Why aren’t business books created with Human Centered Design principles?

Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Book Club, Education, Entrepreneurship, Resources

Screen shot 2013-12-07 at 3.34.38 PMThere are so many business books on the market. We see titles upon titles asking us to pivot, disrupt, and innovate all over amazon.com. These are great, and these have inspired the likes of millions, but they lack an empathetic approach to authorship. I don’t know about you, but whenever I finish off a business book, I walk away with a lot of my personal questions unanswered, and I feel a bit overwhelmed. After discussing these feelings with several colleagues and close friends, I found that my frustration was not unique. So why? What is it? What is missing from these books? The answer? Empathy.

Business books tend to be written behind closed doors. The same thing happens in design. Many designers make websites… brands… products… without the consent or collaboration with those they intend on designing for. “Human Centered Design,” a methodology widely popularized by IDEO, a design and innovation consultancy, changes design forever through their innovative approach to making. Instead of hiding behind a closed door or a cubicle, “Human Centered Design” asks makers to go out into the community their object of design is serving in order to collect feedback and, in some cases, co-create.

The reason this is such a ground-breaking approach to making is that there is much less room for the development of useless goods. By injecting empathy into the process of making, designers can create meaningful things. So why aren’t the authors of business books leveraging this process?

A little over a year ago, I began a very challenging and inspiring journey to write my first book, “How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free.“ How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free is a book that aims to open-source the 50% pro-bono business model that I invented known as the “double-half” methodology. The toolkit is broken into four primary sections that each aim to represent the inner-working of the model from drastically different perspectives. The origins of this business model reside in verynice, a global design and innovation consultancy that gives over half of its work away for free, but components of the methodology have now been leveraged by hundreds of service-providers across the globe who, together, are re-defining “philanthropy.”

Seeing as I was about to write a business book, I made a conscious decision to not write it behind a closed door, but to instead keep the process of developing my content as collaborative as possible with my potential readers.

Part 2 of the book aims to open source the double half methodology through the revealing of answers to questions that have been sourced from entrepreneurs from around the world that are currently in the process of launching a business inspired by verynice’s 50% pro-bono business model. I asked 20 entrepreneurs spanning four continents to send in difficult questions with the hopes of exploring the details behind different key components of the business model.

My prompt resulted in over 200 diverse questions that fell under a wide range of topics and scenarios that were relevant to each individual submitter. After finding a lot of common concerns and points of stress from each of our participations, I then narrowed the questions down to a total of 99 and categorized them into 11 categories including: the model, starting up, collaboration, incentives, branding/marketing, client relations, scaling/growth, policy making, quality assurance, risks, and common critiques. Our goal for this section of “How to Give Over Half Your Work Away for Free” was not to provide a heavily edited forum of the most amazing answers in the world, but to instead curate a series of honest inputs and best practices that have been learned over years of trial and error.

Because this section of the book is very dynamic and rough, I do not see it as finished, and hope that this first publication will spark a lot of debate and follow-up questions. As a result, I have maintained an open-call for my community of readers to submit their own questions and followups. By leveraging a human centered approach to the authorship of business books, authors can develop a very meaningful relationship through their words in order to fulfill their mission to assist and educate the public. I hope this behind the scenes look into my process will inspire future authors to do the same.


Image credit: Ben Oh

Matthew Manos

Matthew Manos is a social entrepreneur and business-design theorist that is dedicated to disrupting the way the design industry operates. He is the founder of verynice, and provides strategic leadership for the studio. Matthew’s work and ideas have been published in 100+ print and online venues internationally including The Huffington Post, GOOD, Gestalten, HOW, and Wired Magazine. Matthew speaks regularly at events and institutions across the United States including TEDxCMU, Social Enterprise Alliance, UCLA, WKU, and Pepperdine University. He holds a BA in Design Media Arts from UCLA, and an MFA in Media Design from the Art Center College of Design.

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