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We Are the New Design Thinkers!

“How many of you consider yourselves as design thinkers?” asked our guest lecturer Gijs van Wulfen (Innovation Consultant and founder of FORTH Innovation method) when our SID 2014 group started the Design Thinking course. Not so many hands rose at that point, I was certainly hesitating. However, we were soon about to learn what Design Thinking is, what kind of challenges we face in innovation processes, and what kind of methods and tools we could use to improve our skills as design thinkers. In addition to Gijs, we had the pleasure of having another great guest lecturer, Design Professor Katja Tschimmel from ESAD Portugal, to teach us more about Design Thinking.

The course started with simple visual Design Thinking exercises. Katja and Gijs then teached us about Design Thinking in general, innovation processes and methodology, as well as Design Thinking tools. After the theoretical part it was time to put our design thinking abilities to test! Once we were divided into teams our assignment was to come up with a new service for better learning. We learned how to use Design Thinking tools such as mind mapping, foto safari, image interview, visual research, moodboard, brainwriting, and desktop walkthrough. In the end we communicated our new concept business models to the audience and got feedback.

Katja hanging up our beautiful group picture.

Katja hanging up our beautiful group picture.

 

So, what does Design Thinking mean exactly? Katja Tschimmel’s research paper Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation (2012) states that Design Thinking is nowadays understood as a complex thinking process that leads to transformation, evolution and innovation, to new forms of living as well as to new ways of managing business. Liedtka & Ogilvie (2011) define Design Thinking as a systematic approach to problem solving. I especially like how they state; “You’ve already got the power. You just need to figure out how to use it“. No supernatural power or magic is required and you can safely try it at home!

During our two-day Design Thinking course we had Gijs’ FORTH Innovation method as a basis for our learning activities. In real situations this method would take several weeks, or months to be exact. Check out this short introduction video to FORTH Innovation method by Gijs.

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Attitude matters in lean thinking: learn to fail fast for success!

“Focus on the problem, not solution. You cannot quantify your way to the big max.” – Ola Sundell

I still remember when ‘lean’ was a buzzword in manufacturing industry years and years ago. Lean concept was originally based on production process optimisation principles invented in Toyota for automotive industry back in early seventies. Now the idea of lean has been turned into a workable philosophy in general management and other business arenas. Some time ago I was listening Ola Sundell, the CEO of Hub Helsinki, telling about the logic behind the lean market strategy. He gave a presentation in Laurea University of Applied Science based on the ideas of lean startup as an innovation method developed by Steve Blank and Eric Ries and his own experiences as lean entrepreneur.

Ola Sundell is explaining the essence of lean start-up methodology.

Ola Sundell is explaining the essence of lean philosophy.

‘Lean’ is  maximising value and minimising waste

The lean business culture have been evolving since view years aiming at solving business problems in the early phase of business set-up by using a service design approach. According to Sundell the startups mostly fail due lack of market and customers or because of a wrong mindset. Now lean thinking is challenging the old ways of thinking and doing. Lean startup methodology has evolved from customer development method highlighting the lean aspects of both product/service design and customer development. It focuses on customer value creation: everything that does not provide value for customer is considered as waste. By using lean startup methodology it is possible to maximise value and minimise waste.

As startups are considered being temporary project organisations creating new products and services under extreme uncertainty, it is learning that matters – and learning fast.

The process applied in lean startup methodology is based on a build-measure-learn cycle with six steps: What is built it based on a problem or solution hypothesis. Testing the idea is the intended learning step requiring the testing metrics to be defined. For generating metrics and testing hypothesis, the experiment has to be built.

The six step cycle of lean development process.

What does it mean to go for lean?

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Innovation in perspective

In our first contact session with Gijs van Wulfen and Katja Tschimmel, we experienced a lightning version of an innovation process with Design Thinking: 2 days, not even 14 hours of work. And I’ve been wondering… What about real-life innovation? Can you expect to find a great brand new solution in just a couple of days? If not, how much time and effort does the process require? I hope to draft an answer to this question by gathering information from The Innovation Expedition

Note: don’t get me wrong! I loved the approach. We could live the whole process and understand what we are supposed to do as service designers in a flash. That’s a great guidance for the rest of our studies and beyond. But I really need some perspective…

So, what did we do in class?

We solved an innovation assignment by applying a short version of the Forth innovation method structure, developed by Gijs. And completed each step with design tools —very visual and intuitive—, provided and clearly explained by Katja.

Forth method and design tools used in class

Forth method and design tools used in class

And the long version…

The structure of the method remains, but a little more time is used… About 20 weeks per project! Let’s see how much bigger this looks.

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeksprojects

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeks projects

What do they do with so much time? (And what did we do with so little?)

Full steam ahead – 5 weeks

Exploring the assignment

Exploring the assignment. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

At the beginning of a real innovation assignment, many sensitive issues have to be decided:

  • Establish the innovation assignment and evaluation criteria.
  • Form the innovation team.
  • Plan the approach.
  • Set the total costs.

