Service Design meets Futures Thinking #4

A research based series of posts discussing the statement “Futures Research supports the Service Design process in multiple ways and throughout the whole process” by Minna Koskelo (LinkedIn) and Anu K. Nousiainen (Linkedin).

Part #4: We are in the Service Innovation business!

Our three (and a half) previous blog entries have been summarizing the purpose of our study initiated in 2012 and the main findings from the study including the synergies between (Service) Design Thinking and Futures Thinking, and our illustration for Futures Research enhanced Service Design process. After some more investigation (selection of 150 books and articles) and integrating the strategic business thinking into the model with Katri Ojasalo (Linkedin), (our Head of Master’s Degree Programme in Service Innovation and Design here at Laurea University of Applied Sciences) we are proud to announce our forthcoming chapter in an international Handbook of Service Innovation (to be published by Springer in early 2014). Indeed, we have came into a realization:

What we’ve done so far is not only about Futures enhanced Service Design – instead, this is the next chapter in building unique, synergistic and dynamic capabilities for Service Innovation.


Take a novel path to create new business opportunities and new value

 It has been clear from the beginning of our study that Design Thinking and Futures Thinking share a strong synergy in their principles and targets. Now it is crystal clear that by combining their unique approaches in innovation process results in bright and viable business opportunities (see process framework A. below). While Futures Thinking concentrates on driving forces in complex evolving systems and alternative contexts, Design Thinking embraces the viewpoint of system constraints and people oriented solutions. Not only this powerful combination gives you options for decision making in strategic and offering creation level but it tackles the two critical challenges in today’s (and tomorrow’s) business: Uncertainty and timing in creating Value Roadmaps in the interconnected and changing world. Here, Futures Thinking helps to make uncertainty easier to approach through providing alternatives for decision making and therefore improving organization’s readiness to act. Design Thinking improves the organization’s agility to seize the change with emphatic, adaptive and deep research approach and through iterative co-designing with customers to provide desirable, feasible and viable options for solutions.

Based on our discussions, workshops and encounters with experts from different fields in seminars, meetings and conferences, we have seen and experienced together that Design Thinking and Futures Thinking truly enrich company’s strategy building and the novel approach can be utilized especially in visioning, risk management and in competence development. That is, in addition to innovating new services and transforming businesses towards desirable and sustainable futures you should consider applying the combined Design Thinking and Futures Thinking in different context throughout the organization: Bringing Design and Futures into the organizational culture and practices.

LaFutura 2012 process framework (Koskelo M. & Nousiainen A.K. 2012)

LaFutura 2012 process framework (Koskelo M. & Nousiainen A.K. 2012)

Do you have the most simple and effective tools in your innovation process?

Our second recommendation (and where you could start from) is to check your innovation process and related methods (we could call this “a futures sanity check”). In order to transform your business or to innovate new offerings you need to understand critical placeholders for Futures insights (see process illustration below and related blog post). We warmly recommend to take Futures Research, Trends and Foresight methods into the process especially when 1) you are increasing your understanding of the business opportunity area, market area or customer group – or trying to identify those, 2) you are generating ideas for potential solutions, and 3) you are prioritizing promising solutions for further prototyping, modeling, roadmapping or implementation purposes. We also recommend to utilize same tools (if applicable) in more than one phase of the innovation process and reflect back to previous phases in order to iterate and possibly improve tools simultaneously with creating results.

Futures enhanced service design process (Moritz 2005; Koskelo M. & Nousiainen A.K. 2012)

Futures enhanced service design process (Moritz 2005; Koskelo M. & Nousiainen A.K. 2012)

Be candid – test and combine methods!

In LaFutura 2012 event last November in Helsinki, Finland, we had a brilliant opportunity to discuss and explore different methods for visioning the future and to create solutions for the futures. With that in mind, international LaFutura 2012 participants (almost 80 professionals, trends and futures enthusiasts, innovators and opinion leaders) spent 16 hours by sharing experiences, ideating, brainstorming and free-flowing (cause that is what effective and creative thinking requires). We examined, developed and created tools, methods and modes of thinking in six teams based on our proposal (process framework illustrated below) and as an outcome the teams created recipes of desirable futures for Europe in terms of solutions, ideas, or practical ways to tackle arising issues that have an impact in Europe in the future.

What we learnt especially in LaFutura 2012 event was that we need to be candid and fearless with the plenty of tools we have for innovation purposes. To follow Design Thinking research approach, we need to be adaptive with the tools and thus, combine and cultivate them to fit the purpose and target we are aiming at. For instance, the essential methods of “persona” (fictional user profiles based on design research data) and “scenarios” (anticipated stories of the alternative futures) can be nourished with each other. In LaFutura we created so called “immersed future persona” where the created user profile was placed into the selected worldview (scenario) of the future and the persona and the story got more ingredients as well as evidence to support the future solutions and future direction. In the same way, personas can walk through the scenarios and both test and enrich the stories with what the persona experiences. Not only Design and Futures tools but also the tools of Strategic management e.g. Blue Ocean Strategy methods are supportive from the business point of view for the Futures enhanced (service) innovation process.

Check our learnings from LaFutura 2012:

Do you have the most professional and creative human capital engaged?

Future is not created by external forces but us, people. In order to leap from reacting to changes in the external environment to seizing trends and finally to creating own desired futures organizations need to make sure they have the right people on board. Key words with the “right” are ATTITUDE and TOOLKIT. We need to work with people who have an open attitude, who are not afraid of complexity and change, and who can inspire, engage and influence people to share the similar attitude. Toolkit needs to be a professional yet creative one: make sure you work with a team in which there is a true understanding of the service dominant logic of the business (professional service designers) and of the driving forces in the operational environment (professional futurists). We need to have thinkers, storytellers, synthesizers, doers, facilitators, divergence and (niche) expertise in the team (and throughout the organization) to reach the flow and desirable outcome in innovating and transforming the business.

people at the core

The next step: A novel Service Innovation process will be introduced early 2014 when The Handbook of Service Innovation will be published by Springer!

BIG THANK YOU for already joining the conversation and your support in bringing together these two unique disciplines of Design and Futures. We are eager to continue with our work and welcome further discussion around our findings and suggestions.

MEANWHILE, we share our learnings in different conferences, projects and as Futures Thinking lecturers at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.



SEE POSTS BY OUR Futures Thinking STUDENTS who reflect their learnings from our Spring 2012 class:

Authors of this blog post:

Minna Koskelo (LinkedIn)  Experienced in marketing and branding. Specialized in customer insights and futures thinking. Approach is multidisciplinary applying various of methods  including service design, futures research, marketing and branding. ”My mission is simple: to help people and organizations with my knowledge and expertise. ”  The past 9 years worked with brands from various fields both focused on b2c and b2b. Driven by meaning and purpose. ”To understand the world I live in is my passion. The quest starts always with why, not how.”

Anu K. Nousiainen (Linkedin) A practitioner combining and harnessing various toolkits for the purpose of better business, for the sake of better life – and always for and with people. “I’m exploring business opportunities and concepting meaningful solutions for both the existing and future contexts, from strategy to implementation orchestration, and always value(s) in mind.”

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