Design Thinking = Thinking which leads to new realities and to innovation!

Video about Design Thinking:

In the core of Design Thinking is active observation, active listening and sharing.


Design Thinking is an effective toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking, based on planning and rational problem solving. Abductive thinking method suggests that rationality and emotions & feelings are equally important when creating new ideas, therefore abductive thinking is important in design thinking as well. (Tschimmel, 2012: 3).


Design thinking brings people’s needs, emotions, skills, experiences in the middle. Designer needs to be rational & emotional, intuitive & methodological, analytical & emphatic, oriented by plans & spontaneous, all of this at the same time. As I learned from our group work, that you really need to concentrate to use all of your senses, open your eyes and heart, reflect on your emotions, forget your expectations and understand that people’s experiences are always on the background effecting on their ideas. Therefore most rewarding outcome from a design project is to have a heterogenic group in order to get diverse aspects for the project. Also, the role of the facilitator cannot be underestimated, since facilitator gives the timetables, rules and guidelines for the design group and helps them to focus on a certain task at a time.

As Brown (2009) concluded, in design thinking there is no one best way to move through the process, since innovation process is a more of a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps.



Design Thinking can be identified with few things:

  • Human centered approach – We need to put people in the middle & user experience is important.
  • Collaboration and Co-creative way of working. Designers are moving from “designing for users” towards human-centered approach by “designing with users”.
  • Experimentation – It’s better to make mistakes in order to develop, “fail early to succeed sooner” in order to save time & money (Brown, 2009).
  • Divergent thinking is about creating choices (Brown 2009). In the very first lecture we were asked to write as many useful things we can do with a pencil. Sometimes there is luck behind the rare ideas and own experiences determine also a lot. The main thing in divergent thinking is fluency, since when you create a lot, you fail a lot, but over time you’ll most likely generate an original idea. The first idea is usually not the most original one. “Divergent thinking is the route to innovation!” (Brown 2009).
  • Visualization by using post-it’s, colors, text, pictures, images
  • Prototyping can elaborate ideas. Rapid prototyping allows testing the business ideas and also permits early failure (Tschimmel 2012 & Brown 2009).








Mindshake’s E6 model can help to formulate a design process:


Tools for observing, (1) Emergence, getting (2) Empathy and clarifying the project tasks


In the first stage EMERGENCE we wrote down opportunities and we wrote an intent statement regarding the first ideas.


At the next stage, we did a Mind map, that can widen the ideas in a visual way. We found out that colors, symbols, images stimulates associative operations. Different topics and words formed links between them in the big scale, which means that these ideas are worth developing further. Visual perception is the most dominant among all the senses, and perception in images plays a special role in design thinking (Tschimmel 2012), which is why using different colors of pens and post-it’s is important.

When it comes to EMPATHY, we wanted to understand the perspective of the user’s needs, emotions, desires and fears. First we did a  Stakeholder map, and then a Moodboard, whereafter we did an interview  on what emotions certain pictures aroused.


Tools for idea generation and (3) Experimentation

EXPERIMENTATION includes brainstorming, brainsketching, brainwriting where ideas are generated to a large sheet of paper with post-its. We organized ideas and categorized them. Main learning was not to fall in love with your own idea. If done so, you are unable to think out of the box and develop the project. Sometimes you need to be brave enough to listen to others objectively and change the course of the project.

Sketching the problem or visualizing it may create new opportunities and aspects for the problem space. Future possibilities are hard to conduct solely internally and therefore an external representation is needed where sketching becomes handy. Visualizing ideas through sketching gives free room from your brain to conduct new ideas and storage them into paper/post-it’s. (Tschimmel 2012)

image2image1In the experimentation phase we generated ideas in silence with our team. Some ideas were better than others, but together we started to develop and match the ideas into something bigger. After this we tried the method of forced relations as a semantic confrontation, where we picked up two post-its randomly eyes closed and generated new ideas from these. In order to find some un-ordinary ideas.


Tools for (4) Elaboration and development

In the stage of ELABORATION we used rapid prototyping and service role play with Legos in order to pilot test the service/business model.


Tools for communicating and delivering include (5) Exposition and (6) Extension

In EXPOSITION phase storytelling brings the narrative context into the project, where emotions are also presented and the proposal becomes more detailed. Role play with Legos gave a good insight to the project.

In the EXTENSION phase contextual interviews with customers or users can be done, but we gathered some learning experiences and feedback with participatory observation method by having 2 minutes time to present our mock-up service and 5 minutes time to give feedback. During the feedback we needed to listen actively, no extra-comments allowed. This helped us to be more focused on the certain project phase.


This was just the beginning of Design Thinking and I am sure after getting the fluency to DT methods, there will be new or improved services in the pipeline among this group. Looking forward to it!


-Sara Sillanpää


  • Brown, Tim (2009), Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.
  • Tschimmel, Katja (2012), Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation.
  • Mindshake,

4 thoughts on “Design Thinking = Thinking which leads to new realities and to innovation!

  1. Thanks Sara for a great summary of the day! Nice to read also your own insights and thoughts of what we learned. For me it was actually a little surprising how good insights indeed role play with Legos can give to the project.

    • Indeed, leenasid! I understood that design thinking is about bringing all your senses alive and different tools are there to help us to understand the multiple possibilities and aspects of the services we are designing.

  2. Thanks Sara for this comprehensive recap. Your post gives a very good understanding on different methods and tools, which can be used within the Design Thinking approach. The visuals are providing additional support for the topic. Cheers!

  3. Thank you for your blog post! I was wondering did you notice during idea generation phase that writing ideas with capital letters really makes a difference? I was a bit surprised that after generating ideas I couldn’t point out with 100% certainty which ideas were “mine” (because of the similarity of some ideas and because I couldn’t recognize my own handwriting). I’ll definitely be prompting everyone to write in capital letters in future projects 🙂

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