From a need to a service – design thinking methods at work

As the very first course at Laurea, Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila introduced both the Finnish Service Design and English Service Innovation and Design groups into the secrets of design thinking. My expectation for the course was nothing less than to be able to switch myself into some sort of design thinking mode. That turned out to be more complicated than I expected but the two days and Tim Brown’s article Design Thinking made me conscious of what design thinking and service design might be. I have to admit I was a bit surprised how much academic research has been created around design thinking and service design. I somehow thought that service design is something very practical. Which I guess it can be too. Also the number of tools and methods developed for service design was new to me.

I have never considered myself as a creative person. Being creative sounds nice but I never linked the adjective to myself. This was a concern to me when I thought about becoming a service designer. The thought about having to come up with new innovative ideas for customers every day in order to help their businesses to become more efficient or saving money at the public sector felt awkward. Mainly this feeling has been caused by my self-criticism. Tossing around ideas from the top of my head without thinking thoroughly first felt and still feels strange. During the contact days it was a relief to realize that co-creation is the key in service design. Ideation is a group task where customers are the key informants. Good (and bad) ideas form end develop in a group and the value added comes from interdisciplinary. Maybe one of the key competences of a service designer is the ability to listen? Listen to the customers and stakeholders. As Katja Tschimmel wrote in her article Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation, human-centered approach, collaboration and co-creation are essential in service design. What a relief! I don’t have to come up with brilliant and innovative ideas by myself day in and day out! The importance of co-creation was, in my opinion, well demonstrated in the group work during the contact days:  tossing around ideas in a group brought new ideas and gave new insights that none of us probably would not have come up with had we done the exercise by ourselves. And it was fun too.


The other main characteristics of design thinking that got my attention was the importance of visualization. In my previous job as a consultant I wrote a bunch of tenders and reports for the public sector. I always thought that making a point, communicating the main results effectively and having people actually read at least part of the final reports requires putting effort into visualization of the data or results. The same seems to go with service design. I see visualization as a way of simplifying complex processes which service design projects presumably most of the time are. According to Tschimmel, other main characteristics of design thinking are abductive thinking, perception, prototyping and failure. In the process of a successful service design project failure is a must. At least once.

On top of the main characteristics of design thinking, the students of the course got a full-frontal of the different tools of design thinking process. The 3 Is, HCDs, Hasso-Platner models, Double Diamonds and Mindshake’s own Evolution 6² didn’t quite sink in yet but I’m sure that during my studies at Laurea I will inevitably come back to them.


Putting aside the fancy acronyms and models, I think Jon Kolko described the importance of design thinking rather well in his article Design Thinking Comes of Age “Design thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing. It can’t be extra; it needs to be a core competence.”


Brown, Tim (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.

Kolko, Jon (2015). Design Thinking Comes of Age. Harvard Business Review, September, 66-72.

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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