What good is Design Thinking?

Everyone is talking about Design Thinking. Consultants at least, when they are selling something. But does Design Thinking bring any practical benefits? Idris Mootee makes a strong argument that Design Thinking can help organizations in many ways. We will briefly introduce two concepts Mootee talks about, creative culture and importance of predictability that we think are important for organizations to know about.

Creative Culture

Creative culture is about accepting and endorsing two key elements of innovation: uncertainty and ambiguity. And innovation is what organizations should strive for. There are many ways to innovate but one of them is experimentation, where organizations try something, inevitably fail and in the process learn. Through learning organizations are more likely to succeed on the next try. This iterative cycle is an important part of a creative culture and helps to reduce uncertainty and ambiguity. One way to do experimentation in practice is by employing rapid prototyping, as suggested by Mootee.

Innovative cultures are creative cultures.

Idris Mootee

Rapid prototyping is the practice of building some tangible representation of a service concept and its most relevant functions. This representation is called a prototype. For a business person the idea can sound peculiar, but prototyping really helps to bring ideas live in a more concrete manner. Using a prototype to test the service concept with real people will help organization collect feedback and learn what works and what doesn’t. A lot cheaper than actually building a real service. And quite rapid too.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings

Tom & David Kelley, IDEO

Service prototypes don’t have to be complex or expensive but they do need to be tangible enough for people to give useful feedback. Since the idea of a prototype is to communicate an idea, prototypes can vary from simple paper sketches to complex physical set-ups that mimic real life service accurately. Whatever works to get useful feedback.

Predictability

Decision makers spend a lot of time thinking about what the future holds and how to make right decisions. That is because making strategic decisions about the future is hard – we simply never have all the necessary information to weigh all options equally. What would help us make better decisions is if we could identify and understand what trends, smaller and bigger, are happening around us. For identifying trends, Mootee suggests to look for weak signals and creating scenarios to help weigh options.

Weak signals are clues about what is going to happen and what trends are relevant. Identifying and processing weak signals is not exact science, though. It takes time and experience to identify which event or information is significant and reliable enough to be considered a weak signal. Even more experience is needed to process and combine weak signals into something useful. Organizations should be looking for weak signals in academic research, media, trends in politics, what innovations start-ups are coming up with and what their competitors are doing, among other things. Processing weak signals and using the insights gained to identify trends and create scenarios is what helps understand what future might hold.

Scenarios are possible futures, in a nutshell. Organizations try to predict what the world looks like in, say, five years from now. Like weak signals, scenario building is not exact science – we are essentially making assumptions based on our assumptions about which trends are relevant. That is why it is important to be honest and validate underlying assumptions as much as possible. In the end, though, scenarios are simply tools that help organizations focus their efforts and give more information to base decisions on. Assumptions based on solid background work are still better than pure speculation.

Written by Kati Lehto & Kimmo Holm, SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

References:

Brown, Tim (2008). Design Thinking: How to deliver on a Great Plan. Harvard Business Review June 2008, 84-95.

Mootee, Idris (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley.

Tschimmel, Katja (2021). 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.

Sitra. Megatrends 2020 – https://www.sitra.fi/en/topics/megatrends

Prototyping User Experience :: UXmatters

Breaking the ice on Design and Design Thinking 

Don’t worry if you are not familiar with the concept of design thinking, here you will get your first dose of design thinking vocabulary!

Figure 1: Perception of Design Thinking 

Before starting our Masters degree program in Service Innovation and Design, the concept of design thinking was vague and unclear also to us. Once the first Design Thinking Master class held by Katja Tschimmel begun, we quickly noticed that there is no universal definition of design and design thinking available in literature, and even professionals and researchers working in the field of design thinking have not been able to agree on single definition (Buchanan, R. 1996; Motee, I, 2013; Tschimmel, K., 2022). It also started to make sense why that is: With a single definition of design thinking, it is impossible to cover the diversity of ideas gathered under the label. Instead, it makes more sense to look for where and how the concept is used in different situations, both theoretical and practical, and what meaning is given to the concept (Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M., 2013).

Figure 2: Design Thinking terminologies. 

Since we learned that there are as many definitions as there are people involved in the field, and it is pretty easy to get confused with the terminology such as creativity, creative thinking or design, designerly thinking and design thinking. Our aim is to break the ice by getting familiar with these basic terminologies often used around the topic of Design Thinking. 

