Solve problems – with empathy

“Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations.” (Change by design, p49, Tim Brown, 2009)


With these strong words Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO probably the world’s best known design company emphasises the importance of empathy in design. The distinction Brown believes is the is the difference between academic thinking and design thinking.

As we started our path as SID students the first and introduction to a process of design thinking and tools for innovation was the Evolution 6² model. A toolkit that identified 6 key stages of the design thinking process: Emergence, Empathy, Experimentation, Elaboration, Exposition, Extension. The model can be found here.

The tools such as shadowing, moodboards, interviews and empathy maps to name a few in the empathy stage are the very ingredients that create insight into design briefs that a the “fix the problem” approach seldom sees.

It could be called research, discovery or many other things, but to me that it is labeled as empathy is a major distinction as to not the process, but the outcome of the stage. That we have real human-centered empathy for the user and the stakeholders. Standing in the shoes or lying in the gurneys of others as Brown puts it. Borrowing the lives of others we can generate new ideas and insight – even problems that we can address in further stages of the process.

It is the very nature of the of the engineer mindset to locate problems and fix them. A skill we need to have as well, but it is the process of understanding needs and dreams to be design thinkers as Tschimmel points out.  A design thinking manager creates better results by being empathetic and human-driven. With empathy we can unlock the very core of the experience, not only the problem. It is not just a bandage on cut, it’s better healthcare. It’s not the next best mouse trap, it is the mousetrap we’d love to have. And it could be that we don’t even want the mouse to be trapped at all. (5, Tschimmel, K 2010)

Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design is a pointless task as Brown says in his blog post about the how only empathy can solve complex and large scale problems. A video from his blog post illustrates this well.


As a designer we are many times full of ideas and a urgency of need to help people solve problems and create new ideas.

But maybe we should first realize that maybe we are not prefect for the job. We need to start with empathy first. That as a 34 year old designer with a love for food and wine, It maybe makes me ill prepared to design a much needed kitchen gadget for a grandmother with arthritis as Brown puts it. That we as designers need to boot up and suit up to immerse ourselves to find new creative solutions to other people’s challenges. With empathy we can.


Blog post: A lesson in empathy, Tim Brown,

Evolution 6² model, Katja Tschimmel,

Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Public and Private Sector into Cooperation for Better Services and Innovations

I attended a seminar organised by CIDe Cluster Finland in Laurea´s Tikkurila campus. CIDe Cluster is a joint project of Laurea University of Applied Sciences and Vantaan Innovaatioinstituutti Oy (Innovation Institute of Vantaa, Inc.). It focuses on the development of products and services promoting good care and rehabilitation. CIDe Cluster brings together health care and well-being companies, public sector organizations and other community players to create business development and innovation know-how. CIDe Cluster offers their partners networking events and welfare business and welfare technology trainings.

Don’t fear the restructuring


Jari Koskinen, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorites

CEO Jari Koskinen of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities opened his speech by saying that the Finnish administrative structure is moving towards the European model – state, autonomous areas (countries) and municipalities – with the new Social welfare and Healthcare reform. His opinion is that when planning those reforms, one should keep in mind the number of inhabitants in Finland. Not only was he comparing Finland to France where he, still as a spokesman of the Päijät-Häme region, wanted to create a partnership with one of the northern regions of France, but while the Finnish one had 200,000 residents, the French equivalent had over four million! Understandable, the French were not enthusiastic about a joint action. He also compared the Finnish regions with one another – Keski-Pohjamaa having 70,000 inhabitants, and Uusimaa getting close to two million! His message was “How do you divide the responsibilities in the upcoming reform if the autonomous regions aren´t homogenous?” He noted that there are  20 cities in Finland that each have a larger population than the entire region of Keski-Pohjamaa.

He had more questions to which he would want answers from the new reform policy makers. The municipalities own real estates and if the responsibilities for health care are transferred from them to the autonomous regions, will the latter purchase those properties from the municipalities? If so, will they pay the market price? How to arrange it so that nobody suffers because of the responsibilities being taken away from the municipalities?

The role of the Universities of Applied Sciences as reformers of welfare and well-being services


Katariina Raij, PhD, Laurea

Director Katariina Raij of Laurea University of Applied Sciences had an innovative approach: as soon as a new innovation appears, new training/studies should be made available swiftly. Otherwise, we won´t utilize the innovative ideas properly. The innovation should be quickly introduced to the markets, there are lots of innovative technologies that were never applied. How do we bring agility into the process of innovation? When thinking about health care in the public sector, it is an industry focused on curing diseases, and the whole system is based on illnesses not health.  The research findings of the JADE project 2014, Active and Healthy Ageing Report 2011, Special Euro Barometer 378 and Digi Barometer 2014 show that technology is very poorely utilized in solving  the problems of the public sector.

