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.

To be a design thinker, taking an integrative approach to projects is crucial.

Many people understand innovation to be simply the process of inventing a new technology. When you have your new invention, then you have an “innovation.“

This view is far too simplistic. In contrast, design thinking offers you a method to approach the process of innovation, and thus achieve a more sophisticated understanding of innovation itself.

Design thinking encourages us to take an integrative approach to innovation. This approach combines three overlapping “spaces,” through which a project may cycle several times.

First comes inspiration. In this space, we consider a problem or opportunity, thinking about what we can do to solve the problem or bring the opportunity to fruition.

Second is ideation. Here we develop our ideas and theories, and then put them to the test.

Last is implementation. In this space, we introduce our idea to the market.

You won’t march directly through these three spaces – rather, most innovations will pass through each space a number of times as part of the design thinking process.

For example, during the process of ideation, you could develop a product with features that go beyond addressing your initial problem. In this case, you might want to revisit the inspiration process, to consider what different kinds of problems your product’s new feature could solve.

To create an integrated solution, a design thinker must balance three aspects: feasibility, viability and desirability. Whereas a “normal” designer may resolve the different aspects of a project separately and one by one, a design thinker brings them all together as one harmonious solution.

The gaming console Nintendo Wii offers an example of an integrated solution that perfectly balances feasibility, viability and desirability.

Nintendo introduced gestural control to console gaming, which at the time was not only feasible (if not cutting-edge) but viable. The company also priced the console less than other machines on the market, while providing a more immersive experience for the player – thus making the Wii desirable for their target market.

In the course of your design projects, you too should make this integrative approach the foundation of your design thinking.

On Monday morning, identify your challenge and gather a diverse team.

It’s impossible to move fast if you don’t know where you’re going, which is why the first day of your sprint should begin with pinpointing the problem you need to solve. The best way to start this process is by identifying the challenge you’re facing.

So, simply pose the question, “what’s our challenge?”

For instance, some companies are challenged by high-stakes projects in need of direction, while others face tight deadlines and need to speed up development. Just take Blue Bottle Coffee; this successful coffee chain from San Francisco raised $20 million and set up an online store that sells fresh coffee beans.

In the beginning, they had no clue where to start because neither their designers nor their web developers knew anything about how to tackle the problem. Even so, in the first few hours of their sprint they began to understand their challenge: translating the cozy appeal of a coffee shop onto a computer screen and coming up with the best online design to replicate the in-store experience.

After identifying your challenge, the next step in a successful sprint is to build a diverse team of seven that includes two key roles: a decider and a facilitator. The former is someone who takes control and settles disputes, often the CEO, while a facilitator is in charge of managing time, summarizing discussions and smoothing out the process.

But why the five other people?

Well, experience has shown that seven is the magic number. If you add more people, the sprint will be sluggish because the team generates too many discussions that can take time to settle.

What’s more, a diverse group is also important because you need people who bring the right input and ideas, regardless of their position in the company – or even whether they are an employee of your company at all.

For instance, when it came to Blue Bottle’s sprint, the CFO offered up some powerful insights even though he didn’t know much at all about tech.

On Monday afternoon, draft a roadmap from finish to start and choose a target.

After identifying your challenge and building the right team, you’ll be off to a great start. So, keep your momentum rolling into the afternoon of your first day by making a roadmap for your sprint. But don’t make it chronological; it’s best to plan your sprint from your ultimate goal and work your way backward to identify any potential pitfalls.

A successful sprint depends on your long-term goal. So, ask yourself what aspect of the business you need to improve within the next six months. For instance, Savioke, a company that designed a robot to help hotel staff deliver small items like toothbrushes and towels, set the goal of “a better guest experience.”

But when sketching your roadmap, it’s also crucial to consider any failures you might run into. Be sure to review these potential mishaps so you can tease out their causes.

For instance, Blue Bottle Coffee knew that communicating their credibility through their online store was going to be a foundational step; their main concern was whether customers would trust their expertise.

