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First steps in Design Thinking

By Marja Hyypiä, first year SID student

My journey as a future design thinker started on a Laurea UAS course on Design Thinking in September 6-7, 2019 where we had the pleasure to have Katja Tschimmel – Professor, Researcher, Trainer and Consultant in Creativity and Design Thinking (LinkedIn) – as our teacher. The two-day course with Katja was like a deep dive in design thinking practice – relatively short but gave a good  hands-on experience of why and how to apply design thinking approach in innovation processes.

Various visual design thinking models are like recipes for novel practitioners. It does not matter which model you choose, they all pave the way by reminding of the most important principles like human centeredness, collaboration, experimentation, visualization and holistic perspective. Although the models are structured in sequenced phases, proposing suitable tools and methods for each phase, they are all iterative in nature. Usually there are repetitive and successive stages of divergence and convergence embedded in each phase, implemented through different tools. In the end, it is important to know why, when and how to apply each tool – once you get familiar with practice you will learn how to get the best out of each situation or challenge.

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With Katja Tschimmel we plunged into practice by applying the model, the Evolution 62 ( E.62), she and her colleagues have developed at Mindshake, a Portuguese creative and design thinking consultancy (www.mindshake.pt) All the templates of the E.62 model are of common goods and downloadable at https://www.pinterest.pt/mindshakept/

From Katja I also learned many useful insights for real life workshops: for example, how quantity turns into quality when producing original ideas, or how visualization is the way to test and turn abstract ideas more tangible.  As I am looking for a deeper understanding and ability to enhance design thinking also at an organizational level, I picked Idris Mootee’s Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation (2013) from the course’s selective books list to support these practical lessons from classroom. I was assured by the back cover promise for the reader to learn (among other things) “How to create a design thinking culture within your company”.  I was looking for some kind of guidelines, a pathway for how to initiate design thinking culture in an organization.

For me, Mootee’s (2013) book is a guidebook for understanding why design thinking approach is vital for the survival in today’s unpredictable and ever-changing markets. Mootee (2013) shows how old management techniques and s systems, searching for answers from the past or trying to predict change with almost a scientific rigor, all fail to preserve value or competitive edge, not to mention their failure in creating any new ones. He stresses that we all must accept ambiguity and prepare ourselves for a variety of possible futures. Design thinking approach can help organizations become more agile in recognizing new possibilities and taking advantage of emerging niches. It calls for a pervasive design thinking culture of collaboration, inclusiveness and curiosity where also trial and error are embraced. By listing eight crucial challenges businesses face today and then pinpointing design thinking features that best serve tackling those challenges, Mootee (2013) provides a valuable vocabulary for selling the approach also to business managers.

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Design thinking creates innovation through balance. Picture from Mootee (2013, 33).

As a design thinking novice I was curious how Tim Brown (2008) would approach the subject and completed my course reading with his Design Thinking article published in Harvard Business Review. Brown (2008) manages to clarify practical principles and opening the strategic possibilities through a few intriguing examples. He explores Thomas Edison work to remind us the basics of design thinking and innovation: hard work, collaboration, combining knowledge, learning from setbacks and understanding what other people need in their lives. Correcting nurses’ time-consuming shift change and information exchange illustrates how applying design thinking can result in meaningful improvements for all stakeholders. Japanese manufacturer of bicycle components facing market decline recognized a completely new market segment after researching beyond assumed markets. India’s Aravind Eye Care System shows how systemic approach and a strong human-centered mission can solve the challenges in heterogeneous context with e.g. vast cultural and economic differences, where one solution does not work for all.

All three, our dive into design thinking practice in class sessions with Katja Tschimmel, review on business challenges by Idris Mootee (2013) and exploration of real life cases with Tm Brown (2008) have given me inspiration and courage to take the next needed steps to become a practicing design thinker.

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Visualizing the solution: Study Buddy. The storyboard has always 3, 6, or 9 squares (Tschimmel 2019) and the a story should always follow the narrative structure consisting of the beginning, the middle and the end (Mootee 2013, 88).

References:

Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf

Mootee, I. 2013. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School: Wiley.

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking. [lectures]. Held on 6-7 September. Laurea Univesity of Applied Sciences.

Design Process Three Ways

By Salla Kuuluvainen

I participated in Dash Design – an event that was preparation for Europe’s largest hackathon DASH.
In Dash Design we heard from three companies and their take on design process: Smartly.io, Pentagon Design and Iittala.

