Design thinking – Childs play provides competitive advantage



What’s this all about?

“You have got to be kidding me”, were my initial thoughts when I saw the boxes of Legos brought to the class room. It was 4th of September and the first contact lesson for the Design thinking course was about to begin.

For someone with a background strictly from sales and business management the whole idea of using this almost chaos like approach, as it seemed to me at first, in order to reveal ideas that lead to evolution and innovation or even new ways of managing business appeared impossible. But sure enough there was a method to this madness.

Using mind maps to identify opportunities!

Using mind maps to identify opportunities!

Convergent and divergent thinking

The object of the next two days would be to familiarize ourselves with the process of design thinking. Our instructor for the course Katja Tschimmel gave us a quick introduction to the evolution of design thinking after which she took us through the six phases of the Mindshake design thinking model. I didn’t take too long for me to start realizing the reason why design thinking has allowed numerous startups to shake the foundations of traditional businesses by the use of design.

We began with the divergent phase of the process where we used numerous tools to come up with new options, we used mind maps to identify possible new service or product opportunities and identified the involved groups of people for the project by the use of a shareholder map followed by intensive idea generation session by the use of brain writing.   After the divergent phase it came time to eliminate the options and make choices. Katja introduced us to new tools such as insight clustering to do this convergent phase as well.

Desktop walkthrough is one type of prototype.

Desktop walkthrough is one type of prototype.

Think with your hands in order to reveal flaws

Tim Brown states in his book: Change by Design, the fact that it is extremely important not to be afraid of failure but willing to reveal them as early in the process as possible. In order to do so a design thinker must think with his hands. Quick prototyping by using inexpensive material to build examples of the products or roleplaying to portrait the service flow of a possible new concept are excellent tools of doing this. The sooner our team was able to have tangible experience of our possible service we were able to refine and develop the idea further. Early prototyping might seem to slow the process down, but it will save time in the long run by allowing the development team to identify and focus on the best possible solution.

For any idea to be taken seriously by company executives the value behind the new offering has to be communicated affectively to them. This part of the process we got to train when preparing storyboards and visual business models to present the results of our class work.

"I saw the light"

“I saw the light”

I’m a believer

The two days of contact sessions with Katja and the additional reading of her article and the book by Tim Brown made me a firm believer on the importance of adopting design thinking into any companies strategy. Design thinking allows us to create products and services that really connect with the lives of the users. After the course I feel that I’m one step closer to become a design thinker, hopefully the organization I work for is ready for one as well.

If you are interest in this megatrend of the modern days check out the upcomin film:


Written by
Ilari Salo
Master’s Degree Programme in Service Innovation and Design 2015



Brown, Tim (2009) Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers

Tschimmel, Katja (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.


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