Innovation strategies and the role of user data.

Innovation strategies and the role of user data.

Innovation strategies and the role of user data.

Gathering and analyzing user data in new product development (NPD),

Different types of innovations require different data sources as input. The design of products and services for current users with current needs typically requires research data that relies upon gathering and analyzing evidence of the current situation.

On the contrary, for products and services targeting future use there isn’t any directly applicable data, since typical research activities focus on current needs rather then giving a glance into the future. When NPD  departments want to innovate by addressing future needs, a thorough understanding of the users (e.g., their needs,dreams, motivations, feelings), without the constraints of the current context, is essential. Imagination and intuition are the main mechanisms of people in NPD departments when starting to think of possible future experiences.

They interpret data and call upon their empathic abilities to come up with solutions that will fit in a future context and will be used by future users.

The job of designers in NPD departments is therefore not accurately describing the world as it is, but rather how it could be, making subjectivity of data desirable.

Empathic design techniques could be the key in facilitating this. Within this article empathic design is defined as a design process that utilizes any tool or method that (implicitly or explicitly) aims to enhance empathy within the design team.

There are already tools that aim to enhance empathy through presenting data accordingly, like personas, however they have many pitfalls. We propose a framework for structuring and communicating user data to enhance empathy with users, thereby sparking innovation in large organizations.

Building blocks of empathy

An important aspect of user data is therefore the facilitation of gaining empathy with users, but how can empathy be enhanced in the design process? Empathy can be viewed as an ability, as a construction of components and as a process. Empathy as an ability refers to a person to identify with- and understand another person’s feelings, ideas and circumstances. Empathy has a cognitive (understanding) and an affective (feeling) component. 

Both components should be facilitated through user data in the NPD process. Enhancing empathy with users in design processes is not magically achieved at one insightful moment.

Based on psychological theories empathy is a process that runs through different phases. 

Its application to design consists of four following phases; discovery, immersion, connection and detachment. We suggest that communicating user data to NPD departments should be implemented by these four phases of the empathy process.