"Something scrappy"

There is no doubt that this Covid 19 pandemic is a scary time. There's also no doubt that people and organisations have responded in ways which has turbo charged the pace of change.

In my own neighbourhood I've seen a much-loved tiny clothing and homewares store which relied on the authentic handmade nature of its goods, the outsized and generous hearted personality of its owner and chief maker and the deeply intimate shop experience transition very quickly to an online business. This was a shop where you used to have to phone up if you had a question or visit the store in person. Now a quirky, lively and personal Instagram front-end integrates with a simple online shopping experience. The service is second to none, the feeling I get as a customer is not quite the same but it does encapsulate most of what I love about the store—and she gets to stay in business. Another tiny example is a chef here in Melbourne unable to open his restaurant in lockdown, set up an online platform to make available restaurant quality produce, and then restaurant meals to customers. This keeps our local food producers and many restaurants in business, and allowed him to continue providing great food as well as (remote) hospitality.

Bigger companies have pivoted quickly too: Pepsico in the US created a new onboarding platform for its staff in less than a week. It responded to urgency, had clear purpose and goals at its centre and the design was described as "scrappy". That is, it wasn't perfect to start with but was fit for purpose, evolving over time with inbuilt feedback loops. Sound familiar? Yep, that's pretty classic human-centred design thinking.

Human-centred design is a perfect fit for the times we are in; volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It allows us to respond quickly, guided by real human insight and to be prepared to learn as we do so. It's action oriented.

I love the idea of embracing "scrappy" now. It resonates strongly because of our belief in the power of a low-fi prototype and in the wisdom of those using early prototypes. Putting something "scrappy" into the world also requires humility and vulnerability, feelings we are all experiencing right now. Harnessing those qualities in your work might lead to some surprising results. Adapting to the impacts of Covid 19 also requires innovation, speed and empathy. These are qualities that HCD has in spades! You are probably part of changing something now; and many of the lessons of the past will be of no use. Consider investing in some intentional human-centred design to deliver something "scrappy", which can then evolve into something just right.


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