Design Thinking Can Help Grow Sales

Design Thinking Can Help Grow Sales

Design Thinking Can Help Grow Sales

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Many businesses, in recent years, have started implementing Design Thinking to achieve more productive and profitable results. Specifically, Design Thinking is the way of using various techniques and tools to come up with innovative solutions centered around solving the problems that impact people most. 

Sales growth methods used in earlier years are now becoming obsolete with rising competition in every sector across many markets. Identifying and understanding people’s preferences in designing products and services is key to growing sales.

The premise of Design Thinking is in some ways like Solution Selling, whereas you are seeking to solve a problem. The main difference being that to solve a problem, you must first understand what the problem is at an emotionally intelligent level.

Whereas, in earlier years, sales professionals relied on their past experiences and the latest trends to create marketing strategies. Though these strategies sometimes work, Design Thinking provides a methodology to stay relevant and informed on the underlying needs of people so that you can deliver real-time solutions that are desired.

In other words, instead of only relying on past assumptions (i.e., playbooks) to create products and services, Design Thinking promotes looking at things from the person who has the problem that needs solving. 

“Through people-centric lenses we can develop solutions based on needs and requirements, which will drive more sales.”

In this blog, we will dive deep into Design Thinking processes you can use to boost your sales.

Why do Sales Teams Require Design Thinking?

In organizations, sales professionals are under incredible pressure to deliver and hit maximum revenue numbers. Keeping the goal of revenue in mind, a salesperson is expected to have a little understanding of customer needs. 

This way of approaching business development is gradually turning obsolete. 

A new approach to business development must take its place, with an eye on identifying changes in customer trends and more importantly customer values.

The approach aligned around customer values encourages sales professionals to solve problems on the client’s terms rather than just pushing products. This approach can be fine-tuned by taking the techniques and tools from the Design Thinking toolbox.

Listed here are the primary tools of the Design Thinking toolbox that can help sales teams drive more sales.


Empathy is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. It acts as a human connecting agent. Empathy is a way to put yourself in your colleagues’ and customer shoes to perceive their feelings, challenges, frustrations, and problems.

The more you genuinely care about other people and are empathetic to what is important to them the more you can connect with people, build trust, and attain more sales to boot.

However, when it comes to Design Thinking for sales, more sales aren’t the goal… developing caring relationships that are heart centered is the goal.

Therefore, sales professionals should interact with customers in different ways to unearth more details about what matters to them, rather than just asking questions like it’s a checklist.

This process should be applied not to fill out a form but by being genuinely interested to understand and implement Design Thinking into your overall sales and marketing philosophy.


Curiosity in understanding the client’s preferences, needs, and requirements is necessary. Enabling salespeople with the idea of observing client’s environment is equally important. 

They should try to collect information about how people work, what they work on, what organizational process is meaningful to them, and what they don’t like. With these insights, they can come up with solutions more relevant to the customer and add more value them.


Customer-centricity is the third key quality in the Design Thinking process for sales. People know about what options interest them before they purchase any products or service. 

Considering these aspects, the sales professionals should understand people’s needs and preferences before directly jumping into educating them about their products. The ability to perceive insights about the customer’s values and wants, is at the heart of implementing Design Thinking business strategies.

The Design Thinking Sales Process

Following are the steps that can help integrate Design Thinking into your sales process.

Identifying and Defining Problems

This is the first step in Design Thinking. In this stage, sales professionals must have a deep understanding of their customers and practice relentless listening. Then, Design Thinking, requires you to challenge or question the problems learned to solve them. 

It is important to step back and challenge the previous thoughts over and over until you reach clarity. Observing and identifying the problem is the primary thing to establish in this stage. Therefore, salespeople need a keen eye to get a fresh perspective to identify the issues customers face. 

“The goal is to identify the right issues to solve and frame them in a way that creates new and creative solutions.”

Creating and Considering Different Solutions

Design Thinking approaches problems with different perspectives to develop valuable results. Design Thinking practice demands that one problem be solved by five different people in a day instead of one person solving one problem in five days. 

This approach brings out better and richer results. In this stage, multiple people should work on coming up with multiple perspectives and then work as a team to synthesize them.

