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Going Circular

Event: LOOP Circular case studies, webinar series in May and June 2020

A couple of months ago I participated in a circular design workshop, where I became acquainted with the key concepts of circular design. As the topic was really interesting, it was inspirational to find a webinar series with presentations of concrete cases how to move from linear to circular economy in practise. Webinar series was provided by LOOP which is a Nordic Innovation ecosystem with interest in making companies go circular. It was founded in 2018 as a cooperation between Avanto Ventures, Sitra and Nordic Innovation, and the network is continuously expanding. As circular economy demands partnerships and collaboration, LOOP ecosystem is a response to those demands.

The webinar series, which included four webinars, was held during May and June 2020 and all the cases were extremely interesting and highlighted well different aspects that must be taken into consideration in circular design – for example new business models, importance of collaboration and role of ecosystems. In this blogpost I will go through briefly three cases: case Fiskars Vintage, Omocom and TotalCtrl. In addition to shortly explain the cases, I will focus especially on discussing my main takeaways from the circular design point of view.

Circular into profitable business – Case Vintage from Fiskars

In the first webinar Nora Haatainen, Director, New Business and Growth, from Fiskars Group described how Fiskars Group, an old consumer goods company, has started to create value to the customers through new business opportunities in the circular economy. Fiskars Group has set sustainability targets, which aim to find ways for reusing, reselling, and recycling their main brand products. It was really interesting to hear how a company with a long history of manufacturing moves towards circular economy.

The project that Haatainen explained in her presentation was about one of Fiskars’ main category, tableware, and considered especially brands Iittala and Arabia. The purpose was to find out specifically what kind of aftermarket business opportunities there exists from circular economy point of view. Focusing on the smallest circular loop – reusing and reselling – is logical from the profitability perspective because it retains the value the best way as the products do not demand processing. As any business projects, also circular business projects must be profitable and valuable to the customer in order to be successful in the future. For this purpose, key performance indicators were specified right in the beginning of the project, defining aims for the business perspective as well as customer perspective (Picture 1).

Picture 1. Key performance indicators (Slide from the presentation of Haatainen)

It was interesting to hear the different steps of design process, how it proceeded from ideation, hypothesis creation and co-designing with the customers to business simulation and in the end, selecting four most potential service concepts for piloting. The first new service concept from the project – Vintage Service – is already normal business for Fiskars Group. It allows people to buy and sell old and used Iittala and Arabia tableware products through Fiskars Group’s own retail channels. Currently Fiskars Group has done piloting for another service concept, Arabia Tableware Service, which is a subscription-based tableware service.

For me, the presentation showed well that it is possible to move from linear to circular business models, but it also became clear that there are many challenges along the way. The first challenge is to look beyond the linear model – it requires a fundamental shift in thinking, because circular design demands overcoming the dominant industry logic. Another challenge is to remember that having a circular business model is not good enough, it must work also in practice. Based on the experiences from the project, Haatainen emphasizes the importance of the core team: they should have different kind of skills, a lot of can-do attitude, and they must be empowered. Another advise is to start piloting as early as possible in order to get things to move on – endless discussions will not take you anywhere.

Circular economy demands new solutions – Case Omocom

The other speaker of the first webinar was Ola Lowden, a Founder of Omocom, a Swedish digital insurance solution start-up. The story of Omocom began when the founders worked for Swedish government as digital trade experts and they interviewed big insurance companies about their capabilities to answer to the demands of new consumption types of sharing economy. They found out that insurance companies were not able to adapt their offerings to these new requirements. It became clear that moving towards sharing and circular economy requires a new kind of insurance model, which encourages people to share their belongings.

Based on this, Omocom created a digital insurance solution for sharing platforms. Having an insurance is important for sharing platform providers, as it builds trust between people who do not know each other beforehand. Also, even if damages happen, insurance keeps customers satisfied and willing to continue to use the sharing platform. In the solution, Omocom does collaboration with insurance companies who bear the insurance-related risk, while Omocom takes care for example development of software and insurance solutions.

From sharing and circular economy point of view the founders of Omocom found traditional insurance challenging especially for three reasons (Picture 2).

Picture 2. Challenges with traditional insurance and circular economy (Slide from the presentation of Lowden)

The first challenge with traditional insurance is the model, as the focus and responsibility are only on product owner, not on the product user. This kind of model does not encourage people to share their belongings, especially with strangers. The answer from the Omocom solution is to focus also on product user and provide short-term insurances that are suitable for renting and sharing. The second challenge is that insurance companies are highly dependent on data. If they do not have enough data for risk calculations, they are not willing to take the risk. Omocom deals with this challenge by collaborating with sharing platforms, and based on the data that they provide, Omocom has developed their own risk calculation algorithm, which can be used for risk assessment. Third challenge is that some of the services from insurance companies are still analogue, which makes them quite slow and inflexible, and digital solution responses to these challenges as well.

