The Rabbit Hole of Design Thinking

Professor and researcher Katja Tschimmel and ideation facilitator Gijs van Wulfen showed us where the Rabbit Hole of Design Thinking is. So I also jumped in it, dug together with fellows hands on for two full days – and we are still digging. The more we explore, the more we find. This post is about what I have perceived here for so far.


See how far the rabbit hole goes and what Design Thinking and innovating can be in practice (PDF)

Everyone can be a Design Thinker

We all have the gift of creative thinking. We just need to find it and start thinking mind open. Children do this all the time while playing, so we all have already once been creative thinkers. We just forgot and lose skills that we don’t use or practice.

Explore the challenge

Observing the business case context

We also know what it’s like to perform our daily tasks in hurry. People are expected to been efficient to make decisions when challenges are met and needed to get over them quickly. But quite often we meet the same challenges again – one after another and day after day.

To make a difference we need to stop for a moment, change how we act and learn to understand the true nature of the challenge. Look at them together with your collaborators from different point of views. Smell the challenge. Taste and listen to it, shake, turn it around, feel and live it, observe and learn. After we know the challenge throughout, we can start changing it.

Think outside-the-box…

Photo Safari photos in the Mood Board to create ideas

This is where we need to take a few steps backwards. We have to see the big picture and give space to emotions and feelings. Because if we don’t follow our hearts and base the later coming solution on feelings we won’t be able to solve the challenge in a creative way. Why? Because then we wouldn’t like the solution we would create.

“And be visual. Because ideas can’t be seen. They need to be shown.”

So, together, start creating ideas – a lot of fun, beautiful and even strange ideas – related to everything around the challenge. Like Gijs said: “Water best upcoming ideas and avoid to trample ones you don’t like”. This takes the teamwork in to a next level. And be visual. Because ideas can’t be seen. They need to be shown.

…and put ideas back to the box

Look at the fresh new generated ideas peacefully together – take your time and let your senses start connecting the dots. Converge ideas and start telling stories how challenges could be turned into opportunities. When you think you have found together the right pieces that could form several solutions, start creating draft concepts.

Presenting the service concept

This is where you start thinking more with sense by safely improving drafted solutions and testing them without afraid of ‘the big bad mistake‘ or fear of hurting yourself. Failures are normal and part of the process. Drafted solution ideas of your team are like crash test cars. You drive them against the wall many times, fix them, make them better, and smash them again a bit faster. Until one of them lasts and shines brighter than others. Then you really have found a true solution and the challenge has been turned into a new unique opportunity.

Design Thinking models and what I learned of FORTH Innovation Method

Design Thinking and creative problem solving isn’t strict process as Katja Tschimmel explained on her article “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation“. She presents several models like IDEO’s 3 I Model, IDEO’s HCD Model and The Model of the Hasso-Plattner Institute but the key is not to stick only in one of them. Common with all these models together are Design Thinking tools like drawing, sketching, mind mapping and prototyping – and iterative processes of course.

But tools and processes often require guides and easy approaches. Together with Katja, Gijs van Wulfen guided us in the two day workshop through his FORTH Innovation Method which equips and encourages teams to consider starting their own exploration journey. The method – and The Innovation Expedition: A visual toolkit to start innovation book – explains well if an innovation journey is needed, how to prepare for it, who to take with, where to head at what pace and when to start the journey. FORTH is an easy, hands on approach to start innovating.

Written by Antti Kytö

The writer has begun his MBA studies and expedition in Service Innovation and Design in Laurea University of Applied Sciences in Sept. 2013.

12 thoughts on “The Rabbit Hole of Design Thinking

  1. Thanks Ida. I guess there’s a gap between being visual (like AD) and illustrating information visually 😉

    I really hope you all find this illustration useful.

    • Thanks Mussab. I think the illustration could be like one footprint in our whole study journey 🙂 Maybe we could do ones from other study units also – it’ll take some time but that could be worth it… I keep this in mind but better not to promise anything for now 😉

  2. Think outside the box and put ideas back to the box. Great point! I am trying to adapt the new way of thinking these days. Each class gave “fresh air” into my mind.

    • Gijs and Katja used this metaphor in our workshop and that really combined some large scale ideal concepts together in my mind. I really like that.

  3. Antti! The rabbit hole illustration was great. It helped so much when writing my own post… really made me remember all the nuances I had already forgotten. 😀

    So, yes! Keep with the idea of crafting rabbit holes of the rest of the subjects! Maybe I can contribute… I normally take many notes in class with the iPad that can be easily shared (not easily understood, though, my calligraphy is terrible).

    • Good to hear Itziar that you found the post useful. Maybe we could map learnings together. Let’s keep that in mind while the journey continues 🙂

  4. We use nice metaphors: Tim Brown (IDEO) is going beneath the surface, you are going to rabbit hole and were were going to Hobbit hole when we are talking about unspoken intangible things!

  5. We are using nice metaphors: Tim Brown (IDEO) is going beneath the surface, you are going to rabbit hole, and we were going to Hobbit hole when we are talking about unspoken intangible things!

  6. I like the way you have presented the Forth Innovation method. Even though I love maps I found the linear way of presenting the map actually more easy to remember than the actual map. Good job! 🙂

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