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Designing for Outcomes

How often, when you begin an assignment, do you have a clear understanding of what outcomes are desired by your client? An outcome is different than a deliverable. An outcome is the impact, benefit or change that is desired. A deliverable is a product of work.

In this video, Dean Kamen, talks about his work on an amazing prosthetic device designed for injured soliders.

What struck me was that when DARPA shows up at his door they ask for three specific outcomes:

1) The solider must be able to pick up a grape without crushing it.
2) The soldier must be able to pick up a raison without dropping it.
3) The soldier must be able to do this in 2 years.

There were no requirements for a specific technology, materials, process or staffing. There were some requirements for success (i,e, self contained, fit a 50th percentile female frame etc.) But these three outcomes shape the deliverables.

All too often we focus on deliverables rather than outcomes when we design. Clients are quick to specifically request what they want delivered rather than the outcomes they need. We need to setup clear outcomes up front and then let the design process define the deliverables.

Jon Lax More posts by Jon Lax