Another key to guiding your sprint is to ask the right people for advice. After all, nobody knows everything, not even Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. You should devote some of your afternoon to finding people, either within your sprint team, within your company or from the outside, and collecting their input.

And finally, before calling it a day, you should set the target of your sprint, meaning the thing you wish to impact with it. Essentially, your target is both your customers and the decisive moment of their experience with what you are offering. Setting a target is all about knowing how and when your customer will use your product or service.

For instance, Savioke’s target was the moment when a hotel guest opens their door and faces a robot delivering a brand new toothbrush. By identifying this moment, they knew where to concentrate their efforts.

Tuesday is the day you collect ideas, present them to each other and sketch them out.

If you’re into electronic music you’ll know how DJs sample an old track to create a brand new song. Well, Tuesday is your day to play DJ; this is when you draw inspiration from existing products.

The day starts by bringing together existing ideas from near and far, from which you can build your own solutions. Just think of it like playing with Lego: you amass as many pieces as possible and put them together into an original design.

So, when putting a project together, it’s best to gather lots of ideas and see how they combine. And remember, these ideas might come from anywhere, not necessarily just your competitors.

For instance, Savioke didn’t get their robot’s aesthetic from the latest robotic innovations, but rather from the Japanese animated film My Neighbor Totoro. In this movie, the main character is a giant friendly monster that proved a huge inspiration for finalizing the appearance of the robot’s eyes.

After researching existing ideas, your work should be presented to the group through what’s called lightning demos. In this process, each team member takes three minutes to present on their favorite existing solutions, preferably from fields that are different than yours.

After that, you’re ready to sketch out how the solutions presented by your team fit together. This is a great way to level the playing field for your team members. After all, not everyone is a tech nerd – but everyone can draw simple visualizations of potential solutions.

Sketching ideas is also in line with the teachings of the productivity guru, David Allen. For instance, as Allen explains in his book Getting Things Done, you shouldn’t take on an assignment as one big daunting task – such as finding a job – but rather start with small initial steps, like updating your resume.

Similarly, your sketch will help you break down your solution into distinct parts that you can play around with and take on separately.

Wednesday’s task is to select the best ideas and create a storyboard of their development.

At this point, your walls should be plastered with sketches of potential solutions. But Wednesday is the day to separate the wheat from the chaff. After all, you can’t see all your ideas through.

You should begin the day by sorting through solutions. To avoid wasting time and energy on never-ending discussions, simply present solutions, answer questions and then vote on an idea.

When it comes to making these kinds of decisions, discussion isn’t helpful. For instance, people might be easily influenced by someone just because he’s more charismatic or higher up on a hierarchy, even if his ideas are less developed than others.

To avoid this, sprints offer an alternative strategy.

For every sketch pinned to the wall, the facilitator has three minutes to present the concept. Then, when his time is up, the creator of the idea answers questions. Once all the sketches are reviewed, a simple vote is taken to choose the best ones.

But you shouldn’t jump right into prototyping after choosing your idea. Instead, start storyboarding the winning solution’s development. So, while your winning solution is still pinned to the wall, you should add additional information and expand the story into ten or 15 panels surrounding the original sketch, detailing how the solution will be developed.

Just take the team behind Slack, a hugely successful app for team communication, that built its ingenious product by literally drawing every step of its implementation. For instance, the company even sketched out the final steps where customers would read about their product in the news, go to their website and, ultimately, register for the app.

Thursday is the day to create a realistic prototype.

So you’ve got great solutions, but only two days left on your schedule. At this point, instead of actually building your idea, you should fake it; the intention of your sprint is to collect reactions and you only need a prototype that seems real enough.

After all, there’s no way you’ll have the time to finish a market-ready prototype – but a low-quality prototype is no good either, since people won’t believe that it’s real. So, put yourself into a prototype mindset where you accept that anything can be prototyped as long as it has a sufficiently believable facade.

