Design Thinking – from brain errors to innovations

Have you ever been in a situation when you know your business isn’t going as smoothly as it should? You know that something should be done but you don’t know where to start or can’t identify the business problems or the customers’ needs? How do you feel about failure as a part of innovating? Have you ever thought about establishing an innovation process WITH your customers instead of old fashioned way, FOR your customers? Are you confused?

These are all questions that pop up when talking about Design Thinking (DT).

What is it and how can it help to develop your business?

Design Thinking combines human-centricity and design methods with problem solving and innovation process. It focuses in organization’s ability to produce new content, develop business and make development work cross sectoral and organizational boundaries. DT’s core is located somewhere between human-centered approach, collaborative way of working and co-creation with stakeholders and the end-users.

The work itself takes place in multidisciplinary teams that are facilitated by designers whose expertise consists of the ability to match human needs with technical resources, constrains and objectives of the project or business, and ultimately conversion into customer value and market opportunity by using different DT process and tools. In DT feelings and emotions as well as failures and mistakes plays big role when achieving the results like new processes, services and ways of communication and collaboration.

There are multiple different Design Thinking process models that can be used. The choice depends on various factors, e.g. the characteristics of the innovation project and its context, the team dynamics and the time available for the process. There’s no such thing as a perfect DT process model and pioneers in the field all have their own opinions.

Design Thinking in practice

We had two-day intensive DT workshop where we concentrated on Evolution 62 model developed by Katja Tschimmel in 2015. The name of the process model refers to the six phases that all start with the letter E:

  • Emergence
  • Empathy
  • Experimentation
  • Elaboration
  • Exposition
  • Extension

and for the 2 referring to the fact that during each phase there are moments of divergence (Exploration) and convergence (Evaluation). The word Evolution in the name presents the process itself as an iterative and interactive evolutionary process. All the phases includes a variety of different tools from which to choose the best options according to your project’s needs.


We started the project with the topic “Studying at Laurea UAS”. The Emergence phase focuses in identification of opportunities and we started with using an opportunity mind map tool. The mind map already helped us to find our focus. After that we used an intent statement, which helped to make the idea concrete.


Opportunity mind map & Intent Statement

The next phase, Empathy, aims to further understanding of the content. During this phase we used four different tools: stakeholder map, photo safari, image interview and moodboard. This made it easier to comprehend the stakeholders, the possible problem that the idea would solve and we already received feedback from potential customers.


Stakeholder map, Image interview & Moodboard

The Empathy phase boosted us to continue towards the following phase: Experimentation. During that phase the focus is on generating ideas and developing concepts. We used brainwriting, thermometer assessment and desktop walkthrough.


Desktop walkthrough

The next phase, Elaboration, is all about working on material and semantic solutions. During this phase we used only one tool: the service blueprint. After that we moved on to the Exposition, which was the final phase in our case. Normally the final phase is Extension, which focuses in implementing, observing, improving and growing. The Exposition phase focuses in communicating the new concept and solutions. We took the hard way trying to sell our idea to the whole class by using visual business model.


Visual Business Model

We might have been a bit too future-oriented, but isn’t it the whole idea of innovating?

Finally it is time! Team Coffee Chickens proudly presents

NFM – New Future Multi

A totally new way of studying by using very advanced digital platform that connects you to your teachers, business partners, family members and even with your home electronics utilizing IoT. With NFM you can study anytime, anywhere, with anyone. More info will be coming some time in year 2030 (or when the technology and new education system enables the execution of NFM). Exclusively only in Laurea University of Applied Sciences.


Results of our Design Thinking process

P.S. You might wonder where we got the name NFM? Well….it is the name of the copy paper product that they use in Laurea UAS. Works well with our idea. 🙂


Written by Aino Maijala, master student who enjoyed a lot of the two-day intensive Design Thinking workshop facilitated by Portuguese Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença


Design Thinking workshop by Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença September 2nd – 3rd 2016. Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Leppävaara campus.

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. ISBN 978-952-265-243-0.

Miettinen, S. (toim.) 2014. Muotoiluajattelu 2014. Helsinki: Teknologiateollisuus ry.

Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harward Business Review.

Mindshake 2016. Referred to 11.9.2016.

One thought on “Design Thinking – from brain errors to innovations

  1. Pingback: Design Thinking: from brain errors to innovations – Designing: service, customer service, customer management

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