Can a lawyer learn Design Thinking? The lawyer: “Hold my beer.”


What IS Design Thinking, really now?

I have never seen myself as having anything to do with design. Me, a public sector senior manager with a law degree, who loves books and exercise – doesn’t really scream design, does it? What I do have is an open mind, which is why I found myself being a fresh Laurea SID student receiving my first introduction to Design Thinking (DT) from Katja Tschimmel, the founder of a Portuguese DT house Mindshake.

What I soon learned is that DT is not something that belongs solely to the design landscape. On the contrary, it is an iterative thinking process that offers the tools used in design, such as visualization and a human-centric approach, to be utilized in other fields like management and marketing. Katja had the perfect storytelling example of this: the Katalonian restaurant elBulli, which the Chef Ferran Adrià turned into an innovation laboratory for creating amazing taste – consequently leading for elBulli to be nominated world’s best restaurant a staggering five times.

In order to make the thinking process more accessible, many DT houses have created their own DT models, such as IDEO (3 I and HCD models), the Hassno-Plattner Institute, the British Design Council (Double Diamond) and Stickdorn/Schneider (STD model). We got to try out Mindshake’s new model, Evolution 6 that divides the DT process into six steps: Emergence, Empathy, Experimentation, Elaboration, Exposition and Extension. Soon there was a steady murmur of voices and post-its were appearing on every empty wall space. Groups were drafting inspiration boards, interviewing each other, brainwriting, creating idea clusters, making rapid prototypes and visual business models and storytelling in their presentations. Some of my fellow SID students were already familiar with these methods but apart from storytelling (Thanks, books!) I was way out of my comfort zone.


Example of my visualization skills – Linnanmäki amusement park. A bit sad, but my daughter recognised it straight away!


As I rode my bike after the first day of DT class, I felt baffled but also exhilarated, my brain buzzing with ideas on how to apply what I had learned in various aspects of my life. From our dusty office to my son’s basketball team couching methods, I was ready to DT the heck out of them all! Luckily for my colleagues and my son’s poor couch, I still had one more class day left, which brought me back to reality – DT is no quick fix tool. We were in two days racing through a thought process that usually takes weeks, even months to finish. It’s not just about throwing around the pretty post-its, it is a careful process that combines creativeness with analytics.

Still, I feel even more eager to dive deeper into DT after reading Idris Mootee’sDesign Thinking for Strategic Innovation” – quite a different reading experience than any of my Law School books, I can tell you that. Mootee’s definition of DT is that it is “the search for a magical balance between business and art, structure and chaos, intuition and logic, concept and execution, playfulness and formality and control and empowerment”. The book works like a DT handbook for managers, with Mootee’s 10 DT principles and his DT solutions to “old world” business challenges, such as growth and strategic foresight. Mootee states boldly that business as usual is done for and that it is not enough to hire one design guy with cool specs to save the day – we need to aspire to change the whole business world! I especially enjoyed the chapter where Mootee noted that everyone still fiddling with Power Point slides needs a proper spanking.


Pretty, pretty Post-Its.


For me, the core message that stands out clearly both from Katja’s and Mootee’s work is that DT is achievable for everyone – even the public sector lawyer with only the cool specs going for her what comes to design. DT can spark up innovation in all kinds of organizations, which is precisely what I was looking for, when signing up to be a SID student. So hold my beer, guys – I’m ready to jump into the deep end of Design Thinking!


Me with the cool specs. (#nofilter)


P.S. When I had finished writing this, I noticed from the Laurea SID Facebook Group an add for Legal Design Summit in Helsinki.  So DT has already breached the barriers of the conservative legal world – Ha!


  • Laurea SID Design Thinking module by Katja Tschimmel
  • Katja Tschimmel’s paper “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation”, 2012
  • Idris Mootee, Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation, 2013

One thought on “Can a lawyer learn Design Thinking? The lawyer: “Hold my beer.”

  1. I can relate to your post because I have never felt that I’m much of a designer. But this intense course gave the right tools (and mindset) in order to be innovative. Now I am also feeling inspired and ready to learn more about design thinking!

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