One of the business innovation workshops I conducted in New York City featured cognitive scientist Donald Norman as a guest speaker. Norman is a leading expert in “user-centered design” and author of The Design of Everyday Things. The workshop was attended by 40 mid- and top-level managers from numerous divisions of a Fortune 200 company.
The goal of this off-site innovation meeting was to provoke some of the company’s most promising professionals to look at things a little differently – in fact, we wanted them to look at everything differently.
Every day of our lives, we are bombarded by tens of thousands of visual and operational stimuli. The door handle we use to open the closet, the street sign we see to make the correct turn, the faucet we use to turn on the water in the restroom, the ink pen we use to sign a letter — and on and on.
Given the sheer volume of this stimuli, it’s no wonder that we give little thought to 99% of what we see, touch, and feel every day. But maybe your brain is paying more attention than you think.
Whether on an individual stimulus basis or in a cumulative way, your brain responds more positively to objects that are pleasing to the eye – even everyday objects. Whether it’s a company logo, a product, an online service, or a routine internal process or form, a user’s reaction to all of these things is real, no matter how subtle.
Your product division may want a customer or potential customer to enjoy the use and visual attributes of a given product. Your sales department may want a customer to have a positive user experience with an online tool or service. And your human resource department may want employees to respond favorably to this year’s new health benefit based on smart and attractive design elements.
Innovation is not only reserved for the once-a-year or once-in-a-lifetime breakthroughs. Innovation can and should occur every day across every part of your company – from the most obvious anchor product of the company to the most subtle and routine business process.
It’s the cumulative effect of these innovations and the associated attention to detail and design that will separate good companies from the best companies.
Companies should make it a point to encourage employees to seek out every opportunity to improve a product, service, or process – and should seek to arm them with the tools, training and incentives to do so.
In the end, making everyday things and how they are designed and used a priority within your company may very well lead to extraordinary things.