Becoming a Design Thinker and Doer

Design Thinking in action

Our journey to the realm of Design Thinking started in extraordinary conditions, because our lecturer Katja Tschimmel wasn’t able to attend the course physically – nor some of the students – because of COVID-19. In spite of this, we got an inspiring and participative start for our studies.

When quantity is more important than quality: the process of identification of opportunities.

The best thing was the “learning by doing” mentality. It was easy to get a grip about the Design Thinking principles and Service Design process through the small exercises and the group task which tackled each service design processes’ phase one by one. The most difficult thing was the shortage of time. As Tim Brown states in his book Change by Design (2009, 84), time is the most insistent limit for design thinkers, even more insistent than limits of technology, skills and knowledge.

The process of Ideation.

During the lecture we got to see that there are many ways of describing the Service Design process. Brown (2009) presents the process through three main “spaces” of Design Thinking: 1) inspiration , 2) ideation and 3) implementation. In our group work we used the Mindshake Design Thinking Model, which has six different steps. Through using the model, the process with its different phases came really concrete. 

Mindshake Design Thinking Model, Pinterest

While doing our group work we also noticed that it can be difficult not to offer ready-made solutions before defining the problem to solve. A valuable tip here is that don’t ask what, ask why! It’s also good to remember that the design process can make unexpected discoveries along the way. Though the insecurity about the outcome may feel difficult, it’s better to “fail early to succeed sooner” (Brown 2009.)

Don’t just do design, live design

We’ve now learned that Service Design is all about thinking like a designer – it’s a mindset you have to switch on. Anyhow, it’s easier said than done. The mindset of an individual doesn’t change all of a sudden. Also the organizational shift is never easy and culture changes slowly. In many companies we can weekly observe a board of managers debating about internal processes and making decisions of company’s strategies behind closed doors. Concerning the change, the expectations must be set appropriately and aligned around a realistic timeline (Kolko 2015).

It is important to internalize that Design Thinking is a collective and participatory process. The more parties and stakeholders are involved in the development process, the greater range of ideas, options and different perspectives will occur. Also, to harvest the power of Design Thinking, individuals, teams and whole organizations have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power to create new ideas, that will serve unmet needs, and that will have a positive impact. (Brown 2009.) 

There are many cases to show how Design Thinking can be used for social change and the common good. For example, the Indias Aravind “Eye care system” has built a systemic solution with Design Thinking to a complex social and medical problem (Brown 2008, 90-91).  Also Warren Berger explains how design can change the world through solving problems on a case-by-case basis around the world.

The advantages of Design Thinking seem obvious. It offers an powerful, effective and accessible approach to innovation which can be integrated into all aspects of business and society and that all individuals and teams can use it to generate breakthrough ideas. So: get into the world to be inspired by people, use prototyping to learn with your hands, create stories to share ideas, join forces with people from other disciplines. Don’t just do design, live design! (Brown 2009.)

Thought and conclusions by Maiju Haltia-Nurmi and Elena Mitrofanova, first-year SID students at Laurea UAS


Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. 

Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Kolko, Jon (2015). Design thinking comes of age ( Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71. 

Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5 2020. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland. 

Warren, Berger (2009). Can design change the world? (

6 thoughts on “Becoming a Design Thinker and Doer

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post, Maiju and Elena.
    I strongly agree with you about the “learning by doing” mentality and that, although in the lecture there were different challenges at different times, during the 2 intensive days, one of the most difficult challenge felt the shortage of time.
    You also made some interesting points about the power of Design Thinking as a collective and participatory process where the more parties involved the greater range of ideas and perspectives happen.

    Elena Howlader

    • Thank you, Elena! Despite all the challenges our team performed very well, I think 🙂 I enjoyed working with you!

  2. Hi Maiju and Elena,

    I have to say that I’m impressed with the amount of information that is well organised and threaded. One of the points that I can closely relate to is how hard for organizations to shift into design thinking ways and methods. I have personally experienced that while working at my previous employer. As the internal structure for the organization was governmental bureaucratic structure, we were asked to deal with consumers on daily basis and figure out opportunities on how we can contribute to their lifes with creative development projects. It was almost impossible to match the rapidly changing human needs and desires to the very slow governmental procedures. No I know that the problem was not the bureaucratic structure at all. In fact we never had realistic expectations, after closely analysing our strengths and weakness. We also never had a realistic timeline. Now we know better and we will do better.

    Thank you for a very informative post,


    • Dear Ahmed, thank you very much for your nice response and for sharing your interesting experience. As we discussed during yesterday’s contact session in relation to Service-dominant logic it is very important to first understand where we are “in the forest” and then seek the right direction and route. I hope after finishing the SID programme we all will have “maps” of most of “forests” and will perform better 🙂

      Good luck with your future projects!

  3. I like the way you emphasise Design Thinking as a collective and participatory process. You wrote that “the more parties and stakeholders are involved in the development process, the greater range of ideas, options and different perspectives will occur.”

    With Kimmo, we read David and Tom Kelley’s book Creative Confidence (2013). They point out that if you wish to achieve change in the organisation or the world, you need teamwork. They write, and I agree, that collaboration works especially well when people in the team have different backgrounds and bring different views to the table. That is not necessarily easy, though, but facilitates innovation and creativity.

    In my experience, we easily talk and group with likeminded people and while it is nice, it might not always lead us to explore new possibilities, as a more diverse group could.
    Thanks for a thought waking text, Elena and Maiju!

    Best, Minna

    • Dear Minna, thank you for your interesting comment!

      I strongly agree with you that it is much easier to work and network with likeminded people, but it just doesn’t contribute so much to the team’s creativity. I tend to think, the ability to listen to people and accept opinions and perspectives that differ from yours is the core skill required for collaboration and teamwork.

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