Time Flies

by Akiko Segawa, Japan, ELP 2014
Written on July 21, 2014.

Time flies – I’ve already done 2/3 of the program. Today, I’d like to introduce one of the most interesting workshops from the 2nd week.

About IDEO.org
IDEO.org was born in 2011 as a nonprofit organization that applies human-centered design to improve health, water and sanitation, financial inclusion, agriculture and gender equity in poor communities. Its partner is other nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and foundations. It also provides an opportunity to learn and use human-centered design as a poverty-fighting tool.

Overview of Human-Centered Design
Human-centered design is a process that creates a deep understanding between the designer and the end user. There are some keys mentioned in the lecture:
Get out there: visiting the place and talking with the people who are living there is crucial
Talk to extremes: extreme participants help to understand behaviors, desires and needs of the rest of the population, but they are easier to observe and identify because they feel the effects more powerfully than others. By including both ends of people, you can hear more information from a small number of participants.
Understand and observe: observing and understanding people’s behavior and decision-making process in action is important. For example, not only asking, “What od you eat for breakfast?” but also asking, “What did you eat for breakfast yesterday morning?” enables us to get more information.
Work with other disciplines: the best team will consist of a core group of 3-8 individuals, including one facilitator. Mixing different disciplinary and educational backgrounds will maximize the chance of coming up with unexpected solutions when these people approach problems from different points of view.
Prototype early and often: sketch the idea and show it to someone who doesn’t have a single idea about the field.
Consider the system: prompt bigger, more general topics that ask the participants to think about life, business, and the future. Ask about their hopes and dreams for the future, as well as the barriers to achieving their goals. This is the chance to understand how they want to change their lives, what is standing in their way, and what they perceive the real paths to a better future might be.

Pharmaceutical Industry
I would like to implement the principles of human-centered design to a pharmaceutical industry project where I’m working with as a graduation project. The similarity between my project and IDEO’s project is the difference: I’m in an academic setting working with a pharmaceutical plant, while IDEO is a NPO working for communities. Another similarity is the distance: the plant I’m working with is far away from Tokyo so I cannot visit there very often. Because of the difference and distance, I often find it difficult to communicate with each other. Since human-centered design is a process that creates a deep understanding between the designer (me) and the end user (pharmaceutical industry), I think its principles are also useful to build a good relationship between academia and industry. It is important to visit the place as much as possible (get out there) and listen from not only managers, but also all the people who you are involved with (talk to extremes). In the plant, I have to carefully observe everything and I can’t hesitate to ask questions (understand and observe). Working with other disciplines – this might be the reason why I’m in the project. It is also important to communicate all ideas, questions and achievements. Because of the distance and difference, we tend to hesitate to communicate with each other for small things. Every big success, however, starts from small beginnings. Also we often share only numbers equations or source codes, but we might have to show the result more visually, with graphs and tables so that every worker can understand and get feedback from them (prototype early and often). Finally, drawing a big picture is crucial. Even when we are focusing on one unit operations, we have to also consider the cause and effect of upper processes and down streams (consider the system).

Human Centered Design Toolkit Second Edition