The postindustrial digital age and the emergence of the experience economy have fundamentally changed the requirements and the expectations how companies develop and deliver new services. Well-known brands like Airbnb, Mayo Clinic, Bank of America and HBO have all understood this shift and successfully utilized holistic design thinking approach to transform their business. They have created profitable business through sophisticated, emotionally satisfying and meaningful experiences to their customers.
What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking can be described as human-centered (designing “with” the users instead of “for” the users), exploratory and integrative innovation process that emphasizes observation, collaboration in interdisciplinary teams, fast learning, visualization of ideas, rapid prototyping, and concurrent business analysis. Design Thinking essentially is a way of thinking, applying designers’ sensibility and methods, leading to transformation, innovation of new products, services, business strategies and even new organizations.
The best part is that you don’t need to be a professional designer to master in Design Thinking. Nevertheless, the following key abilities are important for a Design Thinker:
- visual and divergent thinking
- empathy and cultural sensitivity
- integrative and holistic thinking
- the ability to think in analogies and metaphors
Models and Tools for Design Thinking
The following are the most well-known models and definitely worth exploring in greater depth:
- The HCD Model (Hearing, Creating and Delivering) by IDEO
- The Model of the Hasso-Plattner Institute
- The 4D or Double Diamond Model of the British Council
- The Service Design Thinking Model by Stickdorn & Schneider
How to integrate Design Thinking into a structured Innovation Process?
We had the opportunity to experiment this in practice in the Design Thinking course of the SID 2014 Program. Our innovation assignment was to develop a New Service for Better Learning for Laurea UAS, combining Design Thinking tools and the FORTH Innovation Method.
The FORTH Innovation Method has been developed by Gijs van Wulfen to help companies to manage the fuzzy front-end of innovation in a more effective, yet structured way. The process connects creativity and business reality in five clear steps. We combined the following Design Thinking tools into these steps:
1. Full Steam Ahead: Mind Map for defining innovation opportunities and concrete focus for the assignment.
2. Observe and Learn: Foto Safari, Image Interview, Visual Research for understanding the end-user needs and exploring trends. Mood Board for visualizing the insight we gathered.
3. Raise Ideas: Brain Writing and Semantic Confrontation for idea generation, Visual Voting for selecting ideas for further concept development.
4. Test Ideas: Rapid Prototyping of the service concept as a desk-top walkthrough with Lego Serious Play.
5. Homecoming: Business Model Canvas to finalize the concept and to develop a mini new business case.
The FORTH method normally takes approximately 20 weeks. We simulated the entire expedition in less than two days. Even though it was a rapid process, it provided an excellent way to learn about the power of Design Thinking.
Compared to my earlier professional innovation experience, the visual and human centered techniques we used for Observing & Learning and Testing Ideas was an eye-opening experience. Visualizing each step enabled us to holistically understanding the end-user needs and the context related to the innovation assignment, offering a truly fruitful ground for the creation of radical ideas. However, testing and iterating our concept through rapid prototyping was when the magic really happened. It was amazing how our thoughts and development ideas simply started to flow.
Try out the Design Thinking methods introduced in this blog, get further inspiration from TED Talk by Tim Brown (CEO, IDEO) as well as the references listed below. Start transforming your business with game changing solutions already today!
Brown, T. 2009. Change by Design: How Design Thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York, United States: HarperCollins.
Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.
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, Spain.
Van Wulfen, G. 2013. The Innovation Expedition, A Visual Toolkit to Start Innovation. Amsterdam, Netherlands: BIS Publishers.
Susanna Turunen, SID 2014 student
Full of content and easy to read! Thanks for a great summary and collection of methods and tools.
You say that “testing and iterating our concept through rapid prototyping was when the magic really happened”. I agree. Very often, at least from my point of view, we do test or prototype the ideas like this in real life business surroundings. Still, it was so easy and very useful. I just wonder what our clients would say if we went to a meeting with a box full of Lego and other cool stuff 🙂 I think I will try it out in the next possible situtation!
Thank you! Lego Serious Play is really a handy tool. I’ve used it before for other purposes at work, for instance visualizing the current state of team work and then defining the ideal way to collaborate. But as we noticed at the Design Thinking course, it works perfectly for prototyping service processes as well. The benefit with Lego is that it puts all participants on the same level. Everyone is playing (and usually having a lot of fun 🙂 ) and people tend to forget the organizational hierarchy enabling everyone the possibility to express their views.
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