“Innovation and design thinking are considered as the principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage in the business world today. Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and even strategy” – Tim Brown (2008).
Ironically, I never considered myself an innovative or creative person. Instead, my organized and systematic way of working sometimes seems to be even conflicting with the idea of being innovative. However, I like challenging myself. That’s why I enrolled to the “Service Innovation and Design” program at Laurea University of Applied Sciences, to build my confidence and skills towards being a more innovative person.
My Service Innovation and Design journey started with the course of “Design Thinking” from Katja Tschimmel in September. Katja herself is a Professor, Researcher and Consultant with the strong focus on creative thinking and design. The 2-days intensive course emphasised the fact that “design thinking (aka. Design doing) is a systematic approach to problem solving.”
By deep dive into the Figure 1 – Evolution 62(E6) model, we can see it has been divided into 6 phases, which starts with Emergence – identification of an opportunity in the centre. Then under each phase, there are various tools as recommendations or proposals to choose from. However, due the iterative nature of design thinking, tools can be freely selected based on the needs and context.
From the well instructed group exercises, we were able to familiarize ourselves with different design thinking tools. Also, from Katja’s concrete consulting case example, we were able hear how design thinking applied into real-life examples and best practices.
To enhance the design thinking understanding, I further on read the Harvard Business Review article by Tim Brown called Design Thinking (2008). In the article, Tim stressed that for any design projects, Design thinking ultimately goes through 3 stages: 1) Inspiration, 2) ideation, and 3) Implementation.
In more details (Brown, 2008, P88-P89):
– inspiration is about understanding current circumstances and using the findings to search identify problems or opportunities.
– ideation is about generating, developing and testing ideas that may lead to solutions.
– implementation is about charting a path to market
In the end, Tim highlighted that innovation is the result of hard work, which starts with an idea that based on deep understanding of consumers’ live, then followed by iterative cycles of design thinking practices, such as porotypes, testing and refinement, to innovate and build value (2008, P90).
Similarly, in the book of “Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers”, Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011) introduced the design model with 4 basic questions (Figure 2). The “what is” stage explores current reality. “What if” envisions a new future. “What wows” makes some choices, and “what works” takes us to the marketplace (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P36).
By comparing 3 different design thinking models mentioned above, we can quickly come to the realization that, despite all the differences, all design thinking starts with the current reality and circumstance understanding. You might be wondering, isn’t design thinking is about creating something new for the future, but why starts with now?
The answer is simply. Because successful innovation always goes back to the basics of “what is the job to be done” and how can we improve it? To answer that question, we need to pay close attention to what is going on today to identify the real problem or opportunity that we want to tackle.
Without an accurate reality assessment, the innovation outcome loses the meaning and values. Also, in most cases, we tend to find innovation clues right lies in the dissatisfaction of the presence. By taking a closer look at users’ frustrations today, we will be able identify opportunities for improvements. Therefore, we can all agree that reality assessment is the foundation of innovation, and starting point of any design thinking process. (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P38-P39)
So now you might be thinking that “Okay, now I get the point, but how to conduct the reality assessment in practice, and which tools I should be using?” There are many available tools to choose from based on the needs and situation. However, here are a few that I personally find useful to try (Tschimmel, 2018; Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011).
Media, Market and Customer Analysis to obtain the understanding of what is happening or emerging currently to produce Trend Matrix.
Intent Statement to collaboratively define “what do we want to innovate”?
Stakeholder Map to identify various individuals or groups involved in the project, foresee possibility challenges, and develop strategies to engage them.
Persona to define who are the users in the project.
Customer Journey Mapping to provide a visual representation of the touchpoints where users interact with company services or solutions.
Value Chain Analysis to study an organization’s interaction with partners to produce, market, distribute and support its offering. It is the business-side equivalent of customer journey mapping, to highlight pain points and opportunities when working with partners.
Mind Mapping to extract meaning from vast amount of collected information to look for patterns and identify innovation opportunities.
Have fun with trying different design thinking tools! Enjoy!
Written by Xiaoying Wang on 22nd September 2019.
Service Innovation and Design student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Tschimmel, K. (2018). Evolution 62: An E-handbook for Practial Design Thinking for Innovation. MindShake.
Brown, T (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review P85-P95.
Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. (2011). Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press.