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What became quite clear at the event was that the design process can look very different and still be creative, effective and produce great results. At Smartly.io, the process is very well defined and clear structures exist. Same could be said about Pentagon Design, who brought an example of rebranding licorice for Fazer. At Iittala, there was no structured process, instead the new designs were created with a much looser approach of experimentation.

Designing with Clear Roadmaps at Smartly

Smartly.io helps companies with automatized online marketing solutions. It’s a fast paced tech company that prides in innovating fast. Smartly has a very clearly defined roadmap for product development, with a clever side process for more experimental innovation. All solutions are created close to the customer and tested internally and externally.

3 takeaways from Smartly

• Everyone at the company is involved in the design process, not just designers.
• Rapid prototyping and early release of new features is crucial.
• It’s important to work very close to the customer.

Deep Diving with Pentagon Design

Pentagon Design is a consultancy that helped a very well known, old Finnish company Fazer in rebranding some of their most classic licorice products very successfully towards a more premium category product. Pentagon Design used a very thought through approach that was based on the Double Diamond and included lots of testing with customers and feedback, and for example a process called Deep Dive that investigated the environments and user and even employee perspectives of the products in thorough manner.

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An example of Pentagon Design’s analytical approach to design process

3 takeaways from Pentagon Design

• For a design agency, it’s good to have a strong, tried out framework for the design process, which can even be adapted to the client company’s own processes.
• It’s important to let the customers in the design process from early phases to get the right feedback.
• The design team should have the right mixture of competences.

Experimenting at Iittala

Iittala is known for every Finn, it is a very traditional interior design brand. Jeremiah Teslin from Iittala talked about the different approaches he had used when rebranding and redesigning some of Iittala’s established product categories.

Personally for me it was interesting how much Teslin talked about needing to convince the organization to support the new designs, and how he used visual rebranding, creation of attractive images of the new products and setting up spaces to showcase the products as well as organized different kinds of internal innovation events to create engagement in the company for the new products. So in a way the design process for him was much more about change management than just about coming up with new products.

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An example of visualization of products

3 takeaways from Iittala

• Work with the right people.
• Make the ideas visible and tangible for the whole company.
• Facilitate behavior change with design: We don’t need new mugs, instead we need better coffee moments.

Generally what all of these three companies had was passion and awareness for the process of design, even if they worked in quite different areas and with different kinds of tools and methods. That enthusiasm is also my main takeaway from the event!

Turning Thoughts into IDEAS: Learning to innovate

The learning journey started at Laurea with course facilitator and lecturer Katja Tschimmel by deep diving in to the course “Design thinking”. This course is one of the foundation stones for the Master Degree Program in Service Innovation and Design.

This blog gives insights about the learning experience that encountered during this course and also to share my thoughts about related material.

During last few years, design thinking has contributed the innovation process and facilitated it by introducing tools and supporting theory which has gained great appreciation from research communities worldwide. During the intensive two days sessions, this course has given an opportunity to learn a professional and structured approach to complex problem solving techniques.

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Design Thinking tends to develop and nurture sightfull thinking into innovative idea. It is focused on human thinking and proposes human centered approach that develops empathy for the target group and observe behaviors. The most differentiating aspect of design thinking is that it promotes interdisciplinary collaboration and targets the main project and its solution rather than highlighting the complexities or problems.

There is a wide a variety of models under the umbrella of Design Thinking that have been developed over passage of time. One eye catching fact that I learnt was that customer’s journey is unique for every individual customer and it cannot be generalized.

Mind shake innovation & design thinking model EVOLUTION 62 by “Katja Tschimmel

We started in a group of five students and defined goal was to attract international students to Laurea.2

The first step, Emergence involves creation of Opportunity Mind Map(OMM) which represents the visual organization of available information. We, as a group, visualized the thoughts. They key thing was to “draw as much as you can”.

 

 

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Empathy, Stakeholder map (SM) is made for better visual illustration of prepared for visual of individual’s project relationship. It focuses on the network we are connected to. The important part is that it considers another person sees the process with perspective that is different from yours.

 

4Experimentation, focuses on idea generation and testing with the help of tools of “Brainsketching”. this steps provide practical ideas and gives new but firm and meaningful direction.

