Human-Centered Innovation: Find Your Way Out Of The Proof-Of-Concept Trap

Ben Gilchriest

Change is not just happening faster – it’s happening everywhere. This reality clearly brings an excellent opportunity to examine challenges and create innovative solutions that users can love. Yet, no matter how groundbreaking the idea or concept, innovations cannot deliver as promised if they get stuck in the proof-of-concept trap.

Recently, I came across a statistic that is a stunning confession on the state of innovation for most businesses:

 “Only 22% of large organizations are successfully scaling digital innovation proof of concepts to drive growth.” –Accenture

Now let’s flip this figure around to highlight the real challenge underlying most innovation initiatives: 78% of enterprises have innovation projects that are not driving any real business value. As long as these concepts remain as prototypes, the time, money, and effort dedicated to the project are lost investments – never delivering the outcomes needed to embrace, defend, or offset change.

This finding can be quite alarming when you consider the widespread adoption of a user-centric approach to innovation. Companies are assessing, studying, and experimenting with concepts through the lens of the user. Unfortunately, though, this method appears to fall short in helping innovators move prototypes that rely heavily on technology to deliver real-life business value.

What’s missing in your innovation initiative?

Now don’t get me wrong: the user experience is a vital consideration when identifying a problem, assessing the situation, and developing and evolving an idea. But taking into account the complexity of change driven by the technology and the scale of value delivered is equally important.

Think about the demands of the diverse audiences that an innovation touches. Executives expect a solution that operates within an existing enterprise architecture that is expanding and changing. Users want experiences that allow them to just get the work done simply, successfully, and quickly. Meanwhile, customers require smooth operations that are always on, deliver on time, and keep up with a world that never stays still.

For innovation to be successful, the perspective of every human directly and indirectly impacted by the innovation needs to be top of mind. This line of thinking needs to start as early as the ideation phase and move all the way through to full-scale operation.

Why it’s time for a more human-centered approach

A human-centered approach to innovation still requires companies to go through the process of pinpointing the challenge and creating the right solution. But the strategy encourages innovation teams to go a step further by covering multiple sides of the innovation equation – user experience, business needs as a whole, and the role of technology – from ideation to business outcomes.

The idea of “human-centered” has been around for a while, even dating back to the 1970s when design theorist Horst Rittel first seeded the concept. So what’s new? In many ways, the application of this approach now includes uniting, balancing, and aligning four fundamental factors of successful innovation:

  • Feasibility: Evaluate the technical and regulatory feasibility of the solution and its delivery.
  • Scalability: Assess and scope out how the idea will be scaled from both a technology and a business perspective.
  • Desirability: Define the consumer value proposition, its attractiveness to the end user, and the way value is achieved.
  • Viability: Flesh out the commercial case for the idea and the potential for increased revenue and impact.

All too often, user-centric innovation processes concentrate on only one or two of these factors. But with a human-centered approach, businesses can ensure everyone who has a vested interest or benefits from the innovation is considered, from the people who use it, to the business leaders investing in it, to the technologists developing and operating the solution.

This approach not only enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of business models and processes but can also transform the company’s structure and organization. It helps build a workplace culture around continuous innovation that increases user satisfaction, access, and sustainable delivery of business impact.

The heart of innovation is always about people (and not just users)

As innovation processes and strategies continue to mature, businesses are beginning to realize the importance of people. But with the human-centered approach to innovation, “people” no longer means just “users.” Now, innovators can put themselves in the shoes of everyone who is using the technology and experiencing the outcomes delivered through the new solution.

And thanks to this shift in the innovation mindset, your business can shift from merely developing a collection of prototypes to delivering and scaling productive solutions that can influence your growth for years to come.

For more information, check out SAP innovation offerings.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAP BrandVoice.


Ben Gilchriest

About Ben Gilchriest

Ben is an experienced entrepreneur, innovation designer, and business growth expert. He has worked with leaders of Fortune 500 companies in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North America to achieve breakthrough value from emerging tech., spanning experience design through to at scale deployment. He is the global lead for Applied Business Innovation in SAP Innovation Services with a focus on the application of intelligent technologies to drive business growth, new business models, and customer experience transformation.