Design thinking tools to make meaning from the mess

More and more non-designers know at least some design thinking tools when different organizations commonly use them. Design thinking helps make sense of complex problems, and what is most important, it helps people create new ideas that fit better consumer needs and desires. (Kolko, 2015)

Design thinking is not an exceptional talent or a skill that only designers have, but design thinking practitioners see it as a mindset.

We can use the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and a viable business strategy.  While every designer is a design thinker (Tschimmel, 2022), design thinking tools can make anyone a designer.

Our studies at SID began with a two-day intensive course on Design Thinking. We got the task to investigate and push forward the issue of workplace inclusivity. For this purpose, we utilized the Evolution 6 model (E.6² for short) by Tschimmel and employed various Design Thinking tools along the way to the final presentation of a single refined prototype.

The E.6² model consists of six phases, each with three divergent and three convergent phases called moments. While working on this course, we were encouraged to retrace our steps, review our progress with a critical eye, and make adjustments accordingly.

Our experiences fit in with the notion that the design process encompasses different tools and methods that drive innovation. As Brown (2008) puts it, we executed multiple related activities to foster and engage in Design Thinking to come to innovative solutions. Well-prepared templates and a broad license to utilize, e.g., image material found online, helped our endeavors. 

Design thinking is cross-disciplinary teamwork that brings the user to the center of the problem statement.

Kolko, 2015

During the process, we leveraged the strengths of multi-disciplinary teams. We sought common ground amongst ourselves to further our understanding of the problem and offer solutions in rapid prototypes.

Kolko (2015) defines design artifacts as physical models used to explore, express, and communicate. In the digital context of our lecture weekend, we used online media in picture form to develop our ideas and convey them visually to our group members and classmates, especially during the prototyping and final presentation phases.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as are needed to generate useful feedback and evolve an idea.

Brown, 2008

In the space of this one weekend, we were able to design novel solutions to tackle a complex issue and present those solutions in a coherent and visually striking manner while working with the constraint of not interacting with each other face-to-face.

It is good to remember that while design thinking helps solve complex problems and innovate future solutions, it does not fit all situations or solve all problems. It requires strict expectation management with realistic timelines that fit each organization and its culture.  

While design thinking methods can help to create innovative products, they can still fail to sell. Brown (2008) talks about a project between US-based innovation and design firm IDEO and Japanese cycling manufacturer Shimano. They used design thinking tools to create a new innovative concept of Coasting bikes, which offered a carefree biking experience for the masses.  Several other biking manufacturers incorporated Shimano’s innovative components after their Coasting bikes launch in 2007, and the project won some design awards. But for some reason, the bikes were not selling, and a few years later, they disappeared from the market. (Yannigroth, 2009) Maybe they did not test the idea properly with target users after all?

Written by: Viljami Osada & Saija Lehto SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

References:

  • Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.
  • Kolko, David 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.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation.” DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79879-6.
  • Roth, Yannig (2010). What caused Shimano’s Coasting-program to fail? Blog post. https://yannigroth.com/2010/05/12/what-caused-shimanos-coasting-program-fail/ 

Photos: Pexels.com

2 thoughts on “Design thinking tools to make meaning from the mess

  1. You wrote that “design thinking tools can make anyone a designer”, and that “while design thinking methods can help to create innovative products, they can still fail to sell”. This leads me to a question that quite often rises when trying to convince organisation to take design thinking into use as a new process and a way of seeing the customers. How could designers better sell their ideas and skills and the value of design thinking – if anyone can and wants to be a designer? What is the value the customer gets with a professional designer?

  2. Thank you for this blog entry, which managed to explain in an easily digestible way the basics of Service Design.

    Further, it was thought-provoking to read about the possible SD challenges and limitations. As a next step, it would be fascinating to dive deeper into this subject to discover why Service Design sometimes fails: is it mostly due to lack of human-centered approach / customer interaction, as the blog suggests, or something else? Surely these insights would be very useful for anyone planning SD initiatives and projects. Maybe an idea for the thesis project for someone? 🙂

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