Creativity is defined as a cognitive capacity to develop something new (Tschimmel, K. 2021). A person is recognized as creative when a large number of specialists endorse that his work has brought an important contribution to the field. Here, it is interesting to understand the difference between creativity and creative thinking, as the cognitive ability to deliberately and intentionally produce new ideas and targeted results is defined as creative thinking (Tschimmel, K. 2021).

Design is often associated with creativity, and even some researchers consider creativity as an essence and the heart of design. For a lay man, the whole idea of designing is either to create something new, or make existing objects, conditions, and services better and preferred ones. Designerly thinking links theory and practice from a design perspective, whereas, in design thinking the design practice and competence are used beyond the design context, and most importantly the people involved in the process does not necessarily have scholarly background in design (Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M., 2013). In simple words, It can be said that design thinking is a simplified version of designerly thinking.

This is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the topic of Design Thinking, however, it’s a good place to start our learning  journey, and you should join us!

Written by Usman Sheikh and Hanna Valkonen, SID MBA Students

References:

Buchanan, R. (1996). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In: Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 

Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M. (2013). Design thinking: Past, present, and possible futures. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(2), 121-146. https://doi.org/10.1111/caim.12023 

Motee, I (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. 

Tschimmel, K. (2021). 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 

Tschimmel, K. (2022). Design vs Design Thinking. In Creativity and Innovation Affairs. (in process). Available only for SID students at Laurea University. 

Building Creative Confidence and Skills

Creativity is a fundamental element for design processes and innovation. However, many people think that they are not creative, that they are more practical types. David Kelley states that we all have huge potential within us. People are naturally wildly creative, and we just need to take the blocks away from keeping us from being creative. So, how to think out of the box? By following a series of steps, you will solve problems more creatively, make better decisions and attack challenges in the way a designer would do.

Today, a creative person is seen as someone who has an innate potential to think creatively and who can improve creative thoughts by certain techniques and methods. We collected some ideas inspired by Kelley and Tschimmel, how to tackle the empty page problem in idea generation and start thinking more creatively.

Creative Thinking

According to Satiro and Tschimmel (2020) creative thinking can be classified into four groups (Tschimmel, K. 2022). Keep in mind that these following skills are all interconnected, and designers apply all these forms and thinking abilities in their creative processes.

Perception with all senses is an essential form of creative thinking. If you intentionally use all your senses, you can enrich your perceptual experience and produce new and unusual combinations of ideas. Also, a key for creative thinking is the ability to take time to work with unfinished perceptions to not reach conclusions too fast. So, to be able to generate new ideas, you need to avoid stereotyping.

Asking questions can be a driver of innovation. Provocative questions such as “what makes you respond the way you do?”  confront the truths and realities people tend to accept without critical reflection. Imaginative questions such as “what would happen if?” help break the ordinary reality. By asking questions, you can open a variety of answers.

Comparison is the ability to assess ideas in the context of other ideas, where you can make uncommon associations and new combinations of ideas. For example, thinking in analogies helps you to think of one thing as if it was another. By thinking in analogies, you can create novel ideas.

Language is a form of creative thinking where through using narrative thinking and expressive language you can give meaning to people’s lives and to the world. In innovation, using narrative thinking such as storytelling helps make the message of the service or product you designed more accessible to people. Use storytelling and expressive language to set a clear voice to your design.

Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

#1 Choose creativity

Creative people have one thing in common: they decided to be creative (Sternberg). Deciding for creativity does not guarantee that creativity will emerge, but without the decision, it certainly will not. So, make the decision to be creative, try to find your own way, and look for ideas that are both novel and useful in some way.

#2 Expose yourself to new ideas

If you want a good idea, start with a lot of ideas“, said Linus Pauling. Try to have an open mind for different ideas and apply beginner’s mind to something you do every day. Never fall in love with the first ideas since the first ones are never original ones. Search actively out for inspiration. Try to stay inspired and turn creativity into a habit. Keep in mind that quantity matters!

#3 Understand the needs of end-users

Creativity and innovation need empathy, the ability to see an experience through another person’s eyes and to recognize why people do what they do. Try to observe the persons you are creating for. Do observations in the field to gain more information about how people really act and what are their non-obvious, latent needs. And when you spot a contradiction between what you see and what you expect, it’s a sign that you should dig deeper.

#4 Ask “Why” and “How” questions

Learn more and go deeper by asking questions like “why” or “what if”.  As stated earlier, questions can be drivers of innovation and get you to the heart of the matter. Always try to ask five “why” questions. Ask questions from different people and different age groups. In addition, questions may help you to reframe your challenges. Asking “How might we….” may lead you to find the right question that needs to be answered.