Refining Possible Solutions

In this stage, the solutions should be refined to near perfection. At first, the results should be embraced and nurtured since the ideas in this stage are fragile and new. Design Thinking enables the potential of ideas by creating an environment conducive to experimentation and further growth. 

The primary goal of this stage is to get out-of-the-box results. However, integrating various options might also be required to bring out valuable and refined solutions.

Choosing the Most Valuable Solutions

At this stage, you get to define the potential solution for the identified problem. Then, the prototypes of the solutions are created and tested. Additionally, this stage helps to bring other ideas. 

The proper solution to the customer’s problem is unearthed at this stage. It is the last stage where you pick up the most effective solution for the defined problem.


Design Thinking can bring innovative solutions to the problems faced by your customers, which demand you present them with relevant solutions.

In recent years, many organizations have been adopting Design Thinking in their business sales and marketing strategies. However, even now, some salespeople find it difficult to understand it.

Design Thinking is worth the effort since it can help bring in new changes in the market. Moreover, with Design Thinking, salespeople can best cooperate with customers to bring invaluable solutions and overcome complicated challenges, that often turn into hindering forces to driving sales.

The goal of Design Thinking for sales is to remove the hindering forces and allow salespeople to operate from the same side of the table as the client. To do so, you must build trust, and that only comes with the practice of empathy and emotional intelligence — the cornerstone of Design Thinking.

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Authentic Leaders Delight in the Success of Others

Authentic Leaders Delight in the Success of Others

Authentic Leaders Delight in the Success of Others

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The cornerstone to growing as a company is teamwork. Teamwork is about getting excited for our peers’ wins and helping them win.

Authentic leaders primary focus is caring for others and championing their success.

Employees need to feel supported instead of being tested. Support leads people to work as teams instead of trying to stand out as individual heroes.

As a company, you shine best when you focus on doing things great and striving for excellence vs. perfection.

“Perfectionism divides people, and also isolates those who practice it, while commitment to excellence unites people.”

Excellence is an outstanding value to nurture, whereas perfectionism is a disease.

As a leader it’s important to create an environment where you humbly serve others, and the organization is inspired to replicate this behavior.

Help People Pursue their Aspirations

Create career paths that challenge employees to learn and develop the skills needed to achieve their own aspirations while adding value to the company.

The more employees connect with why, what they do contributes to their own long-term success (success they have defined, not you), the more they sense your real interest in helping them achieve those aspirations. 

In turn this enables more motivated and happy employees, which positively impacts productivity .

Help People Develop Certainty

If your nature is to find faults in others, you’re operating from the framework of doing things right vs. opening yourself to finding ways to do things great. That is a classic example of perfectionism vs. excellence at play.

When you stop fault-finding, you discover a self-power that gives you certainty in all you do.

Certainty makes you turn the impossible into “I am possible.”

It’s natural to find faults, to complain, to find every reason why something is broken; sadly, it comes from an animalistic consciousness based on survival, which says, “I don’t need to take responsibility for anything, as long as I find fault in something or someone”.

When you remove fault finding from the equation you begin to instill a sense of shared accountability across the company. This causes everyone to own the success of the company, as a team.

“Be the cause of positive change, not part of the reason for needing to make changes.”

When employees carry the burdens of the company together as a team, you will have only one outcome: Success.

Be a Good Follower

The best leaders first learned how to follow. Nonetheless, as a leader, you’ll always be a follower because you end up following a principle, a belief, or a vision.

You can’t lead if you don’t know how to follow.

As a leader, don’t sit up in an ivory tower. Instead, get down in the trenches and help carry the load.

This will inspire everyone to work in a similar fashion.

Your example is key to inspiring teamwork.

Your willingness to help at all levels of the organization will inspire the same in others voluntarily.

Expect Greatness but Have Heart

If you don’t care deeply for the success of your peers and employees, you can’t expect them to care about yours.

This especially applies with clients. Helping them win is a calling, not a job.

If you have difficulty caring about anyone but yourself, volunteer for a good cause to get out of your own sense of entitlement.