I think that Omocom is a good example of how moving from linear economy to circular economy creates new business opportunities. There is a need for new kind of solutions and business models, which answer to the demands of circular economy. Also, it clearly showed that in order to make a successful circular business model, it must be a part of an ecosystem of circular business models to ensure the circular flow of resources. This means, that when designing circular business models, the focus should be also on systems level.

Preventing food waste with technology – Case TotalCtrl

The topic of the last webinar was food waste, which was extremely interesting subject for me, as food and eating have been the subject of many of my work projects. From circular economy point of view, the food waste problem is enormous, and solving that is really crucial in the future. Charlotte Aschim, the Founder and CEO of Norwegian start-up TotalCtrl, gave a presentation of how their solution – food waste prevention software called TotalCtrl Restaurant – is tackling the problem in restaurant context (Picture 3).

Picture 3. TotalCtrl Restaurant (Photos from the presentation of Aschim)

The food waste problem became familiar to the founders of TotalCtrl already when working at grocery stores as students. Based on their own experience and later when doing collaboration with different restaurants, they noticed that food waste problem was due to the fact that many restaurants did not have a proper control over their food inventory. The result from this is that food expires quite easily and finding out how much food and what kind of food there exists in storage requires a lot of manual work. It was understood that there is a demand for an easy-to-use digital solution, which helps restaurants to know what kind of food they have in their storage, in which storage it is and when it is going to expire.

Based on the experiences with TotalCtrl Restaurant so far, it seems that it is possible to diminish food waste even up to 85%. In addition, the solution saves time and money, as it simplifies daily routines. For me, TotalCtrl was a good example of how going circular actually can go hand in hand with profitability. Also, it shows that sometimes with right kind of technological solution, it is possible to take a huge step in business and in profitability.

From the perspective of service design, it was interesting to hear the importance of observation in developing and designing the digital solution. Aschim mentioned that although restaurant staff answered to several questions during development work, many things that were important from the perspective of food waste did not come up until doing observation days in restaurants. It seems that many restaurants have inefficient everyday routines, that are taken for granted, and recognizing these could provide opportunities to improve business.

Above I went through just some of the cases which were presented in LOOP webinar series. If you are interested to know more concrete examples from circular economy and circular design, there is a possibility to join to LOOP digital ecosystem where all the cases are available.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

The importance of routines

I participated on 28.5.2020 in a digital event focusing on organizational change and service design. The four-hour-event was hosted by Livework studio, an international service design company, and Delft University of Technology, technological university in Delft, Netherlands.

The event had two keynote presentations. The first keynote speaker was Professor Brian Pentland from Michigan State University, a pioneer in routine dynamics. Second keynote talk about service design aspect was brought by Marzia Arico and Jan Koenders from Livework studio. Rest of the afternoon was spent in round-table discussions and breakout rooms, ending with a open discussion to sum up the day.

Photo by Unsplash

In addition to service design, the focus of the event was organizational changes, science of routines and especially the idea of routine dynamics, a branch of research on routines, and the stability and change behind it.

Understanding organizational changes and routines inside an organization is vital for any service designer, especially from the point of view of implementing a new, designed service. Livework studio’s Director of Design Marzia Arico and Senior Design consultant Jan Koenders talked about the common frustration that service designers face.

“51% of service design projects run by Service Design agencies never get implemented.”

Marzio Arico, Livework studio

“Corporate entertainment”, as Arico called it, is when you’re only generating ideas to entertain organization’s innovation department but never actually implementing them. The lack of impact in their work can be frustrating and demoralizing to service designers.

Understanding organizational change and routines allows service designers to boost the probability of a successful implementation. Arico and Koenders introduced a four-layer-approach to battling implementation problems: capability building, doing, learning and adopting.

Through establishing routines, constant reiterations and feedback and careful training, it is possible for the organization to adopt the new, designed service into their “business as usual”. The presence of routine is vital in the approach, as it makes sure that changes are not just done in paper, but also in practice.

Slide from Livework studio’s Marzia Arico’s and Jan Koenders’ presentation

Key take-aways:

  • Routines: don’t deliver only frameworks and materials, but also provide thorough coaching
  • Collaboration: hands-on collaboration within teams encourages new routines being used with actual customers

Photo by Unsplash

Circle is the new black

Photo from Unsplash

I participated on 19.5.2020 in an online event “Accelerating the shift to circular” hosted by Livework studio, a global service design company, and Metabolic, a Dutch consulting company focused on sustainability and circular economy. The topic of the event was exploring the synergies between service design and industrial ecology, and the importance of moving towards a circular economy.

