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Human Focussed Design In The Digital Age

Should you look at human design before technology change?

26Feb

When companies are looking to improve their performance and processes one of the first elements they look at is their technology. They look at the speed it is working, how effectively it uses information and the price. In the age that we currently live, these are considered to be some of the most important elements when looking at how capabilities can be improved.

But is this right?

Processes are built around the ways that humans interact with systems. This is not just in terms of physical technical systems, but also social and business systems that allow for effective work environments. The hierarchy system in most companies is a prime example of this, with the ability to ‘send something up the ladder’ in order to get a decision.

Companies without proper systems in place are companies that are not going to be a success. The systems need to be designed around the way that the employees work, but this is something that with the increased use of technology, has often gone amiss.

Human Focussed Design is the idea that is being put forward to bridge this gap.

The idea of Human Focussed Design is simply; in order to improve processes and product, look at how people interact with them.

This could be anything from how a work station is laid out to how a building is designed. In order to optimize use, the people using it need to be the centre of the process.

This also goes beyond the design of products and services.

There have been behavioural practices that use this same principle to allow people to adopt new ways of working or acting in order to achieve an end goal. It has been successful in many areas with energy consumption.

The main way that this has been done is by comparing how somebody is using electricity compared to others around them. It gives them a goal to work towards and almost a gamification aspect to the work needed. According to Opower, through using this in depth data on energy consumption and implementing behavioural design, in 2013 they managed to save enough energy to power a city of 250,000 for 12 months.

Similar work can be done in companies. Companies can avoid pushing people to do something often finding it more productive to prove the benefits and if possible make the experience rewarding. With call centres for instance, the task of making hundreds of calls can often be boring, but if through behavioural design they can challenge employees to match or exceed their colleagues they can create a rewarding experience.

So when looking at improving company practices, it is always worth looking at the best way to do it. Sometimes investing in new technology is the only way, but ultimately the first thing to look at needs to be how people are interacting with what you currently have and how this could be improved. It is not only more effective in terms of keeping employees happy and productive, but also costs considerably less than expensive silver bullet solutions. 

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