Times have changed and imperialistic-style leadership is almost dead, so unless you want to become extinct like the dinosaurs, adopt a more convivial style that inspires collaboration.

Learn to say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake.

Own your mistakes, for no reason other than to avoid creating space and separation between yourself and employees, and for the employees amongst themselves.

In owning your own mistakes, this will help your team own theirs as well.

Space and separation kill teamwork. It becomes your company’s form of cancer.

Make People’s Lives Easier

It’s one thing expecting greatness because you have the power due to your title; it’s another because you care about the individual’s growth and inspire it.

“Treat employees with respect by validating their hard work, compensating them well for a job well done, and showing them human dignity.”

Remember that your employees have families, aspirations, dreams, and desires, too — they’re not machines you can turn on and off. If you can’t afford the value of senior talent, don’t try to squeeze every penny from them with offers that show no respect for their worth.

Serve others and in turn they will serve you, but don’t have expectations of reciprocation.

There is a principle I learned when I worked with PwC during the 9/11 disaster in New York City. This came from Soft Selling in a Hard World by Jerry Vass, which speaks to what motivates people’s decisions. Vass called it the four P’s (Power, Prestige, Profit, Pleasure).

Each of us is motivated by at least one of these principles, and some of us by all four.

Nonetheless, figuring out what drives each person can help you shape how you serve them and get the best out of them.

Everyone responds well to authentic care. Even those wounded who have adopted a tough demeanor to protect themselves want to be part of a team — it’s human nature to be part of a community. 

Find Pleasure in Others’ Success

There is greater pleasure in seeing someone else win and being the catalyst behind it than for them to just win for you. Recognize your peers and hold them in high esteem.

Find a way to help them win and in turn, you’ll never lack any help.

“Helping each other win is the secret to growing as a company, and it’s also personally fulfilling to find joy in other people’s success.”

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Authentic Leaders Humbly Serve Others

Authentic Leaders Humbly Serve Others

Authentic Leaders Humbly Serve Others

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The most powerful and effective leaders are servant leaders. Servant leaders share power with others and serving the needs of others is their highest priority.

These leaders are good listeners who learn from and identify with those around them. They are secure in their own leadership, so they can promote and equip others for success.

They don’t need any recognition at all, and they do what they do for the sake of being a special force in other people’s lives. The force that equips others for success. Being that force for others is their true source of fulfillment.

“Being a force of service to humanity is the reward for an authentic leader.”

A great leader must also be diligent in obtaining the most accurate feedback on their leadership style and development.

This should be done not from an insecure perspective, but to ensure people are properly connecting to the overall vision in motion, and to also be open to learning what’s not working.

“Being open to criticism is the key to your success as a leader.”

Accurate feedback means being open to criticism, as in listening to what’s not working and identifying your blind spots as a leader.

A great leader wants to draw out, and more importantly, acknowledge all those around him/her, and celebrate their contributions and input.

“Truly inspirational leaders help other people succeed by having a consciousness of service.”

Serving others is simple when all you can think of is to be a servant leader; however, it also means knowing when to let people fall, and push people along to discover things they need to see about themselves to grow.

Have the courage to call people out on things for which they’re either being robotic about or are simply for not paying attention to details.

When it comes to clients, this also means at times being able to walk away from those not well engaged with you and letting them learn via their failed efforts.

Build Communities

More recently, the dominant business competence appears to be business flexibility.

Significant competence is brought together within a flexible business network of inter-organizational arrangements.

As a result, the cloud is growing fast, because it allows companies to be nimble in changing the moving parts sort of speak in an efficient way and with agility.

To succeed in the new environment of tomorrow, the organization itself must undergo a significant and radical change from the traditional B2B, or B2C, or B2B2C, to become a people-to-people business.

By focusing on people, companies can outcompete and outperform everyone. To serve people you must know and own why you exist. Why you exist is tied to your values. The reasons that compel you to do what you do.

When you stand for something that matters, others with similar values want to be a part of it. Rather than just customers, you end up building an unshakable culture and community.

This is a key point of distinction. The most successful companies in the world have leaders who build communities and serve those communities with focus and purpose.