As we are going through a global pandemic, we are starting to see the long-term impact it has on business. Add to that the environmental crisis that carries even more severe and more long-term impact, and it’s clear that there is an immense urgency for a change to happen.

Companies need to reconfigure their value proposition. In the end, it’s organisations that manage to do so in a sustainable way that will thrive.

From linear to circular

“There is no such thing as a sustainable product. There can only be sustainable product-service systems.”

– Pieter van Exter, 2020

Pieter van Exter from Metabolic talked about the current linear system and the importance of moving to a circular economy or “circularity”.

Linear system is “take – make – dispose”. It’s about taking the raw material, making the product and in the end disposing of it as waste. Circular economy aims to eliminate waste and the constant use of new resources, hence making the life cycle circle.

Van Exter explained the simplified four-step-process of moving from linear economic system to a circular one. The four-step-process starts with analyzing the current state and identifying root causes throughout the whole product life cycle. In step two you set goals and think about the overall vision, not just the financial gain you can get from the product but all the key elements such as social impact, biodiversity, materials, etc. The third step is about identifying interventions and leverage, and figuring out how to get to your goal. Last step is implementation which includes developing business cases and engaging stakeholders.

4 steps of moving to circular economy. Slide from Pieter van Exter’s presentation.

Van Exter highlighted that throughout the whole linear to circular -process, you should constantly iterate and re-think your solutions. The key question you should always ask from yourself in every step is: “do we actually need this?” In short, should we try to make a bamboo version of a plastic straw, or should we rethink the need to even have straws in the first place?

From “can we make it” to “should we make it”

Sanne Pelgröm from service design company Livework studio talked about the evolution of service design and how to design with circular change in mind.

It is important to move from designing for individual needs to designing for the collective. The question in mind should move from “can we make it” to “should we make it” and “can the ecosystem handle it”.

In his work as a service designer, Pelgröm explained that when designing with circularity in mind, you take three aspects into consideration: customer, organisation and the chain collaboration, while simultaneously moving towards a new behavior in all three areas. The key is not just designing a service, but a service process.

Pelgröm also introduced an outline of the journey change in all three sections:

Slide from Sanne Pelgröm’s presentation

In customer segment, the goal is for the customer to evolve from detached consumption to engaged relation with the company.

In organisation level the design is about the general transformation from product oriented approach to more service oriented, essentially moving from cost driven to value driven. In order to do that, it’s important to understand the organizational dynamics: the culture, strategy, processes, etc.

The chain collaboration aspect brings a new layer of dimensions. The goal should be to move from efficiency oriented system into a collaboration oriented. Collaboration could be for example between sectors: two industries sharing cycles can unlock solutions and have a major impact in the overall chain.

Customer in mind

Van Exter reminded that throughout the whole process, you should never forget about the actual end user: the customer. He gave an example of Pepsi’s new type of bioplastic they developed for the packaging of a bag of chips. The product ended up being banned due to being too loud, over 95 decibels.

Pelgröm was asked in the event how to keep circular thinking through the design process, and whether there are specific tools that help you come up with sustainable solutions. Pelgröm recommended that instead of looking for specific tools, you should reach to specialists and involve them in the process and let them contribute. Balancing all aspects early on before it becomes too technical and complicated is key.

The event tackled interesting points about service design, its future and circular economy. There are still a great number of challenges in this area, for instance the majority of companies haven’t stopped thinking in terms of indefinite economic growth, and most targets they have are very much growth-related. Change is never easy and it can’t happen in only one area, but cohesively all around.

Photo from Unsplash

Food for thought:

Kate Raworth’s TED Talk about healthy economy

Tina Arrowood’s TED Talk about circularity

New values, who dis

I had the pleasure of participating in an online event on 20.5.2020 hosted by Design Forum Finland and Arctic Factory. The topic of the event was design and new values, with the focus on sustainability and the role of companies in creating new value. The topic is especially current now during an ongoing, global pandemic, which has only increased the need for a change.

Slide from the presentation of Design Forum Finland CEO: Petteri Kolinen

The idea of new value is not just about creating financial value to company stakeholders, but a new type of added value to employees, society, and environment as a whole. We’re in a new era where customers demand more from companies.

Design thinking has a big role in creating new value. Design thinking is essentially about understanding the needs of people, being innovative and solving challenges in an agile way. Companies can find business opportunities and create new value through design thinking, for example by utilizing sustainable products and involving ecological thinking.

Megatrends 2020

One important aspect of design thinking is understanding what is happening in the world, what kind of trends are taking place and how they are affecting people. By understanding your surroundings, can you be strategic and proactive.

