I participated on 10.9.2020 in an online event hosted by Design Club, a business community within Design Museum Helsinki, and Aalto University. The topic of the event was “System Innovations for Business Sustainability” and featured a presentation by Dr. Idil Gaziulusoy, an Assistant Professor in Aalto University and a panel discussion with Dr. Heli Antila, the Vice President of Biobased solutions in Fortum.
The event tackled interesting, necessary topics regarding sustainability challenges and the need for large transformations in the field of innovation and business. The urgency of the changes cannot be overstated as we are already very late in the game. Businesses need to be on the forefront of the change and be able to radically adapt their views and ways.
Gaziulusoy discussed the three transformation zones that we need to understand and explore in order to fully embrace sustainability innovation.
The inner circle is the practical zone that consists of mostly technical solutions and the usual product innovation. Gaziulusoy stated that in this area most focus is put today but the innovation process needs to be extended further.
The second layer shows organisational aspects such as systems and structures and while it gives more depth than the practical sphere, it is not enough for an overall, radical change.
The last layer is the socio-cultural level which includes beliefs, values and existing worldview of all societal factors. According to Gaziulusoy, this level has the least attention from businesses and policy makers. She called this area the “zone of difficult questions” due to the importance of challenging existing, deep-seated views and beliefs.
From operational to visionary
As the old saying goes: “easier said than done”, so how do we actually start the change? How can companies realistically transform their “business as usual” without compromising their position? The question is not simple nor is there an easy answer, but there are methods available.
Gaziulusoy suggested that companies implement a shadow-track strategy, a transition strategy where they simultaneously operate in their usual area of business but also invest time and money for new innovation areas. Gaziulusoy urged companies to boldly step away from their reactive role and reach for a more profound transformation.
Panelists were asked for examples of companies that were engaging in truly sustainable innovation. In general, micro-enterprises were mentioned to be the leaders in the field as they have the ability to find their niche and ask the question: “How can we do business differently“. A local Helsinki zero-waste-restaurant Nolla, was mentioned as an example of this.
Needless to say, more established companies have a different strategy than micro-enterprises. Antila mentioned that the burden of old traditions might be a reason for older, more established companies to be held back. Change is happening, but still slowly.
Collaboration is key
Gaziulusoy encouraged companies to push the boundaries of doing business by engaging policy makers and collaborating with researchers, stakeholders and even competitors.
Antila emphasized the role of universities in making change happen as they commonly have the resources for basic research in different topics and by working together with companies, they could reach even more concrete ideas.
The key is the change in mindset and values, and the overall signal to the public should be “We don’t cater to mindless consumption”. Showing that more determined businesses are ready for the challenge, is both a competitive advantage but also the only way forward.
For more inspiration:
Story of Nolla, a Helsinki-based zero waste restaurant
I participated on 27.8.2020 in an online event hosted by Reach Network. The online webinar focused on the importance of life centered design, sustainability and ecosystem. The panel discussion consisted of Reach Network’s four design research experts: Bas Raijmakers from STBY in UK, José de la O from delaO Design Studio in Mexico, Rikke Ulk from Antropologerne in Denmark and Babitha George from Quicksand in India.
The resources of the planet aren’t endless and crises like climate change have changed design thinking from individual to ecosystem. It’s a shift in thinking: from not only focusing on how people can benefit to how the entire ecosystem can.
The event focused on the importance of looking beyond having the human in the middle of design and focusing more on the ecosystems that we largely depend on.
Shifting between the levels
The panelists discussed the complexity of the issue and the multiple levels that must be taken into consideration with life centered design. Rikke Ulk talked about shifting through individual levels, social levels and organizational levels, and understanding everything in between.
“The way we have been thinking about sustainability has been rather limited by not acknowledging all these levels. Especially in industrial design it’s been really focused on optimizing things and making everything more efficient but what we have forgotten is to look at how it all adds up.” – Bas Raijmakers from STBY
The designer mindset should be switched from “we have a problem that needs solving” to “how can we make better decisions for a sustainable future”.
With the added dimensions, the challenges involved are also more complex. José De la O talked about the core challenges of life centered design and the expectations that people have from design researchers in general.
“Sometimes when people ask your help as a design researcher, they always want to have tangible solutions that has to work on the get-go. You have to be aware of the consequences of the solutions that you propose.” – José de la O from delaO Design Studio
The work may seem endless, but in order to be successful you need embrace the complexities, and to be always learning, observing and sharing knowledge. De la O emphasized that it’s not so much as theory learning but interactive learning.
The panelists discussed a lot about finding an overall balance, that sweet spot of all involved levels. You need to be more humble but also embrace much more complex thinking, for example in terms of biodiversity.
Rikke Ulk talked about a life-centered project she has been a part of in a Samsø, Denmark. Samsø is an island that is completely self-sufficient in green energy after the building of 21 wind turbines that were mostly funded by the island’s inhabitants. Now all of the island’s electricity comes from the wind turbines and any excess is exported to mainland Denmark.
Samsø has become a pioneer community, being part of green energy counseling in a global scale. Ulk talked about a new project she’s involved in which is another community based project in Samsø, where they want to move one of their two schools into a forest area where the school would have more ability to experiment. The idea of being in the woods and having new kinds of teaching facilities is not just about teaching the children about sustainability but more so installing them the ideology of it and offering them better learning opportunities.
“We think children have the ability of being sustainable. It’s natural to children to be curious and know that they are a part of everything.” – Rikke Ulk from Antropologerne
Ulk emphasized the importance of community support and how Samsø residents have embraced all the new changes. The citizens had the option to buy a part of a windmill which is how the island was able to become energy-positive in the first place. Additionally Samsø is striving to be fossil fuel-free by 2030.