#5 Collaborate your ideas with others

Many of the best ideas result from collaborating with other people. You don’t have to generate all the ideas on your own. Figure out how you can have your own advisory board – it might be a temporary one for a single project or a more permanent one. Build your own creative support network.

Written by Riikamaria Vartiainen and Marika Malmström

Credits

Tschimmel, K. (2022) “Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a ménage à trois”. Perspectives in Design II: Research, Education and Practice II “Series in Design and Innovation” Springer International Publishing (in print).

Tschimmel, K. (2022) “Design vs. Design Thinking”. In Creativity and Innovation Affairs (in process). 

Tschimmel K, Design Thinking Master Class 3.- 4.9.2021 materials. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.

David Kelley (2012): How to build your creative confidence. TED Talk

Creativity — Robert J. Sternberg (robertjsternberg.com

Homo partum – unleashing the creativity within everyone

Etienne Girardet – Unsplash

At the age of five I remember following my parents to the local library of the small village where I grew up. At the entrance of the library, an impressive landscape prototype of an upcoming development project where on display, containing miniature buildings, cars, trees and even dogs. 

The local municipality council had gathered local residents, including my parents, to get their feedback, thoughts and ideas on an upcoming development project. As for me, I was fully occupied in trying to figure out how to create miniature asphalt as realistic as in the landscape prototype, unaware of that I was attending my first participatory design event.

Harnessing creativity

According to David and Tom Kelly (“Creative Confidence” 2013), there is no division between creative and non-creative people. To make something innovative, you need to choose to be creative, and in doing so, not being afraid to make mistakes. It is through experimentation and learning that we nurture our creative capacities. Through our literature studies and insights from Katja Tschimmels lectures, we make the conclusion “Homo partum” — Latin for “creative human”, is a very important driver of any innovation process. 

The ability to harness this creativity that resides within everyone is a powerful tool to drive innovation. Research done by company Braineet shows, that 58% of worldwide businesses are piloting co-creation/participatory design projects to help drive internal innovation. Companies like Unilever, IKEA, DeWalt are using co-creation as a strategy to get both employees and customers to join forces in order to build better products, services and experiences. 

Creativity by Participatory design – in urban development 

It´s not just global food or furniture making companies that has seen the advantages of harnessing the creativity of the workforce and end customers. Professor Henry Sanoff of University North Carolina have studied participatory design for over 50 years and in his publication “Community Participation Methods in Design and Planning”, Sanoff illustrates how the creativity of local communities can be unleashed by using participatory design.

When including residents of a community in the design phase of a new development project, the balance between viability (should we build it), feasibility (can we build it) and desirability (do the residents/customers want it), can be better aligned at an early stage, helping the project to be more anchored within the community and ensuring that the outcome of the project will be more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. By using participatory design, the risk of having to redesign and/or redevelop urban spaces is significantly reduced.

Participatory design in urban development uses some elements recognized from the different design thinking approaches. Sanhoff gives examples of the most common stages:

  1. Collection and analysis of primary information where the urban development specialists inspect the area/facility and identifies of the development potential and the needs of the local residents, business owners and other stakeholders, using field observations and interviews as method.

  2. Informing the residents about the upcoming plans to create awareness and promote involvement in the development process. Usually done through newsletter send-outs, bulletin boards or townhall meetings.

  3. Invite residents to participatory design sessions in workshop format where the residents share ideas, create prototypes and proposals, which conveys their needs, wants, and desires. The proposals are presented and reviewed, and the best ideas are selected using voting mechanisms

  4. Celebration as an important part to recognize the community strength and the common achievement. Giving a sense of unity and appropriation for the upcoming project.

Shannon Chris, Dotte Agency

Why use participatory design?

In urban development projects, it is important to give meaning to public spaces, and who, if not people who live in, work in, or utilize these areas such as parks, squares, courtyards, city gardens, sports fields, and playgrounds, will be the ones that can provide the best input on what their needs are? Involving the “end user” in the design process ensures not only more refined ideas and the unleashing of the creativity within, but also a higher chance of a successful project.

Reflection

My lasting memory from that out-of-the-ordinary visit to the library in my youth was that my parents from that day on mentioned the development project every time we drove by the area in our village and how excited they were that they had the chance to convey their thoughts and input. 

Thinking of it now many years later after reflecting on the impressions from the first sessions at SID, I have come to understand the great value of involving the end user in all projects where innovation is needed. 

/ Eleonora Prits & Johan Svensson

————–

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business. 

