According to Innovation Norway it pays off to be market oriented, that is to say, to include your end users in the product development process as early as possible. Market oriented companies report higher growth rates as they are able to pivot according to changing market needs with solutions that are superior to rivals. In other words, human-centered design—putting people at the center of innovation and development projects, both in society and business. This approach has also come to be known as Design Thinking.
There are many New Product Development approaches to choose from, but a quick Google Search shows that interest in Design Thinking has increased dramatically from 2011 to 2015. A core principle in Design Thinking is to fail fast, in order to succeed sooner. This involves making rough mock-ups and testing your assumptions. Empathy makes up an essential part of this process, and Federico Lozano’s workshop gives us a brief introduction to what empathy really is.
Federico Lozano is the founder of Pracademy, a global design-thinking training company, the academic director of the Multidisciplinary Design Thinking education DT Bergen and assistant Professor at NTNU. He works with university students from all over the world, leaders of billion-dollar companies, and budding entrepreneurs. Regardless of whom he trains, his mission is the same: to help humans develop their creative confidence so they can lead more meaningful lives.
Lozano often encourages his students to break down barriers and be more in contact with both their own and the feelings of others. He firmly believes empathy can be trained like a muscle through various exercises, like staring into a stranger’s eyes for several minutes without talking. Research shows that neurons in the brain begin to mirror the other person's feelings. The brains are in a way "paired" and one feels that the other feels. In other words, the perfect empathy exercise!
“I noticed that every time i smiled during lectures, the audience smiled back to me. This recurring phenomenon began to surprise me. Eventually I realized that it is actually my own smile the audience reflects”, said Lozano.
He has also had the pleasure of meeting the Dalai Lama who urged him to meditate on "loving kindness". This form of meditation has been shown to actually increase a person’s ability to feel empathy, a crucial skill for designers seeking to understand what their users need, how they think and behave - and incorporating that understanding into every aspect of the process.
“After I have my students do meditation exercises the discussions are absolutely marvelous! The focus shifts from simply developing products to much bigger and important questions”.
This isn’t a workshop you want to miss if you are looking to increase your creative chops and tackle challenges such as the creation of new products, technological innovation, services, business models, experiences, processes and/or systems.