By Samantha Lim, Ph.D. - Senior Manager, Product Management and Innovation
I met Lakshmi on my fourth trip to Mumbai in 2014 doing consumer research for a global CPG company. It was a blazing hot afternoon with the scents and sounds of the vibrant city—street vendors hawking panipuri and chai, cars blaring horns and spewing exhaust, dogs barking and smelling like dogs—baking in the sun and ringing in our ears when she invited us into her modest but comfortable home. She welcomed us with a warm smile and cool drinks, her two young children giggling and playing around us as we asked her very serious, very important questions about…air freshener.
Lakshmi had been using air freshener for the past month, and it was like poetry how she described coming home from a long, hard day of work to the fresh clean scent of my former company’s product. To her, it was more than a scent. It instantly reset her mood and represented a total ambience, a welcome-home feeling she aspired to give herself and her family. The cost made it a luxury, but one that was worth it to her for the feeling of peace that settled on her after escaping the whirlwind beyond her door.
This was not my first consumer research interview. At the time, I was already three years into what would become my career in product innovation and had done countless in-home voice of customer visits. But the way Lakshmi described the impact this seemingly minor convenience had on her and her family’s life has stuck with me and has guided my design thinking ever since.
Designing for humans and the planet
Design thinking is a human-centered approach to developing a product or service rooted in empathy. Whether it’s air freshener, detergent, software or pallets, the fundamental focus is on the users, digging deep into their day-to-day lives to understand their needs and desires and create something that is truly valuable to them. Lately product developers like me are seeing a powerful and monumental shift from simply human-centered to human-planet-centered thinking in the innovation space.
Having recently joined CHEP in a product innovation leader role, I’ve learned that thanks to our inherently sustainable business model of share and reuse (or “pooling” platforms), we are in a unique position to push the envelope even further with our design—uncovering not just what will have the biggest impact on our customers but also on our planet. CHEP is committed to giving back more resources than we take while collaborating across the supply chain to reimagine the way we move goods that positively affects our planet, our customers and our communities. This regenerative commitment drives our priorities, especially around new product innovation.