Once all of those are decided, you can:

  • Introduce the team members to each other.
  • Make the team familiar with the innovation assignment.

Those are basically the two parts we did. Only the real workshops are longer than ours.

Observe and learn – 6 weeks

Primary and secondary research combined

Primary and secondary research combined. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

Key activities in this phase are somehow similar to ours, but much deeper. Individuals:

  • Explore trends and technology by gathering secondary information and visiting outside sources of inspiration.
  • Discover customer frictions with qualitative research.

Note one key difference: to research on customer frictions, they meet real users and talk to them.

At several stages the whole team meets to share all those findings and chooses the most promising opportunities.

Raise ideas – 2 weeks

Brainwriting

Brainwriting. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

On the basis of the opportunities spotted in the previous phase, the team gathers in small groups to brainstorm new product or service ideas. In total, they:

  • Produce 500-750 ideas.
  • Cluster them into 30-40 idea directions.
  • Form 12 concepts.
  • And improve them with feedback from other groups.

Our process for this was similar, but we only produced about 10 times less ideas, didn’t cluster them and simply chose or formed one concept.

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The Rabbit Hole of Design Thinking

Professor and researcher Katja Tschimmel and ideation facilitator Gijs van Wulfen showed us where the Rabbit Hole of Design Thinking is. So I also jumped in it, dug together with fellows hands on for two full days – and we are still digging. The more we explore, the more we find. This post is about what I have perceived here for so far.

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See how far the rabbit hole goes and what Design Thinking and innovating can be in practice (PDF)

Everyone can be a Design Thinker

We all have the gift of creative thinking. We just need to find it and start thinking mind open. Children do this all the time while playing, so we all have already once been creative thinkers. We just forgot and lose skills that we don’t use or practice.

Explore the challenge

Observing the business case context

We also know what it’s like to perform our daily tasks in hurry. People are expected to been efficient to make decisions when challenges are met and needed to get over them quickly. But quite often we meet the same challenges again – one after another and day after day.

To make a difference we need to stop for a moment, change how we act and learn to understand the true nature of the challenge. Look at them together with your collaborators from different point of views. Smell the challenge. Taste and listen to it, shake, turn it around, feel and live it, observe and learn. After we know the challenge throughout, we can start changing it.

Think outside-the-box…

Photo Safari photos in the Mood Board to create ideas

This is where we need to take a few steps backwards. We have to see the big picture and give space to emotions and feelings. Because if we don’t follow our hearts and base the later coming solution on feelings we won’t be able to solve the challenge in a creative way. Why? Because then we wouldn’t like the solution we would create.

“And be visual. Because ideas can’t be seen. They need to be shown.”

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Innovation and Development Activities in Professional Service Firms – a Role Structure Perspective, doctoral dissertation by Tiina Tuominen

By Riku Seppälä

I attended the public defence of Tiina Tuominen’s doctoral dissertation at Aalto University in Otaniemi, Espoo on 22nd February.  Title of her thesis is Innovation and development activities in professional service firms- a role structure perspective.  The thesis can be found here: http://otalib.aalto.fi/en/collections/e-publications/dissertations/

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Service design case study: how to turn customer challenges into new service offerings

Author: Tuomas Suominen, tuomas.suominen@kaakelikeskus.fi

In this blog post, I present how you can turn your customers challenges into new service offerings. The most crucial thing is to gather as much information as you can about your service users daily tasks. In this case study, this was done by interviewing clients. You can be surprised how much your service users have to offer. They can sometimes suggest promising service ideas.

This case study was done as a thesis project at Laurea Service Innovation & Design Masters Program. I was inspired by CEO Lou Gerstners IBM turnaround. IBM was struggling in the 1990s. The new CEO sent his sales staff not to sell, but to ask customers what kind of challenges they faced daily. Gerstner realized that the company should concentrate on solving customer’s problems with their technology knowledge. Inspired by Gerstner, I too wanted to look into my client’s challenges. After all, a challenge is a latent need, and a possible service development case. I concentrated on architect clients, whose work I knew little about.

I decided Service-dominant logic and service design would guide my way in this thesis. Service-dominant logic would be my base theory and service design would serve as application of that theory. I combined the two, and kept their guiding principles in mind while planning my service design process.  After looking at the extant service literature, I decided to co-create the service with clients. I aimed to design a win-win service for both service provider and client.

Näyttökuva 2013-01-01 kohteessa 10.31.25

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Book Review: Fast Strategy by Yves Doz & Mikko Kosonen

1        Fostering Strategic Agility

Sharpening strategic sensitivity, building collective commitment and enabling resource fluidity are major guides to strategic agility.  They give insight on all that need to be done to ensure that strategies are implemented to yield positive results.  Sensitivity of organizations to changes around them is not enough to make them have a competitive advantage of their product/services over others. Other factors of consideration are as well required in order to make their strategies agile and these are listed below.

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