Photo from Unsplash

Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the future and the increasing need for having foresight. She discussed in detail the five megatrends of 2020 set by Sitra:

  • ecological sustainability crisis and the urgency of its reconstruction
  • strengthening of relational power
  • ageing and diversifying of population
  • technology being embedded in everything
  • the redefinition of economy

Vataja emphasized the importance of ecological reconstruction and stated that the key factor influencing the future is climate change and other ecological issues, and how we respond to them.

“The decisions we make in the next 10 years will impact the next 100 years.” – Katri Vataja, 2020

Vataja ended the segment with a great question to think: what kind of a future would you like to help build?

The bees of the business world

Sonja Lahtinen from University of Tampere discussed the new values and the changing culture. Her main focus was the importance of sustainability transition: a cohesive, long term change towards sustainable modes in society’s foundation, culture and practices.

Innovative companies are like the bees of the business world: they are the vital pollinators of the society without which sustainability transition would not be possible. Lahtinen stated that companies have the needed capabilities for this important change in resources and innovation.

Lahtinen highlighted the importance of companies’ role in the transition and more importantly why they should strive towards this.

“We’re now entering into an era of the unknown, the unclear, and the unfolding. Being in tune with what is emerging around, we can seize immense, but not instantly obvious, opportunities to better the world.” – Sonja Lahtinen, 2020

Photo from Unsplash

Those who adapt, thrive

The event couldn’t have had a more inspirational end than Kyrö Distillery’s segment.

Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery’s brand marketing talked about the evolution of the company from the first brainstorming session in sauna, to adapting to corona times by switching from rye whisky to hand sanitizer. Koskinen emphasized the importance of strategy and values in their company and how they are not just a slogan on their website but a tool in their daily work.

All in all, the event raised great points about new values and the role of companies in this change. It was perhaps Kyrö Distillery’s last slide that best described not only the inspirational message of the event but also Finnish “sisu” at its core:

Kyrö Distillery’s presentation slide

For more inspiration on the subject:

Ikea’s chief sustainability officer Steve Howard’s Ted talk

The Age of the Customer

Photo: unsplash.com

We live in a world where customers can demand more from companies by taking advantage of various digital channels. It is now the consumers who have the power to force companies to react and change. Companies that fail to understand this new reality will be out of business quicker than ever.

This was the main theme behind the most recent Design Forum Talk called Design and New Value which took place on Wednesday 20 May as a free online event. The event’s theme reflected the fact that consumer behaviour has changed, and people nowadays have more possibilities to influence how companies function and what kind of values they represent.

The covid-19 has only strengthened this new trend. The companies that want to be among the survivors of the pandemic will need to build trust, stand behind their values, work towards a meaningful brand and have an authentic mission. You can also call this “profit with purpose”.

The 2-hour Design Forum Talk included five presentations from five speakers:

  • Katri Vataja, Director of the Foresight, Insight and Strategy at Sitra
  • Sonja Lahtinen, Researcher from the University of Tampere
  • Annika Boström-Kumlin, Marketing Director at Verso Food
  • Jussi Mantere, Head of CX and Design at Kesko Oyj
  • Mikko Koskinen, Brand & Marketing at Kyrö Distillery

Look to the future

Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the most important trends of the 2020s and the kind of challenges their impact brings to design and business. Katri mentioned that the mega trends such as the urgent need for ecological reconstruction or the ageing population help us to understand the future. However, the key question is what kind of future we want to build.

Sitra’s megatrend cards (Finnish version)

Solve the puzzle

Sonja Lahtinen referred to these major challenges that our generation must face as wicked problems. She used the Rubik’s cube as a metaphor to explain that we already have all the pieces at hand. Now, we only need to solve the puzzle. In order to do this, we need creative people and completely new kinds of solutions. Companies have a big role in this. By bringing more sustainable products to the market, the consumers will have a chance to make better choices as well.

Create new value

The last three speakers represented companies that have understood the importance of the new value and have been able to respond to quick changes on the market.

Annika Boström-Kumlin from Verso Food talked about their mission to change the image of vegan food so that people would only think of it as food (and really tasty food as well).

Jussi Mantere from Kesko talked about how they use digital data and insight to design customer-centric services that enable people to make environmentally sustainable buying decisions.

The last speaker, Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery, gave an interesting presentation about how their company has managed to keep the business running through covid-19 by shifting from whiskey production to produce hand sanitizer.

All of the speakers confirmed that by creating new value companies can create additional value to the customers, employees, environment, stakeholders, society and eventually to the owners of the company. The change starts from strategic thinking, courage, creativity and better understanding.

One size does not fit all – Creating better innovations through equality and diversity

Photo from Unsplash

I participated in a digital event on 13.5.2020 focusing on how gender equality and diversity can create better innovations. The online event was hosted by Stockholm-based innovation community Openlab. Together with five expert panel members from different fields of work, a panel moderator and a visual facilitator, the importance of gender equality and diversity in workplace was discussed in detail.

