Ever heard of design thinking? It involves figuring out exactly what your stakeholders are looking for and generating a new and innovative solution that is specifically tailored to the their needs. Or in other words — it’s giving your target audience exactly what it wants, like you just ripped it straight out of their minds.

It’s no, it’s not as impossible as it sounds.

A big part of successful design thinking involves face-to-face interactions and interviews with your target audience, as well as observing their day-to-day behaviors. It requires critical thinking while maintaining a creative aspect — and that definitely requires a specific skillset.

The ability to think outside of the box, while keeping close to the attitudes, behaviors, and feelings of your consumers, calls for exceptional focus, active listening and — the kicker — empathy. Yes, emotions are involved here too.

The ability to empathize with your audience is critical, as is the ability to stay open-minded and neutral. Why? The ideas of the stakeholders at times will be much different than your values and beliefs. You can’t let your own thinking and judgments cloud what you’re hearing and observing.

Why is Design Thinking valuable? Well consider a laptop manufacturer, for example. Apple may make a general assumption like “my consumer needs a more efficient laptop, so I will increase the speed” — but if Apple did that without knowing for sure, and consumers were actually more concerned about finding something compact, versatile, and easy to travel with — well then, Apple may have just lost a whole lot of business to Toshiba (or whomever met that actual consumer need).

Design Thinking isn’t focused only on creating the “next big thing” though. Because although that’s important — the big picture and developing a baseline relationship with your consumer is what will be valuable for years to come. And it’s something that an “online only” relationship fails to replicate.

You want to know more about what this is Design Thinking business is, naturally — and you should! This video helps a bit:

But the best way to really understand what Design Thinking is, is by taking a Design Thinking approach and going straight to the source: Design Thinkers! Where do you find these wonderfully creative folks? Ironically enough — online.

“Innovation and Design Thinking leaders come in many flavors,” says Leadtail Founder and CEO Carter Hostelley, “each wrestling with the imperatives of their industry, and the unique challenges of their organization. What’s the one thing they have in common? They’re embracing social media to ask questions, share expertise, and engage in conversations — in short, to do their jobs better.”

Seeing the trends and techniques these thought leaders are following will help you enhance your own Design Thinking expertise and toolbox. And Altitude’s new report, 40 Design Thinkers + Innovators to Connect with On Social Media, “offers unique insights into the minds of some of the most innovative thinkers in the consumer, financial services, public, health and tech sectors.”

And after you’ve connected with them online and interacted a bit, can you guess the next step? Meeting these influencers in person. Because you won’t have a true sense of why they’re so successful at what they do, and who they are behind the marketing shroud until you understand who they are as people. Think of it as good practice for your next business venture, and start connecting!

This post originated from Business2Community.

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