I participated on 20.8.2020 in an online event focusing on design research. The event was hosted by Reach Network‘s Bas Raijmakers and featured a panel discussion with two experienced service design professionals Geke van Dijk from STBY and Babitha George from Quicksand, both part of the Reach Network organization.
Both Van Dijk and George discussed their projects, the craft of design research and what it takes to succeed in their field, with an active participation from other participants.
Iterative process instead linear
The design research process of Reach Network is described as more iterative than linear. New ideas often come up during fieldwork, so quick adaptation is key. The process starts with immersion phase where they usually study people in their own environments. Afterwards in insight creation the design researchers identify problem spots and opportunity areas. Last phase of idea generation includes workshops, brainstorming and modeling of strongest ideas.
George started the discussion by explaining a project she had been working with which dealt with public healthcare in India. She discussed the difficulties of when dealing with an intimate, hard topic and how to overcome these obstacles. She mentioned that the ability to adapt your methods and getting people comfortable were vital, for instance using hypothetical scenarios instead of asking direct, intimate questions for a softer approach. She listed building trust and offering a judgement-free-zone as key to the success in her project.
Both George and van Dijk discussed the importance of design research. They were asked during the panel discussion on how to get clients to understand the importance of design research and pay for design research. They emphasized that when design research is done right, it is very informative and helps with implementation longevity. Engaging with stakeholders and having a thorough, mutual understanding and clear communication is vital.
Qualitative research vs. design research
The panelists briefly talked about differences of qualitative research and design research. With design research, you have creativity included and you’re always looking for opportunities. It’s rich in storytelling and bringing a design aspect via persona posters and images from field, for example.
A participant in the event asked for tips on how to transfer complex data to a more understandable, audience friendly format. George and van Dijk mentioned that having key insights, summaries and lots of illustrations is a good starting point. They emphasized finding a balance with complexity and clear storytelling because you also don’t want to lose the richness of your findings.
The art of the craft
The panelists discussed the craft of design research and what it takes to succeed in their field. Design research is about constantly reiterating and customizing your methods. It requires a lot of experience and openness to learn new. It’s about learning of complexities but also keeping things simple. “It’s about constantly zooming in and out”, one panelist explained.
The needed skills include observation, conversation, creative listening, ability to adapt, motivation to always learn new things, but also being reflective and self critical of own biases. It’s not just about learning tricks of different tools but learning the craft and adapting those tools to own projects.
During the panel discussion, it was mentioned that design research is much like the Netflix documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, which featured Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master in Tokyo and his relentless pursuit of perfection, who even after three Michelin stars was always striving to be better.
In a way, a design researcher is never finished with learning their craft but instead always reiterating and customizing their approach.
The International AIDS conferece, AIDS2020Virtual was organized 6-10 July 2020. Thousands of scientists, activists, policy makers, people living with HIV and others came together to share the newest information on HIV and AIDS. I attended the virtual conference and in this post I will discuss one of the sessions on human centered design.
Innovation has fueled medical advancements
Innovation has shaped the course of the whole HIV epidemic. In the 1980s getting an HIV diagnosis meant a certain death. Since then we’ve come a long way through several crucial innovations in HIV treatment and prevention, one of the most crucial ones being antiretroviral medication. Today thanks to effective treatment, a person living with HIV can live a long and healthy life.
Through further innovation, we can reach the end of this epidemic. There is much research in the pipeline around an HIV vaccine, a possible cure and preventive treatment, such as different options for PrEP. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a medicine that people who are at a high risk of HIV can use to prevent infection. Read more about PrEP here
Reaching the most vulnerable through human centered design
Although medical advances have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV, the development has been unequal and many people have been left behind. Therefore, HIV service provision is now gaining more attention, so that the ones that have been left behind during the past 40 years of HIV work, can be better included in the response in the future. This is where I believe that human centered design can play an important role.
During the #AIDS2020Virtual conference I attended a discussion on human centered design and how it can be utilized in HIV prevention and testing. Throughout the conference, the importance of empathy came up in discussions with people living with HIV, key populations in terms of HIV, activists and specialists. As human centered design is grounded in empathy and since it puts the person at the center of the service that is designed for their benefit, it brings a lot of value for designing HIV services and programs. Human centered design does not only take into consideration what people say, but beneficiaries of services can actually impact the final service through their actions, based on their needs, motivations and desires. The session included speakers from USAID, JSI, Matchboxology and Ideo.org. They all introduced case studies in advancing HIV treatment or prevention through human centered design.
Designing an HIV prevention program with and for young women
I will share with you the case study introduced by Matchboxology. The case study focused on young girls in South Africa, as women and especially young girls have a higher risk of HIV infection than men in the country. (Avert 2020)
A multidisciplinary team came together to develop the methodology, conduct user research and in the end develop a concept and brand to increase PrEP use among young girls in South Africa. One of the main successes in the human centered design project was that they flipped the script and redefined the patient as the consumer. Through the user research they found that the young women did not see themselves as patients and they did not feel like they needed medical interventions. Taking a strictly medical approach to preventing HIV would therefore be challenging.
The team redefined the paradigm of HIV prevention as something that focuses on self-empowerment rather than on the message of not getting HIV. They collaborated with young people across South Africa and the private sector to create a brand that presents PrEP as something equally as fun and desirable as makeup and fashion. The successful project developed the brand V, which included visuals, messaging, packaging and brand ambassadors to help young women protect themselves from HIV by using PrEP.
When you understand consumers better, you can disrupt, innovate and generate behavior change!
When asking one of the participants in the design process what she thought the best part of the human centered design process was, she fittingly described the process as follows: “It’s about what I like, how I define myself, not about how others define me.”
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 awebinar 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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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
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.