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Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Empathy?

Disclaimer:  These thoughts, opinions, and observations are mine, and mine alone.  They are not the thoughts of my fellow Dash team members, only myself. 

I recently had the immense pleasure of participating in the 2019 Dash Hackathon in Helsinki (organized by the Aalto Entrepreneurship Society – “Aaltoes”) which is the largest design hackathon in Europe.  In this hackathon there were over 220 participants from 40+ different nationalities that came together specifically for this event. 

https://www.dash.design

I knew that this hackathon was going to be a gigantic time commitment to squeeze into my fulltime work and student schedule.  I imagined that I would meet countless new people and possibly make a new friend or two.  As time crept closer to the event, I ruminated about the design process and wondered how the actual process of designing would unfold over the course of the event.

This was the schedule for the Dash Hackathon (there were two additional prep events the week prior to this main event)

Now that the event is over, I can reflect that the element of this hackathon which took me completely utterly by surprise was the profoundly visceral and emotional rollercoaster of a ride this journey took me on. 

For this post I do not want to focus on the specifics of the design process or what my team ultimately created.  What I am taking away from this experience is different than what I had initially imagined.  What I am left with is a list of existential questions for myself about who I am as a person, and what kind of service designer I want to be. 

As we all know, the cornerstone of service design is empathy (I realized this weekend this crucial element could be what drew me to service design in the first place).  The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others, see the world through their eyes and then walk a mile in those shoes.  All while keeping this perspective in mind as you create whatever amazing user-centered design solutions we service designers will ultimately come up with.

I think that empathizing with the user is an integral part of service design and it is very important to lay this as the foundation of everything we as service designers will do, however after this weekend I have come to realize that everything has a limit; empathy included. 

It is not possible to design a solution that suits everyone.  That is a fact of service design every designer must accept, and it is also how I am approaching this post.  This post is not for everyone.  This post is written for those of you who may have a propensity to over empathize.  For those of you who can relate, please read on.  For those of you who can’t relate, if you read on anyway, maybe you will notice this trait in a fellow designer and send them this post.

I decided when I signed up for Dash that I really wanted to be part of the challenge for Startup Refugees.  This is a Finnish NGO that has made it their mission to match refugees and immigrants with jobs here in Finland.  They were only founded three years ago, but they are already having a significantly positive impact on the employment situation of refugees and immigrants in Finland.  They currently have two offices; one in Helsinki and one in Oulu. 

If you would like to read more about them check out this link: https://startuprefugees.com/

I really wanted to be a part of this challenge more than any of the other challenges because this issue really speaks to me on a personal level.  I am a black American immigrant who has lived in Finland for the past six years.  I am very happy with where I am now in life both personally and professionally, but it was not an easy journey.  I know how hard I had to work to be where I am now, and that I did not get to where I am now on my own.  Sure, I have a good work ethic, but I also had a great network, a bit of luck, and people who were willing to take a chance on me.  I was really excited to see if I could somehow find a way to help other immigrants and refugees (whose situations coming to Finland were/are infinitely harder and more complicated than mine) find a way to become employed in Finland. 

I believe that through gainful employment an immigrant or refugee can have dignity, community, and a purpose for life in their new country of residence.  This feeling of comfort and belonging is something I genuinely wish I could give to anyone and everyone who wants it.

As I mentioned at the top of this blog, I do not want to go into specific details of the design challenge because I want to focus on my emotional journey and findings related to that.  For the sake of brevity let’s just say the challenge was related to Startup Refugees’ larger focus of helping to find refugees and immigrants employment in Finland.  This is what we in the realm of service design call a wicked problem.

In Richard Buchanan’s report “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”, he refers to a report by Rittel (1967) that defines a wicked problem as:

“A class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.” (1992, 15)

Wicked problems are manifested in the major issues and systemic failures of our society today.  Issues such as climate change, poverty, multicultural integration, healthcare, and so forth are problems so prolific in nature that there are no single solutions or tangible ends to their plight.