Sanoff, Henry (2000) Community Participation Methods in Design and Planning. John Whiley and Sons, Inc.

Solis, Brian (2021) This Is Marketing’s Ctrl-Alt-Del Moment: Leading CMOs Prioritize CX And Innovation In Business Transformation, Forbes

Mootee, Idris (2013) Design thinking for strategic innovation, Wiley

https://www.braineet.com/blog/co-creation-examples

Project group 8, DOM.RF, Foundation for the Development of Single-Industry Towns (2018) Involvement of citizens in improvement projects. KB Strelka LLC

Snegireva, Nadezhda (2018) Organization of public discussions of territorial development projects. Project group 8, Program for the development of public spaces of the Republic of Tatarstan

The human-centered concepts of creativity and design thinking

These two concepts have been used when creating the products and services that we use, which have resulted in simplicity and ease of use. But, what are these concepts? And how are they human-centered? Let’s find out.

What is creativity and how is creativity human-centered: Divine comedy or everyman’s labor

How wonderful it is to feel being creative. Having that short-lived touch of magic when a new idea or solution presents itself. A deux a machina – moment as if some divine spark accidentally lands in one’s way and lights up the road. For long we were convinced that this is how creativity is manifested. We also thought that it belonged exclusively to some extraordinary persons and rest of us were to be content with occasional leftovers. That was before we started to study innovation and design thinking. 

Our inspiring SID lecturer Katja Tschimmel argues unequivocally how “creativity is not a trait of supernaturally gifted persons with innate ability to think and act creatively”. Instead she points out that creativity is multidimensional and non-situational BUT it requires a social and economic environment to nurture it. And the more interactions and mental connections our cognitive system is facing the more potential we have to accelerate our creative thinking and thus creativity. To put it another way – innovation is more social than personal.

What is design and how is design human-centered: User, User, User.

Figure 1: Design Thinking Definition (Brownn)

Design Thinking is based on 5 principles: 1. Human-centred approach, 2. Collaboration, 3. Experimentation, 4. Visualisation, and 5. Holistic approach. To get a better grasp of Design thinking, we can look at it as a process (see figure 2).

Figure 2: What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular? (Dam & Siang, 2020)

Design thinking is used as an innovation method where people work together from different departments without necessarily having a designer in the team. This is the beauty of Design Thinking as it is not limited to gifted people. Design Thinking is also used as a tool for simplifying and humanizing services and products, making even complex technologies simple to use.

How does design and creativity co-exist

According to George Kembels the co-founder and executive director of Stanford d.school, creativity is the adventurous spirit to try something new, to be open to the unexpected. Design is the act of creation, bringing something new to the world. Design thinking is the approach and mindset that explains how to make creative design happen.

Figure 3: D.confestival in Potsdam (Kembels, 2012)

Experiences from masterclass and Conclusion

Based on our experiences at DTmasterclass it is easy to agree that creativity, design and design thinking are inclusive abilities that don’t belong to any particular or exclusive group of geniuses but rather are innate human capabilities that can be trained and developed. 

In the masterclass we were also pushed to our limits in being creative and trying to come up with ideas and solutions to enhance being included at a workplace. Here we were really thinking of the end-user of our solution, and every idea revolved on making the end-user’s experience to be better. The human-centered approach was shining here.

Written by Toni Ekroos & Wasim Al-Nasser

References

Brown, Tim 2019. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Dam, R. & Siang, T. (2020). What is Design Thinking and Why Is It So Popular? https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular

Kelley, D. & T. (2013). Creative Confidence. New York: Crown Business.

Kembels, George (2012). Discussion between Oliviero Toscani and George Kembels at the d.confestival in Potsdam 2012 https://www.tele-task.de/de/archive/lecture/overview/6606/ 

Kolko, J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.Tschimmel, K. (2021). 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”.

Diving into Design Thinking – First Taste

Our service innovation and design studies started with an interesting Design Thinking course held remotely by Katja Tschimmel. During the two instruction days we learned the basics of Design Thinking, went through a Design Thinking process in small groups using Miro and did also some creative thinking as well as thinking outside the box exercises. We liked the execution of the course very much. It was two very intensive but fun days. Below you can read part of our learnings from the course

What is Design Thinking

During the last decade Design Thinking has become a popular approach for innovation. Design and Design Thinking are closely connected as Design Thinking is based on design methodology, the designer’s culture and way of thinking (Tschimmel, K. 2022a, 47). However, design never achieved the same position in the corporate world as Design Thinking has now achieved.

