The Human-Centered Leader
February 23, 2020 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

Research shows that innovative leaders all share a core set of attributes that help them to engage with and inspire their teams every day.

What’s most exciting is that these leadership mindsets can be adopted by any manager to help their teams — and themselves — to challenge assumptions and generate ideas that will disrupt their industries.

Last month, ExperiencePoint co-founder Greg Warman hosted a webinar breaking down the Five Mindsets for Leading Innovation. In our previous blogs in this series, we explored the first two mindsets: Relentless Optimism and Empowerment. In this blog we focus on Mindset #3: Human-Centeredness.

Human-centered design is the process of building empathy with your target audience, then using that empathy as the touchpoint to solve the right problems in ways that will make your customers lives better, easier and more productive.

When companies build their innovation process around human-centeredness, the solutions they create are more likely to be embraced by customers.

Over the years, plenty of companies have built products that they were sure their customers would love. Yet in failing to take a human-centered approach, they ended up creating products that might have delighted their IT or design teams but had no practical value in the real world — think Google Glass, New Coke or Amazon’s Fire Phone.

Having a human-centered mindset helps innovative leaders sift through all the great ideas to find the ones that serve a real purpose — ensuring they invest in projects that the world actually needs.

Human-centered leaders don’t limit this customer-centric approach to individual projects. They use the methodology every time they engage with an employee or customer as a way to drive innovative thinking forward. Here’s how they do it.

  1. They make the user’s perspective the starting point of every project.

    Before even building a project plan, these leaders require their teams to spend time with customers — observing what they need and what problems they need solved. Then they use those insights to figure out how to make their lives better.

  2. They articulate the vision, then give their people space to work.

    A human-centered leader understands that employees need guidance, encouragement and the authority to push boundaries. Remember: when you stop micromanaging, your people will shine.

  3. They return to the customer — and customer data — at every decision point and milestone.

    Customer-centricity is not a task, it’s a way of life — human-centered leaders know that. That’s why they constantly remind team members to look at the problem through customers’ eyes and to empathize with their needs, because it is the best way to find the right path forward.

  4. They understand the value of diversity.

    Innovation occurs when teams can look at problems from every angle, which requires a diversity of thought and experience at the table. Human-centered leaders go out of their way to build diverse teams — bringing together people with different backgrounds, genders, work experience and problem=solving skills. Then they give everyone a voice because they know this will deliver better business results.

  5. They treat employees like customers.

    Sometimes, being a human-centered leader means empathizing with the team. These leaders make time to regularly connect with their employees, talking to them about their needs, their future goals and the challenges they face. When managers take time to understand what their employees want, they can eliminate the right obstacles and invest in programs that will help them shine. This leads to better engagement, which has been proven to improve retention, increase productivity and drive profitability — all of which is good for the business.

Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale or download our free ebook Design Thinking 101.

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