Think holistically and against stereotypes. Aim for achieving empathy, try, prototype, iterate. Approach everything you do with a positive and playful attitude, with high tolerance for mistakes.
These were some of the core qualities of design thinking, presented by Katja Tschimmel during a two-day course on design thinking at Laurea university on 8-9 September. A thought-provoking and mind-blowing dip into a new world of creative thinking, trying things out courageously and lightly, and changing course agilely based on the feedback collected during the trying out period.
The backbone for the two days was Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model for innovation and design thinking. Going through a complex tool for processes that normally take months in just two days was hectic, and a real crash course to design thinking.
Coming from a civil society and development background, some of the principles of design thinking felt familiar from the beginning. Involving people in processes and decisions concerning them is obvious for every development practitioner. Having mapped out various problem trees and solution trees while doing development project planning in the past, some of Tschimmel’s methods felt comfortable and familiar, such as opportunity mindmapping, brainwriting and idea clustering. But while in the traditional development world the problem and solution trees are the most creative part of the process, and the process continues with building a rather strict and stiff logical framework, in design thinking these are only the first steps in a creative process.
Being very poor in drawing, I personally struggle a lot with how strongly the whole concept relies on visualisation of different concepts and actors. However, it also provides the most fundamental possibilities for breaking old habits and stepping into new territories. According to Katja Tschimmel’s article ”Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation”, visualisation is an important part of design thinking, as visual perception is the dominating sense. Visualising offers a different perspective to the task at hand, and the opportunity to store ideas throughout the process.
Another aspect of visualisation is early prototyping. Testing the ideas out early and quickly with rapid prototyping ensures that the project doesn’t lead to a long and expensive process that results in failure. To me, this is a major shift in thinking and in way of working, as this genuinely creates spaces for creating new, innovative solutions to old problems, without the risk of spending too much resources on something that doesn’t work out in the end. Tim Brown points out in his article ”Design Thinking” that it’s actually even better, if the prototype isn’t a polished and finished version of the service or product. The more finished it is, the less likely the creators are to change the prototype based on the feedback collected from users, and that the goal of a prototype is to learn about which way to develop the idea further.
Therefore we should all embrace the incompleteness and roughness of our ideas and ways of working, and dive deep into the world of design thinking. I’m sure we’ll come out more empathetic and open-minded at the other end.
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.