Design Thinking is a cross-disciplinary method which combines innovation with a human-centered approach. It investigates thoroughly the needs and wants of people and turns then into customer benefits and business value. (Brown, T. 2008, 86) Design Thinking is being used in fields such as service, business, organizational, social and educational innovation (Tschimmel, K. 2022b, 13).

Design Thinking Principles

Design Thinking is based on the following principles:

  • Collaboration means that as many stakeholders as possible should be included in the process.
  • Human-centered approach underlines the importance of user’s perspective.
  • Experimentation means that mistakes and failure belong to creative processes.
  • Divergence highlights the importance of thinking in different perspectives and looking for future possibilities.
  • Visualization helps to simplify complicated things.
  • Holistic perspective takes into account the system of interactions around products, services etc.
  • Prototyping makes ideas tangible through early simulation and testing.

Another way to describe the principles of Design Thinking is by dividing them into three main categories with sixteen subcategories (picture 1). The main categories are thinking, actions and mindset. (Tschimmel 2021)

Picture 1: Principles of Design Thinking by Mindshake

Process of Design Thinking  

The way we see this, is that the process of design thinking is out there with an ultimate purpose – to make the world a better place. Designers, innovators and anyone in between strive towards solving challenges of various multitudes by using innovative and creative approaches while getting inspired, ideating and, finally, implementing ideas into real-life environments. The most successful way of utilizing a Design Thinking approach is often a collective process, involving mind work of a number of individuals, who have a common goal to reach, an issue to solve or a process or service to improve. 

Picture 2 and 3 on Team-based Approach to Innovation & Dramatic New Forms of Value: Brown (2008)

Design Thinking’s Areas of Application  

Design Thinking, or human-centered problem solving is traditionally used in business and strategy, as Mootee is describing in his book, however, the application areas of Design Thinking are increasing diverse, versatile and can often be seen utilized in unexpected scenarios within industries that slowly only begin to realize the potential that Design Thinking methods can bring to the table. 

Moreover, Design Thinking in a modern society is seen as far more than simply a product design tool; it is used for creating something that is not only technologically possible, but also financially viable, as well as valuable for a target consumer, with the customer being at a centerpiece of the process. 

Written by Katja Kotilainen & Yulia Lobanova

References:

Brown, T (2008). Design Thinking: How to deliver on a Great Plan. Harvard Business Review June 2008, 84-95.

Kolko, J. (2015). Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture.  Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.

Mootee, I. (2013).Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation : What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Tschimmel, K. (2021). Design Thinking Master Class 3.-4.9.2021 material. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Tschimmel, K. (2022a). Design vs Design Thinking. In creativity and Innovation Affairs. (in process) Available only for SID students at Laurea University.

Tschimmel, K. (2022b). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centered ménage à trois for Innovation. In perspectives on Design II: Research, Education and Practice II. “Serie in Design and Innovation”. Springer International Publishing. (in print)

Design thinking tools to make meaning from the mess

More and more non-designers know at least some design thinking tools when different organizations commonly use them. Design thinking helps make sense of complex problems, and what is most important, it helps people create new ideas that fit better consumer needs and desires. (Kolko, 2015)

Design thinking is not an exceptional talent or a skill that only designers have, but design thinking practitioners see it as a mindset.

We can use the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and a viable business strategy.  While every designer is a design thinker (Tschimmel, 2022), design thinking tools can make anyone a designer.

Our studies at SID began with a two-day intensive course on Design Thinking. We got the task to investigate and push forward the issue of workplace inclusivity. For this purpose, we utilized the Evolution 6 model (E.6² for short) by Tschimmel and employed various Design Thinking tools along the way to the final presentation of a single refined prototype.

The E.6² model consists of six phases, each with three divergent and three convergent phases called moments. While working on this course, we were encouraged to retrace our steps, review our progress with a critical eye, and make adjustments accordingly.

Our experiences fit in with the notion that the design process encompasses different tools and methods that drive innovation. As Brown (2008) puts it, we executed multiple related activities to foster and engage in Design Thinking to come to innovative solutions. Well-prepared templates and a broad license to utilize, e.g., image material found online, helped our endeavors. 

Design thinking is cross-disciplinary teamwork that brings the user to the center of the problem statement.

Kolko, 2015

During the process, we leveraged the strengths of multi-disciplinary teams. We sought common ground amongst ourselves to further our understanding of the problem and offer solutions in rapid prototypes.

Kolko (2015) defines design artifacts as physical models used to explore, express, and communicate. In the digital context of our lecture weekend, we used online media in picture form to develop our ideas and convey them visually to our group members and classmates, especially during the prototyping and final presentation phases.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as are needed to generate useful feedback and evolve an idea.