Honor Your Values

Why you exist trumps what you do and how you do it. Why you exist also ties to the purpose for your existence as a brand. If you exist simply to make money, then your value is making money. You would be best served by attracting people who only care about making money.

There is nothing wrong with that value, but it’s not heart based. What is the memorable experience you are creating for customers if your focus is only to make money?

There is no relationship there. Everything is simply a transaction. Every day you must start fresh and earn each customer — there is no stickiness in that business model.

“Your values attract like-minded employees, partners, and customers, turning them into a community.”

Building your company as a people centric business culture will outlast, outcompete, and outperform anything else because you end up creating a community of interest with your employees, partners, vendors, investors, and customers.

Serve the Needs of Others

It’s a basic human need and desire to belong. Historically people looked to civic groups, religion, or other organized efforts to achieve this basic need to belong.

Today, leaders of companies who understand the importance of creating community, understand that people still have a desire to belong and be part of something greater than themselves.

The future of work is people centric. To attract the right people, you must be clear on your own values, and how those values compel you to do what you do, day in and day out.

This self-awareness can further help you define the purpose for your business because the purpose or the why your business exists, becomes tied to your values.

The future of business is people focused based on values that create a lasting and fulfilling sense of community.

“The future will be the playing ground of humble servants.”

Leaders who not only get the value of serving others creates but see this kind of community as an opportunity for personal growth in relationships.

“When you shift your business mindset to people serving people, and instead of building a customer base you focus on building community, nothing can stop you.”

When your context is to be in the people-to-people business it becomes very clear that everything is about relationships. For relationships to thrive, you must be humble to learn, and grow, and evolve not just as a leader, but as a human being.

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Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

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According to Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, “Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

Design Thinking was started as a process to create new technology and products. Today it is used worldwide, in all business sectors; private, public, business projects or personal. The Design Thinking methodology has been applied, practiced, and popularized by the design consulting firm IDEO.

If you ask any modern Design Thinking practitioner, they will tell you that it’s not about products, technology, or even design… it is a methodology that informs on how to serve the needs of people more effectively.

I equate Design Thinking to the application of emotional intelligence in solving problems that impact people, and the key cornerstone of it is empathy.

Why is Design Thinking Important?

Design Thinking assists organization in creating value for people. It aims to solve concrete problems that impact people and delivers solutions that align with people’s needs. 

As designers unveil or identify issues, they can bring about innovative solutions.

In addition, it enables designers to tackle problems that people find difficult to define or verbalize. Furthermore, Design Thinking assists organizations to lead with innovation. 

For example, a human can’t imagine things that cannot be believed. Therefore, it creates difficulty for the designers to land on a solution that does not exist. Using an iterative approach more often leads to innovative solutions. 

It makes any organization run more efficiently and faster because it focuses on creating prototypes and testing to check their effectiveness, after a lot of listening to people and defining the problems.

Which Industries Can Benefit from Design Thinking?

Even if Design Thinking originated with designers, it is now used by people of all disciplines.

WeWork® has proved that applying this method by technologists delivered value to engineers, and business strategists. It helped them deliver value to the business owners and stakeholders.

Kaiser Permanente uses Design Thinking to bring about necessary changes among nursing staff.

The Singapore government used Design Thinking to secure work passes in simpler and more humane way.

Design Thinking helps tackle issues at companies like IBM, SAP, Toyota, and Intuit.

Design Thinking can be used by any complex systems such as government, business, or social organizations to break down problems and explore questions such as how it can respond to the growth of technology and globalization.

It is used to analyze rapid changes and how to address them and support individuals while understanding and providing solutions to larger organizations.

“Design Thinking helps businesses, government, and society be more creative, innovative and humane in dealing with people’s needs.”

Design Thinking Emerging Trends

Like any methodology, we are seeing Design Thinking evolving with new groundbreaking trends. Here are a few of them for your consideration:

Systems Thinking

Today’s world is interlinked and connected. Information flows instantaneously. This interconnection and quick flow of information can significantly impact the whole system as everything in today’s generation are so tightly connected.

