It’s time to rethink how we buy groceries

DesignThinking05Recently I was asked by our president to organize an internal team building workshop for our staff inspired by the Institute of Design at Stanford University. I was more than happy to do it.

The Institute, or d.school as it’s known, has become one of the most talked about institutions because of the methodology they use in their five-step design thinking process—empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test—and their online resource site, which offers a virtual crash course in design thinking.  Our method here at Delvinia—Insight, Strategy & Action—is loosely modeled after this process.

Using the video, handouts, and facilitation tips provided on the site, the d.school takes you step by step through the process of hosting or participating in a 90-minute design challenge.

For our staff workshop, we followed the d.school’s process, but changed the topic of our session to focus on today’s retail grocery shopping experience. The group was divided into pairs and participants began by interviewing their partners about their last shopping experience.

Throughout the workshop, the tasks encouraged interviewers to explore and ask questions to determine the needs and wants of their partner when they go grocery shopping. What led that person to go shopping? What experiences did they have in the store? What happened at checkout and when they paid? How did they get their groceries home?

Participants then used their learnings to formulate and define what their partner needed to improve their grocery shopping experience. Once the needs were defined, participants sketched possible solutions and sought feedback from their partner. Then they refined their best solution into a physical prototype. The use of sketches and a physical prototype took the idea out of their heads and into the physical world, making it easier for their partners to relate and identify with the proposed solutions.

Understanding the needs and wants of your users is often easier said than done. Unless you consciously approach a project with the intent of learning the needs of your user, without even knowing it, our brains filter out or miss important details and insights.

The d.school’s workshop uses empathy as its foundation. It takes on a human-centered approach of interviewing and observing users to help define the users’ problem and needs, which is what we aim to do in our work at Delvinia.

The workshop produced a wide range of solutions including in-store butlers, apps and in-store sensors to help shoppers pick the right checkout, and robots that carry your groceries home and unpack them.

Great solutions can come from anyone.  One of the most interesting ideas came from our Director of IT.  His idea included a simple sign and technology to assist the buyer and cashier in packing your groceries in the right order.  This way your eggs don’t get smashed.  The solution was so awesome you could hear a pin drop in the room during his presentation.

The feedback and iterative process encouraged our staff to ask deeper questions of one another and to find meaning in their partner’s words and experiences. And, working together ensured the final solution was tailored to their needs and everyone felt they had an active role in the project, both as a designer and as an end user.

In the end, the workshop helped us gain empathy into a common everyday problem and working collaboratively with the user to create innovative solutions. Thanks, Stanford!

To see more photos from the session, visit Delvinia’s Facebook page.

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