Brown, 2008

In the space of this one weekend, we were able to design novel solutions to tackle a complex issue and present those solutions in a coherent and visually striking manner while working with the constraint of not interacting with each other face-to-face.

It is good to remember that while design thinking helps solve complex problems and innovate future solutions, it does not fit all situations or solve all problems. It requires strict expectation management with realistic timelines that fit each organization and its culture.  

While design thinking methods can help to create innovative products, they can still fail to sell. Brown (2008) talks about a project between US-based innovation and design firm IDEO and Japanese cycling manufacturer Shimano. They used design thinking tools to create a new innovative concept of Coasting bikes, which offered a carefree biking experience for the masses.  Several other biking manufacturers incorporated Shimano’s innovative components after their Coasting bikes launch in 2007, and the project won some design awards. But for some reason, the bikes were not selling, and a few years later, they disappeared from the market. (Yannigroth, 2009) Maybe they did not test the idea properly with target users after all?

Written by: Viljami Osada & Saija Lehto SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

References:

  • Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.
  • Kolko, David J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). 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.
  • Roth, Yannig (2010). What caused Shimano’s Coasting-program to fail? Blog post. https://yannigroth.com/2010/05/12/what-caused-shimanos-coasting-program-fail/ 

Photos: Pexels.com

Empathy in focus: Design Thinking during disruption

Today, the uncertainty around us is overwhelming. The world is saturated with Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA). However, we need to manage our daily lives, improve, create, and deliver. Design Thinking (DT) methods provide us with a chain of systematic approaches to tackle the novel beast head-on and conquer. The DT process takes us from identifying the customer problem, analyzing it, coming up with ideas, validating solutions via prototypes, introducing them to others to receiving customer feedback. Yet, under the disruptive global pandemic, customer empathy is the key. But why?

Customer empathy research creates a deep understanding of the issue at hand, especially when what we earlier knew is no longer valid in the VUCA environment. The new norm and related changes in customer’s pains and needs must be thoroughly understood. According to DT principles, emphasizing requires that the customers’ issues be approached both from the favourable and endorsing position and from the more constructive aspects – challenge the existing! There must be a dialogue and an interaction between the Service Designer and the customer. The empathic insights in design are derived from three types of knowledge, that of

  1. Customer needs. Deliver Design Thinking course remotely for the first time.
  2. Delivery language (culture, information media). English with international participants.
  3. Technological. Zoom and Miro. Which together provide a complete frame for knowledge construction and therefore enables empathy.
Design Thinking with Leonardo DiCaprio.

How did we manage in reality?

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Laurea Design Thinking Masterclass 2021 was organized fully online. Instead of chit-chatting with fellow students in the classroom with post-its and whiteboards, most of us sipped our coffees alone in front of the laptop screen – at home.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for bringing new ideas to life, empathy is a key feature in the human-centred design thinking processes. Several tools have been developed to support an empathic design process. We were able to grasp some of them during the two intensive sprint days.

Empathy in design means leaving the office and becoming immersed in the lives, environments, attitudes, experiences and dreams of the future users. According to Katja Schimmel, design students should become process experts with context-sensitivity and a human-centred systemic view.

Digital tools are not ideal for expressing emotions and for capturing various human traits such as empathy. In digital communications, empathy requires special attention.

We listed our key takeaways from the Masterclass, which can be useful when deepening empathy in remote Design Thinking processes.

Four takeaways

  1. Design Thinking online requires excellent planning and preparations. For example, ready-made Miro templates can make the process smoother if there are many first-time users.
  2. Use creative tools to enhance empathy. For example, we practised our listening skills by introducing each other to the group and did most of the exercises in groups of five persons to build closer connections.
  3. Keep the team motivated with digestible content and “learning by doing”. When one has a passion to learn, small technological challenges cannot stop them.
  4. Patience, humour and mutual support – oh no, a gigantic photo of Leonardo DiCaprio just invaded our Miro board! A good laugh (and solid technological skills) help to overcome most of the challenges.

Written by Anna-Sofia Joro and Jukka Kuusela

SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Inspiration, sources and references

Baird, Nathan (2020): MarketingMag.com: Why ‘Design Thinking’ is as relevant during COVID-19 as ever

Cankurtaran, Pinar and Michael B. Beverland, Industrial Marketing Management: Using design thinking to respond to crises: B2B lessons from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013): Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.

