Revolutionary design solutions stem from observation and letting consumers take the lead.

According to economist Peter Drucker, a designer’s job is to convert need into demand. Simple enough, yet how exactly does a designer go about doing this?

Design thinking supposes that the best insights come from observation, or taking a closer look at how people live their daily lives.

Psychologist Jane Fulton Suri says that we are so good at adapting our behaviors to inconvenient situations that we’re often not aware of the “thoughtless acts” that could trigger inspiration for the observant designer.

Imagine an office worker trying to sort out the tangled chaos of cables under his desk by sticking a label to each one. He likely wouldn’t have come up with this solution had he been asked directly how to solve this particular problem.

This is why observing people’s real-life behavior is so important. Observing provides meaningful insights into pressing needs.

Yet design thinking goes beyond mere observation, in that it also invites people to engage in creating solutions to their own problems.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow suggests that once a person’s basic needs are met, he will look instead for meaningful or emotionally satisfying experiences. From a design perspective, a great customer experience is one that fulfills these higher-order needs.

But since every person has different needs and aspirations, design thinking proposes that we let people participate in creating their own customer experience to make it personally meaningful and engaging to them.

Whole Foods Market, for example, is one of the most successful retailers in the United States, as the store provides an enriching shopping experience by offering free samples of products and a wide variety of healthy products that cater to customers’ lifestyles.

At a Whole Foods Market location in Austin, Texas, the company is even experimenting with letting customers cook inside the store!

This sort of hands-on approach allows customers to engage and thus gives them the opportunity to create their own meaningful experience.

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