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Find out how to sell time with Design Thinking

Much is said about saving time. Tips on how to best organize your schedule are easy to find on the internet.

However, have you ever imagined being able to buy time? Although this question may seem unusual, it has in fact been occupying the minds of some major business people.

As we know, a product or service arises from a need. And the need in question affects all of us. Considering this, an experiment was created to simulate the Design Thinking (DT) process using a metaphor called “The Time Vendor.” Using this innovative methodology, which favors users’ perceptions, the subject of time could be addressed in a number of different ways.

The first way involved investigating the set of people interested in acquiring this good. After all, what is time? It was important to find out its definition and relevance for each participant in the activity. This first stage is immersion. Getting close to the target audience is essential to generating insights. Take a look at this question and answer, which exemplify this moment:

Are you often late?

“Yes, a lot. I sometimes set my watch five minutes fast, to make me think I’m running late so that I hurry.”


And what if the sale of time were linked to the watch a person uses to guide himself or herself throughout the day?

In order for people to be able to experience the second phase of the DT process, ideation, the points raised by them were worked on. Here, as the name itself suggests, it’s the ideas that count. Due to the insight of the previous stage, the concept of a watch with rechargeable time was arrived at. Thus, the sale of time would be related to a watch that, being set fast or consulted repeatedly in a short space of time, would activate a text message offering the mobile purchase

of more time. In the last moment of the DT process, prototyping, the feasibility of the device would then be tested. In creating a prototype of the watch, one would assess how many users in the group selected for the test would in fact buy it. After the test, the group of participants would be interviewed to obtain more feedback. By making ideas tangible in an agile manner and with low investment, prototyping aids the validation of the ideas generated. This happens repeatedly,

until one designs the most assertive version of the prototype for the challenge. Despite being presented as one of the last phases in the Design Thinking process, prototyping may occur throughout the project, alongside immersion and ideation.


Please, share your thoughts! 🙂

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      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens

      Hi Adriana

      A question back, aren't we already able to buy time?

      A couple of examples:

      I buy my groceries online for example. For the store to take the items out of the shelf and put it in bins for me, it costs me 5 euro. But why do I do this essentially? Because I can save time, I drive over there, pick up the bin, pay the bill (at a separate counter) and I'm off again. Total time spent: about 10 minutes versus me going through the store, waiting in a long line at the counters etc which takes me an hour. So from my perspective I just bought 50 minutes for 5 euro.

      Another example: I took a couple days off work last year to go do Design Thinking with SAP in Walldorf. We can take leave without pay when we have no holidays left so in essence, I bought time because if I had worked, I would have received money and I made the choice not to which resulted in a loss of money (compared to other months). So from my perspective that is also spending money to spend my time in a different way hence you could see it as buying time.

      An interesting excercise would be to think about new ways you can sell something which buys the customer time.

      Best regards


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Tom, your points are very relevant. We indeed have a lot of ways already to buy time, using technology or not to do so. Our challenge here was exactly that: to stimulate people to think of situations were they would like to have more time or others when they could save time and design a business model of a product service system that would address that (as the online groceries that you mentioned). During our Design Thinking Tour others come up, such as:

      - Task prioritization tools, with the elimination of subjects and tasks that can be delegated to others automatically.

      - Creating similar to ATM machines that unite multiple services in one: in addition to the ATM services, notary services, couriers, etc.

      Best regards,