Source: https://transitiondesignseminarcmu.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Wicked-problems-flower.png

That being said, with this challenge being quintessentially wicked, there was no way we would possibly be able to fix this challenge in a 48-hour hackathon session.  To be fair and very clear, this is not what the challenge was asking of us.  It was asking for ways to help improve a small part of the issue so that they could more successfully match their clients with work or help immigrants and refugees better understand the foreign job market in which they are attempting to enter. 

However, with an issue this complex where do you even begin?

As a team, on that first day (Friday) we began the hackathon creative, upbeat, and ready to tackle the world.  On the second day (Saturday) that emotional rollercoaster shot full speed out of the launch bay.  The day started well, but by the middle of the day that upbeat and playful attitude was all but dead.  Our mentor repeatedly asked us where our playful attitude had gone and eventually encouraged us to go get some air together outside the venue to try to regain the spirit from the day before.  We got a bit more playful after that, but something personally inside me had shifted that I never could quite reset.  By later that night we had a working solution concept, and after starting again early Sunday morning we were able to finalize our idea and proudly present it later that afternoon as a possible solution to their challenge. 

I was very proud of the solution we came up with as a team and although some people may have thought that my closing lines of the pitch were sappy and maybe just for show, I honestly meant every word I wrote, rehearsed, and delivered as a closing.  The event ended later that night and I went home feeling happy, physically tired (this I understood- the hackathon was long), but also incredibly emotionally exhausted.  I felt like my inner child had just run an ultra-marathon through a mine field.  I felt acutely emotional and I wanted to figure out why.  I had been emotional since the second day of the challenge and those feelings just kept compounding until the challenge was over and I could finally go home.  Would I have felt this way if I worked on any of the other non-wicked problem challenges? Was I too close to the subject? Probably.

I began a search where all great internet searches begin (google) and stumbled across a blog that pretty much summed up the personal issue I faced during this challenge.  It is post is titled “The Dilemma of Designers’ Empathy Delusions” by Jason Mesut (2018).  In it he states:

“I have three challenges to the importance of empathy. To strengthen designer performance by battling what I feel is an ideal that is often delusional and misguided.

Two of my challenges are likely to be unpopular, and the third will probably be appreciated by many:

1.Most designers are not actually that empathic to end users

2.Empathy isn’t that valuable and unique a quality for designers

3.We should care more about people beyond users”

I will link the entire article because I think it is a really good read. However, I would like to focus on the 2nd and 3rd points he makes in this article.  In his second point that questions the value of empathy, and he gives a good example of the dangers of over empathizing with the following example:

“Imagine a doctor.  Imagine if she had high empathy.  She would struggle to make decisions for the population she helps.  If one of her patient(s) suffered, she would suffer.  The pain would impede the process of resolution.  It’s why many healthcare professionals build up barriers to the emotions and the pain of the patients they serve.  It helps them make better judgement calls. 

I’m not saying a designer shouldn’t care.  Often, they should.  But I’m not sure that empathizing over every user they meet can really be that productive or helpful.”

Now I know this for some people may sound a little over the top, but I think that this is a real danger for some designers that work specifically with wicked problems, or any other issues that are highly emotional, in which putting yourself into the shoes of others may elicit extremely deep feelings of empathy and compassion that are much deeper than what is productively necessary for the purposes of service design.

The article goes on to talk about what happens when your over empathizing can cause you to lose sight of the larger picture.  In your compassion driven quest to create real change for the end user you run the risk of losing empathy and sight of the other players in the game; the other clients and stakeholders in the relevant network who are all a part of the challenge you are hoping to solve.

The author proposes a framework for an empathy map where you consciously adjust your feelings up or down as necessary while also keeping in mind other players besides the end user:

Source: Jason Mesut https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf
Source: Jason Mesut https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

You can read the whole post here: https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

I wholeheartedly believe that empathy must exist for great service design.  However, I now believe there is a spectrum.  A spectrum of levels of conscious empathy every designer must have, and this spectrum should be personally re-evaluated during all phases of the design process to ensure it is evenly distributed across all people the new design will affect; users, clients, and stakeholders alike. 

