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Waste does not exist

Many companies are facing the challenge of changing their linear business into a circular one. How to do that and at the same time gain more customers, loyal to your business? How to make this necessary change into a win-win situation for all stakeholders? And the bottom line: how to make sustainability into profitable business?  

Designers and innovators from three countries, Finland, Estonia and Sweden discussed circular design and transition to more sustainable living in an online workshop called Speed up transition with Circular Design on 29 March 2021. The webinar was organized by Design Forum Finland, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation (SVID) and Estonian Design Center. The seminar was part of the Eco-design Circle 4.0, an international project with the purpose to strengthen awareness and practical application of circular design and to enhance the capability of small and medium-size enterprises to make use of eco-design.

It is not only about recycling

While the linear business is based on the idea of “take, make, waste”, a truly circular economy relies on the notion that each step throughout the entire life cycle of a product or service is reviewed against a set of circularity criteria.

For many goods and materials, sufficient infrastructure exists for recycling them. But not for all. For example, there are no industry standards defining composition for plastics, and plastic goods are also added other substances to provide or improve performance characteristics. This makes their recycling very complex. Hence, the circular economy is not only about recycling the materials, but also keeping what we have already processed viable and in use for as long as possible, and reusing what we’ve already extracted and processed.

Picture: Picture: Michael Kirschner. https://www.eetimes.com/from-linear-to-circular-product-cycle

In circular economy, all materials should circulate and the circular loops should be as closed as possible, not allowing leaks of usable materials. Every time the loop leaks, you lose value. In a perfect circular economy, waste simply does not exist. Before recycling the materials of the product, we should try to find ways of using the waste product in an efficient manner. Thinking innovatively, this “waste” can be valuable material for either your own company, or to some other organization.

During the webinar the main areas of circular design and the benefits of using it were discussed. The participants were provided with tips on critical parts of the process, and a few tools to make one`s business become circular were presented. The most inspiring part of the seminar was the presentation of case examples from different industries that concretized the topic providing us first-hand experiences of the journeys that organizations had taken to become more circular.

From Product Thinking to Service Thinking

Astonishingly, 80 % of the environmental impact of a product is already determined in the stage of its design. Hence, it is very important that designers are familiar with the principles and possibilities of eco-design and circular economy. The first thing to do is to ask: do we really need this product or service? If the answer is positive, we have to make sure to give longer life to products – designing from the beginning how to make sure the product stays longer in use. In short, we need more service thinking instead of product thinking.

When designing new products or services, the materials should be selected so that their impact on the sustainability (environmental, climate, social etc.) can be minimized.

The distribution and packaging are another major issue when defining the sustainability of the product or service. It goes without saying that light weight helps reduce CO2 emissions. It is worth optimizing and designing well the delivery and packaging. An example given by SVID`s Project Manager Anna Velander Gisslen was about Kinnarps which managed to reduce their transport needs by 50 %, using old blankets in the packaging.

Service design thinking is a key strategy into circularity. Co-creation in the design process helps identifying the needs and possible ways of becoming sustainable. What should you prioritize, what areas are the most critical ones in your business, and how to measure change and impact? Participating in a design sprint, or other type of eco-design co-creation forum will provide insights on how individual companies can start to implement circularity, and what must change to achieve its widespread adoption and implementation in the company.

The importance of analyzing thoroughly customers` ideas, hopes and expectations was raised by several speakers. Going circular is not only about the company; it`s even more about its customers. Circular solutions should be user-tested and gain true user attraction. They should not be solutions that are OK: they should be the most desired solutions for both the customers and the company. Co-design is possible also through virtual means (Zoom, Teams etc.). Hence, it pays back to put time and resources to a proper co-creation in the design process.

Tools

Strengthening the circularity is not something you are expected to do alone. Guides and tools are available. The Design Forum of Finland has used a set of tools with organizations aspiring to become circular. These include for example Eco-design learning factory, Eco-design audit and Eco-design sprints. In addition, there are tools and services that help organizations to create strategy roadmaps, certification systems to guarantee circularity, and marketing and communication tools to tell the customers about the perspectives and steps taken. According to Aino Vepsäläinen from DFF, in the beginning the focus was more on products, while lately it has been mainly on services.

Design Forum has implemented several design sprints on circular design. The sprints usually involve coach, a client company and a design agency. Eco-design Sprints usually consist of 3 phases: Understand, Ideate, and Deliver. Understanding phase may include identification of the lifecycle of the product or service, circular value mapping, context analysis, and discovering possible circular strategies. Delivery phase normally comes a couple of weeks later and includes identification of next steps.