 

 

 

 

Elaboration, this step involved creation of prototype. In our case, we used Legos to showcase the idea which was mainly concentrated on the fact that Laurea has close ties with the industries, so promoting practical education that is key to build a better world.

 

7Exposition, at this stage vision statement is made which focuses and spread the results in verbal-visual way that helps in catching wider audiences by effective communication. In our case, we promoted Laurea as centre for experiential education which serves to promote innovative and practical knowledge to its students.

 

 

 

Conclusion, in my opinion design thinking provides you with the tools and roadmap that helps in evoking creativity and generate innovative ideas. On key lesson that I learnt from the sessions is that only thing that keeps you away from being innovative is the lack of creative confidence.

More information:

Brown, Tim 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf

Van Wulfen, Gijs 2013. The innovation expedition – a visual toolkit to start innovation. Amsterdam: BIS Publishers.

E.62 MindShake toolkit

Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience.Barcelona.

http://www.academia.edu/1906407/Design_Thinking_as_an_effective_Toolkit_for_Innovation

 

 

Where is the Groan Zone in Design Thinking?

By Salla Kuuluvainen

Abductive thinking is a skill crucial for Design thinkers. It refers to being able to stay analytical and emphatic, rational and emotional, methodical and intuitive, oriented by plans and constraints, but spontaneous at the same time (Tschimmel 2012,3). We practiced our best capability in abductive thinking in a two-day workshop with Katja Tschimmel, learning a process for Design Thinking called E6 developed in her company Mindshake.

Trust the Process – There Will Be One Solution at the End!

As facilitator I have worked quite a while with enabling better collaboration in teams. In the workshop I paid special attention to the process of divergent and convergent thinking, which is very important in creating new ideas – divergent meaning the space where we create new ideas and convergent the space where we make decisions and prioritize on the ideas. Tim Brown (2009, 68), explains that as design thinker it is important to have the rhythm of divergent and convergent spaces, and with each iteration arrive at a result that is less broad and more detailed than the previous iterations.

I have worked with the Double Diamond process for quite a while, and I was fascinated about the level nuance in the Tschimmel’s E6 process in regards of convergence and divergence, which in this process were simply not only seen as phases in the process but as qualities of the different tools. I found this approach allowed for a very in-depth process.

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The Classical Double Diamond model – only two iterations with divergence/convergence.

I liked how different forms of prototyping were present in different phases of the process, not only at the end, and how prototyping could also be a generative, divergent tool for expanding on the idea. In our group I noticed very clearly the value of our prototype in not only showcasing the consept, but also in expanding the idea, by working with our hands and thinking at the same time.

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Our first prototype allowed for lots of discussion and expanding on the idea.

Better brainstorming is what every creative team needs

Some more detailed observations in regards to creativity were Katja Tschimmel’s instructions to brainstorming, which I found great. Often the problem with brainstorming is that ideas have a very different level of detail: some are on very high level and vague, others very specific and almost ready concepts.

Often the problem in the Double Diamond method is that we tend to loose the more detailed ideas in the process of clustering ideas under bigger headlines. But in the Mindshake process the vague ideas were developed further and semantically confronted with other ideas to have more detail.

I noticed that we did not end up in the famous Groan Zone, which lies somewhere between the convergent and divergent zones of process, where the group experiences feelings close to despair and has a very hard time finding their way forwards in the process. Even if some facilitators claim that Groan Zone is natural appearance in every process and can indeed produce some of the best solutions, I as facilitator try to minimize it in the processes I facilitate, since I feel that with the right tools the groups can often avoid it.

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I think that the reason why the process felt easy was the fluctuation between divergent and convergent – in most cases people feel at ease on one area of the process but not the other, and now they were allowed to find their comfort zone in many phases of the process.

I still think I have some personal journey ahead to become a full Abductive Design Thinker, but this workshop was a great start on the path of creativity and collaboration.

References:

Brown, T. 2009. Change by Design. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

Tschimmel, K. 2012.  Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In:
Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Practical Design Thinking – Power of Fast Prototyping

The Course in Practical Design Thinking at Laurea was definitely a wow-moment. After two days of practicing design thinking we left inspired and empowered to take a new look of our life and work challenges. It f I would to choose the most powerful powerful tool I learned during this course it would be rapid prototyping.

What Fast Prototyping really is ?

