When you ask users to design...

...you stifle innovation by giving the voice to the "just make it work for me" user, and not the creative designer.  Yes, I tend to agree with this statement, and that's why when you do "co-creation" activities with users it's often not centered around innovating something, it's centered around getting out unarticulated needs. 

In a recent Fast Company article, Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen argue that companies are choking innovation by conducting user research. At least, that is their argument if you read only the titles in the article, which I'm sure many people will do.  If you read the actual content of the article, you will find even more absolutist language that merges two entirely separate concepts into one--innovation, and user research--and then argues that they should not be one concept.  It acts as if user research is one methodology for innovation, and that creative minds is the other methodology for innovation (the ol' "genius designer" argument), and that the former makes for less successful innovation.

I'm not sure where to start with this article because I'd first have to point out several claims it makes as being untrue--the first one being that user research doesn't ask users to innovate.  The authors conjure up Steven Spielberg as an example of a creative person, and question the reader if Mr. Spielberg would need to do "intense user studies" to gather insights before creating a movie?  Maybe not...but he does draw his inspiration from somewhere--often times real life.  I wonder how that's much different than knowing for whom you are designing?

I'm fine with their main argument:  that innovation often comes from creativity.  What I don't agree with, is their black and white methodology link to achieve innovation being through user research or just a great idea.  That's not exactly how user research works, and it's often not why user research is carried out. 

My biggest gripe with this article is that it has the potential to be taken at face value (someone may just read the article headers), and used as a resource against user research as a part of the design/ideation process.