Are You a Design Thinker?

Design thinking summarised by Lockwood is a human-centered innovation process, which with a help of observation, collaboration, fast learning, visualization of ideas, rapid concept prototyping and concurrent business analysis produces innovations and business opportunities.

The keynotes that I learned from design thinking gurus Katja Tschimmel and Gijs van Wulfen was:

Note 1: You cannot innovate alone. In innovation process you need to have multidisciplinary team to achieve good results. It is also important to involve customers to the process in an early phase. After the ideation session you need to have people to design the product/ service, to prototype it, to develop it, to produce it, to test it, to sell it and so on.

Here is our Service Innovation and Design 2014 students group photo.

Service Innovation and Design 2014 students group photo.

Note 2: Design Thinking is an experimental and iterative process, not linear process. It is usual that you go back and forth in the Design Thinking process.

Note 3: You have to accept the fact that you might fail. In Design Thinking process there is always a possibility that you do not achieve any new ideas or results.

Note 4: First ideas that pops in to your a head are usually bad ones because they are common and not original ideas. That does not mean that you have failed you just have to rethink you thoughts. In ideation phase it is very effective to think in a divergent way. For example if you are developing a new service concept for pharmacies you could/ should think how Alko or Posti might deliver that service.

Note 5: To make a success in Design Thinking process you have to make outside the box –ideas to inside the box –ideas. After ideation session your group might have plenty of marvellous ideas. But before you present them to your CEO it is a good idea to translate the ideas to your boss’s language so he/ she will not immediately say no. This means that you follow the criteria that were set in the beginning of the process for example the minimum profit margin, target group, possible partners and when the new service/ product would be launched. There has to be real business need and goal for innovation to success. Also timing is very important. If the company is struggling in day-to-day business it is not the right moment for new service innovations.

Note 6: You can use Design Thinking methods in various fields: product innovation, technological innovation, business innovation, service innovation, city innovation, work innovation, social innovation and educational innovation. For example Helsinki city uses service design in many different projects such as library projects.öt/kirjaston-konseptiuudistus/

Our team’s Visual Research. The assignment was to create a new service for better learning.

Visual Research. The assignment was to create a new service for better learning.

Note 7: To create innovations you need to have appropriate tools for it. Katja Tschimmel presents many suitable tools that can be used in different situations in her ”Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation” paper. At the starting point we used Photo Safari in our team assignment. It meant that we made interviews based on photos. The design thinking process starts by gathering customer understanding on fieldwork research. Often this part includes observational research and ethnographic methods among and with consumers. With these emphatic approaches the aim is to discover unarticulated user needs, inspiration and consumer insights.

Our team’s Brainwriting result before evaluation.

Our team’s Brainwriting result before evaluation.

Note 8: Brainwriting is like Brainstorming with a pen and Post-its. Participants write or draw their ideas on Post-its and place them to a big paper on the wall. This is good way to visualise and categorise the ideas. For Evaluation good tool is the Target tool. You draw two concentric circles to a paper and then every group member is to allow to place and replace Post-its to the paper which way they prefer. At the end of the evaluation process most potential ideas should be in the inner circle.

Note 9: Rapid Prototyping is an easy and fun way to present and test the ideas. It is also a cheap way to fail if so.

Prototyping with Legos.

Prototyping with Legos.

Note 10: Always sleep over a night or week and then rethink your idea carefully through.

In innovation process you can easily fell in love with your idea. That is not a good thing because then you hear just the pleasant comments about your idea. But remember that sometimes other people might resistance your idea just because it is not his/ hers own idea.

So Are You a Design Thinker?

I would say everyone is. You just might need a bit of help from a service designer to get your ideas fly.

Text and pictures by Laura Rinta-Jouppi SID student 2014


Lockwood, Thomas 2010. Design Thinking: integrating innovation, customer experience and brand value. New York: Allworth Press.

Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation

Van Wulfen, Gijs 2013. The innovation expedition – a visual toolkit to start innovation. Amsterdam: BIS Publisher.

2 thoughts on “Are You a Design Thinker?

  1. Your blog post summarises the main points we learned during the course quite nicely. When shortening the 10 notes to one line each this gives a great fact sheet to keep and to always return to in the future to check if one’s Design Thinking is still well on track. It might take quite some time until everything comes naturally. I quite easily tend to forget to take some distance and to sleep over my ideas before working further on them. Also switching between the Design Thinking tools from time to time could have a welcome idea boosting effect, one just needs occasional reminders that different tools are out there.

  2. At this point I would say that it is hard to think of myself as a design thinker…although I do believe that it is in anyone who can empathize with someone else. Just by that, you are looking at an experience from another point of view-or at least trying! I cannot wait until I feel confident using these tools and I am able to deploy them at will!

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