Integrating Business, Technology, and Creativity (BTC) My wish is to maximize the power of human-centered design (HCD)

Yuki Kobayashi
Sony Corporation Quality Management Promotion Div. Inclusive & Human-Centered Design Dept.
Department of Design Engineering and Management

Using Human-Centered Design (HCD) techniques to unify members' perceptions

I belong to an organization that promotes HCD throughout the Sony Group, and I am in charge of UI/UX design for TVs. Simultaneously, I am working to introduce HCD knowledge and expertise to our team. HCD-based development demands that all team members have a sound understanding of the product's objectives. To this end, we are working to formulate a vision of what the product should aim for using HCD techniques while aligning perceptions within the team. We are also working to design KPIs to ensure that our objectives are firmly linked to customer value.

  • *UI: User Interface, UX: User Experience

Learning the importance and joy of getting closer to people and gaining a deeper understanding of them

In college, I studied monozukuri from three angles: management, engineering, and design. Many of our classes involved collaborations with companies, taking a practical approach to the assignments presented to us from the perspective of three factors-- Business (B), Technology (T), and Creativity (C), or BTC. Our tasks included user research, identifying problems, product proposals, design, sales planning, promotion planning, and calculating income and expenditure. Through our classes I came to realize that discussions with team members alone simply gave us a false impression that we understood our users, creating a disconnect with actual customer values and behavior. Meeting users and engaging in repeated conversations and observations led to new discoveries that provided value and hints about the product. That moment was as exciting as finding a diamond in the rough. I learned the joy of getting closer to people and gaining a deeper understanding of them.
When seeking employment, I focused on companies that would allow me to be involved in manufacturing while deepening my understanding of users. I participated in the Sony internship program because I believed Sony excelled at UX design. As I watched real employees at work, it became clear how much they valued a deep understanding of user feedback. The fact that Sony even had a department dedicated to HCD was also very attractive and made me want to join the company.

Photo captions: When I was backpacking as a student and saw Japanese products being used in many different countries, it made me want to work for a Japanese company that could disseminate its brand throughout the world. Another reason why I was impressed and wanted to join Sony was the fact that it is loved globally as well.

Listening to the opinions of over 100 people helped me gain research skills and confidence

The 21 UX research projects and more than 100 interviews in which I was involved during my second year with the company are among of the most memorable HCD efforts I have been engaged in to date. I have been conducting research since I was a student, but the number of people involved in corporate research is huge. I felt that I still lacked the practical experience to conduct research and compile results that would satisfy everyone and be used in product development. When I discussed these concerns with my supervisor, she gave me the opportunity to gain experience. The research was very hard work, but I learned how to summarize the results to suit the team and product situation. This experience has also helped me in my efforts to promote HCD within the TV development team.
I was particularly impressed by a comment from an experienced veteran planner who had come to observe one of our interviews and said, "You did a good job of bringing out what we wanted to know, and we felt reassured listening to you." The client commissioning the survey also commented that the report was well organized and enabled them to move on to the next step immediately. I believe this helped me gain the skills and confidence to do research.

Human-Centered Design (HCD) is a common language for progress in user-centered monozukuri

I believe that promoting user-centered manufacturing among all team members is the ideal format for product and service development. The team includes engineers, designers, and others in various capacities. As a common language for promoting user-centered manufacturing among people in different positions, I believe HCD is the ideal tool. As we engage in our daily work, we are constantly aware of how to approach monozukuri with the user in mind.
We also place importance on promoting HCD to suit the different thought patterns for each type of job. For example, I believe engineers generally tend to think in terms of solutions, but there was a time when I did not consider this approach to be consistent with customer values. However, I began to think it might be a good idea if engineers channeled this characteristic into thinking in terms of customer values. Instead of rejecting a solutions-centric approach, I try to work together with engineers through dialog on how to find solutions that please users from the users' point of view.

My wish is to convey the importance of HCD as a means of getting closer to people

I want to be able to demonstrate the power of HCD in the upstream of monozukuri. In addition to the question of how we can make something easier for users to use, I feel we must think more about how to tailor the kind of value we should deliver to different targets, and tie this into our business.
This is exactly the area where the power of HCD can be maximized and requires the skills to connect the three areas of Business, Technology, and Creativity (BTC) with HCD. I intend to use the knowledge and experience I gained during my university days to promote user-centered monozukuri further by making the fusion of these three fields and HCD my area of expertise.
The Sony Group's management policy is getting closer to people. Personally, I believe the HCD approach towards thinking from the customer's perspective will be a great help in getting closer to people. My starting point is to help as many people as possible become fans of Sony to the best of my ability. With that in mind, I intend to focus on communicating the merits of HCD so that everyone in the company can use it to promote user-centered manufacturing.

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