In an IDEO interview with InnoFuture Tom Kelley spoke of three factors for innovation: human factors, technology factors, and business (economic) factors. With all of these being of equal importance. And where human factors is the one area with the most opportunities for growth and development.

My position is that human factors IS the most important element. It necessarily underpins everything we do. And we ignore it at our peril.


People produce and consume stuff and services. Every economic activity start and end with people. Without humans, concepts like money, trade, and even environmental sustainability become moot.

In many ways, recent spectacular systemic failures like Lehmen Brothers, Enron, HiH, communism, and even the dramatic demise of The News of the World, boil down to the essential failure to acknowledge and work effectively with the human factors of temptation, ego/aggrandisement, greed, power, and self delusion.

Usability failures – whether software, hardware or communications – can also be fishboned to the failure to the same source. The engineer/CEO/marketer/consultant knew best, except what the users wanted or expected.

Without human factors, the most lucrative business model will unravel. Getting the inside scoop has been great for business at The News of the World. And they never thought anyone would find out. Humans gossip, and talk, and tell tales!

Without human factors, the best technology will fall by the wayside. Think Betamax. Or high-def CD audio. Convenience, peer pressure, trends, all win over superior technology.

Without human factors, the best design is but a white elephant. Like my impossible to keep clean Marc Newson dish rack.