This is where systems thinking comes in. Systems thinking is a discipline that enables the identification of the interests and needs of each stakeholder in the system. It allows them to examine the products or services to design the most influential ones.

In systems thinking, primary stakeholders’ consideration, interaction, and influence are required on the other stakeholders. While Design Thinking is human-centric, system thinking is stakeholder-centric. It also focuses on understanding the elements needed within the business system, services, and products.

Resilience Thinking

Design Thinking seeks to achieve excellence and near perfection, but what is perfection? On the other hand, thinking resilience is a solution designed to withstand changing circumstances that are bound to occur. Therefore, it becomes crucial to think beyond the boundaries of the issues at hand.

While Design Thinking focuses on solving problems for people, resilience thinking focuses on solving relevant problems that may arises, likened to contingency planning. Therefore, it is essential to understand the broader problem while adding resilience to Design Thinking.

Human-Centered Design

The concept of Design Thinking is based on two crucial foundations, human-centered design, and aggressive prototyping. The human-centric approach is the fundamental reason design-focused services and products have become successful. 

However, as we are advancing toward our future, nothing is certain. We know there are more significant problems that require our attention and preparation. The bigger issues are international tension, climate change, political instability, and other issues.

There comes the concept of human-centric design that solely focuses on environmentally friendly approaches by proposing sustainable solutions. 

Moreover, it readily embraces the thought that anything harmful to an individual can also cause drastic results to the community. Therefore, it is crucial to think of a solution that provides a stellar experience while also leading to a sustainable future.

Inclusive Thinking

During the research phases of Design Thinking we need to also emphasize diversity as we strive for innovation. Designers need to ask if they have involved the right people in defining problems, and who should voice the issues. They need to ask themselves if they are neglecting any community, and if they are doing what the solution can fix.

Therefore, since innovation is deeply rooted in creativity, having a broader knowledge of various backgrounds and sources is critically important.

So, inclusive thinking needs to have two sides to it. Being inclusive for the collaborators and the users. As a result, being an inclusive collaborator will leverage different perspectives and backgrounds. 

While being user inclusive would bring a set of users who will reduce every chance of neglecting any community. 

“The practice of inclusive designs truly focuses on all-people-centric innovative solutions.”

Master Framing the Problem

Design Thinking is a process that makes designers focus more on identifying problems and problem-framing rather than shifting full attention towards problem-solving. 

That is why Design Thinking is the most sought-after process because it diverts the focus on the crucial aspect of innovation: listening to people and focusing on the needs of people. This requires emotional intelligence. Specifically empathy.

The concept of Design Thinking emerges as a significant way to innovate and be creative in framing how we look at problems and how we go about framing challenges before we develop solutions. 

The closer we get to understanding what needs attention, what is broken, what is failing us as people, the closer we move towards delivering innovation.

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Design Thinking for Social Innovation

Design Thinking for Social Innovation

Design Thinking for Social Innovation

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Social innovation is a means to develop and implement innovative and effective solutions to solve environmental or social issues. 

It is a new perspective that provides systematic and practical solutions that can be applied to ongoing social issues. The needs of society are given priority in order to improve things like infrastructures, housing, and healthcare.

Design Thinking has evolved over the years for social innovation focused on bettering society with a more human-centered approach to solving problems. 

Stanford Center for Social Innovation defines Design Thinking as “the ultimate solution that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just — than current approaches to resolve current challenges”

The Four Phases of Design Thinking for Social Innovation

There are four phases to Design Thinking for social innovation. They are as follows:

1) Discovery Phase

The discovery of social problems is the primary phase research. It enables researchers to deeply understand problems and identify people, their needs, and the barriers they face. 

This phase builds on the foundation of empathy by helping teams empathize with each other and gain new insights. In addition, questioning gives members a more profound perception of necessary solutions to pursue out of all the research.

2) Defining Phase

Defining the problem is the second phase of the Design Thinking methodology for social innovation. This is where the problem is determined and focused around bringing out a human-centered, valuable, and actionable question that aims to bring focus and clarity to the design space. 

This is where we ask the question that defines the problem and the impact on people. We are not defining solutions in this phase, we are exploding the exploration of the problem in a deeper more meaningful way, with the focus on the impact the problem has on people.

