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Volume 4 | June 2022


Human-Centered. Solutions Driven.

CULTURE CORNER: Using HCD Models to Impact New Technology Adoption 

By Jack Wang

Culture Corner

Technological advancements have made their way to every industry. Indeed, wearable devices and technologies such as exoskeletons have been adapted for use in major industries from the military, medical world, industrial settings, and beyond using various mechanisms and designs.

Although the history of exoskeletons for human use dates back to the 1960s or even the 1890s by some historians, they have recently seen a tremendous surge in interest within the manufacturing industry, prompting more scientific review of the devices. The benefits of exoskeleton use to augment human strength capabilities, decrease fatigue and other advantages are well documented to reduce occupational musculoskeletal disorders from both objective and subjective measures. However, there has not been significant adoption by workers, and employers are wondering why, given the support from lab research findings.

One explanation for this juxtaposition relates to the usability and safety concerns raised by early adopters, such as discomfort, restrictions to range of motion, and overheating. This is an example of a human centered design issue, the end user experience was not part of the design process. Although designs have improved significantly from the inception of the devices, certain issues continue to persist, and to the user, these challenges may outweigh the perceived benefits of exoskeleton use. Some of the key elements identified to negatively influence perceived usability and user acceptance were reports of the devices being too heavy, straps and buckles not designed for female users, restrictions to range of motion impeding the ability to accomplish tasks, and the heat generated from wearing the exoskeleton itself. Before introducing any devices or technologies, some important questions must be asked… What do we estimate to be our likelihood of user acceptance and what are some potential challenges from these changes? Without consideration for human centered design, the effectiveness of any solution may be dramatically reduced.

Another crucial aspect to implementing any device or technology and having user acceptance is a healthy positive workplace culture and having a well thought out implementation strategy. Workplace culture is unique to each organization based on its values, traditions, behaviors, and attitudes which heavily impact the daily interactions we have at work. Not only does a positive healthy workplace culture drive engagement, influence satisfaction, and affect performance, but most importantly, it builds trust among peers and leadership. This workplace culture supports the positive perception of new users towards not only themselves but also how they feel others are viewing them when accepting a device or technology. This in turn creates a movement for wide adoption by creating the initial momentum. However, even with great momentum, implementation will fail without a well thought out strategy. Using exoskeletons as an example, it can be very threatening if they suddenly appear, and workers are expected to use them. Changes to the norm are not always welcome so to help with user acceptance, key users and stakeholders must be involved, a proper communication plan must be developed, and training should be continuous even after the successful implementation.

Shifting to a human centered design approach, especially when introducing or implementing new devices and technologies, is a core change in mindset. Even with significant proven benefits and advantages, the value and successes are dependent on the engagement of the end user with the human focused in the center of all considerations. Thus, having a healthy positive workplace culture and a well thought out strategy acts as the foundation to user acceptance.