School of startups: Behavior Design

Juha-Pekka Ahvenainen

I have been participating to school of startups organized by the Shortcut. The Shortcut is a non-profit organisation owned by Startup Foundation, and a sister organisation to Slush and Startup Sauna.  According to their website  Shortcut is a community driven organisation that promotes diversity as an engine for growth. They want to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to consider creating or working for a startup to best utilise their skills and aspirations. They want to inspire and empower our community through gatherings, workshops, trainings and programmes that help them explore ideas, share knowledge and develop skills to enable new talents required in the startup life.


On a first day of school of startups the topic was behavior design introduced by Ashwin Rajan, the founder of the Fabric Consulting. His firm helps companies to focus on behavior change through technology. I wanted to share this topic with you guys because for my opinion this is very interesting topic and it comes somehow very close to service design.

According to Ashwin Rajan behavior design provides tools to extend or change human behavior through technology. The most successful digital products can really transform human behavior. For example there has been a huge change in photography from the age before digital products to age of smart phones. Another good examples are dating and cab haling.

Rajan emphasizes that you should start the designing process from the behavior, not the technology. On the other hand behavior can be seen as actions on digital technology: snapping, swiping, scrolling, pausing, liking, tagging, sharing and buying. Behavior designer´s goal is to create following situations: ” A specific, ´intent rich´ digital action done with enough frequency to create recurring revenue!”. For Rajan´s opinion experience can not be measured but behavior can and target behaviors can be tied to metrics and growth. One of the big things of the lecture was the concept of cognitive dissonance which according to Rajan is the heart of the behavior change.


There can be found three things which affect on how behavior works. Those are ability, motivation and triggers. Six factors can affect on ability: time, money, physical effort, brain cycles, social deviance and non-routine. Triggers can be internal or external. Rajan told us that the motivation part is the most difficult one to understand and design at his job as a behavior designer.

For example social media notifications are external triggers. At fabric consulting they use specific user archetype canvas to gather all the important information of the archetype at a behavior design project.


Ashwin Rajan is going to publish a book about this topic. I am looking forward to his new book. He also showed us a glimpse of some other useful canvases to do the challenging art of the behavior design. This blog post was just a scratch of the surface of this important topic of our digital era.

Behavior eats strategy for breakfast.  -Anonymous-

Unleash the potential of your business using Design Thinking

Summary: Using a co-creative process, Design Thinking helps organisations to build on unmet user needs and create value from user insights.

Before I started my Service Innovation and Design (SID) studies and went through the Design Thinking masterclass hosted by Professor Katja Tschimmel, I never realised how much published content such as books, reports and essays existed on the subject of Design Thinking (DT).

Design Thinking is a framework for how to come up with ideas – loads of them at the beginning all way until refining and develop to prototype the bests ones. Design Thinking is human-centred and aims to foster creativity and innovation – the principal sources for businesses differentiation and competitive advantages.


Through Mind Mapping we identified opportunities for innovation

Design Thinking is not new, throughout history good designers have applied a human-centric creative process to build meaningful and effective solutions. Perhaps this justifies the big interest from strategists and businesses on the topic and the big demand on articles and methods variations.

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Learning the essence of Design Thinking process

“There is no universal best DT process model, the choice innovation managers make depends on their disciplinary background and their personal taste.” says Katja Tschimmel in her article about Design Thinking process models and tools (Tschimmel 2012, 11). And this is also what she tells us listeners during our first hours of Design Thinking course (Design Thinking 2017). The decision of choosing of an appropriate Design Thinking model is influenced, among others, the characteristics of the task in question, its context, the composition of the team and its dynamics, the number of designers involved, and the time available for the process (Tschimmel 2012).

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Idiosyncrasy of Design Thinking

Taking part in an introductory Design Thinking (DT) jam, having few years of hands-on experience in the field, called for adopting beginner’s mindset. Looking, often on a meta level, for small nuggets of wisdom – not surprisingly brought extra value to the process. Being able to share some of the best design practices and to facilitate constructive and productive work within my team made these days rewarding and memorable.

