Innovation Modelling Based on Human Needs

PI: Julia von Thienen


Human needs are a cornerstone of design thinking. The ability to identify and address central unmet needs is considered a key success factor for innovation.
Promising attempts have been made by design thinking pioneers in the past to clarify the interrelation of phenomena such as (i) human needs and need hierarchies, (ii) creative processes, (iii) emerging designs or solutions, which can be incrementally or radically new, (iv) processes of innovation diffusion versus resistance and (v) resulting overall processes of culture development.
While the available frame-works and explanations seem auspicious, they still require refinement and empirical substantiation.
At present, even key concepts such as “human needs” await more careful treatments. In the literature, different interpretations of “needs” are widespread. Some narrow readings actually give rise to critiques of need-based design approaches, where a focus on needs is said to hinder rather than help the development of innovation.
This project invokes a suite of methodological approaches to explore the role of human needs and need hierarchies in creative processes and innovation developments at large. This includes literature reviews, an extensive case study and experimental research. The aim is to advance a comprehensive understanding of innovation phenomena based on human needs.