Design Thinking – the bridge between the problem and solution

I had a chance to attend a two-day intensive course called `Unlocking the Secrets of Service Design´ offered by CityDrivers. The trainers were Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri who are experts on Design Thinking and innovation. Both trainers created very energetic and enthusiastic environment that helped us, participants, to get excited about the two-day intensive course.

Trainers: Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri

During these two days Niels and Adil introduced the principles, practices and the process of Design Thinking and methodology of Service Design. I have some experience about Service Design and Design Thinking from my Service Innovation and Design studies in Laurea. By taking the two-day course, my goal was to learn new tools and methods that I haven’t used before and to know how I can apply these to my future projects. Here are my key take-aways from the days.

Day 1 – Introduction and understanding the customer

The first day gave an overview of Service Design and Design Thinking. After an interactive lecture all the participants rolled their sleeves and started working with the case assignment and exploring the first parts of the Design Thinking process – understanding the customer, collecting and analysing the interview data.

What is Design Thinking?

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

 

DT

Billou introduced few different definitions for Design Thinking. In my opinion the most descriptive definition for Design Thinking is from Tim Brown. According to Brown´s quotation Design Thinking helps to make decisions based on what customers want. And when using tools from designer´s toolkit, like applying experimentation and empathy that helps to create innovative solutions to problems.

Trainers introduced a Stanford D. School Design Thinking model that consists of five stages: Understand, Observe, Define Point of View, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

DT processStanford D. School Design Thinking model

During my studies I have noticed the stages of different Design Thinking process models are actually quite the same – only the titles and amount of stages vary. Earlier I have been using only the Double Diamond Design Thinking process, since I know the stages and it is familiar to me. So now I was excited to get to know a new process I haven´t used before.

Power of Empathy

Empathy is all about understanding the people. First phase of the Design Thinking process is to understand the customer. Adil talked about the power of empathy and how important it is to step into customer´s shoes. In this part of the process the data reveals underlying needs of the customer. The trainers introduced few effective tools for this data gathering part:

  • In-depth interviews – help researchers to learn more about a person’s experiences, processes, attitude, problems, needs, pains and ideas.
  • Empathy map – represents a customer’s actions and a mind-set. Interview guide can be adjusted into an empathy map and cover what the customer “Think”, “Feel”, “Say” and “Do”.

 

After an interactive lecture the participants were divided in multidisciplinary teams. Trainers pointed out the importance of cross functional teams – it is vital to have people from different backgrounds who co-create innovative solutions together. My group got a design challenge to redesign the workday lunch experience and encourage people into sustainable eating habits.

Our first step was to go out and interview people regarding their lunch experience. We made an interview guide for the interview – one was interviewing and the other took notes. I have been interviewing people before but I haven´t been using empathy map template. I noticed it helped to sum up the findings and catch a deeper insights from the interviewees such as what the user was saying, doing, thinking and feeling. In my opinion this tool works especially well in mini-interviews when having only 30-60 minutes to do the interviews.

Data visualization leads to insights

Our next step was to analyse and interpret our data to find insights from interviews. Niels introduced us a storytelling tool. Each of us had a chance to be a storyteller and describe what we heard and observed from the interviews. The listeners draw visual images about important details on post-its – finally we had a wall full of post-its. The empathy map template used in interviews was very helpful in this exercise.

Storytelling: Capturing data & clustering insights

The last step of the first day was to cluster the post-its and find common patterns between the notes. This storytelling and the visual data capturing were new tools for me. I was surprised how easy it was to see the overall findings when the post-its were full of pictures, and not just text. I could use this in workshops at work when we have limited time to capture customer data.

Day 2 – From Insights and Ideas to Innovation

The last day started with a summary what we had done so far and what was ahead of us: ideating, developing a prototype and testing it with customers.

Finding a focus

We started the day by creating a persona. Adil explained personas are fictional customers created to represent different user types. The persona helped us to step into the customer´s shoes and it guided us to make useful design decisions later during the day.

personaCreating a persona

At this point of the Design Thinking process we were on the “Define a point of view”-stage. According to Niels the Point of view sentence help us to build a line between the initial problem and future solution – it narrows the focus and makes the problem specific. It was surprisingly hard to summarize our thoughts into one sentence.

Next the trainers encouraged us to generate plenty of wild ideas by using how might we… –method. How might we questions launched many crazy ideas and we put those on the post-its. After that it was time to vote for the best idea. Adil introduced a Prioritization Matrix that helped us to identify the most important and valuable ideas, prioritize them and vote for the best idea.

prio matrix.pngPrioritization Matrix

Presenting a Prioritization Matrix on the lecture was a great reminder for me. Once I have been using that during my studies but since there are so many tools it is easy to forget. Since the time was limited during these two days the impact / effort axis on the Prioritization Matrix helped us to point out the best ideas fast. I put this tool into my toolbox and definitely will use this in the future projects.

Fail early, to succeed sooner

In the afternoon we started to build a prototype that eventually helped to solve the problem. According to Niels the prototype is a draft version of a product or a service. It should present our idea and when showing it to the users the aim is to get feedback for iteration.

This was the best part of the day and we were really excited about this step. The team made a prototype out of Legos. This was a first time for me to do this part with Legos. Lego characters were the actors on the stage and the bricks worked very well when presenting the idea and the experience around it. We were very pleased to our prototype.

Building a Lego prototype

The last step of the Design Thinking process was testing the prototype with users. The team went out and we presented the prototype for few users.

“If prototypes aren´t failing you are not pushing far enough. Failure is part of understanding and improving”
– Dr. Niels Billou

final proto.png
Final prototype

Niels’ quote went straight to the point. We got plenty of feedback and enhancement ideas for the prototype and some users crushed the prototype by saying “That won´t work in real life”. We presented the prototype and the feedback for the whole lecture group. Our team proved Niels´ quote true – the failure is truly part of understanding and improving.

To sum up these two days, this intensive course taught me new tools and methods of Design Thinking and reminded me of tools I already knew. Since there are so many tools to use, the hardest part is to choose the most relevant ones for every project. I´m excited to learn more – practice makes perfect, doesn´t it?

 

If you want to discover more different Design Thinking tools and methods, I recommend This is Service Design Doing Method Library. Library consists of 54 hands-on Service Design methods. This is a useful site when choosing the right methods.
https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/methods

tiss

 

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen

 

 

 

 

 

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