Fast Company’s Co.Design blog published a controversial post that triggered a lot of discussion. In their article provocatively titled User-Led Innovation Can’t Create Breakthroughs; Just Ask Apple and Ikea, Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen wrote:

“[User-centered design] doesn’t work. Here’s the truth: Great brands lead users, not the other way around.”

Skibsted and Hansen cited Apple and IKEA as some of the most innovative brands that don’t follow the user-centric design model. They say that the Apple design team spoke out against user-centric design because it’s “a waste of time”. Similarly IKEA claimes, “it doesn’t work.”

They argued that brands have to take the lead in innovation with a strong and consistent vision, and outlined several reasons why it’s actually detrimental to listen to your users.  Without vision and innovation we begin to create a sea of sameness.

I must admit, their points are compelling...[sigh] but are they correct?  Where does the user fit in?  After the innovation or to inspire the innovation?  How might we reconcile their claims with the value of design research and user-centered design?

You can read the article at

Are they right?  Sound off.  What do you think?


Does A UCD focus make companies miss out on disruptive innovations? via @jpenabickley