Design Thinking: Making the Future User-Friendly
September 23, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

The future of labor is here. The workplace is becoming automated. Artificial intelligence is now widely in use. Jobs are changing—and so are desired job skills. Are flying cars, personal robots and mind-reading devices still the stuff of science fiction? Not if Elon Musk has anything to do about it.

But with all this dazzling progress underway, companies still need to put their customers first. When it comes to the development of emerging technologies, design thinking can reliably safeguard customer-centricity.

How? Product teams that use design thinking in their innovation processes ensure that new technologies and products are user-friendly. Design thinking helps avoid creating services or devices with unrealistic learning curves that can deter prospective consumers. Using human-centered approaches can also raise red flags on a product’s desirability or downright scariness. (Check out MIT’s newly-developed mind-reading software—a product that raises all kinds of questions about the privacy of our unsaid thoughts).

Soft and sleek

When it comes to cutting-edge technology, the general public can be tricky to win over. A recent article in Holmes Report highlights how companies such as Cobalt Robotics and CTRL-labs keep design thinking at the forefront of product development for precisely this reason. When you lose track of public needs and desires, you risk alienating your consumer base.

Cobalt Robotics specializes in indoor workplace security robots. Initially, the company struggled to design friendly, unintimidating robots—they wanted to create something along the lines of the cartooned “Wall-E” and not “The Terminator.” Using design thinking, they came up with ways to make their bots more approachable by covering them with fabric and other visually pleasing elements, thus easing consumer fears that the robot uprising was upon them.

Meanwhile, CTRL-labs is developing an electromyography-based human-computer interface—or, simply put, a device that allows consumers to control technology with their thoughts. Mind intrusion is something most people find off-putting so, to ease consumer fears, the company used design thinking to develop their product’s appearance. Turns out, a single, sleek wristband (rather than a gaggle of wires and flashing lights) is all a person needs to control technology with their mind.

Design thinking becomes additionally important when today’s emerging business model is considered. According to a study by Forrester Research, published by the Wall Street Journal, 40 percent of surveyed corporate officials cited emerging enterprise technology as the top driver for new business models. However, 31 percent cited improving an understanding of customer needs.

What does this mean? Emerging technology and customer needs are top priorities for business today. Design thinking is an excellent way to make sure that progress doesn’t outpace public taste and that the future remains user-friendly.


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