Interview for Design Thinking 2017
“The 21st century human factors organization touches so much more than the usability or ergonomics of a product, playing an integral role as the human-centered umbrella connecting the many facets of product and experience design. How is the human factors function creating a fertile environment for the human experience leveraging design thinking and other methodologies?”
Speaking session on April 25. Focus on Human Factors Engineering: Advancing the Human Factors Manifesto through Design Thinking, Agile and Lean. Design Thinking 2017.
In what way do you believe Design Thinking has made the biggest impact in your human factors work at Nokia?
Your question makes me think of a recent conversation with my daughter who is in junior high. She walked me through a school project asking her to pin point and discuss outstanding differences between her day-to-day life and her grandparent’s experiences when they were her same age.
She talked to my parents and diligently outlined a long list of things that we happen to take for granted today: some fairly simple, some quite sophisticated and far reaching… all innovations on their own right at a given point of time. So, I couldn’t help sharing with her samples of work pioneered by Nokia back in 1947 when Bell Labs set up the first Human Factors Engineering department in the American industry.
I must confess that I also conveyed to her the kind of pride that comes from embracing Human Factors as a discipline and belonging to an organization that has made a difference for the past 70 years. I let her know that we measure HFE’s project results based on outcomes that have a positive impact in either our lifestyles and work practices and that I account for both goals set by design and also unexpected effects that surface over time.
We are talking about user friendly systems optimized for ease of use, effortless operability and, first and foremost, for any of us to better interact with each other in context whether we happen to be present in physical, virtual or hybrid environments. We all leverage devices, tools and process at our disposal… which we sometimes modify and adapt or just create new ones. Note that all of this also means fostering our diversity, cultural values and collective well-being.
Nokia’s vision zeroes in on the human possibilities of a broadly connected world, jointly with a path forward that is sustainable and continuously optimized. This entails a firm belief on the value of humanizing a new wave of emerging technologies and the notion of transparent infrastructure that become pervasive and ubiquitous everywhere: 5G, cloud systems and the Internet of Things being some examples.
Human Factors’ multi-disciplinary approach is driven by putting people first and understanding and shaping technology as the means to an end (instead of just expecting users to conform to capricious implementations that show disregard for elegant sophistication and ease of consumability and overall use. Therefore, Design Thinking’s dynamic research approach equips our team with what I call “rigorous plasticity” – this being my flavor of a methodology driving (a) a user centered mindset and (b) a workstyle densely packed with the type of serial ingenuity that makes HFE a source of innovation and differentiation.
Design Thinking is clearly applicable in solving complex problems and catalyzing creative thinking. How do you feel Design Thinking has transformed the overarching human factors engineering organization?
At Nokia’s Lean Ops Program we apply Design Thinking to projects characterized by large scale end-to-end systems integration. We work with leading edge technologies to address network operations in the telecommunications sector, which happen to be among the most complex, distributed and multi-layered systems across industries.
We are conscious of the fact that the source problem statement and point of view that we start a project with might not necessarily be the ones that best solve and deliver breakthrough innovations at the back end.
In essence, multidisciplinary “co-creation” and “early induced pivoting” in the research and ideation processes make Design Thinking’s iterative and adaptive flow a solution driven engine. My experience is that it also creates what’s known as a backlog of “real options” in innovation management, while augmenting development capacity and overall solution quality.
How have you gone about blending design thinking, agile transformation and lean start-up methodologies in your human factors organization? There are certain similarities to each mindset, but how do you resolve discrepancies?
This can be best addressed by means of an example: our team doesn’t focus on Lean Startup’s Minimum Viable Products (MVP) as such since we place the emphasis on the greater value that comes from addressing the whole, this being a conventional Lean principle. Our language embraces the early generation of Minimum Viable Solutions (MVS) instead and in sync with Design Thinking’s holistic approach to an optimum user experience through the solution’s shelf life.
This mindset shift is not just about semantics. Note that it accounts for the sheer size, scale and scope of the end -to-end systems we work with in the Lean Ops program. Moreover, it factors solution lifecycle’s requirements because consumability is expected to evolve over time.
Let’s keep in mind that the high-tech sector is characterized by a rapid succession of technologies and alternative approaches often abound. Add to that the fact that the telecommunications industry is capital intensive and competitiveness relies on sizeable investments in long term projects… and in fast changing markets. Therefore, Design Thinking is of assistance with work on future proofing solutions as we work with end goals in mind, including repurposing and recycling at the solution’s end of viable life.
What value do you believe IQPC’s Design Thinking 2017 will deliver to experienced practitioners like yourself?
I’d like to first thank IQPC for engaging me as a member of the event’s Advisory Board early on, and for the invitation to discuss some of the work that we do at Nokia Applications & Analytics Group in the area of Human Factors at our Cloud Innovation Center.
Design Thinking 2017 has been structured to enable formal and ad-hoc opportunities for any of us to exchange insights, practices and experiences in an open, approachable and engaging forum. This reflects the pluri-disciplinary and diverse nature of the work that we all do, which sets Design Thinking practitioners apart from conventional silos and rigid frameworks.
Design Thinking is a soft methodology that explicitly calls for consistently going beyond our comfort zone so that ingenuity’s X-Factor comes to the surface and makes a difference project after project. With that in mind, the event’s agenda and speaker roster transpires the courage that it takes to approach each single project as a new endeavor worth diving into, and to do so in the midst of ambiguity, uncertainty and changing conditions while counting on Design Thinking as a serial innovation practice.
First published by the International Productivity and Quality Center, IPQC.