Five by five -method

An interesting detail about the event was the creativeness of the event itself. I’m sure we have all experienced the mundane way of online presentations during this pandemic, so it was a welcome surprise to see a different online presentation format ‘Five by five’. In ‘Five by five’ each presenter has precisely five minutes for their presentation with exactly five slides to show, while each slide is programmed to automatically change after 60 seconds. The added pressure of strict timetable keeps the discussions short, the topic focused and makes sure each presenter is thoroughly prepared.

Gender gaps in tech field

Photo from Unsplash

The discussion was kicked off by Elise Perrault from Future Place Leadership, a Nordic management consultancy company. Perrault together with her two colleagues wrote a report about women in tech and challenging existing biases. She highlighted gender equality problems especially in tech sector by talking about gender gaps and specifically women dropping out of the tech field. It gave a great premise to continue the topic and especially on how to overcome these challenges.

The I-Methodology

Slide from Annie Lindmark’s presentation

Perhaps the most interesting segment during the event came from the program director of Vinnova and the founder of W.Empowerment Annie Lindmark who talked about the I-methodology and how it limits innovation. I-methodology describes the tendency of designers to base their design choices on their own personal preferences and interests. In short, they design products for themselves, not for their customers.

An example of I-methodology is a well known facial recognition software that had problems recognizing minorities accurately due to the software being developed and tested by white males. Lindmark stated that it highlighted the basic idea why diverse groups are more innovative than others. Just as one size does not fit all, so is diversity needed in innovation.

What can I do?

Photo from Unsplash

A question asked the most during the panel discussion was what can I as an individual do for the matter.

Lindmark presented the following actions:

  • Acknowledge the existing biases your organization may have
  • Set up a plan for improvement
  • Follow up and measure it
  • Encourage diversity and inclusion in all projects
  • Start seeing it and using it as a competitive advantage

Other concrete ways mentioned during the panel were networking, training, raising awareness and Fika for change.

Fika for change

Fika for change‘ learning tool by Radicle

In Sweden ‘fika’ means much more than just having a coffee break. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, similar to Danish “hygge”. Mathilda Hult from Radicle, a Swedish innovation culture agency, talked about ‘Fika for change’ which she had created and how that could be used to strengthen a team. ‘Fika for change’ is a trust-building tool for organizations and different groups that helps create conversation beyond roles and hierarchies. It’s meant to be used in a relaxed, equal setting, such as a coffee break, hence the word ‘fika’ in its title. The goal of the tool is for the team to focus on trust, curiosity and learning, all of which can help build an innovative culture in a team.

The power of visual facilitator

The event was a great success and gave a good understanding on the importance of diversity in innovation. It’s worth noting, that the event itself was highly innovative and a breath of fresh air. Not only was the selected ‘Five by five’ -method spot on but the true winner was their real time visual illustration of the key themes discussed at the event.

Nikki Schmidt from live scribing agency Simply Draw it Big was the visual facilitator of the event.

For more information:

“We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding” -author Dana Kanze’s TED talk

Overnight digital transformation – virtual facilitation to the rescue?

The black swan of our days, in other words the corona virus pandemic, has forced an accelerated digital transformation upon organizations around the world. This has included working from home for many, but also either cancelling events and workshops or restructuring them to be organized digitally.

This sudden push for digital transformation has been challenging for many industries. To support NGOs in this process, the umbrella organization for Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo has organized a few online facilitation sessions to support NGOs in fostering the quick move from face to face to virtual. I attended one of these workshops on April 29th, together with 30 other people who attended the fully booked session on Zoom.

We all can benefit from virtual facilitation skills

Facilitation is one of the pillars of service design and organizing workshops. A good facilitator can lead successful co-creation sessions even with difficult groups or contentious tasks. Virtual facilitation brings the art of facilitation to the online sphere. Over night, virtual facilitation skills went from something service designers and professional facilitators need to know to something that everyone working from home would benefit from. Organizing virtual workshops and simply co-creating online within the workplace have become increasingly more common in our new reality.

The virtual facilitation session I participated in was a tips and tricks type of session, where specialists shared very concrete examples on facilitating online work. After attending the session, I feel more confident in both using different online facilitation tools and leading a co-creation session virtually.

Top three takeaways

1) Preparation, preparation, preparation!  Preparing to facilitate an online event is even more important than preparing for a face-to-face event. Once you have chosen and created the tools you will use during the event, make sure to try them out. Also do a test run of the technology, divide breakout rooms and practice moving between these. It is a good idea to share some information and materials with the participants before the session, to create shared understanding of the technology and tools to be used during the event.

