Power of Genchi Gembutsu


I came across the concept of Genchi Gembutsu when I read Lean Startup by Eric Reis and experiencing the power of it in a project that I am currently involved in.

Genchi Gembutsu one of the core principles in Toyota Production System, translates in English as “go and see for yourself” and make strategic decisions by firsthand knowledge of the problem or the need.  There are numerous success stories from application of Genichi Gembutsu from Toyota Sienna to Harley Davidson’s reinvention and numerous others that you can read from here and here.

My personal experience is from a software project, where I was looking to hire a user experience designer for a web application targeted at consumers.  My brief exposure to user experience design in past projects, led me to believe that UI designers fill in an important role and they take care of making the application usable to target customers.  It may sound very simple in tradition project management methodologies, find the person or resource to meet the project requirements and schedule their time.  However, I started having problems in finding the right person as everyone I talked to presented me a different view of user experience design.

At this point I decided to use Genchi Gembutsu and that’s is making all the difference in the project now.  When I decided to go and see for myself, user experience design completely looks as the Focal Point of this web application and not just another important role in a project.  In my search, I stumbled upon an excellent book “Designing for Emotion” by Aaron Walter, lead designer at Mailchimp.  As Aaron puts it “It’s not enough for our websites to be usable. They need to be human.”  How many software or web applications we use in our daily life looks human and makes us come back and use it frequently and really leaves a pleasurable experience ?  Unfortunately the number is very low and enterprise software applications are the worst offenders really leaving the end user feel raged at the end.

Aaron shows in his book a translated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into user’s needs from an application, which presents a paradigm shift in user experience design, where most of the applications today just meet the reliable and functional criteria.

Source: Designing for Emotion by Aaron Walter

That’s the power of Genchi Gembutsu, if you go and see for your self and get the first hand knowledge, you have a high probability of experiencing paradigm shift in your strategic directions.

Saravana Rajan

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