User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea

While we need designers and why design is a city and a brands most valuable asset,  the idea that it is the designer or architect’s role to originate “brilliant” designs from scratch is a paradigm that’s time is past – it leads us down the path of the “Starchitect” and icons of design which destroy the fabric of the city. While user-led innovation is a non-sequitur, in depth knowledge of that user arising both from understanding and involvement with the end user, e.g. IDEO’s Human-Centered Design Toolkit developed for user participation by IDEO for the Bill and Melida Gates Foundations work in disadvanted communities- it purpose is ” to help international staff and volunteers understand a community’s needs in new ways, find innovative solutions to meet those needs, and deliver solutions with financial sustainability in mind. ” This arose form IDEO’s interface design process which has been used by Apple inthe past to make more user friendly designs.

So here is Jens Martin Skibsted view posted from Fast Company.

Written by Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen

Companies should lead their users, not the other way around.

The user is king. It’s a phrase that’s repeated over and over again as a mantra: Companies must become user-centric. But there’s a problem: It doesn’t work. Here’s the truth: Great brands lead users, not the other way around.

The Apple and IKEA way

Take Apple. One evening, well into the night, we asked some of our friends on the Apple design team about their view of user-centric design. Their answer? “It’s all bullshit and hot air created to sell consulting projects and to give insecure managers a false sense of security. At Apple, we don’t waste our time asking users, we build our brand through creating great products we believe people will love.”

Another hyper-growth brand, IKEA, has the same belief. One of us had the privilege of working closely with IKEA’s global brand and design leaders; at IKEA the unspoken philosophy is: “We show people the way.” IKEA designers don’t use user studies or user insights to create their products. When I asked them why, they said “We tried and it didn’t work.”

Of course, neither Apple nor IKEA will say this publicly since they are both extremely closed companies and would risk offending users (and the design community) by speaking out against user-centeredness.

And since no one will speak up, the false value of the user-as-leader has spread.

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