This is NOT human-centered design

Image sources: Panasonic and

Image sources: Panasonic and

Designed by Panasonic's Future Life FactoryWear Space is a solution for office workers distracted by open offices and for digital nomads holed up at the local coffee shop.

Is Wear Space human-centered design or technology searching for a problem?

Let's explore through the lens of design thinking.


Discovery is a divergent process of seeking new and unusual information outside of the work group or the organization's collective experiences and knowledge.

The first step of Discovery is desk research. Here are some findings related to open offices, freelancers, and digital nomads.

  • In 2018, WeWork has grown to seventy-four (74) cities in twenty-two (22) countries occupying fifteen (15) million square feet of office space.

  • According to Upwork, 56.7 million Americans did freelance work in 2018, up seven percent (7%) from 2017.

  • A study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology throws shade on open offices, "[the] benefits of enhanced ‘ease of interaction’ were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy."

  • Finally, in a Udemy report, thirty-eight percent (38%) of employees believe their employers should establish designated spaces for quiet work, and thirty-one percent (31%) think cultural norms around noise should be defined.

Executive: ‘Today’s market is huge with lots of future growth. Workers want the features and benefits of our product. Build it!’

Not so fast.



Insights are a convergent process of uncovering themes from combination of seemingly unrelated information, that leads to our "ah-ha" moments.

So far, nothing points to users' desire to enter a coffee shop or office and wrap their head in horse-like blinkers. Rather, in this video of the product's launch, the official shares the real insight, "[Wear Space] sends a clear message to others, 'do not disturb.'"

Going the extra step of broadly engaging potential customers about distractions in open and public environments (rather than specifically about the solution), we heard,

  • "in places full of distractions, I feel like I'm under-performing,"

  • "I feel less productive in open environments," and

  • "I'm not able to reach my full potential and worry about my ability to advance in my career."

Do you still think this is a technology problem? We do not.


Inspired by a fresh insight, we risk losing the vital support of our peers if we charge ahead to implementation. This is a cardinal sin of corporate innovation. Rather, we suggest engaging our colleagues with a spirit of inclusion,

I/we have a half-baked idea and could use your expertise, are you interested in helping explore this little side project?

"How might we?"

Here, we phrase questions in a way that invites, "yes, and," not "yes, but," feedback.

Specific to Wear Space, I would share the insight that open offices create fear among employees because they feel the quantity and quality of their work decreases, which jeopardizes their job and career.

How might we empower employees to communicate ‘do not disturb,’ to reduce distractions, increase their feeling of productivity, and foster higher quality work products?

I don't see the need for glorified horse blinkers.

Apply these skills

Join us Friday, December 14th, 2018 at the Oakland A's corporate offices for a workshop exploring how their front office staff employed these three tactics to improve the fan experience at the Coliseum and the new ballpark.

Tickets available here.