For two days we, students of the SID Laurea program were led by Katja Tschimmel and Sanna Marttila through a process of Design Thinking (DT); the challenge – improving university’s offering towards students. Because, according to Martin and Cross (as cited in Tschimmel 2013), rational thinking can’t lead to new, original ideas we were to indulge in abductive thinking. This way of thinking is characteristic of DT; takes place from fresh standpoints and is about not yet to be seen possibilities. It crosses boundaries of existing “mental boxes” and levels up the value of logical and illogical (e.g. emotional) arguments. (Tschimmel 2013).

A number of teams were formed and worked with divergent and convergent stages of problem understanding (Tschimmel 2013), empathetic discovery of human (in this case student) needs, ideation, prototyping, testing, visualization and implementation (planning). The final design solutions – results of DT process and at the same time of our work – were presented by teams and evaluated by Laurea representatives with respect to criteria such as originality and feasibility.

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What is design thinking and why is it important to your business?


Building a prototype.


Design thinking is a creative problem solving and innovation process that makes change possible. Instead of FOR users, this human centered approach designs services and products WITH users.

The systematic process of using design thinking tools for innovation creates competitive advantage –  a good reason to every business manager to adopt it to their working processes.

How does design thinking differ from other innovation processes

Design thinking turns the traditional innovation process upside down. Whereas before the innovators had a certain goal for their process, in design thinking it is unknown where the process will take you – thus pure innovations can be born.

Genuine search for a solution for your business problem requires learning. Design thinking is applied in an iterative circle that uses co-creation and testing, for example prototyping. Learning and finding a solution by iteration need an atmosphere where it is okay to fail – instead of trying to prove to be right and avoid mistakes.

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What on Earth is Design Thinking???

Although I had previously read a few books on Design Thinking as well as participated in a Service Design course organized by Aalto PRO, I still learned so many new, exciting things at Katja Tschimmel’s course on Design Thinking at Laurea. And that learning of new aspects to Design Thinking is also what inspired the topic of this blog post. Because to me it felt like since Design Thinking is not a process with strict rules, it might sometimes be a little difficult to get a thorough overview of what is actually Design Thinking? Even though you kind of know it, but you might still struggle a bit if you need to explain it to someone else.  Katja did a great job of giving us space to figure this key concept out by ourselves and didn’t give us pre-determined answers.


As Katja explained during the course, there are several Design Thinking models and tools available (IDEO’s 3 I model, Double Diamond model of the British Council and the Service Design Thinking (SDT) Model, just to name a few). In my opinion this just goes to show that there is no one, correct way to carry out a Design Thinking project. Therefore I felt like it might be easier also to explain Design Thinking via examples of its typical elements and principles rather than in one, all-inclusive phrase or explanation.

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Modern Practical tools of Design Thinking

Last weekend I have participated in Design thinking course which motivates me to share my thoughts about my learning in this course and related material.

Design acts as the facilitator for innovation processes but during last decade design thinking(DT) gains great appreciation from research communities but also from all organizational sectors of the world. Many business schools introduce graduate degree programs in DT.

Various models and techniques of DT are available but following caught my eye, to share with fellow design thinkers.

  • The innovation expedition by “Gijs Van Wulfen”
  • Mind shake innovation & design thinking model EVOLUTION 62 by “Katja Tschimmel”

The innovation expedition by Gij Van Wulfen discusses visual toolkit to start innovation. It comprises of five steps naming as (FORTH):

  1. Full steam ahead
  2. Observe & learn
  3. Raise ideas
  4. Test ideas
  5. Home coming


Full steam ahead is based on defining concrete goals, core team creation and kick off workshop which allows team to get acquainted with innovation assignment(IA). The essence of Observe & learn is thinking out of the box. The team explores different technologies & trends, customer feedback meetings are done. Then workshop is organized to define relevant customer friction and promising innovation opportunities. Raise idea is new product brainstorming and concept improvement step. The team develops twelve new concepts for IA. Concept testing is done in Test idea by direct application on target group. The testing is followed live for finding new inspirations and immediate improvement.

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