The innovation debate continues in the NY Times this morning with “The Risk of Innovation: Will Anyone Embrace It?” After wading through the reporter’s anecdote about not being able to  operate his Prius, a task that apparently requires the owner to adapt behavior (“I don’t think I can adapt to the behaviors required by the Prius.”),  we get to the thrust of the article.

“Whether humans will embrace or resist an innovation is the billion-dollar question facing designers of novel products and services.”

I like the reference to the billion-dollar question. I’ll have to use that when speaking about my projects.

So, what can we do to help solve the billion-dollar question?

“FOR technological innovators, the cash register can ring either way. They may achieve a smash-hit breakthrough, or simply make a slight improvement in a technology that humans already feel comfortable with. Most innovators no longer even try to predict human reactions to their creations.

Henry Kressel, a partner at Warburg Pincus and a co-author of ‘Competing for the Future: How Digital Innovations Are Changing the World,’ says, ‘You throw technologies into the market and see what sticks.'”

Apparently nothing! Just make stuff and see what happens!

While there is some truth in saying that you can never determine for sure what people will do with a new product or service, I believe the whole point of human-centered design is that we can do research that allows us to design product and services that actually improves peoples’ lives and that they desire rather than just throwing technology into the market.

I’m surprised to see that most innovators “no longer” try to predict reactions, as that is antithesis to a major theme of my graduate school education. Though I recognize that is how a lot of products and services appear to be currently design (perhaps why so many fail or suck), I would like to believe that with the increased focus on human-centered design the situation might be improving.

Maybe not.