For instance, to attract new customers, Slack needed their website to offer a demo of their messaging app. This required a program with some degree of artificial intelligence that would automatically begin a dialogue with potential users, giving them a first taste of the app.

So, when it came to testing day, the team pretended to be the artificial intelligence. In other words, when people browsed Slack’s website, the team members would answer via instant message as if they were the computer program.

It just goes to show that making this illusion believable is possible with simple tools. In fact, if you’re working on an app, a piece of software or a new website, a simple set of slides on Powerpoint or Keynote are probably sufficient, because in full-screen mode they can look like the real thing and even be responsive to a degree. This presentation should be enough to showcase the prototype of the interface and gather people’s impressions.

For instance, in the case of Fitstar, a company that designed an innovative fitness app, the sprint was too short to reprogram their application. So, they just faked it through Keynote, using a template that displayed buttons as if it were the actual app. In full-screen mode this simple presentation was convincing enough to get the precious feedback they needed from the sports enthusiasts who tested the prototype.

The sprint ends on Friday with testing your idea and collecting feedback.

Friday is the final day of your sprint, when all your hard work pays off: the prototype you created on Thursday will be tested, preferably by a small sample of guest users.

For this phase, five is the magic number. Five guest users are all you need to get a good sense of your solution’s pros and cons. In fact, this optimal figure was first defined by Jakob Nielsen, a Danish pioneer in website usability.

Back in the 90s, Nielsen did a lot of individual testing on website designs and found that, in most cases, 85 percent of the design flaws were uncovered in the fifth interview.

So, five is the magic number and one-on-one interviews with guest users are the best way to observe their reactions. To lead one, the interviewer should start by welcoming the user in a friendly manner to put her at ease. Then, before presenting the prototype, the interviewer should ask the guest user some background questions to put her reactions into perspective.

For Fitstar, for example, it was relevant to know whether or not the person had prior experience with workout apps. After all, if the user was new to the world of fitness apps, she might struggle with Fitstar regardless of its good design.

But it’s also essential that these one-on-one meetings end with the guest user giving her opinion. So, simply ask her what she liked or didn’t, and what needs work.

And the rest of your team?

Well, while the interviews are taking place, they should be in another room watching the scene live. This way, they can write down their observations on sticky notes and post the positive and negative feedback on a whiteboard. This strategy will quickly let you know if your idea and prototype are up to snuff.

Design thinking promotes change by encouraging consumers to adopt more sustainable behaviors.

As the evidence for human-made global climate change continues to mount, companies and designers need to consider what they can do to help preserve a livable climate for all.

Design thinking has the potential to increase public awareness and inspire everyone to engage in a more sustainable lifestyle by effectively informing people about environmental issues.

This is not because people are intrinsically interested in environmental sustainability, however. Rather, companies need to find ways to inspire sustainable habits based on behaviors that people already exhibit or that are easily introduced.

For example, after design thinkers realized that shoppers valued style and comfort over basic energy efficiency when it came to purchasing products, the U.S. Department of Energy decided to shift its focus when promoting products to encourage Americans to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle.

Thus designers explored the creation of stylish yet nonetheless energy-efficient products and catchy informational tools to better attract consumers’ attention when shopping.

Design thinkers also understand that to communicate the urgency of climate change, facts alone are not enough. Thus, designers need to start thinking about how to make sustainability more accessible.

One practical way for design thinkers to find a solution is to use a deck of cards, called “Drivers of Change.” The deck is composed of cards with answers to questions like, “Can we afford a low-carbon future?” The cards get a message across with simple facts and images. In fact, the deck has been used by discussion groups to inspire developments in sustainability initiatives.

Design thinkers should look at the entire production process, examining products from the extraction of raw materials to disposal. In doing so, it’s hard not to find opportunities for environmentally friendly innovation!

A good example of this kind of design thinking is Pangea Organics, a company that produces natural body-care products. Its products employ compostable packaging that contains wildflower seeds; thus you can soak the packaging with water and toss it in your backyard, where it would grow!