According to Estonian Strategic Designer Joel Kotsjuba, key takeaways from eco-design sprints are that they provide good ground understanding of circular design (its theory, concepts, strategies and methodologies), build momentum for change, find key opportunities, help engage decision-making structures, allow constructing a follow-up plan, give insights into implementation, provide numerous ideas to improve customer and employee satisfaction, and help in evaluating and selection of first ideas for testing. These small wins and proofs of concept will help “selling” the idea further.

The New Normal

One third of all food produced globally is thrown away, and the impact of food waste is 4 times greater than the impact of all flights in the world combined. These were some of the facts that inspired a group of young Swedes to create a company that focuses on reducing food waste. Through their Karma mobile application restaurants, cafés and grocery stores can sell their waste food. While helping them to sell the waste, Karma also advises companies on how much to produce. Less production means less waste. By now, Karma has rescued over 1,200 tonnes of food, saved more than 4 million meals and eliminated over 1,800 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Another concrete example of circular economy initiative came from Helsinki city. Think Sustainably is a new service that lets users select service providers that are committed to responsible operations. It helps consumers prioritise sustainable services and thereby motivates a wide range of different actors and service providers to focus on sustainable ways of doing business. This online tool covers services, transport and experiences: restaurants, accommodation, events, shops etc. There are now 130 companies participating in this initiative, and the criteria for circularity is a “fits all” model – the companies are committed to doing changes that require long-term commitment but are not extremely difficult to implement.

Changing linear business into a circular one must have tangible impact and at the same time be profitable. To be truly sustainable means being sustainable also economically. There`s a remarkable business value for companies to find and commit to new sustainable solutions. Companies have constant fight over consumers` time and money and by becoming more circular they will improve their competitiveness. From the consumer point of view, sustainable choices must be easily embedded in their daily life. Sustainability has to be effortless. As Karma puts it: “You can now save the planet by doing the simplest thing on earth. Eating.

Laura Ekholm

More information can be found:

EcoDesign Circle 4.0: https://www.ecodesigncircle.eu

Karma Sweden: https://karma.life

Think Sustainably Helsinki: https://www.myhelsinki.fi/en/think-sustainably

Game changers

I just finished watching the “TEDxHultLondon 2021: Game Changers” event that you could also follow in an AR environment! This was an independently organized TED event by Hult International Business School. The event focuses on breakthroughs and innovations and invites very inspiring speakers to present their perspectives on a collective topic.

This was actually my very first TED event. I have, however, seen some individual TED talks on YouTube and other platforms. But following a live event and watching something afterwards has a different feel to it.

The pace of the event was quick, so I really hope I was able to catch the key takeaways. There were six speakers: Raj Balandusadam, Trudi West, Ranu Sharma, Max Klymenko, Michelle Li, and Gleb Tritus. I will only give a little insight into Raj’s and Gleb’s speeches, keeping this blog post as compact as possible.

Raj Balandusadam presented the topic “Can AI save the planet?”. He built a story around a cheap shirt, and that “cheap always comes at a high cost”.

His speech concentrated on how AI can help us understand what we really need. Manufacturers, retailers, and distributors could use the information AI gatherers to produce and sell only what is needed, thus reducing waste and pollution. In addition to this, AI can learn what style we like, what actually fits and suits us best, and predict what we will need in future.

Also, we need information that will help us towards the right and sustainable choices. In Finland, we don’t have traffic light labels, but personally, when visiting the UK, they have impacted my food choices.

Source: British nutrition foundation

Raj presents an idea that this traffic light system would be used in a much broader context, such as the fashion industry. Just imagine when buying a simple piece of garment, such as a t-shirt or pair of socks, you’d have choices from Green, which is good for the planet, Yellow, which has a caution, or Red, which is not good for a planet. Which one would you choose?

Gleb Tritus, with the topic “Travel and mobility after the storm”, presents 3 examples that could influence the next game-changers in the mobility industry.

The first, due to COVID-19, we are adapting to the new normal. Through this new normal, there are massive technological advances. Travel and mobility industries need to adapt and reinvent themselves and their offerings to this new normal.

The second is that we need to utilize existing systems better. With the help of digital innovation, we can make current systems more efficient.

The third and last example was about understanding that consumers have changed. In just a few years, all of us will have a digital footprint. But unfortunately, in the current state, the travel and mobility industry still fails to utilize digital information to satisfy our needs because the industry in itself is very complex and consists of many parts.

Gleb concluded his speech with future foresight:

  • Soon, we might travel by air taxis.
  • There will be more autonomous vehicles.
  • We will substitute a lot of travelling through digitalization. A great example was the event itself.

I highly recommend watching the entire event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbTvmyaX8Io

Post by: Tereza Dickson
Current Topics in Service Design.

