People at the core of innovation

The driving force behind the 21st century technological revolution is “human-centric

Evelina Tapia ChaiOne head shot

ChaiOne's Evelina Tapia

innovation.” The advancement of digital solutions to legacy problems is growing, but digital-transformation agencies like ours have sparked a renaissance to the approach, improving and supporting the operational effectiveness of the industrial sector and increasing the bottom line.

Human-centric innovation is not about finding the right technology to fit people; it’s about putting people first and creating the right technology for their use.

Only human and why that’s a good thing

Human beings have assumptions about how our minds work. For instance, when given an assignment we think, “I’ll remember this” or “Obviously I’ll notice when the alarm goes off.” However, years of psychological study show that such assumptions about how our minds work are often inaccurate because we don’t remember everything well and we often don’t notice even the most unusual things in our environment. 

One great example of the limitations of our mind is a phenomenon of inattentional blindness, widely known as the invisible gorilla effect—just because someone has their eyes open and pointing at something doesn’t necessarily mean they actually see what is there. Studies show that about 90 percent of people believe that if something noticeable or important were to come into their field of view, they would notice it; in reality, however, only about 50 percent of people actually do.

These types of studies have strong implications for the workforce; there is an uncomfortable possibility that something will be overlooked even if field operatives feel like they remember or notice everything they need to. Such human errors and misperceptions of how the mind works need to be taken into account when bringing technology to the workforce. All tools should be crafted for specific circumstances, environments and scenarios to ensure optimal human use of the technological capabilities.

Eliminating human error while empowering the user to optimize his or her work is the core of human-centric innovation and companies like ours design tools with this philosophy in mind.

The approach

The typical executive team believes it knows what digital solutions their workforce needs and wants to go into development right away. However, such assumptions are often risky because the actual workflows performed by users in the field, their comfort with technology and the needs for improving work efficiency are not always known by executives.

Human-centric innovation teams identify the actual business and user problem, prototype a solution, test the concept with users in the context of their work and environment, and only after the concept is validated and demonstrated to work effectively, proceed with development. Time and time again, investment in defining the actual business problem and validating a prototype before full development has not only paid off in the long run, but has prevented executives from going off in the wrong direction altogether.  

When defining the problem that executives should be solving, understanding user workflows, experience and motivation helps identify where human error is most likely to occur on a given assignment and what factors may influence these errors. Such insights, for instance, can inform requirements for revamping a legacy platform that helps workers monitor for and determine critical and non-critical conditions.

With digital-innovation initiatives, executives take on legacy system overhauls or begin digitizing paper processes. Whether it’s custom-made software or off-the-shelf solutions, the human-centric innovation approach to building digital tools is the secret sauce to bringing about operational efficiency.   

Evelina Tapia Ph.D. is lead user researcher for ChaiOne