Kouprie, M & Seeswijk Visser, F. (2009): A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of user’s life in Journal of Engineering Fesign, Vol. 20, No.5, October 2009, 437-448

Köppen, E., & Meinel, C. (2014): Empathy via Design Thinking: Creation of Sense and Knowledge. Design Thinking Research, 15–28. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-06823-7_2

Smith, Laura (2021): Tampere University of Applied Sciences: Empathy in remote work communication : a qualitative case study

Thakur, Anupam MD, MBBS; Soklaridis, Sophie PhD; Crawford, Allison MD, PhD; Mulsant, Benoit MD; Sockalingam, Sanjeev MD, MHPE (2021): Using Rapid Design Thinking to Overcome COVID-19 Challenges in Medical Education

Tschimmel, Katja (2022): Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois 

Tschimmel, Katja: Design Thinking (remote) Masterclass, September 3–4 2021. Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Finland

Design Thinking For Management Education

“What’s in for me?”, the manager asks.

“Anything”, we answered. “It depends on how we find it”.

Figure 1: Photo by Gabriel Sollmann / Unsplash

In terms of developing or dealing with the new in increasingly complex interdependencies and the capability to integrate various perspectives in the decision-making process, Design Thinking (DT) implies the potential to become a great asset for any organization. With its universal usability, DT has the power to become a key innovation driver. Katja Tschimmel (2021) concludes “that organizations should concentrate their innovation strategies and practices on creativity and design-based methods and their mindset.”

Changing awareness

However, this requires a mindset accordingly to resonate within the yet established traditional business development concepts, which are, according to Tschimmel (2021), based on rational problem-solving techniques. Not only that thinking besides the beaten path is simply difficult for anyone, Mauro Porcini in Kelley & Kelly (2013) goes even further and defines the very beginning of the journey as “pure denial”, culminating in the proposition that “we’re not creative”.

Relocating mindset

To push this thinking laterally, as De Bono (1994) describes it 30 years ago, a new way of management education is being in the need. Educators within this field, like Martin Parker (2018) question the traditional business education agenda and demand a critical view on how the ethos is being conveyed. Referring to his thoughts, educational research projects like the D-think project of Tschimmel & Santos (2018) can be observed already. It is on the design thinking approaches to relocate positions on how management could act alternatively in order to conduct change.

Figure 2: Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

Within this context, project-based teaching & learning is the most effective pedagogical framework for both teachers and students to develop new perceptions and values in a collaborative approach in DT institutes (Tschimmel, Katja. (2011)).

Educating creative confidence

One such session was held online in DT course as part of Service Innovation & Design program at Laurea, where, lecturer Katja Tschimmel took us through the DT process with 7 key principles; a communal methodology involving many stakeholders (Collaboration), leading to build-up a user’s prospective (Human Centeredness/Empathy), which is iteratively investigated (Experimentation) to find out all possible outcomes (Divergence) and shaping to form/images  (Visualization/Prototyping) considering wider context and environment (Holistic Approach) in a creative process.  We were introduced with a practical exercise to the more elaborative Design Thinking model from Mindshake (as below).

Figure 3: E.62 Design Thinking Model by Mindshake

In search for answer that how design experts assist their students to evolve the capacity of design thinking, researchers discovered multiple levels of creative knowledge, which can be attained by design thinking education, evolving to a potential, termed as “Creative Confidence” (Rauth et al. 2010). Kelley & Kelley (2013) advocate to consider the social ecology in a group setting in reference to foster this creative confidence. Deferring judgement for example, among other guidelines, is vital.

Further thoughts

In summary and in reviewing the masterclass, the management education of future “innovation agents” (Tschimmel 2021) needs more than knowledge about the tools. By adding and exploring components of group psychology, facilitating dynamics or such, can leverage the full potential.

Figure 4: Photo by Stefan C. Asafti on Unsplash

Written by Ahmad Arslan & Manuel Schaumann, SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

References

  • De Bono, E. (1994). De Bono’s Thinking Course
  • Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
  • Parker, M. (2018). Why we should bulldoze the business school. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/27/bulldoze-the-business-school [Accessed September 2021]
  • Rauth, I., Köppen, E., Jobst, B., Meinel, C. (2010). Design Thinking: An Educational Model towards Creative Confidence.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation.
  • Tschimmel, K., Santos, J. (2018). Design Thinking applied to the Redesign of Business Education. In Proceedings of the XXIX ISPIM Innovation Conference, The Name of the Game. Stockholm.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2011). Design as a Perception-in-Action Process. 10.1007/978-0-85729-224-7_29.

