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dmi:Design Value Award Winner - Novo Nordisk
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dmi:Design Value Award Winner




Better User Experiences from Better Research & Design Operations

Novo Nordisk - Novo Nordisk Device Research & Development


The UX@NN effort is a collection of more than 23 research and design improvement initiatives organized by patient-facing designers and researchers to advance Novo Nordisk’s commitment to its end users. Each of the initiatives applies to at least one of the following four principles:

1. Simplify and spread UX and Design operations.
2. Understand everyone (from end-users to stakeholders) earlier in the process.
3. Co-create a shared language of science and design.
4. Shapeshift between three roles: consultant, coach, and contributor.

The initiatives were driven by practitioners in Novo Nordisk Device Research & Development (DRD) who collaborated closely with global and affiliate marketing teams, device engineering groups, and senior project managers. Furthermore, company-wide communication channels enabled colleagues to participate in user-centered research and design activities.

Thus far, the initiatives have influenced forthcoming medical products designed to positively impact millions of people, have notably improved cross-disciplinary collaboration, and measurably decreased operational costs. Novo Nordisk is organized to operate in a patient-centered way but implementing new design management processes that impact colleagues in 80 countries isn’t easy for any company. Today, the four principles are used to advance a culture of user-centered design by creating stronger relationships between designers and non-designers, promoting empathy for richly diverse colleagues, communicating in a clear and common language, and adjusting researcher and designer roles to support the changing needs of the various innovation projects.

Because the initiatives were inspired by opportunities recognized and validated by
front-line researchers and designers, it was imperative that middle managers supported and resourced these improvement projects. Before being executed, each initiative was evaluated against its potential impact.

Financial value has been achieved in three ways. First, by understanding people earlier (principle #2), critical improvements have been made to development projects that avoided late-stage re-design work, saving millions of dollars. Second, co-creating a shared language (principle #3) and simplifying design operations (principle #1) accelerate innovation collaborations and reduce vendor costs, thus lowering costs for R&D while improving the chance of identifying meaningful, valuable new opportunities. Finally, by empowering research and design managers to switch between the roles of consultant, coach, and contributor (principle #4), the organization reduces overhead costs by enabling practitioners the opportunity to play different roles rather than rely on a fleet of external specialists. Practitioners have identified new opportunities for collaborations that could reduce costs.

Novo Nordisk has achieved organizational and cultural value in several ways. First, by simplifying design operations (principle #1), the organization’s acceptance and implementation of design methodologies has increased. By helping colleagues understand end users (and each other) earlier (principle #2), a culture of empathy-as-a-norm has been promoted. Initiatives such as Insight Schools allow colleagues from across the globe to get an intimate understanding of the company’s end users and their needs. Additionally, co-creating a shared language that fits into scientific and design practices (principle #3) has normalized holistic design research across projects and facilitated a more constructive conversation between designers and non-designers within the company. Finally, when designers play the role of coach and consultant (principle #4), non-design colleagues feel more confident in making decisions that impact the end user’s life. For example, in one anonymous 2018 survey of attendees of a design research share-out workshop, 84% reported that the research findings would positively impact their project work.

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