Fast prototyping is a method often used by designers in Elaboration Phase (Tschimmel, K. 2012) or in Ideation Phase (Brown, T.,  2008)

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Tim Brown calls rapid prototyping ‚Building to Think’ (Brown, T., 2009) . According to Brown, prototypes are ‚quick and dirty’ way to generate understanding and access idea feasibility faster. Prototypes should consume only as much time and effort and investment as it is necessary to obtain the valuable feedback.

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How to Prototype?

Both mentioned authors give examples of different technologies/solutions for rapid prototyping. From Lego, paper, to 3D digital visualisation and mobile app mockup software. Some of these technologies are especially useful when designing services. Prototyping allows to act out the end-to-end service in order to make sure that designers will be able unlock the additional insights by transitioning back and forth in between theoretical and physical models.

High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity Prototyping

In the literature we can find an ongoing debate on high vs low fidelity prototyping. The authors argue  how much the prototype should resemble the final product (Walker et al 2002).

  • „Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and do not allow user interactions.  They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts.  In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create. Low-fidelity prototypes are helpful in enabling early visualisation of alternative design solutions, which helps provoke innovation and improvement. An additional advantage to this approach is that when using rough sketches, users may feel more comfortable suggesting changes.
  • High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based, and usually allow realistic (mouse-keyboard) user interactions. High-fidelity prototypes take you as close as possible to a true representation of the user interface. High-fidelity prototypes are assumed to be much more effective in collecting true human performance data (e.g., time to complete a task), and in demonstrating actual products to clients, management, and others.”

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A good balance of low cost and representation is a essential if we want to fully benefit from the power of prototyping.

10 prototyping Principles

Prototyping might seem simple, however to make it useful it’s good to know the basic rules. Alex Osterwalder his book „Value Proposition Design” (2014) gives us 10 principles of prototyping.

  1. Make it visual and tangible – moving from conceptual to physical in at the very essence of prototyping
  2. Embrace beginners Mind – don’t let existing knowledge to limit you.
  3. Don’t fall in love with the first ideas, create alternatives instead
  4. Feel comfortable in liquid state
  5. Start with lo fidelity and refine – avoid refined prototypes as they are difficult to throw away
  6. Expose work early – seek criticism. Don’t take negative feedback personally, embrace it as valuable information to improve the model.
  7. Learn faster by failing early often and cheaply. Avoid fear of fear of failure as it is holding you from exploring new territories.
  8. Use creativity techniques to break out of how things are usually done in your company
  9. Create „Shrek Models” – extreme prototypes not for building, buy igniting discussion
  10. Track learnings, insights and progress.  You might use them later in the process.

Prototyping in practice 

The course allowed us to unveil the power of prototyping ourselves by puting theory into practice. While designing a new learning experience at Laurea that would transform a school into world-renowned institution we found the fast prototyping with Lego extremely useful. Our low fidelity model represented a new Laurea education experience. We tried not to hold back to current physical structural limitations of campus and be comfortable with a liquid state of gradually refining the model. Exposing the work to our fellow students was especially revealing. It was hard not to discuss the feedback but to take it and use for model improvement.  Rapid prototyping once again proved itself to be a powerful way to transform ideas and deliver solutions.

Osterwalder, A. et all (2014) Value Proposition Design, Wiley 


Brown, T. and Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.


Walker, M. Takayama, L., & Landay, J. A. (2002). Low- or high-fidelity, paper or computer? Choosing attributes when testing web prototypes. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES 2002, USA, 661-665.


Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona. 


Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. June, pp. 84-92


https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/prototyping.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Design Thinking Models to Help You in Your Project

by Miikka Paakkinen

Design in a business context looks to answer two questions: what problems are your customers facing, and how might we solve those problems while providing the best possible experience? Design thinking models can help you in your quest for the answers. Along the way, they might also assist you in asking better questions and finding the biggest underlying problems worth solving.

In this blog post, I will introduce three design thinking models that offer free toolkits for you to use.

Why does design thinking work?

 

 

Before going to the models though, let’s take a quick look at what design thinking can do for you.

Continue reading

Utopia or Dystopia? How is the Future Looking like in Service Design?

By Salla Kuuluvainen
I recently attended two events which made me think about futures thinking and it’s relation to service design and innovation. Innovation, by definition, is an act that reaches towards the future, and and engages the innovator in creating a future that may be something they wish for.. or not. How can we as innovators and service designers engage in creating those desirable futures?

