Want FREE Templates on Organization, Change, & Culture? Download our FREE compilation of 50+ slides. This is an exclusive promotion being run on LinkedIn.


As Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, famously remarked, "Obsess over customers, not competitors." This principle of Human-Centered Design (HCD) is the foundation of companies that continuously innovate and remain competitive in a fast-paced digital world. This article will provide insights into the fundamentals of HCD, its benefits, and best practices, drawing upon real-life examples from Fortune 500 companies.

Understanding Human-Centered Design

The concept of HCD originates from the Design Thinking approach, which is a problem-solving methodology that focuses on creating solutions that are tailor-made for the user. At its core, HCD puts humans, and not technologies or business goals, at the center of the entire design and development process. It involves a deep understanding of the users' needs, their context, and the problems they face. It is essentially about empathizing with the user to design products, services, and systems that are intuitive, accessible, and importantly, user-friendly.

Why Human-Centered Design Matters

Many executives, more than ever before, recognize the critical role of HCD in Strategic Planning, Digital Transformation, and Performance Management. According to a recent McKinsey survey, more than 70% of executives believe that HCD can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. In addition, companies that adopt HCD are more likely to outperform those that do not, both in terms of financial performance and customer satisfaction.

The HCD Process

Implementing HCD requires a specific, iterative process that usually consists of the following steps:

  1. Research: This involves conducting user interviews, surveys, and other forms of market research to understand users' needs, motivations, and contexts.
  2. Concept Development: The insights from the research stage are then used to create concepts and ideas for solutions. These concepts are guided by the established user needs and challenges.
  3. Prototype: The concept is transformed into a tangible model or prototype that users can interact with and provide feedback on.
  4. Evaluate: The prototype is evaluated and refined based on user feedback. The iteration continues until the solution optimally meets user needs.

Best Practices in HCD

Many Fortune 500 companies, such as Google, Procter & Gamble and General Electric, have successfully applied HCD principles in their business strategies. From their successful strategies, it is possible to identify a number of best practices:

Unlocking the Power of HCD

By moving from a product-centric to a human-centric mindset, companies can unlock a wealth of innovation potential. Moreover, an HCD approach can help businesses better navigate Risk Management scenarios by incorporating user needs and inputs into decision-making processes.

A shift toward HCD is both a strategic opportunity and necessity in today's digital world. As Jeff Bezos' quote at the beginning of this article reminds us, companies must prioritize understanding and designing for their users – if not, they run the risk of falling behind in an increasingly customer-centric world.


Since 2012, we have provided best practices to over 10,000 businesses and organizations of all sizes across the world—in over 130 countries. Below is just a very small sample of our customer base.

Did you know?
The average daily rate of a McKinsey consultant is $6,625 (not including expenses). The average price of a Flevy document is $65.

Browse our Business Toolkits
to quickly find the documents you need.
Each business toolkit is a collection of documents around a common management topic.


  Show all available toolkits.

Download our FREE Strategy & Transformation Framework Templates

Download our free compilation of 50+ Strategy & Transformation slides and templates. Frameworks include McKinsey 7-S Strategy Model, Balanced Scorecard, Disruptive Innovation, BCG Experience Curve, and many more.