Editor’s note: Sarah Faulkner is owner of Faulkner Strategic Consulting, a Terrace Park, Ohio, research company. 

In a nutshell, design thinking is a way to solve complex problems in a human-centered way. It starts with a specific goal and goes through multiple iterative stages of diverging and converging. Design thinking typically includes approaches like observation, interviews, brainstorming and prototyping.

Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, gives this definition of design thinking’s role within business: “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

Here are a few common issues that researchers face when using consumer research for designing innovative new products, services or experiences:

In the next few paragraphs, I’m going to look at how researchers can apply design thinking to innovation-focused research. 

Consumer research for innovation brings certain challenges, but through the application of key design thinking principles, researchers can approach the learning process differently to not only help overcome these difficulties, but actually build stronger, more compelling solutions for the consumers they serve.