I could not imagine being as deeply emotionally connected to an issue that I would be working with for a prolonged period of time without emotionally burning myself out.  Though I did not appear to be overly emotional or stressed during the event (and I did have a lot of fun too), I took mental note of how exhausting this challenge was, and wondered how I would deal with this kind of problem if it was my everyday job.  That is what lead me on this introspective journey and critical evaluation of the weight of empathy in service design.

I am fully aware that had I done a different challenge, I would not have had the emotional response I did. However, I am glad I experienced everything exactly as I did.  It gave me time to reflect on my emotions and myself.    

I had an amazing time at Dash and would like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to be a part of this great event.  I would also like to give my deepest thanks to Startup Refugees for all of the great work they do and wish them nothing but the best in the future.  Most of all, I would like to thank my amazing team members for all of their hard work, and I am very happy for the new friendships I have made. 

Dash Hackathon 2019 Team #39!!!

 By: Johanna Johnson

Sources

Buchanan, Richard 1996. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 

Mesut, J. 2018. The Dilemma of Designers Empathy Delusions. Posted 9 December. https://medium.com/shapingdesign/the-dilemma-of-designers-empathy-delusions-a61f0663deaf

Sustainable Development Goals: this is the Service Design we need!

Event: Global Goals JAM Berlin, organized by 2030Cabinet, powered by SDG Investments and hosted by Fjord Berlin. In collaboration with: Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Digital Society School, Global Goals Jam, UNDP.

In middle September I took part at the Global Goals JAM Berlin, a 2-day series of small design sprints where attendees were asked to work on local challenges – co-created with local community and industries – related to one or more of the the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

History pills – What are these Global Goals?

Let’s take a quick step back in 2015 when the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York and have decided on new global Sustainable Development Goals, known now as the Global Goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

The UN set to achieve each Goal and target by 2030.

Back to present

The aim of this event was to create interventions aimed at short term targets in support of the long term goals. The themes of this year were:

  • Water and Climate Change (SDG 4, SDG 13)
  • Migration (SDG 10, SDG 16)
  • Electronic Waste (SDG 12)
  • Sustainable Development for People and Planet (SDG 1, SDG 8)

Deep dive into the Migration Theme

My Team was composed by Nataly Ramirez Arteaga, Muhammad Sumon Molla Selim and Michael Lausberg, facilitated by Güzin Goçer and we were supporting the local Sponsor “Asylum Advice”, a soon-to-be platform where refugees could seek legal advice.

We mapped out the cause and effects of Migration on a general level by using the Problem Solving Tree, we interviewed 2 refugees and a social worker with 10 year experience in the field.

The big lessons learned by using the Service Design Tools were:

  • asylum seekers tend to trust more what other refugees, that have been in their shoes before, would tell them.
  • there are a lot of services for migrants already existing but nobody knows them
  • fragmented information & lack of digitalized bureaucratic processes
  • migrants that succeeded in their first steps in a new country feel the need to help others.

Here we envisioned a need of trust and better information and at the same time the desire to offer help.

Therefore we decided to prototype a platform to connect different already existing resources and services for migrants, to collect official information from authorities but most importantly a platform to get in touch with other migrants that have gone through the same experience and to share help and knowledge to ultimately build community and trust.

Personal reflection – What can we do as Service Designer practitioners?

As a student of the Service Innovation & Design Master program I felt the urge to participate and contribute to the challenges of this year.

“Is there anything better than combining our own expertise in Service Design to serve people, planet and prosperity by helping achieving these SDGs?”

We, as Service Designers know best how important is to empathize with the user – in this case People and Planet –  and create that shift of mindset in society where Government and Businesses should sit together with citizens to co-create solution for our people and for the environment.

Here an invitation to reflect and perhaps to start spread the Service Design tools to our local Communities and give help for the cause that we feel more related to.

It takes tons of small initiatives, iterations (and failures too!) before we can see a visible impact on a larger scale.

But this means we have to start now. We have to care, share and Dare!   

And you? Are you ready to Design 2030 now?

