Design Thinking? – Making Sense of the Complex

Sustainable service through design thinking

As an entry to the SID Studies we had a two-day Design Thinking (DT) training course led by Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila, which was a fast speed introduction to the concept of DT and to the practical use of the DT process model.

I applied to Laurea’s MBA in SID program to find proper tools in making sense of the complex questions I face and handle daily in the working life and to find solutions to those questions in a manner that serves sustainable future and involves the value clusters of all the critical stakeholders.

My big question for the SID studies is: How to design sustainable*) service and how to find sustainable solutions for the future’s (customers) needs? By participating in this DT training course my research journey has begun and here’s the report to my early findings.


There is no recipe for design thinking

Idris Mootee teaches in his book of Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School that Design Thinking is it’s own mode of analysis. Analysis that focuses on forms, relationships, behavior, and real human interactions and emotions.

According to Katja Tschimmel there’s no specific recipy for design thinking. It’s more about adapting a certain collection of design principals, having a toolbox with different tools at hand and being able to apply the knowledge by integrating it to the specific innovation process.

Design thinking is where a holistic and iterative thinking process meets certain kind of playful, future oriented and positive attitude that transforms into empathy achieving, visually exposed collaborative action.

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Hands on – and the design principals in mind

In the DT workshop we were introduced to the Evolution 6² – Innovation & Design Thinking Model designed by Mindshake. During the course we took a peek to this specific model or toolbox and applied some of the tools in practise.

All the groups were given the same, simple entry topic “Studying in Laurea”, of which they were assigned to generate a concrete development projects. With a little help of the first Emergence phase’s tools: Opportunity mind map (1.) and Intent statement (2.), we identified our team’s own core project: ”Creating a new model for company participation in Laurea”. With this certain development project we drove ourselves through the iterative design thinking process where we applied the following phases and tools in a following order:

  • We identified the development opportunity for our project by using the opportunity mindmap (1.) & intent statement (2.) – tools. (Emergence)
  • We got familiar with the context and the stakeholders by applying the stakeholder map (3.) and insight map (4.). (Empathy)
  • Then we generated and tested our ideas by using brainwriting/sketching (5.), semantic confrontations (6.) and idea hitlist (7.). (Experimentation)
  • After that we developed our idea and transformed it into a tangible concept by applying the desktop walkthough (8.) and service blueprint (9). (Elaboration)
  • And the last but not least we presented the new concept and solution to other groups by using storytelling method (10.) and using vision statement (11.) (Exposition).

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The workshop process was intensive and inspiring in many ways but the most important and remarkable fact for me was to learn how important role empathy plays in the whole DT process. Empathy is critical in the very beginning when transfoming the group of people into a team but it’s also important when trying to reach all the stakeholders’ perspectives and needs. All this sounds familiar to me because the whole concept of sustainable is all about empathy – empathy and solidarity towards other people, nature, culture and history.

Back to basics and to simplicity

Probably most of the people can agree on this: Today’s world and it’s problems are extremely complex. All the current global threats: climate change and it’s side effects, world’s population growth, war, terrorism, migration or technological development just to mention some are causing enormous effects and need an action also in the local level.

Katja Tschimmel says in her article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation that while we plan and develope future’s services we have to understand and identify the new human needs, create and communicate new visions that provides change in the material and immaterial world. We need design thinking to work in a collaborative way and to adjust this future oriented sustainable way of working.

“Complexity is the prodigy of the world. Simplicity is the sensation of the universe. Behind complexity, there is always simplicity to be revealed. Inside simplicity, there is always complexity to be discovered.” —Gang Yu

According to Idris Motee from consumers to employees and to all the people in a supply chain of the services, DT enables to build more intimate relationships, helps eliminate the complexity and clutter so that we can get back to the basics of human needs and human problems.

One of the most interesting finding during the DT workshop weekend was also the fact that very often the most complex problems might need just an astonishly simple solution.

I left home with an impression that design thinking has much to offer to sustainable development. I look forward to learn more about it.



Design Thinking (2017). A compulsory Design Thinking course for MA Service Design students, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, Espoo, Finland. (Notes made 8.-9.9.2017.)

Minshake (2017). Evolution 6² Innovation & Design Thinking Model (pocket tool leaflet of the model). (Additional infomation: 29.9.2017)

Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley. (ebook:

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.

(* In this blog post the concept of sustainable covers all the aspects of social, economic, environment and culture.

2 thoughts on “Design Thinking? – Making Sense of the Complex

  1. You had an interesting and current topic in your essay: Design Thinking & sustainable services. As we have noticed, there are different methods in Design Thinking, and some of them may well help you find a suitable solution for your approach. But on the other hand, the first step in Design Thinking is to understand the problem you are processing before searching for solutions. For a Design Thinker it is good to keep the human needs in the loop, and involve others in the process. Good luck for your research, you are on the right path!

  2. Nicely drafted perspective to Design thinking & sustainable services. Human centered way of thinking keeps you close to the users who are going to use the products and design thinking is the way to go about.

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