3) Development Phase

Development is the third phase of the Design Thinking methodology for social innovation. In this stage, the participants develop an idea based on the results generated in the earlier steps. 

In this phase we begin to inform the problem within the main idea with all the best views in mind. This can be done with a few tools or using a simple storyboard as the medium. The goal is to begin to explore the how to solve what has been learned.

4) Delivery Phase

Delivery is the final stage in the methodology. It starts with communicating the ideas within the team and to the people involved. Be it a community, a region, or even a country.

The delivery phase requires that we maintain openness in order to revisit where appropriate the prior phases. While the goal is to deliver a solution, you want to stay open to the possibility that something may have been missed, or that reality isn’t matching the design on paper.

A very effective way to apply Design Thinking social innovation is by establishing social innovation labs.

Social Innovation Labs

A social Innovation Lab refers to the place or incubator where members across different fields, sectors, and socio-economic organizations collaborate to bring out solutions based on design thinking and innovation processes.

Social Innovation Laboratory (SIL), as an example began as an idea to fuse innovative, research-driven practices and the non-profit format, with the end goal being to improve social programs that benefit the disempowered, disenfranchised, and at-risk populations.

Innovation Is Important

In our modern world, environments and/or nations are hyperconnected. Therefore, what happens in one country can concern other countries as well. 

Today, nations face political, economic growth, financial stability, poverty, hunger, disease, and many more challenges all happening at the same time.

These ongoing issues require attention that can be solved using Design Thinking social innovation by the private sector. 

Solving societal problems can also generate business opportunities. Applying new knowledge and innovation can generate as much as 80% economic growth.

Yesterday, countries were considered prosperous if they were economically and socially prosperous. It was assessed through its GDP. However, in today’s time, a country must have peace, happiness, freedom, and financial well-being to be considered prosperous.

When we assess prosperity from these lenses, we perceive that a prosperous society needs an innovative approach to resolving complex problems with new and relevant solutions.

How Design Thinking Can Help Society

A well-known example from Wyatt and Brown can be cited to display how Design Thinking can bring social innovation.

A young woman, Shanti, who lives on the outskirts of Hyderabad India, fetches water from the local borehole that is about 300 feet away from her dwelling. She can easily carry 3 gallons of water even though she knows drinking the water has made her family sick multiple times.

She could not use safe water from the Naandi Foundation run community treatment plant. Opting for the local borehole over safe water is due to only one reason. 

The plant requires her to use a 5-gallon rectangular jerrican. This is simply too heavy and bulky to carry, even if it is a walking distance from the plant. In addition, she is forced to buy 5 gallons every day even though she does not need it and for which she needs to pay more. 

In this situation, Design Thinking has not been applied as they failed to understand the issue of the dwellers and fix it according to their needs. It has resulted in Shanti forcing herself to use the dirty water even if they had the facility of using safe drinking water nearby.

The treatment center was able to produce safe and potable water but failed to address the community’s water transport challenges. Thus, the traditional problem-solving method could not find systematic solutions needed by the consumer.

Design Thinking now allows us to investigate people’s insights in-depth. It aims to assume practical and relevant solutions by closely examining the product and services and the infrastructure that enables it to deliver the required product and services.

Businesses are taking in Design Thinking to provide products and services by going into the depth of problems and allowing high-impact solutions to bubble up rather than just imposing them from the top, which does not necessarily help the community in the case of Shanti.


Design Thinking has progressed over the years in such a way that now it can be used in addressing social issues, such as improving infrastructure to provide required services, in a way that meets people needs on their terms.

This methodology has proved effective for profit and non-profit organizations as they could understand social problems, unlock innovative ideas, and create better outcomes for people by leveraging the most important pillar of Design Thinking: empathy.

“Empathy in Design Thinking informs us to better understand issues by asking the question why in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

Five levels deep of asking why, will reveal the truth of what the real challenge and possible solution can be. This approach requires being willing to go deeper, and having the patience to gain the necessary insights, to develop appropriate solutions to the challenges we face in society.

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