Author: Francesca A. Frisicale, October 2019

References & Links

https://globalgoalsjam.org/

https://www.globalgoalsberlin.com/

https://twitter.com/2030Cabinet

https://twitter.com/GlobalGoalsBER/

https://sdg-investments.com/en/

https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgsummit

https://asylumadvice.org/#!

Data Gives Insights, Design Gives Solutions

Service Design Network Finland

The New Buzz Word

“Data driven design” has become some what of a buzz word because data is considered to be the new oil. However, many companies struggle to figure out how to take advantage of data and so to speak “strike gold”. At the Service Design Network event: Data Driven Design, two companies K Group and Sanoma Media Finland shared how they have been able to develop successful services thanks to data.

Data Is a Compass

Interestingly both K Group and Sanoma Media Finland referred to data as a compass. Data is seen as a compass for a person who is lost. It gives a starting point where to start to look from. Data also acts as validator to see whether the adjustments made to the service have had a positive or negative effect or perhaps no effect at all. However, K Group noted that for them to say that data acts as a compass for them, it requires a lot of work.  

Collaboration Is Key

Both companies emphasized the important of collaboration. Sanoma Media Finland described well the challenge of a designer, an analyst and a developer working together (see picture below). All three have very different working styles and practices and yet all three are essential to develop the best service possible. To solve this issue, Sanoma Media Finland decided to change their way of working and started to follow Futurice’s Lean Service Creation process. It is not all smooth sailing yet, but they feel that they are on the right path.

Data Driven Services

K Group has great amount of data about their customer as they have 3,5 million loyalty members and 5 million customer encounters daily. Thanks to their rich source of data they have been able to create customer driven services such as K-Ostokset (K-Ruoka mobile app): “A service, that gives the user an overview of his/her grocery purchases and a better understanding of the impacts of the purchase decisions.” The other customers for K Group are their K store merchants. K Group has developed a service for the merchants that collects data about the merchant’s K store customers, the market and the area and puts the information in such a format that the merchants can make educated decisions on how to improve their store’s profitability and customer experience. Evidently, as shown by these two examples, data has become an essential part of service development.

K-Ruoka mobile app

Written by Lyydia Pertovaraa

Links:

https://www.kesko.fi/en/

https://www.k-ruoka.fi/artikkelit/k-kaupassa/mobiilisovellus

https://www.leanservicecreation.com/

https://sanoma.fi/en/

https://www.service-design-network.org/chapters/finland

Service Development at Finavia

Last Monday I participated in a company visit to Finavia organized by Ompeluseuran palvelumuotoilijat, a networking group for people who identify themselves as women. The event was hosted by Katariina Kovanen-Piippo, Digital Service Designer, the first and currently only service designer at Finavia and Terhi Aho, Ecommerce Manager, Digitalisation Program. Kovanen-Piippo and Aho shared how services are developed at Finavia and at the end of the visit all the participants got to workshop around a current Finavia case: “How to solve the transfer passengers’ problem using digital and physical channels?”. All in all, it was a very insightful visit and it was great to get to workshop for a short moment around a real Finavia case.

A Little Bit about Finavia

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport

Finavia is a Finnish airport operator with a network of 21 airports across Finland. The Helsinki-Vantaa airport is the main airport which is a transit hub with over 50 000 passengers passing through it every day. Finavia’s customer promise is: “For Smooth Travelling.”  meaning that Finavia will do anything to satisfy their customers. This is because one third of passengers choose their flight route according to the reputation of the transfer airport. Finavia has recognized three points through which they can influence customer experience: processes, premises and customer encounters. Their four pillars of customer experience guide the development of the airports: sense of time, security, refreshment and Finnish experiences. The aimed outcome is that the customer should feel energetic and relaxed instead of stressed and irritated after visiting the airport.  

Developing Services Together with Customers

Finavia’s Digital Channels and Services

The great advantage of developing new or existing services at Finavia is that the customers are always in easy reach. The only thing that is left for the service designer to do is to define what they want to do and who should they ask. According to Kovanen-Piippo, the travelers have been more than happy to test ideas and answer questions. Furthermore, Finavia aims to have the necessary information where it is easily available for the customer. They don’t need to develop their own Finavia app just for the sake of it. If the customer is better reached through the Finnair airline’s app, then that is where the information should be.