Designing a better life

South Africa remains among the world`s most inequal countries. High inequality is perpetuated by a legacy of exclusion, and the economic growth does not contribute to diminishing poverty and generating new, decent jobs. Inequality in wealth is striking: the richest 10% of the population held around 71% of net wealth in 2015, while the bottom 60% held 7% of it. Furthermore, inequalities are passed down from generation to generation with little change in inequality over time. (Worldbank.) The structural inequality and exclusion lead up to more fear and less trust among the citizens, and less participation in the community.

How does design fit in a reality, where so many people lack even the basic services: water, energy, shelter, food, sanitation, health care, transport and education?

Picture: getinstantdeals.com

This question was explored by Head of Department and Senior Lecturer at the Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg South Africa, Angus Donald Campbell, as the keynote speaker in Studia Generalia lecture “Designing with the Underserved: An Exploration of the Complexities of Design in South Africa from the perspective of the SDGs” organized by the Finnish Design Academy on 17 November, 2020.

A time of crisis and protests contains within it the seeds for transformation and change. According to Campbell, philosophical and practical re-design of the society is possible in South Africa. While many feel helpless, small and collaborative interventions of change are needed.

Local and sustainable innovations can play a key role in the path towards the United Nation`s Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs. Reaching high-minded and noble goals does not always mean million-euro budgets or heavy structures. Instead, a locally and culturally sensitive approach, combined with an immersion into the life of people can help the researcher or designer understand the small everyday challenges people face and thus identify appropriate opportunities to improve the quality of life in big scale.

“My face isn’t designed for glasses!” 

This was an exclamation of one project participant in a project that Angus Campbell`s student Marcha Naudè implemented during 2017-19. It reflects the way how underserved and excluded people, but also people living a middle-class life in European countries, can perceive services: they should fit the services, and not the other way round. Should eye-glasses be designed for the people, or people`s faces be designed for glasses?

Poor eye-sight often causes other problems, such as weak performance at school or work, difficulties in reading, doing manual work, driving etc. These in turn can deepen the exclusion and inequality. In South Africa, the challenges within the eye-care services include lack of sufficient private and public eye care services, and eyewear frames that do not consider the contextual needs. The majority of available eyewear frames are imported and most of them come from one monopoly organisation, which designs eyewear from a predominantly Eurocentric perspective. For example, there are currently only two types of eyewear fit, the “regular” fit, based on European facial data, and the “Asian” or “global” fit, which was developed in reaction to the inappropriateness of the “regular” fit. (Campbell 2020.)

Picture: ISTOCK/UBERIMAGES

However, the wide ethnic variety of people in South Africa caused that neither the “regular” fit nor the “global” fit suited well the facial features of huge numbers of south Africans. The nose pad did not sit well on the nose, the frame width was incorrect or the arm length was too short or too long. Improper fitment causes discomfort and leads to blurry vision and long-term vision problems. (Campbell 2020.)

The project focused on trying to solve the problem with frames, applying human-centered design. Naudè conducted a comprehensive field research about the needs and challenges concerning eyesight among the deprived groups. The needs of glasses wearers in local context were analyzed. The final outcome of the project was an adaptable and customatized eyewear frame that was of local design, could be produced locally and fit well the common facial features of local people. Local production helped make the frames more affordable.

Picture: United Nations

This well-focused design project shows the way in which small but smart interventions at local level can achieve visible (literally!) results at the lives of local communities, and at the same time help the country reach the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations. This particular case contributed to the SDG 3 (Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages) and 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries).

When solutions to local problems are identified, they can be scaled up. A similar design research approach could be applicable in a number of countries in the Global South.

Laura Ekholm

More information can be found:

Campbell, A.D. Adaptable Glasses.  https://www.angusdonaldcampbell.com/project/glasses/

United Nations. The 17 goals. https://sdgs.un.org/goals

Worldbank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/southafrica/overview

Aligning strategic foresight in large organizations – Workshop at SDGC

During the Service Design Global Conference (SDGC) arranged in October, a workshop was held around facilitating future visions in large organizations. One of the goals was to learn how to support company empowerment involving leadership in the design process. A secondary task was to demonstrate suitable tools for aligning discussion and to synthesize focus areas. 

The workshop was facilitated by two experienced service designers, Marcela Machuca (Nordea, Denmark) and Aleksandra Kozawska (BBVA, Spain), but also involved 30 participants from companies in different industries, countries and cultures. These experts, with a various spread of competences, actively contributed through co-creation and discussion. As an introduction, the facilitators thoroughly explained main concepts and rules of the session to handle expectations. They clearly stated that this would be a co-working session rather than a lecture.

