Innovation from a Human-Centered Perspective



Thoughtful Contemplation – Photo by M. Sharpe

One of the questions recently posed in our LRNT 524 class was how we define innovation. In working through a definition of my own, I explored other resources which revealed a wide range of definitions. One of those resources is an article by Nick Skillicorn (2016) who asked 15 innovation leaders how they defined ‘innovation’. The question elicited a wide range of responses involving relevancy (Stephen Shapiro), to value propositions (Kevin McFarthing), to customer needs (Robert Brands). Such a variety of definitions speaks to the differing mindsets that influence how innovation is defined and perhaps how it is therefore approached.

As a novice learning designer, I am still grappling with what innovation looks like. So far, I define innovation as the realization of an idea – new, repurposed or a change to something – which serves the needs and preferences of a learning community for which it is intended. In considering the needs of others, thoughtful intention and purpose toward innovation aligns with a human-centeredness. In their research, which examines the evolution of design thinking in graduate students, Goldman et al. (2012) identified human-centered as one of four mindshifts critical to becoming a design thinker.  A human-centered approach “move[s] towards solutions that resonate with the needs and lives of others, marking a sharp contrast to egocentric views of the world that are characteristic of a failure to adopt human-centeredness” (Goldman et al., 2012, p. 30). Trying to be conscious of what others need rather than what we, as designers, may think is needed or wanted can prove challenging.

In my learning journey, I am able to appreciate the need to shift my mindset to think outside of the box. I am beginning to experience mindshifts that hopefully lead in the direction of thoughtful, innovative and human-centered design. Anchoring my definition of innovation to the purpose of serving others is one way I hope which orients my practice. However, I am curious to learn how this looks for others in our learning community. How do you define innovation in your practice of design thinking?


Goldman, S., Carroll, M.P., Kabayadondo, Z., Cavagnaro, L.B., Royalty, A. W., Roth, B., Kwek, S. W., & Kimet, J. (2012). Assessing d.learning: Capturing the journey of becoming a design thinker. In H. Plattner, C. Meinel & L. Leifer (eds). Design thinking research: Understanding innovation. (pp. 13-33). Berlin: Springer.

Skillicorn, N. (2016, March 18). What is innovation? 15 experts share their innovation definition. Retrieved from