In order to be internationaly “visible”, it is important to invest in high-level development and know-how. Finland has a reputation of being slow in putting new health technology innovations into use in the health care sector. Finland is also very careful when approaching new innovations because of the risk of conflicts of interest. That prevents the creation of partnerships between the private and the public sector which are very important especially for the health care system. Insufficient revision of regulations and standards delays the entrance of innovations into the markets by months or even years.

She praised the new National Curriculum that is currently being drafted by the Finnish National Board of Education. She called the new curriculum fantastic, with the mindset the children will acquire and the way in which they will perceive the future. As of 2019, there will be a freedom of choice among public, private and third sector health service providers. How does the client recognize the best quality? How do we help clients make good choices? The question is: Do we need a new college degree/ complementary educational training in service navigation/ guidance?



The Well Life Center of Laurea created a research project called HyvinvointiTV (CaringTV) . The HyvinvointiTV’s studio was built in the Well Life Center with professionals offering individual guidance and advisory services that were co-created with clients. The aim of the interactive HyvinvointiTV was to support the health and well-being of elderly people living independently in their own homes. At that time, the founders of course had no idea how fast the e-services would develop. HyvinvointiTV was a pioneer in robotics. The award-winning service gained a lot of attention all around the world. The clients claimed that the screen felt so real they felt as if they had invited guests to their homes.









Care Innovation and Design (CIDe) was founded in 2010 in collaboration between Laurea and Vantaan Innovaatioinstituutti Oy (Innovation Institute of Vantaa, Inc.). CIDe sees itself as an innovation environment with an emphasis on advancing health  and well-being, supporting self-care and enabling customer-centeredness in all research and development activities. At the moment CIDe is owned by Laurea only. Care Innovation and Design as such doesn´t exist in any other University of Applied Sciences in Finland.


Jana Arhio, Laurea

Why customer experience is important in implementation of digital service channel in B2B area?

Few days ago I read blog post “Matkalla asiakas­lähtöisyyteen” where Maija Isotalus (2015) from Palmu asked customers of B2B companies providing IT continuous services if they see that there is enough of customer focus in business interactions. The results were very alarming. Only 18% of customers felt that companies having right customer focus. In addition,  only 11% of clients felt that companies understand their business and needs. Customer index calculated by author as difference between percentage of respondents who perceive business as truly customer oriented and percentage of respondents who felt that company has low customer orientation was in average on level of -17 (The best index was +50 the lowest -75). That tells a lot about adoption of customer centricity in companies providing IT continuous services. Brian Solis (2015) in his blog “Why Customer Experience is The Catalyst for Digital Transformation” explains that often it is forgotten in companies to ask simple questions “What is really important for customer? ”

Recently, I wrote thesis report about “Factors determining customers’ experience – case Tieto Service Channel” where I analyzed B2B context of providing services through a digital service channel. Getting an understanding over service-dominant logic, value creation aspects, customer driven innovation and IT support service experience aspects helped me to analyze social, behavioral and emotional aspects of company’s interactions with their customers. I relay on Lusch et al. (2007) studies where they explained via Foundation Premises (FP’s) that what defines importance for customer is the value that is co-created with them. They addressed that value is seen as very personal thing and depend on context where attitude, affection, satisfaction and behavioral judgments is taking place. Therefore they pointed out that continuous knowledge gathering and learning from customers creating engaging experience. Klaus and Maklan (2012) explained service experience can be through assessing attributes which helps in interaction with provider of the service and therefore it can point out on customers’ loyalty aspects. Through these aspects, meaning for customers is created about service context and it is shaping preferences toward one or other service (Walter et al. 2010). Johnston and Kong (2011) in their article informed that no matter what is the service, customers will always have experience. What is important to highlight is that they stressed out that companies always say that “we are providing best customer experience” but it does not mean that it is really provided. Brian Solis (2015) argues in his blog that experience is “sum of all touches throughout the customer relationship” and thus it is important that companies are evaluating customer experience factors. Garg et al. (2012) proposed classification of these factors based on criticality in succeeding desired customer experiences and prioritization connected with companies’ importance to understand impact of those factors. He pointed out on 19 of those:

  1. Customer interaction – interaction with company, its employees, physical environments and other customers.
  2. Presence of other customers – offering same or different service.
  3. Employees – those who deliver service to customers.
  4. Servicescape – physical environment where service is happening.
  5. Convenience – numerous activities leading to higher confidence degree.
  6. Customization – specific customer requirements to be taken into consideration.
  7. Value added – add on services to core service.
  8. Speed – responsiveness to customers’ requirements.
  9. Core services – basic service that company is providing.
  10. Service process – set of activities, interaction between them and resources need.
  11. Marketing mix – strategies towards customer expectations.
  12. Online functional elements – website functionality affecting experience of customers.
  13. Online hedonic elements – functionalities attracting customers to navigate and use website.
  14. Online aesthetics – elements that attracting and keeping attention of customer.
  15. Sensory experience – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell connected with aesthetics.
  16. Affective experience – emotional values influencing on interconnection between customer and company (moods, feelings etc.).
  17. Cognitive experience – cognitive and mental abilities of customer.
  18. Behavioral experience – lifestyle, interactions and customer physical experience.
  19. Relational experience – factor related to self-realization of customers beyond service context.

My thesis report goal was to find out what are the factors determining customer’s experience in B2B context on example of digital service channel. I proved findings from theory about experience being very personal and in addition, I was able to indicate real factors which influence on this experience. Figure below presents those factors categorized based on Garg et al. (2012) framework.

customer experience

Research was conducted in Finland and Sweden. It is seen that Finnish and Swedish respondents do not look at issues in the same way. For Finnish respondents service process and customer interaction through process ease, cross product comparison and past experiences are the most important to consider. Finnish respondents are evaluating digital service channel through service interaction activities, specific customer requirements, overall service functionalities and functionalities that attracts to use digital service channel. They judge digital service channel based on experiences with other similar services. Result indicates as well that past experiences that those respondents have with other services are influencing on their confidence level over service during this interactions. Lastly, risk perception was indicated where effective recovery from issues connected with service interaction activities and service functionalities affects their emotional experience. When it comes to Swedish respondents they indicated that past experiences which those respondents have with are influencing on their interactions with digital service channel the most. It is based on emotions triggered during interaction, their perceptions over service processes and functional and attractiveness aspects. In addition, they are evaluating digital service channel pretty much through their first interaction with service where emotional aspects, service interaction activities and their confidence level over service during interactions are the biggest influencers on their perception. Lastly, they are judging digital services based on experiences with other similar services where they are expecting that the interaction with it, specific requirements they have, emotional aspects (wow effects), functionalities that attract to use and additional services that digital service channel provides will be at least on the same level as in other, old services.

Summarizing, customer experience is very important aspects in B2B area. It is defined by various different elements. Presented thesis report discuss issue of trust through its determinants like confidence, honesty and reliability. Special attention is put on customer satisfaction that influence on credibility and benevolence which many researchers connects with customers’ loyalty towards product or service, and having direct implication on retention. Because of that, I put stress on explaining the role of company and its interaction with employees in shaping relationship with customers. I pointed out that together with service processes, activities leading to higher confidence in providing services and emotional values influencing on those interaction, it defines factors influencing on customers loyalty in the context of B2B services. In addition, factors like specific customer requirements, elements and functionalities keeping attractiveness of the service and issues related to self-realizations of customers and their taken-for-granted beliefs determining the most customer experience of digital service channel. A lot to do with those issues has expertise which customers’ in using the service have as well as service customization’s made. Through those aspects customers are creating unique emotional bonding towards brand which unfortunately in some cases was broken because of customers’ betrayal feelings they have after using digital service channel some period of time. Some researches suggest that this fact radiates on extending the psychological distance between employees responsible for customers and customers itself. Therefore, the role of service provider should be in creating outstanding service landscape where multi-sensory and interactive relativistic preference aspects of experiences will help to reengage customers in digital service channel. It should happen with elements embracing in them cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses to this service. As experience is a very personal thing, the qualities like possibility of having choice and be able to compare with other services, way of dealing with problems in service, physical and emotional benefits for customers receiving service are those drivers giving approach that should be taken for setting up, implement and popularize digital service channel.

How do you see importance of embracing customer experience in your organization? If you feel that this is something that might interest you, please look at my thesis report here


Solis, B. 2015. Why Customer Experience is The Catalyst for Digital Transformation. Accessed on 25.11.2015

Isotalus, M. 2015. Matkalla asiakas­lähtöisyyteen. Accessed on 25.11.2015

Lusch, R.F., Vargo, S.L. & O’Brien, M. 2007. Competing through service: Insights from service-dominant logic. Journal of Retailing, 83(1), 5–18.