As the conference was arranged entirely online, Miro had been selected as a platform for collaboration. To get familiar with other participants and Miro as a tool, a simple first task was to show personal superpowers (traits) in a visualization, including texts around our interests and competences. 

After the introduction, two key tools were introduced; Strategic GPS and Future Scenarios.  

Strategic GPS was explained as a tool to navigate and understand strategies (goals) of a company and to compare contrasts. By comparing radical opposites, the tool gives views on how a firm can develop its services and prepare for potential market (and industry) changes. In other words, it may help companies review and align its vision in a specific direction.  

Strategic GPS used as a tool to navigate strategies of a company.
Strategic GPS can be used as a tool to navigate and understand strategies of a company.
Source: Online workshop at SDGC 2020 (Day 2)

Future scenarios on the other hand, was defined as a tool that helps synthesize and bring transparency to how a business landscape currently looks like, and how it may look in the future. Additionally, it can provoke stakeholder thinking and stimulate minds towards challenging current views of a business landscape.

To further explain these concepts, workshop participants were divided in groups to work on a case introduced by the facilitators. Both methods above, that can be applied to any business, were utilized and put to action in two assignments. For example, was our group working on a concept around supermarkets, discussing and reflecting potential opportunities and outcomes through the future scenarios tool.

Through a divergent approach, plenty of ideas were brainstormed around this assigned topic and discussed within the group. When numerous thoughts had been considered, all ideas were converged towards three main themes that were prioritized, summarized and communicated to the rest of the participants. 

Overall, the workshop session was eye-opening. Even though involved participants had no prior working experience with supermarkets, many insightful areas were touched upon. By utilizing a global network of experts and understanding emerging trends, these convenient, yet practical, tools increased our knowledge on how co-working functions in practice to develop innovations. 

Written by Thomas Djupsjö
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences 

Embracing change at the Service Design Global Conference 2020

The international community, Service Design Network (SDN), founded in 2004, arranged an online conference focusing on service design in October of 2020. The conference was planned to be held physically in Copenhagen, but due to the global pandemic, all keynotes, workshops, and other events were held online utilizing convenient tools for collaboration.

This year’s theme was embracing change, a topic strongly reflected in all presentations. Keynote speakers this year were employees of big corporations and experts in service design from different cultures, countries and time zones.

In this blog post I summarize two intriguing presentations and ponder service design trends and opportunities for value creation in companies.

Embracing change and service design today

Birgit Mager, one of the founders of the SDN community and the first Professor in Service Design globally, has attended every SDGC conference since the beginning. In a short introductory presentation, Status of Service Design Today, Mager explains current transformation in operations of companies and how the roles of service designers have changed over time. Although service designers by default are optimistic, the “new normal” (due to Covid) has largely impacted ways of work, she says.

Mager emphasizes that the important of technology substantially has grown, but the future lies in utilizing both new technology and data to create services. Currently, we already are using a lot of technology and conduct research online, but a change has happened in agencies, where e.g. data scientists are involved as new roles in service design, Mager explains.

In addition to these, ethics has been put as a focus when creating services. Other equally relevant areas are sustainability, accessibility, and participation, Mager mentions.

Designing aviation future through design

The Dutch aviation company, KLM, founded over a hundred years ago, has recently been facing challenges due to the global pandemic and how it has changed the aviation industry. The complex industry is naturally very regulated and evolves rapidly as consumers are becoming extensively environmentally aware.

In a jointed keynote, Ryanne Van De Streek, project manager at KLM, and Anouk Randag, service design consultant at Livework, presented a sample of methods through which KLM has introduced new ways to innovate and develop services.

As a company, KLM has already for some time put efforts on design and has also started design initiatives that currently are in use. KLM, however, wanted to continue developing these new methods with a goal to activate ~1500 employees, to develop competences and to involve innovation in a system by the end of 2023.

According to Randag, high impact can be created by utilizing, developing and scaling current initiatives. In her presentation and new model was presented that had been co-created iteratively within KLM as an organization.

Although KLM drastically have had to cut budgets due to Covid, Van De Streek explains that certain areas still are being put in action. For example, are their new service design principles and process (”KLM X way of working”) shared with new employees to foster agility, as this continuously is needed in their industry.

To summarize, we can conclude that although service design is quite a broad principle, it can work as a great way to develop internal working methods and sustainable business in organizations. By being open to new ideas, utilizing current competences and starting initiatives, with a focus on building custom ways to work, organizations can achieve innovation and test new business models.

Written by Thomas Djupsjö
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences 

Panel Discussion: Design Thinking – a tool to create and develop better services

Fraktio, a Finnish company crafting state of the art web applications, arranged an online panel discussion to explain and analyze Design Thinking principles. All five participants had a vast experience in designing services and contributed with practical examples on how Design Thinking had been taken in use with their customers.