Data Sets the Premises for Service Development

Finavia Target Groups

Data gained from research has helped Finavia to develop services that cater to their different user personas and customer segments. For example, Finavia has identified six basic customer groups amongst their travelers such as the price sensitive shopper (12% of travelers) and decisive performer (17% of travelers). Additionally, they have recognized that Estonian, Russian and Chinese travelers are a strategically important customer segments for them. When a tender is initiated for a new restaurant for example, it is always done in mind to cater to a certain customer segment.

Measuring the Success of Services

ASQ Customer Journey

Finavia follows the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) survey monthly. It is a benchmarking program used by many airports to measure passengers’ satisfaction whilst they are traveling through an airport. If some touch point/service seems to be getting a lot of negative feedback, instant action will be taken to find out what might be causing it and how can it be improved. Finavia focuses more on customer touch points rather than customer journeys as there can be several different paths that end up leading to the same touch point.

Written by Lyydia Pertovaara

Links:

https://www.finavia.fi/en

https://duunitori.fi/tyoelama/ompeluseura-upea-ura (about Ompeluseura in Finnish)

https://aci.aero/customer-experience-asq/

The Four Joys of Taking Part in a Book Club

Organizer: Service Design Network Finland
Time and Place: 11.9.2019, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Pasila Campus
Book: Palvelumuotoilun Bisneskirja, 2019, by Mikko Koivisto, Johanna Säynäjäkangas and Sofia Forsberg (only available in Finnish)

1. Join a Book Club and Actually Finish Reading a Book on Your Reading List

Case in point: Ever since I heard about the much buzzed about Palvelumuotoilun bisneskirja (The Service Design Business Book), I was eager to get my hands on it. Needless to say, I never got around it. It wasn’t until I saw the advertisement for the Service Design Network’s Book Club featuring the book, that I decided to finally read it. There is nothing like a set deadline to boost your motivation.

2. Discuss with Interesting Participants in a Relaxed Setting

It was great to exchange views about the book with other service design enthusiasts. The consensus was that the book outlines well why a business should invest in service design. Several recent business cases were featured in the book to help comprehend how service design is implemented in practice. The book also described the different stages that a company goes through when transforming to a service design-led organization. One of the participants said it well: “It is easier for a company that is born now to be inherently customer driven than for a company that has a long history to transform its well-established processes and ways to be more customer centric.” The book was also really reader friendly, thanks to the clear illustrations and jargon free writing. It is now on my recommendations list for anyone who wants to learn about service design especially from a business perspective.

3. Gain Fascinating Insights from One of the Authors

One of the book’s authors, Mikko Koivisto (pictured in the middle), took part in the book club. Koivisto shared that the cover and the title of the book were decided even before any content was written. This was because the publisher wanted to start promoting the book straight away. And even though there has been interest for an English version of the book, Koivisto said that it will have to wait for now. All the authors are quite busy at the moment and translating the book into English would require also updating the content to better serve an international audience.

4. Host the Next Book Club

Naturally the next step is to host the next book club. Yep, I got asked to host the next one and I gladly accepted the challenge. So, get your calendars out and mark yourself busy for the 2nd of December from 5pm to 7pm. The next book club will take place in the Helsinki Central Library Oodi. Details of the book will follow. Stay tuned and I will see you there!

Written by Lyydia Pertovaara

Links:

https://www.palvelumuotoilunbisneskirja.fi/

https://www.service-design-network.org/chapters/finland

Business Design- An Uncharted Journey to the Future

Dash Talks hosted the event “Design + Business” where three professional business designers came to speak about the challenges and value of design thinking in the world of business.  Hanne Nissinen from OP, Jaakko Luomaranta from Palmu/Solita, and Petteri Kolinen from Design Forum Finland came to share their personal journeys and observations of not only how the design thinking movement has impacted modern business development, but also where they envision it leading businesses into the future.  Although they each had unique stories and insights to share, there were some overlapping themes that manifested in all three presentations. 

