How to craft inclusive people experiences using human-centred design


Quick question before we don our human-centred design hats: Did you know International Women’s Day (IWD) began in 1911? 

While it hasn’t always seemed it, people have been celebrating women on 8 March for more than 100 years! Shining a spotlight on women’s achievements! Highlighting gender biases and reflecting on progress! The day is about uniting us all to strive for a more equitable world

Over at Strivin HQ, we salute women every day – but especially during IWD week. That’s why each March, we line up a wonderful week of webinars and workshops – all aimed at helping females flourish. 

This year, the loveable labonauts over at Lab17 hopped on board this speaker series with a serious pep in their sisterhood step. They generously sponsored the entire thing! 

But we couldn’t stop them there: they also ran a session on the secrets of human-centred design.


So what exactly is human-centred design? Why does it matter? And how can you start designing your own inclusive, human-centred experiences?

Gather round because we’re going in 👇🏼

Human-centred design 101

Let’s start at the very beginning (we hear it’s a very good place to start).


So…what is human-centred design?

Lab17 defines human-centred design as “an iterative approach to solving problems and designing solutions that put people first”. 

In other words, it’s this:

Solving problems for your ‘customers’ (be they inside or outside your organisation) by bringing people into the centre of that solution-finding process

The goal? To improve processes, programs, products and experiences for your most important assets: People. 

And here’s something you may not have realised: It’s one of the best tools you can use to create an inclusive workplace.

Why is it integral to inclusivity?

A big part of human-centred design is actually understanding what people want. Because when you…

  • Engage with employees
  • Notice issues, and
  • Listen to feedback

…you’ll have a far better chance of banishing biases (yes, we all have them) and coming up with solutions that benefit everyone.

How can it solve (the right) problems?

When you view your people, organisation and culture through the lens of human-centred design, it’s far easier to stay focused on solving the problems that actually…need solving. 

When you push people to the side, you’ll often wind up working on the wrong problem. And that can mean metrics like engagement, productivity, performance and retention (you know, the sorta important stuff) take a tumble.

Human-centred design is called that for a reason.


The 4 steps to nailing human-centred design

So, what is the process, then? Glad you asked.

1. Learn as much as you can about the problem before you start solving it

Also known as the ‘discovery’ phase, this is where you get to grips with:

  • The problem (say low employee engagement)
  • Who the problem impacts (pretty much everyone in the organisation!)
  • The context in which the problem sits (for example, the team, country or industry it’s affecting)

There’s usually more to problems than meets the eye. And the most effective solutions will emerge when you’ve got all the information on hand. 

2. Define the problem

What you’ll often find here is a set of problems, rather than a neat little one packaged up ready for you to solve. Your job is to identify that group of issues – then hone in on the one that needs addressing first

Hint: It’ll be the one that drives the most value for both people and the business.

3. Design your solution

This is when you start brainstorming different ways to solve the problem. Time to bring the standout idea to life with a quick prototype or mock up of what you’re proposing. 

4. Ask for feedback

At this point, the aim is to get this potential solution out to your key stakeholders, so they can provide feedback. Or  if it’s an easy idea to test out on a small team or function, then give that a go. 

The important bit is to actually use that feedback to iterate, improve and refine your solution – before launching to the rest of the business. 


(Yep, it can be scary getting feedback. But do push on. Not only will it give you an even clearer picture of the problem, it’ll help you avoid wasting time and money on something that was never going to work, anyway. And, it could well boost adoption rates once you roll it out, too. People generally LOVE being part of the solution!)

Want to be a human-centric designer? Be a beginner first

Take yourself back to the early days, months, even years of your career. Aside from some potentially dubious taste in workplace fashun, you were likely wide open to input, possibility and learning. That’s because you had a beginner’s mindset.

So, swipe left on preconceptions, assumptions and bias. 

A beginner’s mindset means:

🧐 Staying curious. Don’t close your mind off to an idea just because you think you already know enough about a topic. 

👩‍🎓 Always learning (sorry, but Mum was right – you learn something new every day. Don’t let experience and seniority get in the way).

📈 Starting small. Rome wasn’t built in a day and, though we may wish otherwise, neither are human-centred design solutions. 

So, to recap: the best human-centred designs happen when you think like a beginner.

4 human-centred design hints to get started (from people who do it every day)

Ok, you’ve taken those steps on board and now you’re keen to kick off your own human-centred designs? Love your work

The Lab17 labonauts have got these 4 tips to get you started right:

1. Don’t jump straight into solutions

Ever found yourself switching into problem-solving mode…before you’ve actually dug a little deeper?


This isn’t a warning to stop solving (the world needs people like you!). It’s more a cautionary tale about jumping straight into action as soon as you get the tiniest whiff of an issue. We love efficiency, too, but if you’re so focused on quickly moving from idea to action, you might get stuck solving a low-priority problem

So how do you stay on track and ensure effective, inclusive solutions? 

By asking this simple question throughout the entire process: ‘What is the problem I’m trying to solve?’

2. Think progress over perfection

More perfectionist than action taker? Keep reading. 

If you’re this way inclined, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to design something perfectly before seeking stakeholder feedback. Not only does this approach slow things down, you also risk zeroing in on a particular solution… which may not actually be the right one to pursue. 

So ask around, get that feedback and come up with an idea that’s really going to fly.

3. Say sayonara to the silo

Still banging on about the feedback? Yeah, we are.

In case there was any doubt, sitting in a lonely old silo is not where it’s at. The thing is, you need all the perspectives you can get, so you can see into every crevice of the problem – from every angle. 

Will all of your ideas be embraced in a nice, warm hug? Highly unlikely. But you will know exactly what’s going to work, what’s not, and what needs finessing.

4. Start small

There’s that beginner’s mindset making itself known again (oh, hello). Like we said, not all your ideas will get off the ground. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, because all you need is what the Lab17 crew fondly call ‘the first slice of value’. 

Even if this is a teeny tiny piece of the problem you want to solve, you’re still making an impact. And, as you incorporate more feedback and figure out how to make the initiative better, you can prioritise what to work on next.

And that, Strivers, is the ever-evolving process of human-centred design.

Say hello to human-centred design

Human-centred design is an incredibly powerful tool in creating inclusive, engaged and productive workplaces. By asking the all-important ‘How might we…’ question, incorporating feedback and always (always) staying curious, your organisation is setting itself up for success.

Want to start crafting human-centric designs that put people front and centre? Get in touch with Lab 17 here!


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