Are Companies Human-Centric If They Can't Execute?

by Brian Haven
@ 9:25 AM

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» Design Thinking
» Research



Many companies are delusional about their customer centricity. Many claim to be just that, but only a handful actually are. It takes a big shift in philosophy to be human-centric, and most firms have a hard time overcoming that. Here are just a few of the key characteristics it takes for a firm to be human-centric:

  1. Human-centricity starts at the top. If these initiatives are buried deep within the organization, they have little chance of taking effect. Senior leaders need to ooze human-centricity from their core—passing recognition from the C-level execs won't cut it.
  2. Observe your audience in context. Focus groups don't count! That's often a cheap excuse to say you've listened to your customers. You need to get out in the real world and observe, study, analyze, and engage with people in the context they use your product or service.
  3. Foster a culture of innovation. None of this information and insight means anything if people within the organization aren't empowered to do something about it. Everyone in the company should play some role in studying customers and senior leaders should encourage ideas from employees. And don't just pay lip service—take action on what they suggest.
  4. Facilitate co-creation with your audience. Your customers probably have good ideas too. You don't want to simply build exactly what they want, but bring them in to the product development process. They might know more about your product in the context of it's use than you do.
  5. Don't get locked into your platform. One of the biggest limitations for companies is simply iterating one baby step after the next on top of your existing platform. Of course there are efficiencies in this approach, but firms need more flexibility. If not, this is how disruption happens, like Napster, the iPhone, and social networks.
  6. Revive your R&D. Too few companies are really focusing on developing new products. Research & Development should be a strategic imperative for every company. Your new found knowledge from contextual research will feed your product development pipeline, and help ward off disruptive forces.
  7. You must execute on what you learn. This is the clincher of this post. Even those companies that do the research and have the new product development initiatives in place often can't execute. All of the items above should help companies develop something new and surprising.

I want to focus on this last point for a moment. For all of those companies that claim to be human-centric, it seems that very few can actually get out of the rut of incremental product improvements and truly influence of leverage new behaviors. This is why the music industry was, and still is, blind-sided by digital music, or why an outside player now sets the standard for mobile phone experiences.

I would argue that if you can't innovate and execute on human-centricity, then you're not human-centric.


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