Fraktio, Design Thinking
Fraktio, a Finnish software company, arranged a discussion on Design Thinking with a panel of experts in October of 2020.

To start with, Vitali Gusatinsky, who leads the design team at Fraktio, emphasized the importance of innovation and experimentation in service design. Vitali also described how renewing services from scratch, in an old-fashioned manner, many times require sizeable resources involving high risk-taking. This was the basis for the panel discussion; comprehensively looking at optional (new) ways of creating value through an iterative design process.

As a tool to develop services, Fraktio presented a five-phased model, which looks as follows:

  1. Empathize – Listen to users
  2. Define – Define and select a challenge
  3. Ideate – Create proposals
  4. Build – Build a solution
  5. Test – Show the solution to

To truly understand consumer behavior, you really need to go out there and listen to users (empathize), e.g. through semi-structured interviews. According to the panelists, it many times is needed to sell this phase to stakeholders in organizations, as people sometimes falsely think they already know what users want and need. Although user research is a powerful tool to minimize risk and wasting resources, it unfortunately still often is underestimated.

In an interview setting, however, one should focus on finding new insights rather than taking things for granted or focusing excessively on stereotypes. By challenging both yourself and the interviewee, you can validate concepts and develop new ones quite effectively. This again pushes you towards innovation together with a customer, that in a perfect world creates sustainable value for both actors.

As we know, multidisciplinary teams and co-working is a key factor in a design process and the panelists agreed on a few crucial aspects to consider. Firstly, one should closely define and analyze the challenge at hand from many perspectives. This involves collecting all types of data (current state) that supports co-creation of ideas constituting towards possible solutions.

When facilitating multidisciplinary workshops, it’s important to build an environment where participants feel like a designer. The panel ensured, that everyone can draw (sketches) and that everyone has the brainpower to produce both a variety of ideas and possible solutions. Certainly, there may occur tension and resistance in the beginning, but it’s the facilitators role to ensure everyone feels comfortable.

When a substantial amount of ideas has been produced, it’s necessary to converge; in other words, prioritize and focus on one solution to be developed as a prototype. According to Fraktio’s designers, a prototype can literally be anything and does not by any means have to be something complete. A prototype should work as “something real that evokes discussion”, preferably created as rapidly and cheap as possible. By iterating and quickly generating new, developed, prototypes for testing purposes, you’ll be able to capture feedback and help showing direction in service development.

In my opinion, it’s crucial to build a culture that allows failing and testing radical ideas. The purpose of a design process is not to be right, but rather gaining insights through a systematic approach and most importantly, creating services that create user value.

Written by Thomas Djupsjö
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences

The panel discussion was held in Finnish. Content has been translated by the author.

Resources

We are Fraktio – Fraktio (2020)
https://www.fraktio.fi/in-english

Perjantaipaneeli: Kuinka Design Thinking auttaa luomaan parempia palveluita? – Fraktio (16.10.2020)
https://www.fraktio.fi/perjantaipresikset/2020/10/16/perjantaipaneeli-kuinka-design-thinking-auttaa-luomaan-parempia-palveluita

Let’s play!

In service design you stumble sooner or later in the use of Legos. They can be used in many different ways and stages. In Global CX 2020 Day which themes this year were CHANGE, Transformation and Future of CX, one of the keynote speakers Sirte Pihlaja, CX/EX advisor, community creator and global #1 best-selling author tells on her talk “Get ready, Get serious, PLAY!” us how to use Legos and how to play, seriously!

Its is said in her introduction that Sirte Pihlaja’s purpose in life is to make people happy and happiness is also what she first talks about. She points out that for three years in a row Finland has been selected the happiest country in the world, even though even her colleagues wonder that every year. The aim of the company Shirute is anyway to make people happy.

Picture 1. The happy emoji. Photo by author.

Why happiness is then so important?

You have to be happy to deliver happiness. The atmosphere of the workplace is important and how workers feel is vital for business. If you are not feeling well, the customers won’t be neither. One of the first researchers of happiness was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who recognized and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state of mind. Flow is important cause it raises your creativity and productivity, when you are in the highest mode of concentration. And why this interests also business life is that you can achieve more in one hour during flow than in one day in normal working state of mind. It was also said that boredom is the opposite of flow.

One way to feel happiness and engagement is playing. Play is the most fundamental human learning mechanism. It helps innovate new solutions that we need in business and life over all. Or as Stuart Brown has said: Play is like oxygen, once it’s missing, you’ll know it. Pihlaja says that also businesses should be more playful, because that’s how you keep up in the competition.

How do me find new solutions?

