What happens when design meets technology to enable people & conversations?
For Ilya, a startup founder with a tech focus, design thinking takes a community-focused interpretation – where it is the connection between an outcome and people who you’re trying to achieve this outcome for. “On the surface, technology and software is only the consequence. But connecting people together is where one can apply a ‘design’ mindset to introduce change.”
It is in this context that the idea of Community engagement holds a strong resemblance to the Design Thinking process – Starting with Empathy where you bring people together very early on, and listening to them. Developing Insights by facilitating conversations & understanding their needs. And finally Ideating and Prototyping to figuring out what a solution can be together.
As a testament to this, Ilya started Posit two years ago, a training ground for UX design students where a network of professionals come together to teach, learn, and collaborate for a better future.
Be it Tech, design, people or space, the vision has been clear for Ilya – having conversations and wanting people to share their stories and experience so that they can learn something new, and lead to new ideas and innovation.
The idea was inspired with a visit to Silicon Valley and seeing their culture of a support network – professionals supporting other professionals. “In the valley it’s very easy to talk to a network with high-level skills and it’s driven by community and sharing.” This is what Ilya has been aiming to build in Hong Kong.
Especially in a city where it can often feel lonely and transitional for entrepreneurs. The one thing however, that is comforting is a sense of identity through the different communities we create and are part of – be it in AI, Sustainability, FinTech or IoT.
This is where we can learn a thing or two about using design-thinking to inject people-centricity into our environment.
In reality, to build a startup is one thing but to bring the ‘people’ along with it is often the hard part.
“Early on, I had a startup in Hong Kong and completely failed. When I look back the reason for that was, I was focused too much on the technology, not on the people who are going to use it and their needs. It’s not just about the technology, but about building a new process and culture within an organisation.”
Learning from his experience, here are 3 things startups can keep in mind to apply a people-centric approach:
- Build a prototype and test it with actual users: Build it in maximum 2 weeks and test, making sure you’re validating it with actual users. This also helps to eliminate the mental assumption you have about your idea.
- Build engagement for users, the right users. Speak to people who are going to use it, understand their needs and help them take responsibility.
- Find people who you actually want to work with. Behind anything that’s working well, it’s only a few individuals who really want to make it happen.
To manifest these values, Ilya recently ‘prototyped’ the From a Future conference, where the outcome was to see people engaged through facilitated conversations and produce tangible public ideas.
So, for those entrepreneurs looking to build a community today, start with framing a challenge you are most passionate and then identifying the relevant people for it.
“Communities are really, a few specific people who decide to spend their time, money, effort for a common outcome,” reminds Ilya.
In practice, one can begin engaging people very early on, building empathy with them, and allowing them to share thoughts and ideas to the conversation.
Keeping in mind that Communities are not something you can build. But can only serve and facilitate.
As parting words, when asked about his current state of mind in this turbulent climate, Ilya emphasises on using “Hope as an instrument of design.” Something he had once heard during a talk by IDEO. “Hope helps you to dream. When you have big exciting dreams, it manifests itself. The outcome may come a lot later.”
Ilya is Founder and Host of Posit, a global network of professionals on the intersection of Design x Tech. Bringing together User Experience Designers, Digital Product Management, Data Scientists, Growth Managers, etc. They advocate for human-centric innovations with integrity, providing opportunities to learn, share, and collaborate.
Ilya also currently runs Hong Kong’s UXD Meetup. A community who meets every month to talk about what matters in User Experience Design, Product Management, Agile.