Ingenious EDR Designs are Human Centered

Mar 16, 2015 | EDR Blog

“When you let people participate in the design process, you find that they often have ingenious ideas about what would really help them. And it’s not a onetime thing; it’s an iterative process.” –Melinda Gates, Wired Magazine, November 2013

As organizations, agencies, and governments become more aware of the ever-rising cost of conflict (in economic, relational, and human terms), many are seeking to design processes to manage conflict with greater effectiveness and efficiency. This interest in more tailored approaches highlights the necessity and opportunity to collaborate in ways that are unique to traditional approaches, through which ground-breaking problem-solving is born.

Design is not random or arbitrary: it is the intentional creation of a system or process to achieve some end or set of goals. The focus is not on the end point, but rather the starting point for a better future. Design initiatives can be taken by assessing the situation presented, identifying an opportunity, and envisioning a better way forward that is feasible and viable to implement. This is done with collaboration, thoroughness, curiosity, and a commitment to listening, understanding, educating, building relationships, and dealing with dilemmas posed by competing interests as well as broader political and public concerns. Designing a system to meet multiple, divergent interests requires skill, tenacity, experience, and a deep understanding of a growing conceptual and practical literature. An excellent process to assist creative professionals in this regard is Human Centered Design (HCD).

Human Centered Design

HCD is a problem-solving approach that starts with people and places them at the center of each stage of the design and planning process. Human centered design ensures that solutions are informed by people’s experiences. When designing an approach for challenging situations, the outcome often hinges on the end user and effective communication. The process of HCD starts with identifying a specific challenge or problem and going through three primary phases: Hear, Create, Deliver.

The Hear phase involves gaining understanding through observation; collecting stories and inspiration from people and preparing for and conducting research. The goals of this phase begin with understanding needs, hopes, aspirations, and issues at a deeper level. The steps to achieve these goals include recognizing existing knowledge, identifying the right people to speak with, choosing research methods (individual interviews, group interviews, community interviews), and developing an appropriate interview approach.

The Create phase involves working collaboratively to translate what was heard from people into themes, frameworks, opportunities, and solutions. The goals of this phase are to move from research to real-world solutions through a process of synthesis and interpretation. The steps to achieve these goals include sharing and synthesizing stories, finding patterns and themes, creating frameworks, identifying opportunity areas, brainstorming new solutions, making ideas real, and gathering feedback.

The Deliver phase involves the realization of solutions; taking the abstract to concrete. The goal of this phase is to take the desirable solutions and top ideas and make them feasible and viable. The steps include identifying the capabilities required for delivering solutions, planning for implementation, developing a timeline, creating a method to evaluate outcomes, and executing the solutions.

This approach can be scaled to many scenarios, including a quick week-long project to one of several months to those that are long term. For more information on HCD, click here, here, or here.

By Joshua King for KingJoshua King is a collaborative professional with a keen understanding of the theory and practice of communication, negotiation, mediation and dispute systems design.  Josh has consulted, trained and worked with universities, the Utah State Legislature, municipalities, counties and many organizations and individuals on effective communication and conflict management. He has extensive experience facilitating dialogue, mediating agreements, and developing and implementing training. Josh regularly presents and trains at universities, conferences, and workshops around the state and country. He has a proven ability to constructively engage with others to build meaningful and valuable relationships. Josh is a project manager at The Langdon Group and can be reached at