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Taming Complex Problems Using The Problem-Solution-Impact Research Process Model

Journal of Consumer Affairs

Jane E. Machin, Natalie Ross Adkins, Christina Chan-Park, Elizabeth Crosby, Justine Rapp Farrell, Ann M. Mirabito


The transformative consumer research (TCR) and transformative service research (TSR) movements seek to encourage, support, and publicize research benefiting consumer welfare. In this article, we introduce design thinking (DT) as a rigorous, effective, and creative problem-solving process well-suited to tackle the multi-dimensional problems TCR/TSR researchers address. A scoping review of TCR/TSR and DT literatures examining complex issues, such as health and well-being, inequality, and sustainability, reveals each orientation's theoretical and methodological strengths as well as its opportunities to more effectively catalyze positive change. Specifically, DT would benefit from the rigorous theoretical perspective brought by TCR/TSR researchers. In turn, transformative consumer and service researchers can find inspiration in the participatory ideation and prototyping techniques central to DT. The problem-solution-impact (PSI) research process model for transformative change draws from the strengths of the two traditions to creates a rigorous and relevant approach to addressing the world's most complex and dynamic problems.

Transformative Service Research, Transformative Consumer Research, Wicked Problems, Design Thinking, Social Innovation, Sustainable Development Goals


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