

4. Why does transparency matter in the design process?

5. What is the true benefit of an external perspective?

During the ‘Break Through Innovation’ event, Ben Griffin, from Innovate UK, explained that together with the KTN team they are reevaluating their design and innovation programme. This will take into consideration the challenges faced by businesses when engaging with the strategic design process.

Ben offered a series of touch-points to consider that were also reflected in group conversations during the day.

How do we access markets where design isn’t even on the radar? How do we integrate design support into wider programmes? The design landscape can be confusing for those who haven’t engaged before. It is important to get to actionable design after insight and learning phases.

The solutions to these challenges may not be answered today, but it is important to lay out the existing barriers to engaging with design in business and to keep developing awareness of how human-centred design can benefit the early-stage innovation processes.

It is clear from the learnings at the ‘Break Through Innovation’ event the more businesses are able to invest in this collaborative working method the more appealing, useful and relevant their products and services will be.

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