Becoming a Design Thinking Organization: Sense Making through Empathy

Co-authored by Airine Kariuki and Saper Sahbaz

“There is only one valid purpose of a corporation: to create a customer” (Drucker, 2006). As called by some “the father of modern management”, Peter Drucker drew attention to customer-centricity 67 years ago, dividing the management practice into two camps: those who strive for customer value creation vs. value extraction. But today, it is clear who the winners are.

Figure 1: Market capitalization of value creators (Amazon, Apple) vs. value extractors (GE, and IBM) (Denning, 2021)

However, firms that strive for customer value creation face newer and newer challenges today. As Daniel Pink writes (in Brown, 2008): “Abundance has […] over-satisfied, the material needs of millions—boosting the significance of beauty and emotion and accelerating individuals’ search for meaning”. In response, truly customer-centric firms need to deliver not only products but experiences wrapped with both tangible and intangible value propositions (Brown, 2008). More, contemporary customers demand more and more complex experiences.

Building more complex experiences and delivering intangible value requires a deep understanding of users’ emotions, desires, aspirations, wants, needs, expectations, and experience (Kolko, 2015). What’s more, it requires interpreting the complexity of the context in which the users exist and interact. This is where Design Thinking comes to the rescue by providing the approach and the tools for “sense making” through “empathy” (Tschimmel, 2022; Kolko, 2015; Mootee, 2013; Kouprie & Sleeswijk Visser, 2009).

In the real world, user problems don’t exist as problems but present themselves through problematic situations (Mootee, 2013). The task for the organization is then interpreting these problematic situations. Empathy provides us a way to relate to the user, understand the situation, and understand why certain experiences are meaningful to people (Kouprie & Sleeswijk Visser, 2009). It enables us to capture information that can’t be transcribed in quantitative means but in the form of stories—or as Koupre and Sleeswijk put it (ibid.): “[an] understanding that goes beyond knowledge”. It provides us the perspective to “frame” the users’ reality to define the problems in a way that users face them instead of what it “seems to be” for the firm (Dorst, 2011).

Figure 2: Researchers using gamification to create empathy with and between users (Kaario et al., 2009) – Image: Niemi (2017)

Only by such deep understanding of the user, the firms can exercise “thoughtful restraint” (Kolko, 2015) providing a simpler, streamlined, and authentic experience that goes beyond mere functionality, appealing also to emotions such as pleasure and satisfaction; eventually capturing a sustainable competitive edge in today’s market and business landscape.

Figure 3: Through “thoughtful restrain”, an Apple Macbook Air’s touchpad provides users a clear, simple, yet very effective way to interact with the computer whereas and HP notebook just throws in multiple features that do not relate to each other—resulting in a confusing and inefficient user experience.

Sense making through framing goes also beyond experience design. It enables organizations to make sense of complexity of any sort. It can be, for example, used to learn about a sudden shift in markets, value migration between industries, emerging behaviors associated with disruptive technologies, or the reason why a previously successful business model expired and needs a redesign (Mootee, 2013).

While Design Thinking provides the means to compete in a brand-new age, it requires a change in attitudes, world views, ways of working, and interacting. Being more than just mere tools and prescribed frameworks, the question for the future-looking organizations is whether or not they can achieve the cultural transformation that is required to become a Design Thinking organization (Mootee, 2013). But perhaps, the key to success probably lies in Design Thinking itself to achieve this cultural transformation.


Works Cited

Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.

Denning, S. (2021, May 2). Why Peter Drucker is the Albert Einstein of Management. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2021/05/02/why-peter-drucker-is-the-albert-einstein-of-management/?sh=7ffe1b145f8d

Dorst, K. (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application. Design Studies.

Drucker, P. (2006). The Practice of Management. Harper Business.

Kaario, P., Vaajakallio, K., Lehtinen, V., Kantola, V., & Kuikkaniemi, K. (2009). Someone Else’s Shoes – Using Role Playing Games in User-Centered Service Design. DeThinkingService ReThinking Design. Oslo.

Kolko, J. (2015). Design Thinking Comes of Age. Harvard Business Review.

Kouprie, M., & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009). A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. Journal of Engineering Design.

Mootee, I. (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Niemi, R. (2017, July 3). Pöytäroolipelit ja hbtq-asiat ovat lähellä Sonja Kutinlahden sydäntä. Retrieved from Sveriges Radio: https://sverigesradio.se/artikel/6728579

Tschimmel, K. (2022). Creativity, Design adn Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois for Innovation.