50 years from 1968

I attended an event in Tiedekulma where the year 1968 was discussed. I went there, not because my studies of service design, but because I’m interested in changing the world, and when younger, also identified as an activist. One of the speakers, Johanna Vuorelma, a historian, claimed that politics in today’s world no longer are utopistic. In 1968 there was a real sense of trying to build a better, different world from previous’ generations’ with a World War and its horrors.

I could agree on that. The revolutionaries and activists of today no longer reach for a desirable future, instead they try to preserve something of old: a somewhat habitable planet or a shred of human rights, or a homeland that looks like in 1950`s if they are active in the conservative movements. So activism today may look like the same thing as
in the crazy year of 1968, but actually the drivers and motivators behind the actions may be very different.

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Futurist as Designer

Another event I attended during Helsinki Design Week was Futures Talks, organized by Futures Specialists Helsinki. In the event we heard many different ideas and scenarios for future, some more positive than others. The idea that impacted me the most had to do with design thinking. The organizers discussed the idea of designing our futures, meaning that studies of the futures thinking is not just a passive act of trying predict what will happen – instead a we should see how each of our actions and choices creates the future in this very moment.
In conclusion of these two events I thought that maybe utopistic thinking does not happen in the realm of activism and politics anymore, but that sometimes more optimism and positive energy for change can be found around events that discuss design and innovation. Our final task at the event by FSH was to create a future wall with post-it notes about our personal utopias, dystopias or protopias – protopia meaning a world that is better by a small, achievable change. Maybe Service Design is actually just about that – creating a protopia for our everyday lives.

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From nobody to creative designer

One Friday morning 28 students from different backgrounds sat down in a classroom at Laurea. At least as I know, majority of these people, had no or just little experience on designing, rather the opposite. The journey from nobody to be a designer had begun.

For long we have lived in a world where we have categorized people to either be creative or not.  As Tom and David Kelley state in their book Creative Coffidence, creative people were considered to be artists, architects, designers etc. Others should stay in their tightly described boxes and at least stay as far away from marketing or product development as possible. Tom and David call this “The creative myth”, which we, brave new students, were about to break.

As the world is changing into more and more complex, we need more creativity and ideas. Traditional way of creating things is just not enough anymore. Our lecturer Katja Tscimmel well pointed out; “just look around in your everyday living. Is there anyone more creative than a mon trying to get the kicking kid into kindergarten. Or have you ever realized how many variations of food you can make from yesterday’s leftovers.” How could we harness this everyday creativity to serve a bigger purpose?  The key is in mindset change.IMG_4140

Tim Brown stated already 2008 in Harvard Business Reviews article, that by changing the way we think, we can transform the way the business and the world is developed.  Creativity in business context is group work. Its taking advantage of peoples’ different experiences and outlooks on life and turning it into new innovative combinations of services, products or strategies.  Thinking an ideating together, testing new ideas and being able to think outside the given box is in the core of coming up with new ideas and innovations.

As we, new students at Laurea, were given our first task to innovate new student services, I was sceptic. Would we ever come up with any ideas or anything we would ever dear to show someone else? By letting go of the need for control or knowing the end results before even starting the work and just trusting the process, we dived into a fun, inspiring and in the end very creative group work.

Tim Brown listed some personality features needed to be design thinker and this how those showed in our case. We had to let go of our deep beliefs and step into the end users’ shoes. “What are the problems exchange student face?” Empathy combined with ability to use integrative thinking was critical. The use of “what if”, “How Could we” and “furthermore” took us forward in your thinking and in your ideation process. We had to stay optimistic and experiment things, as the clock was ticking. If it didn’t work, fail fast, take the next idea and be willing to start over if needed.

In the end of very inspiring two days we had internalized the design thinking idea, tested many creative DT tools and  created several new services to improve exchange students stay in Finland. Pretty well from “nobodies”   😉

I am on a path to somewhere! by Annamarja Paloheimo

Two days of learning by doing, experimenting, prototyping, role playing and presenting under the tutelage of Katja Tschimmel has certainly guided me on a path to something new.

Katja put her research into work as she introduced the Evolution 6 -Innovation & Design Thinking Model to us. In the model 36 different tools are introduced with the purpose of guiding us through the innovation process from identifying the challenge to presenting and implementing the solution. We worked through nine tools and created a presentable solution to the identified challenge.

