Historically, design and innovation have been plagued by intuition-only decision making. A creative person intuits a solution from deep within, and behold, the future is created! Although innovation depends heavily on creativity, the business world has grown weary of betting on intuition—as they should.
The design community has answered the call to leverage creativity while at the same time, reducing risk, by adopting a human centered approach to design and innovation. In fact, it's become increasingly difficult to make any decision about where to innovate without someone asking about the user research.
Design-driven innovation is more than user research. It's more than empathy. It's more than observing customer behavior. As a design community, we may be in danger of focusing too much on user research.
The trouble with experience is that is often the reason we're in a corner and need to innovate in the first place! Doing things the way we've always done them leads to the same results quarter after quarter. Senior leadership finally gets tired of the same or worsening results and hires an innovation consultant to shake things up. The next thing you know, those with the most experience doing things the old way are the least relevant in any plans to move forward.
That's gotta stop.
Whether it's personal experience or the collective experience of an organization, experience is a critical part of the decision making process!
The beauty of experience is that it creates evidence. Some evidence points to clear wins, and some points to tired results. Regardless, experience is the bedrock of learning.
The key to leveraging experience is actually pretty hard work. It requires an objective look at the evidence it creates, and if you're the one creating evidence, it's nearly impossible to be objective about it.
That doesn't mean, however, that you should throw the baby out with the bath water! Find yourself a trusted partner that will wade through the evidence with you and help you identify the key learning that will expose new opportunities and reduce risks that other, more creative exercises, will introduce.
Intuition has gotten a bad wrap over the past few years thanks to design thinking and human centered design. These approaches to design place a premium on insights coming from outside the traditional design discipline. As a result, intuition has been labeled dangerous, risky and far too subjective to be meaningful within business (yes, I'm being dramatic, but I'm not far from the truth in this portrayal).
The real danger with intuition is when it's left unchecked.
Intuition, however, is one of the key elements that separates design from reductionary forms of problem solving. It accounts for the human creativity and experience component of design. It's often what we call the 'designers touch'.
I like how Roger Martin puts it:
In the world of Human Centered Design, insight is the star of the show. Insight is all about discovering and validating the solution, outside of the of the designer.
Gathering insights without looking through the lens of intuition and experience can lead to tragic results. Mr. Alan Cooper puts it like this:
The next time you're up against a design decision, consider weighing these 3 inputs into the process.