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  • Writer's pictureJake Truemper

Shift’s HCD Framework : Opportunity

At Shift we follow a three pillar framework for creating human-centered, business-viable outcomes. Over the course of the next several months we will be breaking down each stage of our approach.

Design Thinking, the middle section of our framework, is currently a hot topic for corporations looking to improve their problem solving skills, but in order to ensure that Design Thinking teams can successfully create solutions that hit on the business’s strategic objectives we also need the bookend pillars of “Opportunity” and “Activation.” This week, we’re focusing on the Opportunity pillar.

All problems are opportunities to improve, but innovation can also take place where no problems currently exist. Many of the greatest opportunities come from areas that are adjacent to, but separate from a business’s core competency.

Walmart was already a thriving business when they decided to enter into the grocery game, and now they are dominant in the U.S. grocery field. Amazon is now making noise in the grocery market as well, and it would be hard to argue that they did so out of a feeling of pain. Our “Opportunity” pillar is as much about companies’ innovation strategies as it is about understanding and targeting problem areas.

The three stages of the Opportunity pillar that we’ll discuss in this blog are: Insight, Frame, and Focus.


Many consultancies profess to be human-centered, but few live it by actually putting people at the center of their work (which means including your end users in design decisions early and often).

Unfortunately, even the true practitioners of Human-Centered Design, those who realize the need for customer inclusion, often fail to understand that methods need to alter based on how up-stream or down-stream you are operating.

Both our “Insight” and “Empathize” stages are about customer understanding, but you’ll miss the mark if you are using exactly the same techniques in exactly the same fashion at both stages. Insight, for example, will include a heavier measure of quantitative data. Popular measures like Net Promoter Score (and better options) can be used to help define your strategic areas of focus before diving down to solutioning. Market Research also plays a heavier role. Ethnography may live in both Insight and Empathize, but you may need to execute more broadly and shift your lens of focus.

Triangulation is ultimately going to be the most important aspect of the Insight stage, with a mix of qualitative, quantitative, observational, and attitudinal insights.


Insights at this altitude are often difficult to act on without a degree of synthesis. For this we use Visual Thinking techniques to reveal the current state of a service. Visual Thinking is used both as a collaboration and alignment tool, but also as a communications tool to share out the insights to broader audiences where appropriate. Friction Maps, Storyboards, Business Model Canvases, etc. are frequently used tools in framing up true areas of opportunity.

In addition to visual tools, we’ll often use decisioning matrices so that leaders can decide together how they are going to evaluate opportunities before aligning on an initiative pipeline. This method of framing stakeholders perceived business value, aligned to the customer insights gained, gives you the intersection on what can truly be innovative.


The final stage in the Opportunity section of our framework is Focus. Note that none of what we’ve done to this point has been solutioning, and even at this stage it’s important not to get far into solutioning. The teams that follow will be utilizing Design Thinking methods to deeply explore, and dig up the true root causes of our problems. These team’s will see much greater success without their hands tied.

At this stage we transition from framing information up in order to assist in decisioning, to crafting a clear, concise go-forward message for those teams that will need to activate off of our strategy.

Several of the same tools that we’ve used previously may come into play. We’ll certainly want to share forward insights that led to the strategy we’ve formulated. One new tool that we’ll add at this stage, however, is the Opportunity Hypothesis. This is a structured statement of belief tied to desired outcomes that can be used to prove success or failure. You can consider these hypotheses an effective replacement for requirements, allowing teams freedom while giving them a clear understanding of the goal posts.


Opportunity framing is just one area where Shift can help businesses drive toward a new human-centered vision. Stay tuned to learn more about Shift’s framework for success.


Interested in learning more? Reach out to Shift to schedule a conversation, we’re always happy to chat.


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