Klaus, P., Maklan, S. 2012. EXQ: a multiple-item scale for assessing service experience. Journal of Service Management, 23(1), 5 – 33.

Walter, U., Edvardsson, B., Öström, Å. 2010. Drivers of customers’ service experiences: a study in the restaurant industry. Managing Service Quality, 20(3), 236 – 258.

Johnston, R., Kong, X. 2011. The customer experience: a road-map for improvement. Managing Service Quality, 21(1), 5 – 24.

Garg, R., Rahman, Z., Qureshi, M.N., Kumar, I. 2012. Identifying and ranking critical success factors of customer experience in banks: An analytic hierarchy process (AHP) approach. Journal of Modelling in Management, 7(2), 201 – 220.


SXC Day 2 Barcamps – Learning to visualize & Documenting customer journey with Experience Fellow

Learning to visualize – say it in 3 frames!

In my first bar camp session, Mauro Rego from Service Design Berlin promised us the attendees to learn how to visualize and do a canvas tool on anything. First assignment for us was to illustrate in 5 frames how to do a toast (=toasted bread). After the individual assignment, we as a team would have to agree which 5 drawings out of 25 in sequence represented the action best. Then we had to reduce the frames in 3 still keeping the message clear! It is astonishing how well illustrated pictures can speak so much. The next assignment was way more difficult – with the same process we would illustrate as a team how to help a group of people to plan their shared holiday trip. Here the different perceptions of the assignment would step in and we got a bit stuck. But in the end we managed to produce the following holiday planning canvas/tool which is cool! The benefit of these kind of tools is enabling communication.

Introduction to a customer journey documentation tool
The second and last barcamp session was lead by Marc Stickdorn (author of This is design thinking) and Klaus Schwarzenberger. They introduced a tool for making contextual interviews on existing services. The tool is called Experience Fellow and the person making the journey and reporting on it can download it free from application stores for IOS and Android. We experimented on the app and Marc showed us what kind of analysis can be drawn from the data entries. It seemed handy and was priced reasonably for research use.Marc recommended to use diverse data types (qualitative, quantitative), to use diverse researchers and diverse methods when aiming at deep insights on customers. Triangulate – triangulate – triangulate!A bold plan of improving the health of african women

The last key note speech of SXC15 was held by Melanie Wendland, who works for M4ID and teaches also a course in Laurea on SD in digital context. M4ID is involved in an impressive project to improve women’s health in Sub-Saharan Africa with the means of service design methods. They engaged diverse stakeholders of up to 500 persons to the user research, including african health care providers and women themselves to define how to improve services. Codesign was also used. The result was a customer journey of a safe delivery of a baby, one significant outcome of the project being the involvement of men into the journey as fathers or partners.

Näyttökuva 2015-11-22 kello 23.35.21
Ending panel – takeaways 

The short panel in the end encouraged the designers to continue enabling transformation and to dure the struggles of the journey. Adapting slowly by making it work first in teams, then progressing into organization. What happened in Paris during the conference prompted one panelist to point out that development is cyclical in reality – sometimes it goes backwards but then at some point turns again to positive.Last takeaways in a nutshell…


Näyttökuva 2015-11-22 kello 23.32.50

SXC15 Day 1 Bar camps – Playing with IoT Service Kit & Struggling with Culture Change for Design

Futurice has developed a co-creation tool for exploring user-centric IoT scenarios called IoT Service Kit. We played with the tool in our team in the context of conference services. The outcome was inventive, indeed! You can see our persona, her desires and goals in the pictures below. The game board depicts the concepts we developed. For example, in the conference cafeteria the conference participant can check-in within proximity of a beacon of certain coffee table and register her interests or topics she wants to discuss with other participants, who again can see these topics in their conference app map. Interesting, huh? I think enabling efficient networking would be a very welcomed value adding service to conferences or other big meet-ups for professionals.

Struggle with Culture Change for Design

Jan Schmiedgen from Hasso-Plattner Institute has researched the cultural challenges related to adoption of design thinking in organizations. Design Thinking is seen as a path to innovation culture but the hen-egg challenge exists in building the capabilities for innovation.


Jan’s advice to building the right organizational design and environment was to start simultaneously in all of the three main actions of the circle – building innovation capabilities, using design thinking and changing mindset. But the thing is still to start small in most contexts. A good idea is to create an innovation catalyst network and to reframe metrics so that they direct the organization to adopt DT.

He encouraged us to get familiar with Wendy Castleman’s work, she leads an Innovation Catalyst Community at Intuit.