Pihlaja also says that we are born creative but the surrounding world and education system actually makes us less creative and it has also been tested. Already in 1965, 1600 children aged 4 to 6 years were tested and it showed that 98% of them were creative, after 10 years the creativity rate had sunk to 30% and after 15 years it was only 12%. The test was repeated with one million adults and the numbers were even more crucial, only 2% of them hit the genius level on creativity (see pic 2). Or as Esa Saarinen says it, the world is full of great philosophers, it is just that most of them are about 5 years old.

Pic 2. How your creativity “evolves”. Photo by author from the slideshow.

Let´s teamplay!

Playing helps us feel connected to our group of people, while you’ll also get to know other people better and faster. Teams grow sense of belonging when playing together. Members of a organization also feel then fresh and boosted! As Amber Case says, we have become slaves to our digital devices, when people’s primary task is not to be computing but being human. And what else is more human than interaction, or play? Imagination is actually the human superpower.

How do you built playful culture?

You have to change the ways of working, invest between your ears, not on material or equipment. And we should also accept, if not embrace failure, because it makes company more mature and open.

Pihlaja says that in a company we have to ask why we do something instead of what we do. You first have to get your employees know that “why” and then people will buy your product. But you need to think differently than everybody else. Pihlaja off course introduced us to LEGO Serious Play, a methodology that LEGO created for themselves when they needed to renew their business. It is a registered trademark for a catalyst for change (see pic 3).  It has different variations and applications like: Strategy, Beast, Cx play and Identity.

Pic 2: Lego Serious Play. Photo by author from the slideshow.

And as said before, imagination is the only limit what you can do while playing. Pihlaja says that with Legos you can for example do customer journey experience and mapping, customer management, built personas and so on. You can also corporate landscapes and make a shared model made out of individual models. And built future scenarios! In addition to everything mentioned in pic 4.

Pic 4: What Lego Serious Play can be used for. Photo by author from the slideshow.

One of Pihlaja’s teaching during the workshops is: Don’t think, just built! That is how you unleash your potential!

Author: Iiramaria Virkkala, SD student.

Designing remote working practices to improve employee experience (EX) in organizations

In recent years, remote working has become a hot topic as organizations are developing new working processes and modern collaborative platforms and technology emerge. At the same time, firms are moving towards human-centric approaches and working in multidisciplinary teams to stay competitive. Due to these rapid changes in several industries, recruitment, finding right competences and retaining well-performing employees has become crucial. 

With this in context, two Service Design students, Nora Ryti and Jenny Kurjenniemi at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences, arranged two online workshops. Their intention was to research how employee experience can be improved to retain talent. They we’re looking to include findings from this workshop (combined with e.g. qualitative data from interviews) in their Master’s Theses, that focuses on the following topics: 

  • What are the characteristics and trends in knowledge work? 
  • What skills, practices and tools are needed in remote knowledge work? 
  • What are the needs of a knowledge worker? 
  • What is the role of employee experience in employer branding? 

I attended one of the workshops and explain how it proceeded in this blog post. This workshop, arranged mainly on two platforms, Microsoft Teams for communication and Miro as a visual collaborative tool, was completely online. To ensure that all involved participants had equal opportunities to join, technical aspects were considered and all participants were sent guidelines on how to set up necessary tools prior to joining the session. 

The selected group of participants, consisting of ~10 individuals, was diverse, involving knowledge workers of different ages, locations and industries. Most cameras were turned on and it felt inspiring meeting strangers, knowing that you’d soon know much more about them and their views. 

To complete tasks in co-creation, Microsoft Teams worked as a channel for communication. Both chat and audio were activated all time, and groups were set into separate calls to deepen discussion in certain assignments.  

Miro was used as a collaborative tool, where most tasks were completed on a digital whiteboard. Access was granted through a shared link and no signup was required.  

Miro was used as a tool for collaboration
Miro was used as a tool for collaboration. Screen capture from workshop.

Workshop agenda

The workshop had a well-outlined agenda including breaks and different tasks (explained in detail below). In the beginning of the session, thorough information was shared on what to expect and strictly stating that no data was going to be shared outside of the research, thus leaving participants anonymous.  

Below the assignments chronological order: 

  • Introduction round (warmup exercise) 
    • To get to know all participants, participants answered a few simple questions:  Who are you, what do you do, how has your day been and what animal would you be? 
       
  • Task 1: Express your feeling towards remote working with one emoji 
    • This resulted in a visualized canvas with various emoticons in different sizes and shapes. This task was a suitable introduction to Miro and activated all participants. 
       
  • Task 2: Insert an image explaining what you miss during remote work 
    • A set of images were copied from the internet and explained what attendees miss the most in remote work. The canvas resembled a mood board.  

