DT – from convergent organizational thinking to changing the world

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Design Thinking course led by Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila was an intensive two-day package of pushing us, the new students to find the Design Thinking in ourselves. It all happens subconsciously. Creating new in a multidisciplinary team working with Design Thinking tools you suddenly realize that you start to think like a designer.

How do the designers think?

Why do designers make change while managers get stuck planning? Designer is an abductive thinker and interpreter. He is forced to prove the results of his thinking in a visual form already at a very early stage of an innovation or development process, to make a proof of the concept and to get evaluated further. Designers’ thinking is divergent: fluent, flexible, original and the results are measurable. According to Tschimmel designers have the capacity to consider at the same time:

Human needs and visions of living well

Available material and technical resource

The constraints and the opportunities of a project or a business

What business or organizational lead usually lack, is the empathetic understanding of the human needs and visions: managers get stuck with resources or constraints while designers see the opportunities in human understanding. In the non-design -oriented world entire organizations are built on false values and digitalization projects that only need to be carried out but do not even see the possibilities of changing the world.

Why to pursue Design Thinking?

People build human like relationships with products and services they love, or the ones that are so light to use they do not even notice that the services exist. The Design Thinking warriors like Jon Kolko state that meaningful products and loveable services are built on empathy and human understanding. 

The forms of meaningful products and services are ever-changing – now even faster than ever. HBR has stated that ”Credible scientists and research firms have predicted that the likely automation of service sectors and professional jobs in the United States will be more than 10 times as large as the number of manufacturing jobs automated to date.” This new era of digitalization and automatization changes the way of work, even if we wouldn’t want it to. People need products and services that give them freedom to be humans, monochrome tasks will be carried out by IoT and robots.

By pursuing Design Thinking we have the power to change the world in two ways:

  1. We can create even more meaningful automatized services that are so meaningful that they are even invisible…

  2. …so that people, us mammals, can focus on the highest human capacity of empathy and communication.

Why wouldn’t we take the momentum, let the world get automatized and pursue the greatest value of being a human – the empathy and the human communication.

How to change the way the organizations think?  

Most of organizations run without heart, empathy is not part of their plan. Traditional organizations pursue fast decisions and survive in a culture where failing is fatal: employees are hardly ever encouraged to try out different solutions.

Should we get managers to read more Jon Kolko and Tim Brown, or how could we convince the managers and the traditional organizations to broaden their minds?

Katja Tschimmel has been shaking minds from different backgrounds and preaching about the world changing force of Design Thinking already for years. Based on her experience and research she has come to a conclusion of combining all the significant DT models that facilitate the way to bring human and visualization factors into different organizations into a single model called E.6².

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According to her experience it is the models and the facilitating  tools that make it easy for an organization (that does not consist of designers) to take the creative way of problem solving into the meeting rooms.

So let’s try out and spread the word, right?

During the intensive course, we teamed up and embraced the empathy in multidisciplinary teams. We used Tschimmel’s model to create new services for Laurea by diving into the deep end of Design Thinking tools categorized under design phases of the 6 E’s – extension, exposition, elaboration, experimentation, empathy and emergence.

We were forced to learn to trust the team and had to be able to bear the uncertainty working with models and people we didn’t know.

The E.6² model, as also other Design Thinking models, pursue empathetic human-centered exploration that should be rapidly visualized and then re-evaluated and re-developed. And so, we shared our minds and opinions and drew a lot. We subconsciously tried to manage the process but suddenly saw that letting go of the convergent way of thinking was the only way forward. It was as late as during the brain writing session that something happened: we felt all the past managerial thinking burden leave the room and we really listened to each other’s views.

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And then it struck: we gave up on our initial idea and crashed with empathy. We admitted we failed, processed further and came up with a new solution. What a feeling!

Learning to be the change 

For learning empathy we need other people. For bearing fast failing, iteration and uncertainty we need the support of a team. As service design students we are privileged to start a career of Design Thinking ambassadors where ever we work: spread the tools, spread the spirit. We need to be rough for ourselves and never fall in love with the easy ideas. We need to use Design Thinking models and tools to train our minds to be abductive and objective. And most of all, we need to prove that perceptive cognition and empathetic heart of a Design Thinker change the way the organizations gain their profit and reach their goals now and in future. Not everyone needs to be a designer but everyone, from a manager to a taxi driver, can contribute to changing the world by failing, drawing, listening and asking questions. 

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Readings

Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
Brown Tim, 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.
Kolko Jon, 2014. Well-Designed. Harvard Business Review Press.
Extra:
Hess Ed, 2017. In the AI Age, “Being Smart” Will Mean Something Completely Different. Harvard Business Review, June 19, 2017

One thought on “DT – from convergent organizational thinking to changing the world

  1. Thank you for an inspiring text! I think you’re spot on emphasising the role of empathy in design thinking and pointing out that in most cases that is exactly what is lacking from the leaders and managers. Too often the short-term result or pure profit is seen as the measurement for success, when in fact there’s no real value to it. And it will then – in most cases – backfire eventually.

    For the past 10 years or so my personal mission in life has been lifting the market value of social scientists and humanists in working life, since their abilities in deeply understanding human behaviour and needs is truly something that every organisation needs. I’m so happy that with this boom of Service Design and Design Thinking the organisations are starting to wake up and see that. And on a personal level it’s important to me to have a theoretical (and also practical) framework to support my claim 🙂

    I truly hope that the rise of Design Thinking will lead to organisations serving the deeper needs of their customers as well as companies producing rather high-quality and sustainable rather than mass-produced, disposable goods.

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