2) Schedule more time for the beginning. In addition to the regular warm ups and getting to know each other, virtual events require doing a technical check. You should also agree on how participants can ask questions, whether it is by writing in the chat or any other way. If you intend to use the chat, it would be useful to have a co-facilitator who could keep an eye on the chat while you are presenting. It is a good idea to have your camera on and make some time for casual chit chat, to help set the mood for the event.

3) Activating and engaging participants is more important than ever! Long monologues and uncertainty about the tools are sure ways of losing the focus of your participants. Make sure that everyone knows what is happening, do not assume and use the chat or polls to activate participants. You could also keep tabs on which of the participants have contributed to the discussion and address quiet participants directly by name.

With these simple tips and tricks, even a less experienced virtual facilitator can lead a successful online event. Personally, I will try these out already next week, will you?

Useful virtual facilitation resources:

Online facilitation tools catalogue

Virtual Facilitation Finland – Facebook group

Remote Design Sprints – Facebook group

The forgotten fuel for business – Emotions

Photo from https://www.pixabay.com

Kuudes Aisti hosted an event in the end of February 2020 where Camilla Tuominen talked about do we destroy businesses by forgetting our emotions. She spoke how to lead and understand feelings and the importance of consequences of these intangible factors and invisible behavior at the workplace.

Today organizations are focused on data knowledge and pure facts. We take it as default that feelings and difficult thoughts don’t belong to work. But this is against biology. The reality is that instead of logic, most of our decisions are based on emotions and appealing to our feelings but not knowledge. Emotions affect every cell in the human.  We are messaging to ourselves and to others though our emotions. At work our emotions impact upon people’s relationships, teamwork, customer satisfaction and employee retention. And of course, all this influences how we make decisions, how we plan,  how we negotiate and show that there is a place for creative thinking  within the organization. We all have emotions, even the C-level management. Emotions drive people and people drive performance and business. 

Imagine if

  • people at work could communicate and connect effectively and feel confident in uncertain situations, 
  • people would be more present and make conscious choices rather than automatic reactive ones,
  • people received critical feedback from others in a non-defensive manner,
  • people had more empathy towards others,
  • in challenging and stressful situations people were able to manage pressure and think rationally but at the same time be able to listen to what their own and colleagues’ feelings are saying  to them. 

Above could be a description of a workplace where people understand the power of emotional intelligence. Goleman (2018) highlights that our emotional and rational parts of our brain work in tandem and they need each other. What if we could consciously combine and manage the rational and emotional parts of our brain? What if it would be everyone’s duty at work to learn to use emotional intelligence?

How emotions and feelings influence us?

Emotions and feelings are crucial in impacting what we think, how we make decisions and how we behave. Our behavior is driven by how we think. Underneath our thinking, there is how we feel. Feelings are mental and they are sparked by physical emotions. Feelings are a subjective expression of emotions.  Emotions are physical, they contain data about ourselves, other people and the world around us. Emotions are the energetic stage on our body.  

We learn already from childhood that there are “bad, negative emotions” – sadness, anger, grief, and fear. We tend to push these emotions aside and say “stay positive” or “stop being so angry”.  We think that we are in control of our emotions when we ignore them but in fact, they control us and we lose the capability to see the world as it is.  When people are encouraged to understand their emotional truth at work there will be more creativity, engagement, and innovation at work. (David 2017.)

Tuominen explained in her presentation in February 2020, that for example, negativity in a meeting might create fear and loss of confidence, being cynical or unfair might create anger and frustration. Consequences of these might be that we decide that it is easier to keep our mouths shut in the  next meeting,  put our shields up and keep inside  one’s true self.

This might lead to worse performance, loss of work time and an atmosphere where ideas aren’t flourishing. Consequently, we might think that it is good to numb our painful emotions and continue working as normal. But according to Brene Brown (2010) “we cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

How to avoid pitfalls?

Many times we think we have made a rational decision, but the chances are our emotions made the decision first.  Reasons are then established to justify our instinctive gut feeling. We validate our decision by saying we had an intuition. Sometimes our “intuition”, that is based on emotions, might be true but the problem is that our emotions aren’t always reliable, and we might interpret them totally wrong. We also have a tendency to collect and repeat stories of defeats. We might get hooked by our feelings and thoughts and treat them like facts. Examples of these could be “It was the same in my last job, it’s not going to work out”,  “I don’t like working with strong personalities”, “I’m bad at multitasking”, “I don’t like to work with slow people”. We get stuck in these old stories and we start seeing only one perspective.

In the end, these stories start impacting on our daily decisions at work. We need to learn to understand why we think and feel this way and learn to detach ourselves to deal with real situations. (David 2017, 2018.)