In the book “Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation” by Idris Mootee, the author explores using design thinking as an unorthodox approach to disrupting the current linear processes of business model and strategy creation and execution.  He also explores the differences in the business model (how business value is monetized), business strategy (branding, relevance, and futures thinking) and how design thinking when spread throughout an entire organization has the potential to keep businesses connected, competitive and malleable in order to keep up with a world that is undergoing an increasingly rapid transformation and progression into uncharted territories.

Challenges

Despite the excitement over this new palette for design thinking in the realm of business design, the first big challenge that all three speakers touched on was the novelty of design thinking as a major influence in business planning.  Service design in services has been around the block a bit longer than design in business, and there are not yet common established frameworks unifying the application of design thinking in business scenarios.  Hanna and Jaakko illustrated examples of how, due to a lack of solid definition of the process of business design, this can make some businesses wary of adapting business design as new mindset, method of operation, and vehicle for innovation.

Which leads to the next substantial hurdle of the resistance of established companies to the drastic structural and operational changes inspired by design thinking.  The older, more established, and successful a company is, the less receptive they will be to drastic organizational and cultural change.  It is the job of the designer to be the leader in a shift towards design thinking and laying the foundation for multidisciplinary interactions that break down the walls of the traditional isolated silo style way of working; starting at the top with the CEO and upper management (this is key) and rapidly spreading across the entire organizational structure.

Hanna shared a list of challenges faced by business designers at OP that I think could apply to any business designer shaking up company culture for the first time with new design thinking inspired ideas to take into consideration:

She also spoke about some good qualities a business designer should have when working with a company new to design thinking:

  • proactivity (in finding/creating projects)
  • the ability to successfully pitch your idea
  • successful cases (to prove it works)
  • the ability to not be overly discouraged by failure (we all know this will happen)
  • the courage to be different

Most importantly, she said that the most important element that is needed between the service designer and upper management is trust.

One of the other challenges I would like to touch on that all three speakers mentioned was the difficulty of finding people qualified to hire as business designers.  Yes, a business designer is a design thinking professional, however according to the speakers at this event, businesses are often looking to find candidates who also have a business background and are willing to find ways to combine both quantitative and qualitative methods to gain better consumer and business insights.  They spoke about looking for a special combination of talent profiles, and each business was looking for a slightly different combination of design and business skill. The one thing all three speakers agreed on was that the most important attribute in a potential candidate is creativity and positivity.

Another challenge that was presented was the balancing act between what is best for the user and what is best for the business.  Although this was not explored in depth during the talks, this is something that I would like to research further on my own as it is an interesting concept for me to personally explore in my own work.

To end this section, I would like to mention a podcast that Jaakko highlighted called “Beyond Users” aimed at merging design thinkers with the world of business.  Here is the first episode in the podcast series (featuring Trent Huon from IDEO Munich) that explores the role of business in design and why it is important for designers to not forget about the importance of the business they are designing for in their designs:

https://www.beyondusers.com/podcast/trent-huon

Value

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” —John F. Kennedy

The last speaker, Petteri, spoke about the positive effects that design thinking can have on a business.  To a business that is open to fully embrace the concept, it has the power to incite change at the very core of a business identity, value system, and culture. Critical application of design thinking within a business can challenge long standing traditions and viewpoints forcing a business to not be complacent with past or present successes, but to focus on the future. The application of design thinking to business models and strategy plans can enhance value co-creation and establish a holistic brand experience with their users.

One report that all three speakers spoke about was “The New Design Frontier” report by InVision.  This report is “An industry-spanning report that redefines design maturity today.  InVisionsurveyed thousands of companies to explore the relationship between design practices and business performance”.  One of the main discoveries is that currently only very small percentage (5%!) of companies are using design thinking to maximum advantage. Roughly 41% of companies surveyed “have significant room to grow”. 

