Design Thinking – On the trail of the customer

Design Thinking is based on integrating the user into the processes of product development and innovation. It thereby encourages and demands joint creativity between companies and customers. But in order to make the best possibly out of user-centric design, it is important to get to know the customer better and to understand whats important for him.


In order to gain a better understanding of the needs and problems on the customer’s side, he has to be observed in his everyday life. The Design Thinker will have to learn how his client uses the products or the product group and if there is room for improvement. He has to collect the information directly from the customer and has to accompany him in the most everyday processes in order to recognize patterns of behaviour. Design Thinking calls this phase “Obeservation”.

The Design Thinker observes how people behave and how they interact with each other, but also with the products. Only when you see your own products with the eyes of the user, you understand where the journey can go.


On the trail of the customers

The former CEO of Proctor & Gamble, A. G. Lafley, has made this process of observation a principle of his success. During the year he visited dozens of consumers, accompanied them for one day, helped them to clean or cook and was part of their everyday life during the time of observation. Especially the products that did not belong to the P&C family were of particular interest to him. He asked the right questions, listened attentively to the customer and drew the right conclusions.

Design Thinking is about becoming an attentive listener and observer. However, the process of observation is not so far away from behavioural research methods. A good design thinker has a good psychological understanding of the different processes in the customer’s head and can read between the lines.


Design Thinking means observing

No matter whether you observe the customer in a product test or at home, you have to get involved. Therefore, it is important to prepare a timetable and your goals for the observation at an early stage. This preparation often also determines what kind of observation would be the best and how many consumers need to be analysed in this way.

According to the experiences of different design thinkers, depending on the question, there is often the moment in the observation phase when you start to hear the same thing over and over again. From this point on, we know that we have asked for the most probable scenarios and can move on to the next phase of Design Thinking, the idea.

Preparation is the key to success, in life aswell as in Design Thinking. For the most time we have no perception of the things we consider given. The change of perspective can sometimes work wonders.

Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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