Somehow the world recently got notice that design thinking is a BIG DEAL and now, I see at least one event a week that brings it up. One of the pillars that is repeated ad nauseum is how important it is to be observant and empathic. How it is already difficult enough for us to notice many of our own problems because we’ve hacked together good-enough solutions and even more difficult to notice others’ problems when they no longer notice.
David Rose, author if Enchanted Objects, recently gave a talk in which he shared a number of ordinary objects he “enchanted” by connecting them to the internet and allowing them to have some interactive component, like a pill bottle that beeps and calls you to improve your adherence to taking your medicine based on when you take off the lid; or like an umbrella that changes color based on whether or not it is likely to rain.
At the end of his talk, a question came up — how do we keep this from becoming a sector that just builds toys for the top 10%? Toys.
The thing is, oftentimes the people who have the privilege of time and knowledge to build are not the ones who have the most need. So if we, in this privileged group of people, continue to build to solve our own problems (a common piece of startup advice), we will increase this divide. Our lives will keep improving, even in trivial ways, and we will be further and further removed from those whose lives do not.
So the bridge here is that supernatural ability to be able to notice others’ problems when they don’t even notice them anymore. This means when we see something that is painful to see, difficult to accept, we must not turn away. This includes the homeless person on the street in sub 20 degree weather or the disfigured teen who gets bullied in the parking lot.
Instead, we should look closer. Observe. And find a solution.