Human Centred Design – Human Centred Strategy

This post is a collaboration between myself (writing) and David Standen (editorial).

I’ve just started reading The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman and have become more familiar with the term Human Centred Design (HCD). I highly recommend the book, for those who haven’t read it. Here’s how it explains HCD:

“An approach that puts human needs, capabilities and behaviour first and then designs to accommodate those needs, capabilities and ways of behaving.”

It’s a philosophy that sits alongside focus areas in design such as interaction, industrial and experience. HCD begins with a deep understanding of people and the needs that the design is intended to meet.

This philosophy can be applied to many different situations, but the first one that sprang to my mind was defining a strategy. Specifically, the importance of how clear, easy and understandable a strategy should be. As Cynthia Montgomery explains in The Strategist:

“Your strategy should be able to travel on its own – without interpretation and without you there to coach the reader on what it ‘really means’.”Cynthia Montgomery

The concept of Human Centred Design applies so perfectly to writing a strategy – it needs to be designed so that it can be understood by those reading it. All too often strategies are overly complex, full of fluff and too focused on goals – all of which make them poorly designed and hard for a reader to understand. In The Strategist, Montgomery goes on to explain the importance that everyone in your team/company must understand and believe in the strategy in order for it to succeed. If they don’t, failure is inevitable.

So next time you see a strategy for the first time, see if you can understand it without someone else’s interpretation. And next time you write one, remember to design it so it can be understood – with humans in mind.