Divergence 
Through a canvas produced by the facilitators (based on a previous workshop), discussions were held in different areas related to remote working such as leadership, tools, ergonomics and collaboration.

  • Task 3: Add sticky notes with ideas/concepts that constitute to a good remote working experience
    • Participants were given the task to add as many ideas as possible, by placing one idea per sticky note grouped on the whiteboard.
  • Task 4: Produce more ideas!
    • After a small break and individual analysis of what was on the board, more ideas were produced.

Convergence
To combine, structure and analyze all produced ideas, participants were divided into two groups for further discussion. 

  • Task 5: Discuss, document and prioritize three main areas (per category)
    • Separate Microsoft Teams channels were created to give focus in group discussions. In the end of this session, ideas were condensed into three main topics that were explained briefly to the rest of the group including comments.

In the end of the session, ideas were converged into three main themes.
Screen capture from workshop.

Conclusions  

Although a three-hour workshop was quite intensive after a long day of work, there were many positive aspects. Firstly, Miro as a collaborative tool seemed useful, easy to grasp and I might utilize a similar tool in future workshops myself. 

Participants were open for discussion and I believe everyone got their say. In online environments, it’s crucial that the one in a facilitator role ensure that all attendees are active. It is, although, also important to give room for silence – especially as you do not see what participants are thinking. A few second of silence can potentially constitute to great reflection and new ideas.  

Overall, when arranging digital workshops, a culture of openness, respect and honesty needs to be embraced to fully utilize its’ potential and to get things done. 

Written by Thomas Djupsjö 
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences 

Resources 

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

Djupsjö, T., 2019, “Key issues and strategies for implementing the Lean Methodology in organizations “, Arcada, University of Applied Sciences 

Keller, S. & Meaney, M., 2017, “Attracting and retaining the right talent”, McKinsey & Company 
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-the-right-talent 

Küng, L., 2017, “Strategic Management in the Media – Theory to Practice”, 2nd Edition, SAGE Publications Ltd., London. 

Developing a Non-Governmental Organization’s operations in Zimbabwe through co-creation

Zimbabwe Aids Orphan Society (Zimbabwe Aids-Orvot ry.), founded nearly 20 years ago, is a Finnish non-profit association founded by Seppo Ainamo and Oili Wuolle. The association raises funds for welfare and supports education for orphans in the poor neighbourhood of Dzivarasekwa in Harare, Zimbabwe. 

Currently, roughly 500 members support almost 400 orphans (out of which 63% are girls) by financing a safe environment and daily meals at a private activity center, The Dzikwa Centre. 

The economic situation in Zimbabwe has for a long time been unstable due to political and economic issues and it’s estimated, that around 7 million is in need of humanitarian aid. Almost 50% of the population is also living below the national poverty line (< $3.20/day). 

Zimbabwe Aids Orphan Society support orphans living in poverty. (Photo: Djupsjö, Thomas)

In early October, a workshop was arranged at Töölö Library, Helsinki, where participants were gathered to solve key issues and challenges in the association’s operations through innovation principles. The goal was also to develop growth models and find new ways of acquiring sponsors for orphans. 

The diverse group of approximately 20 participants, in ages ~20 to ~80, were divided in three groups for an innovation exercise. All groups had a designated facilitator that took notes in brief 15-minute discussions, that focused on the following themes:  

  1. Acquiring sponsors and financing 
  2. Improving volunteering work Finland 
  3. Collaboration with schools and student communities 
The workshop was divided in three main areas for discussion. (Photo: Djupsjö, Thomas)

After lively, intensive and thoughtful discussions, the facilitators documented valuable points and summarized main findings from all groups. These were then shared with participants at the event, evoking discussion.

The association management gladly stated, that they were positively surprised to find so many practical areas to take action upon. In other words, the workshop was quite successful. 

To summarize this event, I honestly can verify that co-working and ideating for an NGO is very rewarding. Working in diverse multidisciplinary groups truly open up for good discussion and reflection. Although there always aren’t straight answers and solutions, the process of ideating certainly evokes new inspiring ideas. 

I’d be glad to participate in similar events in the future. 

Written by Thomas Djupsjö
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences

Resources  
Zimbabwe Aids Orphan Society, Who we are 
October 5th, 2020 
https://zimorvot.org/en/who-we-are/

Wikipedia, List of countries by percentage of population living in poverty, 
October 5th, 2020 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_percentage_of_population_living_in_poverty 

Zimbabwe Aids-Orvot ry, Workshop and lecture materials
October 4th, 2020

A cocktail of childish playing and academic research

Collaboration and direct engagement were the key words when two distinguished service designer specialists discussed the use of creative practices in designing sustainable futures. This inspirational talk was organized by Design Club, on 23rd September 2020.

