The Four Phases of HCD
In addition to serving our clients with great design, technology, and strategy, Twisthink also teaches a new approach and mindset to problem solving, known as human-centered design (HCD). Our clients learn how to frame up a problem and gain new insights by having empathy for their stakeholders. Over the course of the project we show them how to better collaborate, visualize, and share ideas.
One example of this was the HCD workshop Twisthink recently completed with five non-profit organizations focused on providing access to clean water overseas. It was a great opportunity to coordinate the efforts of these organizations to understand their challenges, while looking for opportunities that go far beyond drilling a well and installing a pump. The insights into the social, political, and economic turmoil were shocking. All the teams did a great job collaborating and we finished the day with a handful of new problem statements; all focused on governing systems and cultural paradigms.
HCD is a humble and holistic approach to problem solving that explores the pain points of all stakeholders for the purpose of focusing on the needs of the end user. It starts with an emphasis on user desirability – finding a desirable solution that your customer needs, then shifts the focus to technical feasibility and business viability. We believe that through this approach, companies will have a higher probability of reaching “the sweet spot of innovation.” It is only when a product or service has market success that it’s truly an innovation.
We’ve all seen the traditional corporate approach to product development with business viability as the focus. For example, corporations feel the need to sell their product at a lower set price and then find themselves backtracking to see if they can cut costs with certain technologies or remove features from their offering to meet that goal. Heavy advertising is then needed to convince consumers to buy their goods.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, traditional startups often begin with a new technology that they are excited to leverage but have yet to judge its business viability and determine their customer base. This is the hammer looking for a nail scenario, and we have seen and experienced the challenges, and even failures, of this approach.
Imagine the chances of your project succeeding if you knew you were offering something people wanted and it solved one or more of their current problems. Steve Jobs put it very simply; “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and then figure out where you’re going to sell it.”
There are a variety of terms for this HCD approach, some refer to it as “design-thinking”, “front end innovation”, or “customer-centered design.” Nonetheless, each of these approaches are driven by the same goal, to create a solution that has empathy for all stakeholders and customers. Our HCD framework at Twisthink consists of 4 phases: discover, analyze, create, and develop.
We begin with the discovery phase, where we take a deeper look at customer needs, market trends, and industry dynamics to generate insights. Our goal is to understand a user’s mindset and interaction before, during, and after engaging with a product. We want to appreciate all the stakeholders along that journey, their surrounding environment and what is important to each of them. It’s important to see what problems or challenges they have and explore how we can help. We understand that our clients are the experts in their market and with their customers, but as their strategic partner, we are able to guide them through key stakeholder questions to pull vital information and offer fresh eyes to the problem; and this brings great value!
The analyze phase is all about interpretation; it’s listening to what the stakeholders have said and observing the actions we’ve seen, then interpreting it into what they mean and need. It’s the stage where we identify patterns in the data that matter and synthesize to identify opportunity areas. The famous quote from Henry Ford shows an example of this type of interpretation, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Ford understood that what his customers wanted was not a faster horse but faster, stronger, and more reliable transportation. And that is the value that comes from the analyze phase.
The output of the analyze phase gives the team direction, constraints, and requirements to ideate around. In the create phase; we explore new ideas, visualize concepts and articulate new end-user value propositions around a clearly identified problem statement. We create countless ideas and prototypes so that we are able to test and refine them. The team gains valuable learnings from failing early and often for the purpose of not failing during production – which is much more costly. With each iteration the concepts become stronger and the team becomes more informed.
During the develop phase, we make the case and sharpen the message and artifacts that will be used to share the concept with stakeholders and test key assumptions. With a concept in hand, we need to confirm with users that we’re hitting the mark for desirability and usability. We’ll continue this fast and iterative cycle of discover, analyze, create, and develop until we have a clear winner that fulfills and meets the need of the user. Once we have a concept that is desirable and has customer pull we can proceed to the product development phases with confidence, knowing that we have kept the very people we’re designing for, at the heart of the process.