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Innovation and Human Centred Design:


Back in 2018, I utilised a black Friday sale and bought myself a blender, to make my favourite seasonal coffees at home, so I wouldn’t need to wait until March for my next fix from Starbucks and Costa. I remember having bought this blender, walked with it all the way from our local retail park, home, and being so excited to give it a spin for the first time.


I didn’t look at the instructions when I got home, after all, how hard can it be to use a blender?


But, I had filled my newest splurge with milk, ready and raring to go, plugged it in beside my oven, in the vacant socket, switched it on, secured the lid, and the body of the blender to its base, turned the dial and…


Nothing.


It didn’t work. I had been confused, had something slipped out of place, I made sure everything was secure, and tried again. Still, nothing. I was confused, unplugged the blender, changed the socket, tried again, and nothing.


I had moved the blender to every single plug socket in my kitchen, and still, it didn’t work. I had bitten the bullet, read the manual, even had a friend, who had gone shopping with me, read the instructions while I worked with my new kitchen fixture. Yet, despite listening to my friend, and even searching for a rather patronising YouTube tutorial, I found myself storming off.


The blender was a perfect purchase; cheap, efficient, and reasonably small. But, yet, it wouldn’t work. I called a friend, complaining of my sheer incompetence, declaring I was cursed, only for her to tell me to simply return the blender, declare it faulty and how, your consumer rights mean you should be able to exchange it, despite having poured milk in the base.


Reluctantly, I hung up and disassembled the blender, walking just under a mile to the retail park, stomach in knots. I had been worried the customer service staff would call me stupid, because, how hard can it be to use a blender? But, after staring my down for a moment, checking the computer system to see the contents of the stock room, and nodding to me. I would be given an exchange!


Rushing home with my new, new blender, I was quick to plug it in, filling the body of the blender with water, instead of milk, lest I need to return it again, and plugged it in. With my fingers crossed, I turned the dial at the front, and to my delight, it was working! I wasn’t inept! I could use a blender!


I was so glad that it wasn’t just me. But, of course, there are circumstances where design is a fault, like when a push door has a handle. In an online summary of Donald Norman’s book, The Design of Everyday Things, the BooKey, a reading app, explained that “More often than not, [struggling to use familiar technologies and fixtures such as doors, taps or washing machines are] because designers have forgotten a fundamental concept of design; which is the importance of human centred design. Human centred design means when designing a product, the focus should be on people. Designers need to, at first need to fully understand the users’ needs and behaviours before thinking about how they can use a design to meet them. However, many products are designed by engineers, who although they might have good technical skills, lack an understanding of human psychology.”


Designers are sometimes too close to the products they are creating, unable to see potential flaws, due to having been exposed to so many prototypes in the past. But, it’s not just people who make blenders, or doors, or taps that can benefit from looking at a product with human centred design in mind. Simon Sinek said that “innovation is the application of technology, or engineering or something to solve a problem”, fixing the issues people have means that designs need to simple and easy to comprehend, so their purpose can be fulfilled efficiently.


Its all well and good to have created a product, but, if it isn’t easy to use, will people bother with it? If it becomes a hassle, someone, most likely a competitor from a rival company, will see the hassles in your product, come up with a simpler, and perhaps more chic design, and be able to market the product as an easy-to-use solution to a common problem. Like the mass-production of reusable face masks during the Covid19 pandemic. Prior to the mask mandate, making everyone, unless they are exempt legally responsible to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, such as shopping malls, supermarkets, doctors surgeries, train platforms, busses and more, meant that the thing that resulted in large volumes of masks being purchased at the start derived from the designs and whether they fit with a person’s outward aesthetic, purchasing face coverings which would match outfits etc.


The same can be said for the way that phones are marketed nowadays; although they strive to appeal to a tech-savvy audience, promoting a higher resolution camera, faster network speeds etc. but, they also promote functionality and easy use, for those who are unsure about entering the world of smartphone technology.

Problems are made to be solved, but, solutions do not have to be complicated.



Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.


The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.


To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address: arvind@theagileworks.com


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