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During the workshop it was comforting to understand that creativity and design is all about listening to customers, understanding their needs and getting feedback. Based on these observations and with the help of Design Thinking tools in an organized, interactive and iterative manner it is possible to transform existing conditions to something better.

After this experience it is easy to agree with Katja Tschimmel that Design Thinking methodology and tools are an effective way to find new perspectives, make sense of various phenomena affecting life around us and to innovate.

Design Thinking methodology and tools make the innovation process understandable, workable and approachable. The tools give a framework to work within, and the rules and assignments related to each tool will guide us to the next step on the process. With the help of the process and the tools the outcome is likely to be desirable, feasible and viable.

The two-day workshop with Katja Tschimmel gave me two true learning experiences.

First was understanding the value of listening to feedback. In order to benefit from feedback, it is necessary to have an open mind and understand that there is no need to defend the work, but to listen. Feedback gives an opportunity to improve the quality of the work. Feedback is a gift.

Second is the importance of presentation and visualization.Every solution or new product needs to be sold; both to the end-user but also to the organization producing it. Ideas need to be pitched to management and boards. In pitching the idea visualization and the presentation of the idea is a key to success. The pitch needs to be comprehensive but short, descriptive but simple and easy to digest both visually and verbally.

Gijs van Wulfen’s approach in presentation is very appealing. He recommends the usage of Business Model Canvas. It is a clear, strategic, commercial, professional and financial plan for a new initiative. By making a business case of the new initiative the persuasiveness of the case gets stronger as it highlights the strategic, commercial and financial aspects of the plan. In business context the initiative must always either increase revenue or decrease costs.

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After the work-shop I truly feel that I am on a path to somewhere. I like the idea of structured thought process and the tools to support it. I like the usage of analogies and semantic confrontations in the process. I am convinced that quick prototyping, roleplay and feedback will increase the quality of the outcome. Finally, it all boils down to presentation and storytelling. Doesn’t everyone just love a good story?

Learnings from Facilitation-as-a-Service

I had a possibility to facilitate three workshops for two different projects (2 ws + 1 ws) in this spring. The projects were related to improve empathy in health care, facing the patients and their relatives in new ways and find development ideas in the workspace. The participants of workshops were personnel and students of health care. I was a “hired” facilitator for these workshops with my fellow students. While still learning the magics of facilitation, I would like to share my early key findings and learnings. These findings are from my perspective and do not form any comprehensive list. I had no former background from health care at all. The workshops located in a hospital and a health centre premises in Helsinki, Finland.

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Keep the focus

The most important thing to start when planning a workshop, whom contents and themes are not familiar to you, is that you need to understand the target of the project and this specific workshop. To have a workshop is not the reason itself, it should create something valuable. Ask targets from different perspectives, clarify them to yourself and make sure, that you have understood right. And make sure that the subscriber of the facilitation, the person who has hired you, understands you. Actually, it is not so important to understand the subject matter (for example the daily life of a hospital department).

Choose right methods and language

When the target is clear to you, choose right methods and tools for the workshop. You need to understand the backgrounds and expectations of participants. A lot can be done in few hours’ workshop, but too much is too much. Always. What are the things which can or need to be done in advance? For example, in my cases, the basis work was done by health care students. Source material for the workshops were personas and stories. It was quite easy to start with those.

We modified the name of the methods. Customer journey paths were used in workshops, but we used a word “patient path” instead of “customer journey”. Respectively, the empathy map was called “emotion path”. It would have been nice to ask the participants to create an idea portfolio, but we asked participants to prioritize ideas like picking up “pearls”.

Timing, timing, timing…

A big part of planning was the scheduling of the workshops. It was important to imagine the whole workshop from the very beginning to the end. How much time is needed for introduction of the agenda and facilitators? How many breaks are needed? How much time needs each new method or part of the workshop? And their instructions? Still, you need to make the schedule slightly flexible – some surprises happen always! One tiny thing, which can totally ruin your wonderfully planned schedule is the IT-equipment of the premises. Please ensure beforehand, that your laptop fits to displays and other devices. Be prepared for that nothing works except papers and pens. Have a lot of those!

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And finally…

After all careful planning, take a deep breath and relax. Everything will go well – and if not, invent quickly something! Remember the target and find to way to achieve it. Good luck 😊

 Author of the blog is Pia Rytilahti, MBA candidate at Laurea University of Applied Science