A Super Skill In The Age Of AI

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Human Centered Design: Putting People First

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of everyone’s mind at the moment. Since the launch of ChatGPT, our social media feeds, conference agendas, and white papers have been brimming with advice, guidelines, and opinions on how to make the most of this emergent technology. Almost overnight, we’ve seen a proliferation of self-styled experts in the field and even the advent of a new role: chief AI officer.

We’ve seen the breathless launch of competing chatbots, and the shoehorning of generative functionality into everything from photo editors to online marketplaces and professional networking platforms. It can create text, code, images, audio, music, and even full-blown video. It can create an avatar of me narrating a script, and have me say it in Spanish…or Japanese. Amid all the positive energy, of course, have been the warnings that the robots will destroy jobs. And while it’s true that AI will replace humans in some occupations– just as machines have done since the dawn of the industrial revolution–the deeper truth is that the majority of us will be impacted rather than eliminated.

Working With Artificial Intelligence

The trick–if there is one–is to view Artificial Intelligence not as an enemy replacing our own intelligence, but rather as a friend augmenting it. Hence working with the robots is key. From a Learning and Development (L&D) perspective, that means we need to equip our workforce with a range of technical skills to exploit the data and efficiencies that digitalization offers, thereby reframing the threat as an opportunity. Such skills might include prompt engineering, coding, and data visualization; and from an organization-wide perspective, perhaps a minimum level of what we might call “digital intelligence”.

Regardless of how advanced the technology becomes, however, it’s also important to recognize that we’ll always serve customers, whether they’re internal or external to the organization. That means the future remains human, and those humans will continue to have goals, wants, needs, and expectations. Sure, the software can crunch numbers in a heartbeat, and an agent can automate manual processes, but are they crunching the right numbers and automating the right processes? To answer this question, we need to ensure the technology is solving the right things and solving them right. And that is the premise of human centered design (HCD).

Human Centered Design

HCD is an umbrella term that covers the likes of design thinking (DT), User Experience design (UXD), customer experience design (CXD), and Learning Experience Design (LXD). They’re all variations of a theme, and that theme is that everyone provides a service to someone. To improve that service for them, you can solve the problems they’re experiencing–which could be anything from a quick fix through to an innovative feature or a brand new product line.

One of the most widely adopted approaches to HCD is the double diamond espoused by the Design Council, which comprises four steps: discover, define, develop, and deliver. As the council states on its website, the model “is a visual representation of the design and innovation process. It’s a simple way to describe the steps taken in any design and innovation project, irrespective of methods and tools used.” In a nutshell, it involves discovering the challenges that your customers are facing; using those insights to define the problem at hand; generating ideas for potential solutions; and testing a solution prior to launch. It improves your probability of success because you invite your end users to join you on the design journey, so that the solution you devise together matches what they’re looking for.


In the age of AI, human centered design is a super skill because it puts people first. It ensures the numbers that the software crunches will provide intelligence to inform a decision that your customer needs to make. It ensures the process that the agent automates will service a need that your customer has. As the popular saying goes, it ensures your plane lands at the right airport. In this way, HCD is a soft skill that complements and galvanizes your suite of hard skills. It’s a super skill that not only empowers you among the robots. It also empowers you among your fellow humans with whom you compete for jobs, bonuses, and promotions.

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