How to get started in leading emotions?

We should never ignore our emotions. We should remember that emotions are here to tell us something and we need to learn to recognize what they mean. By learning to name and admit our emotions helps us to get a start with leading the emotions, this helps us to calm down and see things more clearly. Instead of saying “I’m angry”, we should say “I notice I’m feeling angry”. “I’m angry” sounds like you are the emotion but instead of this, we need to understand that emotions are a data source and we need to listen to them. By understanding our emotions we learn to recognize their causes and understand better why you and others feel and react the way they do. 

Managing emotions is about drawing data about yourself and trying to respond effectively rather than reactively. It’s about integrating emotions strategically to enhance thinking, reasoning, problem solving and creativity. Emotions don’t own us but we own them. We need to remember that emotions are also contagious. We have no right to put negative emotions forward. We should understand what kind of bad influence it can have on others. When we learn how to handle negative emotions, we open a door for positive emotions. (Tuominen 2020, David 2017, 2018.)  

So do we still afford to ignore our emotions and feelings in the workplace? Emotions have an impact whether the business makes it or breaks it.

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References:

Brown, B. The power of vulnerability. 2010. Accessed 27 January, 2020. https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?fbclid=IwAR1O28UsQaEqVutHwOpySu1nTbJ7UaN-U8Ny8AVGDrYexCXOFXPK2__If3g

David, S. The gift and power of emotional courage. 2017. Accessed 13 March, 2020.  https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage?language=en

David, S. Emotional Agility. 2018. Accessed 15 March, 2020. http://bestbookbits.com/emotional-agility-susan-david-book-summary-bestbookbits-com/

Goleman D, 2018, Emotional Intelligence

Tuominen, C. 2010. Emotions management. [lecture]. Held on 29 November. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Watkins, A. Being Brilliant Every Single Day. 2012. Accessed 1 March, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q06YIWCR2Js

How to make a Service Designer’s Portfolio

What are recruiters looking for when hiring a service designer? How can you showcase your skills in your portfolio? These questions were discussed at Service Design Network Finland’s Portfolio Evening on 9 March at Haaga-Helia. The event kicked off with a panel discussion with recruiters. After that, mentors offered feedback about participants’ portfolios in small groups. I compiled some tips from the event to help you make your portfolio stand out from the crowd.

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Lab8 is Haaga-Helia’s Service Experience Laboratory. Here’s a slogan on the wall of Lab8. photo: Raija Kaljunen

1. Show what you can do

Your portfolio is your sales presentation. It amounts to pitching material about yourself and is a summary of your main skills. It’s important to tell the recruiter about your experience in service design. You can, for example, depict your projects from various angles: the creative process, project results and your roles in them. You can also describe your failed projects and what you did at the point of failure and what you learned from it.

2. Show who you are

Hiring a new service designer is not just about the skills and knowledge of the job applicant. The recruiter is also hiring a new member to an existing team and wants to know something about you as a person: What do you like? What else can I talk with you about apart from work? So pay attention to what else you can say about yourself in your portfolio in addition to showcasing your projects.

3. Keep it short and simple

The recruiter is usually very busy: there are dozens of portfolios to go through. It is important to create a portfolio that is easy and fast to consume. The average time the recruiter spends on your portfolio is about three minutes at most. If your portfolio is unclear or has too much information in it, the recruiters won’t read it at all. So less really is more, as one of the panellists said.

When designing your portfolio, it’s a good idea to think about the wider context relevant to the likely recruiters. What is essential for them to know about you? Often several persons will look at your portfolio in the course of the recruitment process. They will check whether you are a cultural fit, team fit and supervisor fit.

portfolio evening photo Martti Asikainen Service Design Network Finland
Eliisa Sarkkinen from Haaga-Helia was the host of the portfolio evening. The panellists were (from left to right): Teija Hakaoja from Silver Planet, Zeynep Falay von Flittner from Hellon, Emma Laiho from Frantic, Viivi Lehtonen from HSL and Teemu Moilanen from Haaga-Helia. Photo: Martti Asikainen, published with permission by Service Design Network

There is no single right way to make a portfolio. I think one of the best tips from the panel was this:

“Treat the recruiting process as a service design process: think of the recruiter as a customer!”

First of all, you should do your research: check out the company you’re applying to and the job profile specified. When you’ve gathered the information you need and know what they are looking for, it’s time to think about the content and the form of your portfolio. Show both your experience and what’s unique in you. Find a balance between quality and quantity in your portfolio. And remember: your portfolio can also be minimalist if you are not a visual designer.

author: Raija Kaljunen, Master’s Degree student in Service Design at Laurea

Designing from linear to circular economy

Event: Circular Design Workshop, “Designing sustainable future”

4th of March, in Maria 01, Helsinki

I had a pleasure to participate in an interesting design workshop, which dealt with the topic that seems to be in the headlines everywhere – circular economy. More specifically, the workshop was about circular design, and from a service design student point of view, this sounded a chance too good to miss. The info about the event promised an introduction to circular design and practical guidance how to use circular design tools, especially from product and service design point of view. Definitely, this was something that I got, and a huge amount of material and tools to go through.