InVision created the “Design Maturity Model” to highlight the disparity between companies that have embraced design thinking, and those that have not:

Design Maturity Solar System Model by InVision

If you would like to read the report in its entirety and get more details about each of the levels visualized in this model, I urge you to read the full report published on the InVision site:

https://www.invisionapp.com/design-better/design-maturity-model/

Personal Reflection

In order to keep moving forward and be adaptable, I believe it is necessary for businesses to rethink the way they operate and innovate with the assistance of design thinking. 

The resistance to change in large companies is something I understand and encounter in my own work.  It is good to keep this in mind as I move forward and to remember the strategies suggested in this talk should I ever be placed in the situation of being the person trying to bring drastic change.  On a smaller scale, I challenge myself to remain open to changes and adjustments to old working habits when someone presents a good idea that shakes things up in the workplace, and not resist change just because I am comfortable.  Things may be currently working well, but you will never know if it is possible for them to be better if you don’t let yourself remain open to change.

While this transition period (from traditional business structures to design influenced structures) can be a scary time for some, I find this time of change and uncertainty (uncertainty is not always bad) to be exciting to watch unfold.  The ball is in the court of the business designers to prove the efficacy of design thinking on business organizations, and only time will tell how this great experiment will turn out. 


“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” —Niccolo Machiavelli

Written By: Johanna Johnson

Sources

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

Faljic, A. (Host) Beyond Users #1 Trent Huon @IDEO: Not thinking about business is bad design [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.beyondusers.com/podcast/trent-huon

Buley, L., Avore, C., Gates, S., Gonzalez, S., Goodman, R., Walter, A. (2019). The New Design Frontier. Retrieved from DesignBetter by Invision website: https://www.invisionapp.com/design-better/design-maturity-model/

Design Thinking – the bridge between the problem and solution

I had a chance to attend a two-day intensive course called `Unlocking the Secrets of Service Design´ offered by CityDrivers. The trainers were Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri who are experts on Design Thinking and innovation. Both trainers created very energetic and enthusiastic environment that helped us, participants, to get excited about the two-day intensive course.

Trainers: Dr. Niels Billou and Adil Mansouri

During these two days Niels and Adil introduced the principles, practices and the process of Design Thinking and methodology of Service Design. I have some experience about Service Design and Design Thinking from my Service Innovation and Design studies in Laurea. By taking the two-day course, my goal was to learn new tools and methods that I haven’t used before and to know how I can apply these to my future projects. Here are my key take-aways from the days.

Day 1 – Introduction and understanding the customer

The first day gave an overview of Service Design and Design Thinking. After an interactive lecture all the participants rolled their sleeves and started working with the case assignment and exploring the first parts of the Design Thinking process – understanding the customer, collecting and analysing the interview data.

What is Design Thinking?

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
— Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

 

DT

Billou introduced few different definitions for Design Thinking. In my opinion the most descriptive definition for Design Thinking is from Tim Brown. According to Brown´s quotation Design Thinking helps to make decisions based on what customers want. And when using tools from designer´s toolkit, like applying experimentation and empathy that helps to create innovative solutions to problems.

Trainers introduced a Stanford D. School Design Thinking model that consists of five stages: Understand, Observe, Define Point of View, Ideate, Prototype and Test.

DT processStanford D. School Design Thinking model

During my studies I have noticed the stages of different Design Thinking process models are actually quite the same – only the titles and amount of stages vary. Earlier I have been using only the Double Diamond Design Thinking process, since I know the stages and it is familiar to me. So now I was excited to get to know a new process I haven´t used before.

Power of Empathy

Empathy is all about understanding the people. First phase of the Design Thinking process is to understand the customer. Adil talked about the power of empathy and how important it is to step into customer´s shoes. In this part of the process the data reveals underlying needs of the customer. The trainers introduced few effective tools for this data gathering part:

  • In-depth interviews – help researchers to learn more about a person’s experiences, processes, attitude, problems, needs, pains and ideas.
  • Empathy map – represents a customer’s actions and a mind-set. Interview guide can be adjusted into an empathy map and cover what the customer “Think”, “Feel”, “Say” and “Do”.

