Design Thinking in “an elephant” nutshell

If you are working on a project with an aim to achieve high results, it may take you months or weeks to complete a Design Thinking process, or at least a dozen of 24-hours long working days. However this time SID students had only two intensive days to learn or rather “have an in-depth look” into the DT process and to come up with a solutions for a pre-defined problem. They were guided and facilitated by Katja Tschimmel – in an article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation she analyzed five Design Thinking models and ten Design Thinking tools – and Sanna Marttila, who introduced SID freshmen into the world of Design Thinking.

What would you have experienced if you had followed 2-days of Design Thinking in “an elephant” nutshell?

First of all, before the project’s kick-off you would got acquainted with the basic way of thinking through the lens of Design Thinking. I guess you would have agreed that the most valuable and memorable were – especially if you had done the exercise: Ways to use a pencil? and you did not succeed to list 20 possibilities – the 4 major components of divergent thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality and elaboration. Welcome to the “abductive thinking” (Martin and Cross, as cited in Tschimmel 2013), where the ideas coming at first to your mind have the least value, while the most valuable are found somewhere in another universe.

Secondly, you would have had a chance to join an exclusively Finnish or an international team in which you would work on a project. So, I guess you are curious what problem you would have explored? Your, and yours team task, was to improve Laurea’s offering for students. To find a solution you would have gone through a multiple layered process which has its roots, as all other Design Thinking models, in a model proposed in 1926 by Wallas (as cited in Tschimmel 2013) the grand-grand-father of Design Thinking process. He enclosed the complexity of the DT process in four steps: (1.) preparation, (2.) incubation, (3.) illumination and (4.) verification. What does it mean in practice? A lot of brainstorming, sketching, diverging and converging, prototyping, storytelling and especially all the time “post-iting” to visualize every idea on every single step of the process.


Now, do you want take a look on evidences from 2-days work to visualize some parts of the process and finally return to the question you probably asked once you started reading the article: what an elephant is doing in a title of the article? Well, the elephant was the fruit of the prototyping stage…

Why? It takes an elephant for a freshman to get through the first study workload and to make all necessary connections between the knowledge he acquires and the business environment. To take a bit of a workload from the shoulders of this freshman we came up with a solution of an online platform named “SID Elephant”, integrating all the necessary and useful elements related to studies and facilitating the studt2dent’s path through Laurea and beyond.

So, once you had a chance to take a glimpse into the Design Thinking process – the way we worked with it during 2-days workshop – I want to share with you at the end a short and holistic definition of how I understand the process. Design Thinking is an enabler to innovative problem solving in every possible field based on a set of tenets, among which I want you to remember the following key words: deep understanding of a customer needs, collaboration, visualization, experimentation and prototyping (Lockwood 2010). If you add, on top of this, a business analysis and you manage to integrate it in the process, than you have a receipt for a success!


Lockwood, Thomas. 2010. Design Thinking. Integrating innovation, customer experience and brand value. Design Management Institute.

Tschimmel, Katja. 2013. 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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