The workshop was arranged by Taival, a management consulting company which provides business, strategy and technology advisory services. The company was founded in 2017, and it currently operates in Finland and Germany. Taival arranges events related to circular economy under the title “Digitally Circular”. Workshop was facilitated by Tapani Jokinen, who works as a Principal Design Advisor at Taival and he has over 25 years’ experience in design.

As mentioned before, during the workshop we were introduced many practical tools that can be used in circular design. However, my aim in this blog post is not to go through all these materials in detail, rather than to discuss the themes and topics that I consider as my main takeaways from this workshop and what kind of thoughts came into my mind as I went through all the provided materials.

Circularity starts with design

From the circularity point of view, decisions made in the product design phase are very important. They affect enormously to environmental pollution, and also to the possibilities for example reusing, remanufacturing and recycling the product. These aspects are very critical from the circularity point of view and it is very challenging to make changes into those features later. That’s why it is important to take these dimensions into account already during designing – and that’s why we need circular design!

There exist terms, that are similar to circular design, such as ecodesign or sustainable design, which can be more familiar and understandable for many. However, the term circular design is nowadays often used, because it describes well that the focus of the design phase should be very holistic, in systems level, and it emphasizes the importance of “closing the loop”.

New mindset of circular design

In circular design, you must have a totally new mindset: waste doesn’t exist. This means that products and services are designed in a way that the waste and pollution are designed out. Waste should be considered as a resource that can be utilized. The focus of circular design is trying to retain the value, and this can be designed through different loops. This means that instead of just thinking about recycling the waste in the end, as in the linear economy, the focus is on how to retain the value the best possible way – through repairing, reusing, remanufacturing and finally, through recycling.

Loops help to follow and design circular flows

The possibilities how to retain the value and in this way extend the life of a product can be thought through following circular flows, which are presented as loops (Figure 1). The inner loops are preferred, as they retain value better than the final loop of recycling, which is important, but considered as the last option.

Figure 1. Four loops of retaining the value (Slide from Jokinen’s presentation)

Loop 1: Repair, maintain and upgrade

First loop describes how the products are kept in use as long as possible. This is done through design by making durable products that are easy to repair and maintain, and also easy to upgrade when needed. A good method for this is for example modular design, which makes it easy to change only a part of a product, if it is damaged. Additionally, modularity enables customising which means that the product is easier to modify to the needs of different users.

Loop 2: Reuse

Second loop focuses on what happens to products and materials after the first use. This refers to reusing products in their original form. Ways to do this are reusing, re-selling and redistributing. This has also increased the interest in sharing economy, which refers to the shift from ownership to access, “product-as-a-service”. Quite often people only need an access to a product for a short period of time, and after that the service provider is able to pass the access on to another user. This is seen to make better use of materials and resources, and through these kind of shared services the result is also that less products needs to be produced.

Loop 3: Remanufacturing

Third loop refers to remanufacturing process. If the remanufacturing is already considered in the design phase, the product is made in a way that all components are easy to replace, if needed, before re-entering the market.

Loop 4: Re-/Upcycle

Last loop is recycling process, where raw materials from the product are recycled. There can also be a process of upcycling, which means transforming for example waste materials or unwanted products into new materials or products.

For me, going through these loops helped to understand that there exists many different possibilities of retaining a value – circular economy is so much more than just thinking about recycling in the end.

As a final sprint in the workshop we prototyped circular system with Learning Factory Lifecycle Design Canvas (Figure 2). That sprint definitely was a concrete reminder of all the different perspectives that should be taken into account in circular design – so many different things, so many different stakeholders.

Figure 2. Learning Factory Lifecycle Design Canvas (slide from Jokinen’s presentation)

Time for redesigning

After this introduction to circular design I surely can understand that transformation from linear economy to circular economy is not an easy one – many things must change. I think, that from the service design point of view one of the most important things is changing the focus to more holistic level, because we have to know and understand how the whole circular system works. However, based on this half-day workshop, I can say, that circular design is definitely something that I warmly welcome to change the way we think about owning and using products. It will be very interesting to follow the future of the circular design – are we going to redesign everything?

Below are links to some of the reference materials provided in the workshop. There are many useful tools and informative materials for those who want to know more about circular design.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

LINKS:

Sustainability Guide

Circular Design Guide

Ellen Macarthur Foundation