Our image of the world is built on assumptions and schemas. Without them, our everyday life would feel chaotic and quite burdensome. However, in an innovation process, our assumptions mainly work against us. They keep us from thinking outside the box. You could even say that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.
Without intentionally reflecting on our thinking patterns, they will act like the shining exit signs that show us the closest way out from whatever maze or task it is we are working on. Our brains are saying, “look, the exit is just here, take it. It is safe, and you’ll be out in no time!” The rest of the maze remains unexplored, but at least we survive.
Get out of the box
The first insight or idea is likely to be obvious one, not innovative nor original, as we learned in Katja Tschimmel’s master class course. To be able to truly innovate, it is necessary to step out to the un-known and out of the comfort zone with curious mind. By Design Thinking processes, we become more aware of our assumptions and intentionally move them aside, becoming brave and curious explorers and resolvers of the latent needs of people, needs that even the people themselves struggle putting into words.
Design Thinking is like being balancing on a tightrope where on the other side is the chance of failure and on other side the chance for innovation. Our own assumptions and uncertainty of success will push us towards failure, while curiosity, trust and empathy will give us a good nudge towards innovation.
Big emotions at stake
Fear towards failure in the efforts to innovate is human. Failing just is uncomfortable. Emotions overall are an inseparable part of our humanity, and they strongly affect our actions. The possibility of feeling shame makes it less tempting to be vulnerable and represent our rough and preliminary ideas to the audience without carefully fine-tuning and polishing them first.
As designers, it is a necessity to consciously train our ability to handle failure. Accepting failing as an essential, positive part of innovation process is something us as becoming designers will have to learn to do. Besides professional growth, becoming a service designer is therefore also a matter of personal growth.
No fail, no gain
In Design Thinking, there is no other way to innovation besides the try and error cycle. In fact, in Design Thinking failure is not seen as failure, but as an essential part of the process towards something innovative.
Tom and David Kelley state in their book Creative Confidence (2013:41): “In fact, early failure can be crucial to success in innovation. Because the faster you find weaknesses during an innovation cycle, the faster you can improve what needs fixing.”
The more failures we get, the more possible improvements become tangible, if we just are able to analyze them carefully. Every (mis)step is a step forward, even if it sometimes might feel like a step backward.
It’s all about the people
Design Thinking is human-centric by nature. The true needs, perspectives and feelings of other individuals and groups become concrete and tangible only when we address empathy. This requires us to take the leap out of our comfort zone and interact with people.
According to Kelley brothers, Michael Schrage wrote in his famous book Serious play: “Innovation is always more social than personal”.
Could we even argue that innovation is always something that will somehow serve others?
Written by Taika Rantanen and Nora Rahnasto.
References and links:
Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf
Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business. (http://www.creativeconfidence.com/)
Kolko, J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71. (https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age)
Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5 2020. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.
Tschimmel, Katja (2018). Evolution 6² Toolkit: An E-handbook for Practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Mindshake.