Design around the value for customer


Luis Arnal, founder of Insitum, reminded in his key note speech the service designers to consider the differences in mature vs. emerging markets. In Germany as well as in Finland and the western countries in general, people have scarce time resources but instead money to spend. In Africa it is the other way around. So, the solutions should be designed accordingly, around the value for customer. Value is not always quality!

Don’t start a company, start a movement!
The last speaker provoked a start of a movement to create and nurture a culture of innovation in companies. And so a movement called SPARX was born in SXC15 :-)

SXC15 Day 1 Bar camps – Designer in the enterprise world & Data Canvas tool

Designer in the enterprise world by SAP

Marion and Heike from SAP shared their experiences with us on implementing SD in the corporation world. Being a service designer in an enterprise requires expertise in a multitude of areas and teamwork with internal stakeholders that have divergent motivations. In large projects it is crucial to have moments of synchronization to stay aligned. Service designer has to learn to sell the approach, learn the language of business and teams and adapt the vocabulary of “what is design” to get the message through. It is useful to know how to measure impacts, to use the power of data and metrics to convince others. Peers should be made to experience the process, but not by pushing by force.

They introduced an interesting illustration on different work styles and productiveness vs. time, see below. The value of service designer’s work is constituted in the late phases of the project whereas regarding engineering skills the case is the opposite. They also pointed out that the development team members tend to develop empathy for the team whereas it is in the service designer’s role to develop the empathy for the end customer.


Data Canvas

My second bar camp was held by Katrin Mathis, who is currently graduating from Laurea. Katrin has developed a new tool called Data Canvas to help out to consider the role of data when developing services and to understand quickly what data exists for the client organization.

The dimensions used in the canvas are whether the data is internal or external and whether the frequency of update is low or high. Internal data has a higher usage potential as it is under full control. With external data there is the risk of discontinuance and lack of uniqueness if competitors can access the same data.

The canvas can be worked on for example from angles such as what data has the highest potential, who benefits, how to tune the business model to take into account existing data. The business canvas elements can help in structuring the data canvas. The process requires engaging diverse experts. The additional variables are the trustworthiness of data source (expressed with red-orange-green colors of post-it notes) and the structure level of data (expressed with forms square-triangle-round of post-it notes). More on Katrin’s work on her pages.

(SXC15 continues in further blog posts.)

Service Experience Camp (SXC) 2015 – a deep dive into SD and DT with european peers

 The welcoming words of the organizers enlightened us about the movement behind camp event organizing – Service Design Berlin is a knowledge sharing community arranging regularly events on current topics of service design for design thinkers.

In the camp event the purpose is to learn from each other how to go forward with design thinking in our individual contexts. The learning and exchange mainly occurs in bar camp events which is an innovative concept in itself. The participants can bring along with them a topic which they want to share with others in a bar camp session, the idea being a two way exchange of knowledge and resources between the bar camp organizer and attendants. In the beginning of both days, all bar camps would be pitched to facilitate the choice of which camp to attend. There would be from 4 to 6 different bar camps running paralelly, each lasting one hour roughly.


Bar camp sessions’ wall

So let’s go camping like good scouts do! But some guidance from key note speeches first.

Louise Down, the Director of Design for Government Digital Service (UK) talked in her keynote about Designing public services – a different approach.

Louise mentioned some pretty interesting figures to begin with. UK government has saved 2,4 MEUR thanks to applying service design. Currently there is a 300 service designers’ community working in the public services. I heard from other camp attendee that UK is considered to be in the forefront of SD adoption in the public sector. So an example to keep an eye on for the Finnish public sector alongside well known Estonian e-service development.

Louise mentioned lessons on how to scale SD:

  • hire good people
  • build the boring things no-one wants to do (such as identification, payments, publishing)
  • understand how services work on the internet (develop consistent style with style guide, define how to ask person details understandably)
  • learn by making
  • do not give up – be persistent!

According to Louise, service failures cause the biggest costs to the public sector that could be avoided with good SD. She also pointed out how important it is to use “proper people speak” when designing services. See a video she showed us of UK governmental services’ and the user’s point of view about doing power of attorney online.

Another key note speaker was Kristina Rodig from energy provider E-on. To achieve a more customer centered process, new process, roles, tools and methods have been introduced in the company. Touchpoints with customers used to be rare, mainly focusing on the yearly invoicing. They conducted two major journey projects which addressed core processes from meter reading to payment. The work resulted in concepts that allow for individual customer journeys, such as an early warning system that makes it easy for customers to check whether their consumption is in balance with their advance payments or not.

Bar camp experiences to be continued….in the next blog post.

(Yes those wooden boxes are for sleeping!)