Theories and MethodologiesBy Julien Nelson, Stéphanie Buisine, Améziane Aoussat, Claude Gazo
Prospective ergonomics is concerned with the anticipation of future needs and activities to assist the early stages of user-centered innovation design projects. Few studies have proposed methodologies to assist prospective ergonomics, although this is a key to better integrating user-centered design in innovation projects. Indeed, classical methods of use analysis are of limited relevance when designers must work with ill-defined product concepts, since it may be difficult to describe future uses for these products. In this paper, we argue that some creativity methods, often used to solve technical design problems, can be used to construct speculative scenarios describing the future use of a product. We carried out simulations of design meetings, focusing on anticipating the future uses of various products. In two studies, we assessed the effects of methods borrowed from two creativity paradigms on the ability of a multidisciplinary design team to formulate prospective scenarios of future use.
The first study aimed to assess the contribution of methods borrowed from the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) paradigm – brainwriting and the discovery matrix – to the production of prospective scenarios of future use. Results show that these methods allow a more structured exploration of the space of creative ideas, leading to more original ideas.
In the second study, we examined the ability of a design team to use multi-screen analysis – a method borrowed from the Theory of Inventive Problem-Solving (TRIZ) – to construct a discourse on the future uses of an innovative product. Results suggest that the team was able to anticipate future evolutions of the technical artifact considered – which is the goal of the method in its classical form – but not to reappropriate this technique to imagine scenarios illustrating future uses of a product. We describe the consequences of these results for developing new methodologies for interventions in prospective ergonomics.