Throughout our research and product design projects for the Chinese market, we have been able to observe that the fast growing economy in this country, of which we talked about in the past, is the result of a mindset and a development strategy that shares many similarities with User-Centered innovation methods, and therefore makes it the ideal setting to apply this methodology for innovation.
In the following article we want to share with you our personal and professional analysis. We analyze it below.
Over the past decades in China, different phases have gone through in which innovation has been managed differently. Just as innovation previously depended on external solutions, today China is focusing and centering innovation on the country’s internal development.
To this must be added the context of growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the impact of globalization. In addition, in this new context, China no longer lives in isolation from the rest of the world and is also focused on reaching the largest number of citizens, in the shortest time possible and using the most agile and efficient methodologies available.
All these factors create the ideal context to apply User-Centered Innovation methods since:
The Chinese consumer changes so fast that China can be considered to serve a new generation of consumers every 3-5 years.
This means that it is a changing society and that this transformation is fast and constant, which, again, makes it position itself as one of the most promising social and economic contexts for the use of the methods and techniques of Research Centered in the User (UX Research).
Unlike quantitative research, which allows us to answer questions such as “What”, “Which” or “How much”, the qualitative data with which UX Research works allows us to discover the “Why” behind decision-making, enabling us to anticipate the next decision steps.
The results obtained from a UX Research allow us to understand traditional or already established values, interpret their evolution and visualize possible new emerging values.
In this context, both the public and private sectors can generate strategies, proposals and concepts that are sufficiently advanced to respond both to current expectations (short-term innovation) and to emerging needs (medium-long-term innovation).
For all the above, the qualitative research of UX Research is the appropriate and necessary approach to generate solid innovation strategies in a society of rapid and constant advances and changes.
The feelings of collectivity, community and family continue to be descriptive factors of the society of this country, and yet certain lifestyles and habits flourish more and more frequently among its citizens, demonstrating greater individualism when it comes to the search for happiness and personal growth.
As we mentioned in previous articles, aspects such as the atomization of the family and the fact that fewer and fewer generations live under the same roof, or the displacement of young professionals away from their hometown to develop their careers, show that the priority system is changing, to accommodate new ways of conceiving life that move away from more traditional collective practices.
In Chinese society, the importance of the individual as part of a society can be observed, the individualism that coexists in harmony with the feeling of community.
Throughout our immersions and projects, users have shown us that while people in China are increasingly focusing on their individuality to “design” their own lives, they simultaneously generate and demand new ways of relating and communicating with their surroundings.
Observed examples of this are middle-aged adults who seek solutions to ensure the health of their parents, although from a distance, or young families who despite having much less time than previous generations to care for their children , seek new resources to reconcile family life and raise them in health, autonomy and family values.
Maite Otano, Strategic Design and Research at Lúcid, says:
“User Centered Design (UCD) and UX Research have allowed us to actively listen to each user to identify needs that are shared by seemingly unrelated people, they have helped us to discover which characteristics they share and which differentiate them from the other user groups, and they have also facilitated us the mapping of how they would like to relate to their environment.
This is how in our projects we have defined new clusters or target consumer groups, which have been a guide to new concepts and innovation strategies adapted to today’s society in China.”
Countries like China, where for various cultural, economic and political reasons, do not have as deep a tradition in the delegation of innovation in the private sector as other Western countries may have, they show great interest, capacity and agility to define initiatives of innovation that combine the public and private spheres in a coordinated way.
This search for agility and innovation make this area the ideal context for the exploitation of the most current innovation methods such as Design Thinking, Open Innovation or User-Centered Design, a magnificent example of this are the “pilot” cities.
As Xin Zhou well explained in his article User-Centered Design, Design Thinking, and… China?, cities such as Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Shantou emerged as “pilot” cities where they constantly test and verify new social policies, development strategies and value creation in public spaces, in a balance and alignment with the initiatives of the private sector.
We have been able to identify how the iterative cycle of exploration, ideation, testing and continuous improvement of the UCD coincides with the technological, economic, urban planning and even educational innovation strategies put into practice in the cities of this country.
Collecting data, exploring, thinking up and testing, gives these urban centers an enormous capacity for adaptation and refinement for the implementation of new initiatives. These UCD techniques, normally used in urban development in the country, have a great reception especially among the new urban generations. We have seen in recent years how this method of innovation begins little by little to also be introduced in the private sector as a lever for change and growth in both national and foreign companies that wish to enter this market.
In conclusion, the absorption of this method by companies and organizations has given us the opportunity to deploy research and creativity techniques in the country, hand in hand with renowned consumer product firms.
Using techniques and tools adapted to the culture of this country, we have been able to read and visualize how these constant changes impact its inhabitants in order to define new spaces of opportunity.