Idiosyncrasy of Design Thinking

Taking part in an introductory Design Thinking (DT) jam, having few years of hands-on experience in the field, called for adopting beginner’s mindset. Looking, often on a meta level, for small nuggets of wisdom – not surprisingly brought extra value to the process. Being able to share some of the best design practices and to facilitate constructive and productive work within my team made these days rewarding and memorable.

For two days we, students of the SID Laurea program were led by Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila through a process of Design Thinking (DT); the challenge – improving university’s offering towards students. Because, according to Martin and Cross (as cited in Tschimmel 2013), rational thinking can’t lead to new, original ideas we were to indulge in abductive thinking. This way of thinking is characteristic of DT; takes place from fresh standpoints and is about not yet to be seen possibilities. It crosses boundaries of existing “mental boxes” and levels up the value of logical and illogical (e.g. emotional) arguments. (Tschimmel 2013).

A number of teams were formed and worked with divergent and convergent stages of problem understanding (Tschimmel 2013), empathetic discovery of human (in this case student) needs, ideation, prototyping, testing, visualization and implementation (planning). The final design solutions – results of DT process and at the same time of our work – were presented by teams and evaluated by Laurea representatives with respect to criteria such as originality and feasibility.

From my personal learning perspective, the most interesting part of the workshop regarded ideation. “There is no winner without sharing” – emphasized Katja Tchimmel. Every team member is expected to modify and to add to an idea, or a concept. In a well-working team, ideas should become a common good of a group; egoic need to prove the value of one’s idea ought to be lost. A feeling that results of team’s work are collective should increase with a number of tools or techniques which are applied and lead to mingling of ideas, contribution of all individuals to the process and group’s openness towards these efforts.

Before we dived into practice based part of DT jam, four major components of divergent thinking were discussed:

  • fluency – the total number of generated ideas
  • flexibility – the number of categories or clusters formed in ideas generation
  • originality – the novelty of ideas within a setting or a context (determined by comparing responses with statistically frequent ideas)
  • elaboration – the amount of detail of the idea.

Key, experiential part of the jam started with learning specific tools to achieve truly creative results. To generate a maximum number of ideas we started with a simple brainstorming technique – idea mapping, in which the principal idea is put in the middle of the paper; around it, more specific ideas are branched out. As many levels of detail as possible aMindMapre described.

To improve upon these ideas, especially with regards to their originality, “semantic confrontations” tool was introduced. This time each member of the team was to take two unrelated ideas, concerning the design challenge, and by mixing them together create a new idea. To increase elaboration of ideas we were to choose the best ones, depict them with intent statement tool, fill out stakeholder maps, prototype, test and refine – so that that they would become testable and easy to comprehend concepts.

The knowledge I had derived from the jam is very useful for increasing creativity on an individual and team level. To enable creative thinking and to innovate in a systematic manner within organizations, David Kelley and Tom Kelley (2013) propose to nurture a creative culture within them. In the book Creative Confidence (Kelley D., Kelley T 2013) they describe how companies progress through five phases as they gain “creative confidence”:

  • “pure denial” – employees and managers believe they are not creative and hire designers to do the work for them; they maintain interested solely in the final project results
  • “hidden rejection” – executives provide verbal support towards DT which does not translate into action – they are not convinced or resist change
  • “leap of faith” – at least one head recognizes value of DT and provides resources and support towards chosen activities, e.g. a project
  • “quest for confidence” – initial innovation successes gains buy-in of DT in the organization, leading to establishment of idiosyncratic processes and methodologies to be used across the company
  • “holistic awareness and integration” – DT becomes a part of company’s DNA – it has saturated both strategic and operational endeavors of the firm.

To finish up, a simple observation: no matter, if you are to run a million-dollar worth innovation project with a corporation, or to take upon a small challenge with a group of friends, be sure – you will run into problems. Face them head-on knowing how to stay creative with DT – no matter the setting.


  • Tschimmel, K. 2013. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
  • Kelley, D., Kelley, T. 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. The Crown Publishing Group. New York.

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