 

After an interactive lecture the participants were divided in multidisciplinary teams. Trainers pointed out the importance of cross functional teams – it is vital to have people from different backgrounds who co-create innovative solutions together. My group got a design challenge to redesign the workday lunch experience and encourage people into sustainable eating habits.

Our first step was to go out and interview people regarding their lunch experience. We made an interview guide for the interview – one was interviewing and the other took notes. I have been interviewing people before but I haven´t been using empathy map template. I noticed it helped to sum up the findings and catch a deeper insights from the interviewees such as what the user was saying, doing, thinking and feeling. In my opinion this tool works especially well in mini-interviews when having only 30-60 minutes to do the interviews.

Data visualization leads to insights

Our next step was to analyse and interpret our data to find insights from interviews. Niels introduced us a storytelling tool. Each of us had a chance to be a storyteller and describe what we heard and observed from the interviews. The listeners draw visual images about important details on post-its – finally we had a wall full of post-its. The empathy map template used in interviews was very helpful in this exercise.

Storytelling: Capturing data & clustering insights

The last step of the first day was to cluster the post-its and find common patterns between the notes. This storytelling and the visual data capturing were new tools for me. I was surprised how easy it was to see the overall findings when the post-its were full of pictures, and not just text. I could use this in workshops at work when we have limited time to capture customer data.

Day 2 – From Insights and Ideas to Innovation

The last day started with a summary what we had done so far and what was ahead of us: ideating, developing a prototype and testing it with customers.

Finding a focus

We started the day by creating a persona. Adil explained personas are fictional customers created to represent different user types. The persona helped us to step into the customer´s shoes and it guided us to make useful design decisions later during the day.

personaCreating a persona

At this point of the Design Thinking process we were on the “Define a point of view”-stage. According to Niels the Point of view sentence help us to build a line between the initial problem and future solution – it narrows the focus and makes the problem specific. It was surprisingly hard to summarize our thoughts into one sentence.

Next the trainers encouraged us to generate plenty of wild ideas by using how might we… –method. How might we questions launched many crazy ideas and we put those on the post-its. After that it was time to vote for the best idea. Adil introduced a Prioritization Matrix that helped us to identify the most important and valuable ideas, prioritize them and vote for the best idea.

prio matrix.pngPrioritization Matrix

Presenting a Prioritization Matrix on the lecture was a great reminder for me. Once I have been using that during my studies but since there are so many tools it is easy to forget. Since the time was limited during these two days the impact / effort axis on the Prioritization Matrix helped us to point out the best ideas fast. I put this tool into my toolbox and definitely will use this in the future projects.

Fail early, to succeed sooner

In the afternoon we started to build a prototype that eventually helped to solve the problem. According to Niels the prototype is a draft version of a product or a service. It should present our idea and when showing it to the users the aim is to get feedback for iteration.

This was the best part of the day and we were really excited about this step. The team made a prototype out of Legos. This was a first time for me to do this part with Legos. Lego characters were the actors on the stage and the bricks worked very well when presenting the idea and the experience around it. We were very pleased to our prototype.

Building a Lego prototype

The last step of the Design Thinking process was testing the prototype with users. The team went out and we presented the prototype for few users.

“If prototypes aren´t failing you are not pushing far enough. Failure is part of understanding and improving”
– Dr. Niels Billou

final proto.png
Final prototype

Niels’ quote went straight to the point. We got plenty of feedback and enhancement ideas for the prototype and some users crushed the prototype by saying “That won´t work in real life”. We presented the prototype and the feedback for the whole lecture group. Our team proved Niels´ quote true – the failure is truly part of understanding and improving.

To sum up these two days, this intensive course taught me new tools and methods of Design Thinking and reminded me of tools I already knew. Since there are so many tools to use, the hardest part is to choose the most relevant ones for every project. I´m excited to learn more – practice makes perfect, doesn´t it?

 

If you want to discover more different Design Thinking tools and methods, I recommend This is Service Design Doing Method Library. Library consists of 54 hands-on Service Design methods. This is a useful site when choosing the right methods.
https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/methods

tiss

 

Written by: Marianne Kuokkanen