Associate professor Tuuli Mattelmäki from Aalto University gave an overview of an EU-supported project Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (CreaTures) that aims at bringing in creative practices in the development processes towards socio-ecological sustainability in different sectors. The project is a cross-border and cross-sectoral initiative and includes a consortium of actors such as universities, NGOs and private companies, each of which brings their specific knowhow to the project. The key assumption of the initiative is that collaboration and direct engagement of different stakeholders are key issues when working with transformational processes and planning of different futures.

The results of the pilot project confirmed the immense power of imagination and “thinking out of the box”, that can be best achieved in collaboration with others. Moreover, the process of learning together and seeing things differently has value of its own, as it teaches the participants not only new ways knowing, but also new ways of feeling.

Creative processes have indeed proven to be transformational, but in many cases the problem is that they are fragmented: there are small groups working apart, each of them doing probably the right things but not joining the forces which could give added value to the whole process of transformation. In addition, they are often poorly resourced and not always correctly understood.

CreaTures project includes the whole chain of the design, from the observatory and laboratory to the evaluation & policy recommendations, which are, according to Mattelmäki, vital parts of the process.

Are creative practices under-utilized in developing and transforming societies and businesses?

According to Design Director Zeynep Falay von Flittner from service design agency Hellon, the mission of all service design should be to bring human to the centre of the business. We need more holistic stories about the future, not only technical solutions and processes. We also need tools to help us build different future scenarios and understand the consequences of each of them. The aim of these tools is to trigger conversation and to bring holistic understanding of interdependencies and long-term consequences of the possible actions.

Play!

A tool may sound quite technical and even boring but in fact best tools can be games that are both playful and experimental. One example is the Nordic urban mobility game that Hellon has used in the transport sector development processes together with different cities and communities. The game can be downloaded and printed for free (see the link below). The practice has shown that a game can provoke more and different thinking than normal participatory methods. It being a physical game helps to overcome the time distance and difficulties in immersing oneself into the different futures. A game also triggers action and commitment, as it creates a sense of urgency for the needed change.

Playing games might not cut out all feelings of anxiety and insecurity that are blocking creativity when thinking about different futures. But it definitely gives hope and enables us to see that there really are different pathways we can choose. Hope energizes and focuses actions. Playing games can also make the uncertainty and anxiety that is related to future scenarios more bearable and more fun.

One obvious challenge to using more creative practices is that organisations are often tied to traditional research and ways of working. To overcome that, Mattelmäki suggested to do more prototyping. It brings concrete evidence to even the most skeptical thinkers that there really are different options, and that those options are possible and doable. Like she put it: “the process itself keeps winning the participants”.

Joyful and pleasurable approach is important in envisioning of desirable futures. Designers work as facilitators or midwives in these processes and have an important role in that they help participants to go beyond the “what is realistic” thinking. There is a lot we can learn from children: they are open-minded and it`s natural for them to explore new ways of thinking and doing.

Hard business needs hope

Sustainability is nowadays a hard business, but there is definitely a need to look beyond the normal business solutions and traditional answers. Designers in general have one asset that is needed in the planning of a sustainable future: optimistic and forward-looking mindset. Hope and solution-focused approach is needed, particularly in this field where pessimism tend to take over in many discussions.

One of the biggest hurdles that service designers face in bringing unusual creative practices into traditional contexts is that managers are afraid of something they see as expensive and unpredictable or unreliable when it comes to producing benefits and fulfilling the cost-efficiency goals. Even among the participants of the event (the majority being designers and students), 0 % chose “saving time and resources” as the main benefit of their work in the field of service design. That indicates how cumbersome and costly the process is often seen to be, and how little trust there is on its cost-efficiency.

Perhaps we need more professional studies on the impacts and tangible results of the creative practices and service design. Evaluation and impact studies have spread out to practically all fields during the past years. Everything is measured and indicator has become the word of the day. To overcome the distrust of managers and directors in investing time and resources in playing games (and developing the business through play and creativity), we need to be able to show the undeniable outputs, outcomes and impacts of that investment.

The close relationship of research and business was pointed out by Mattelmäki. According to her, development work based on scientific research gives more credibility and speeds up the implementation. One tangible result of creative innovation and game playing is that there will be a vast amount of wild ideas and enthusiasm, new innovations and innovators.

The next step will then be how the ideas are taken forward. That will be a topic for future discussions, but for sure collaboration and direct engagement will be key elements in that as well.

Laura Ekholm

More information can be found :

CreaTures. https://creatures-eu.org/

Hellon. https://www.hellon.com/

Nordic Urban Mobility 2050 Futures Game. https://www.nordicinnovation.org/tools/NUM2050