Failures are possibilities

Me and 27 other students were privileged to start the Service Innovation and Design Master’s program last September in Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Our first course was about Design Thinking held by Katja Tschimmel a Design professor and an entrepreneur, and Gijs van Wulfen the writer of the excellent book “The Innovation Expedition”.


How many things can you come up doing with a pencil? Be creative!

“The understanding and acceptance that failure and mistakes are important elements of Design Thinking, differentiates Design Thinking from the traditional way of thinking in business. Dealing with incomplete information, with the unpredictable, and with ambiguous situations, requires designers to feel comfortable with uncertainty (Pombo & Tschimmel, 2005).” writes Katja Tshimmel in her paper “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation”. This is where my journey to become a professional in Service Innovation and Design starts.


Quantity is better than quality! Have at least seven ideas because in average one out of seven ideas will succeed.

Immediately after reading Katja Tshimmels paper I felt relieved. In Design Thinking (DT) it is allowed to make mistakes, how great is that! The main purpose of Design Thinking is to offer effective different kinds of toolkits for any innovation processes, you just need to find the perfect tools for you. In her paper Tshimmel introduces five different Design Thinking models that help implementing the structure of Design Thinking. The models have a lot in common and their main goal is to offer tools for finding solutions to existing problems.


Be brave!

In addition to the models Tshimmel wrote about in her paper an interesting model is Gijs van Wulfen’s FORTH Innovation method ( I adopted this method to be the most suitable for me partly because, like Gijs, I like travel books but I also love travelling. FORTH innovation method is easy to remember because it looks like actual map that consist of five main islands: Full steam ahead, Observe and learn, Raise ideas, Test ideas and Homecoming. Visualizing (like the map here below) is one very important part of Design Thinking that really helps perceiving and remembering the case.

4.-FORTH-MAP-COMPLETE4Be patient, every step is as important as the others.

As there is quite many different tools for implementing Design Thinking it is important to find out the best tools for you and to observe yourself the way you learn the best. Some people are visual, some auditory and some kinaesthetic and in DT you can find perfect ways to learn in each way.

Other central characteristics of DT are its human-centered approach in a collaborative way. Like Gijs van Wulfen wrote in The Innovation Expedition “You can not innovate alone!”. It is also important to co-create with the customers to get the best possible results. In other words when beginning your innovation process remember to involve people with diverse backgrounds. This helps to get wider understanding of the service and to improve it by combining the different opinions of the people involved.


People with diverse backgrounds.

Last but certainly not least, in Design Thinking you need patience. In most cases you will find yourself taking steps backwards as the process goes on. Observation and understanding the real problem to be solved takes time. Failures will take place but in each failure lies a possibility and next time you will be better!


Think outside of the box! Break the boundaries! Make mistakes!

Written by Maija Larmo

A Service Innovation and Design student from Laurea University of Applied Sciences

8 thoughts on “Failures are possibilities

  1. I also like the way how simply Gijs succeeded to describe and conceptualize the whole innovation journey. All the expedition examples let’s you remember what you need with you, how to prepare, when to start the journey and so on. Nice post!

  2. Thank you Antti for your comment! 🙂 I agree, Gijs has succeeded writing his book in such a good way that the examples are easy to remember.

  3. This was a good reminder of a very essential part of the course: make mistakes, do a lot and involve others. Just the complete opposite of the image of a solitary genius having a light bulb moment…

  4. I think you have picked up very important things for your post. I also found that very relieving that it’s ok to fail and that it’s part of the innovation process.

  5. As you write in your blog post “accepting failures is what essentially makes the difference between design thinking and traditional business thinking”, I started thinking how can we “enable” failure? How can we embrace mistakes – in order to learn from those mistakes?

    It seems mistakes in today’s work life is still something that is strongly frowned upon -at least in the Finnish working culture. Apparently, in the US an entrepreneur is not a true entrepreneur if s/he has not had atleast one bankcrupted business. Where as in Finland, a person whose company has gone bust is easily regarded as failure, who is by no meanst encouraged to retry entrepreneurship. How could we create a culture, which accepts mistakes and failures as a necessary phase of learning and innovation?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s