A reflection by Alvaro Valls Boix and Erson Halili – Students at Service Innovation and Design MBA @Laurea UAS
Defining Creativity is a complex task since the term is interpreted differently in different cultures and contexts. However, from a cognitive and mental activity perspective , Creativity is defined as the cognitive capacity to develop something new where we can identify that it’s a cognitive ability. This means that the cognitive ability it’s in all of us, loaded in our ’Operating Systems’ from the factory.
Did you know that ALL individuals can be creative? Yes, you read it right! According to Kelley and Kelley (Kelley 2013), and academic publications (Tschimmel 2021), not only creativity is present in all individuals, but it can also be nurtured and developed, like a muscle, with practice and persistence.
What’s more, the basic skills to exercise and train creativity through themselves and their combination are well identified (“Perception, Interrogation,Comparison and Language” Tschimmel 2021), allowing that an individual can really develop its creativity, in the scope of personal and professional creativity.
However, being creative requires more than that. In addition to exercising our creative brain, being creative requires bravery to explore the unknown as well as acknowledging that failure is an essential part of the creativity process. This is an inspiring example of a singer composing a song live during a podcast.
Creativity skills are critical in today’s and future working life. Survey results among CEOs reported that “creativity is the single most important leadership skill for enterprises engaged in the complex world of global commerce, where innovative solutions are necessary to pave the best possible path to success” (Kelley 2013).
Considering its importance, you might wonder, how can companies, organisations and individuals utilise creativity to solve complex real-life problems. Before we jump into the answer, let’s explore the types of problems. According to Jeremy Alexis from Illinois Institute of Technology, “There are two types of problems. There are mysteries and there are puzzles. “Puzzles” are problems where when you have the right level of data disclosure, when you have that absolute number, the problem can be solved […] On the contrary, in “mysteries”, there is no single piece of data, there is no level of data disclosure that will actually solve a problem. In fact, there might be too much data and it’s about interpreting all the data that’s there. And that’s a richer, harder problem” (Cited in Liedtka 2012).
Based on this definition, we will focus on the second type, the ‘mysteries’, in which human interpretation is essential. Solving these complex challenges requires a comprehensive way of thinking and problem-solving mindset, and a multidimensional perspective. That is called Design Thinking (DT) which is described as a way of thinking which leads to transformation, evolution and innovation. Nonetheless, DT it’s not only a cognitive process but a valuable method for innovation processes (Tschimmel, K., 2012).
And this is the point in which we start streamlining the power of creativity, based on the principles of design methodology (Tshimmel 2021), into the DT method.
Design Thinking, with its principles, process models and toolkit, is a method that offers the opportunity to apply design tools to problem-solving-contexts with the form of businesses, services or organisational change.
Consultancy agencies and companies of all sizes use the DT method to address innovation through solutions to “wicked” problems in any kind of circumstances in which a product or service can be offered to users: health, travel, finance, mobility, industry, etc.
DT Process and Tools: Where to Start?
DT is usually represented by process models, to represent conceptually a high-level road map of stages to be followed during the innovation process. It also allows beginners and non-designers in the matter to understand at a high level the process and don’t get lost.
But wait… DT… one method… and how many different process models? Which is the most effective one?
As the DT discipline emerged, different institutions and organisations created their own process models, following their interpretation of what the process should be and what worked better for them (Tschimmel, 2012), although having all of them the DT principles at the core, and keeping evident parallelisms. Process models by IDEO, British Design Council, Stanford, Hasso-Platter Institute of Design, d.school… could be the most popular or recognizable ones, but the fact is that many others also exist and will keep emerging.
A picture from the process model followed at the DT Master class workshop in SID 2022, by Mindshake
How to Navigate the Abundance of DT Models and Tools?
The best process model can be the one that works better for you, in your own context, with you own target audience.
The ability to choose what works best for your comes with practice, radical empathy and problem-solving attitude.
In the beginning of the practice of DT, a process model can be a good friend and guide you through the stages of the process, giving you perspective and understanding, but the thing is that it cannot become a straitjacket. An acknowledged practitioner of DT and its principles, will use his/her own process model, maybe having as reference one or more of the existing ones, but tweaking it here and there, according to experience and concrete circumstances and needs of each project. A process model will rarely be followed as a recipe. On the contrary, the DT lead will conduct the team through different sequences of divergence (to zoom out and have a wide perspective, consider many possibilities) and convergence (to zoom in, identifying concepts and patterns and selecting the most resonating ones) according to the requirements of the project and findings, using in each case the tool that better fit his/her purposes. In this sense, the more abstract a process model is, the more likely that it better describes a real project. As a key takeaway, choose the methods which works best for you, tailor them to your context and test them in concrete innovation and creative projects.
- Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation Download Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation . In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79879-6.
- Several authors (2022). Short articles in Creativity and Innovation Affairs Download Creativity and Innovation Affairs
- Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for Innovation. In Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
- Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business. (http://www.creativeconfidence.com)
- Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf
- Liedtka, Jeanne & Ogilvie, Tim (2011). Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers, New York: Columbia University Press