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(Service) Designers, what for?

by Kaisa Hölttä

On the very first day of the Design Thinking course by Professor Katja Tschimmel, two existential questions rose in my mind: What is the role of a (service) designer in the innovation process? In the world where customers´role is more and more emphasizes, can customers even take a full responsibility of design processes themselves?

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Designer? Photo: Pexels.com

In Change by Design, Tim Brown refers to his colleague Jane Fulton Suri who explores if the next step in design evolution is moving from designing for people to with people, to designing by customers themselves (Brown 2009, 58). This approach suggests that even a customer can be a designer. So can we move from earlier producer-generated ideology all the way to the user-generated one? What makes us future designers then?

City of Helsinki has recently introduced a participatory budgeting, where 4,4 million euros will be allocated annually to city development proposals made by the residents. The Participatory model utilizes know-how and expertise of individuals and communities and gives people an opportunity to design urban initiatives themselves. One could think that there is a torrent of proposals on line. However, just few weeks ago, a friend who works in engaging local communities to urban development, wondered, why only a small number of people seem to be interested in the participatory budgeting.

I would claim that there is lot of latent potential out there but people find it hard to conceptualize their thoughts and ideas, and turn them into concrete suggestions – or even imagine beyond the usual. As Brown puts it, analytical and convergent thinking are so dominant in education it makes us think that creativity is something that belongs only to a few talented ones (Brown 2009, 222-223).

This is where the role of designers step in. We need Design Thinking methods to articulate people´s latent needs and to convert them into concrete suggestions and protypes, in co-creation with the people. Creativity needs practice, and support. Designer´s role is to encourage people to give up their mental constrains and help them to “braindump” their thoughts. Quantity over quality. Without new approach and Design Thinking tools, it is hard to gain “rule-breaking, game-changing, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs”, Brown stresses (2009, 40).

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Practicing Design Thinking tools. Photo: Kaisa Hölttä

Therefore, new initiatives should not be designed only by customers themselves but together with them. According to Tschimmel, in the participatory approach product users should been seen as experts and partners in the whole creative process, from data research on to prototyping the new ideas and design solutions (Tschimmel 2012, 4).

In case of the participatory budgeting, people should be included in the design processes already in the inspiration (Brown 2009) or emergence (Tschimmel 2012) phase, and not left alone with their unclarified needs. Helsinki residents are experts in their own urban experiences. In order to convert these experiences into concrete proposals, we need Design Thinking methods, and educated designers to facilitate the co-creation process.

References:
Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Practical Design Thinking – Power of Fast Prototyping

The Course in Practical Design Thinking at Laurea was definitely a wow-moment. After two days of practicing design thinking we left inspired and empowered to take a new look of our life and work challenges. It f I would to choose the most powerful powerful tool I learned during this course it would be rapid prototyping.

What Fast Prototyping really is ?

Fast prototyping is a method often used by designers in Elaboration Phase (Tschimmel, K. 2012) or in Ideation Phase (Brown, T.,  2008)

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Tim Brown calls rapid prototyping ‚Building to Think’ (Brown, T., 2009) . According to Brown, prototypes are ‚quick and dirty’ way to generate understanding and access idea feasibility faster. Prototypes should consume only as much time and effort and investment as it is necessary to obtain the valuable feedback.

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How to Prototype?

Both mentioned authors give examples of different technologies/solutions for rapid prototyping. From Lego, paper, to 3D digital visualisation and mobile app mockup software. Some of these technologies are especially useful when designing services. Prototyping allows to act out the end-to-end service in order to make sure that designers will be able unlock the additional insights by transitioning back and forth in between theoretical and physical models.

High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity Prototyping

In the literature we can find an ongoing debate on high vs low fidelity prototyping. The authors argue  how much the prototype should resemble the final product (Walker et al 2002).

  • „Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and do not allow user interactions.  They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts.  In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create. Low-fidelity prototypes are helpful in enabling early visualisation of alternative design solutions, which helps provoke innovation and improvement. An additional advantage to this approach is that when using rough sketches, users may feel more comfortable suggesting changes.
  • High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based, and usually allow realistic (mouse-keyboard) user interactions. High-fidelity prototypes take you as close as possible to a true representation of the user interface. High-fidelity prototypes are assumed to be much more effective in collecting true human performance data (e.g., time to complete a task), and in demonstrating actual products to clients, management, and others.”

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A good balance of low cost and representation is a essential if we want to fully benefit from the power of prototyping.

10 prototyping Principles

Prototyping might seem simple, however to make it useful it’s good to know the basic rules. Alex Osterwalder his book „Value Proposition Design” (2014) gives us 10 principles of prototyping.

  1. Make it visual and tangible – moving from conceptual to physical in at the very essence of prototyping
  2. Embrace beginners Mind – don’t let existing knowledge to limit you.
  3. Don’t fall in love with the first ideas, create alternatives instead
  4. Feel comfortable in liquid state
  5. Start with lo fidelity and refine – avoid refined prototypes as they are difficult to throw away
  6. Expose work early – seek criticism. Don’t take negative feedback personally, embrace it as valuable information to improve the model.
  7. Learn faster by failing early often and cheaply. Avoid fear of fear of failure as it is holding you from exploring new territories.
  8. Use creativity techniques to break out of how things are usually done in your company
  9. Create „Shrek Models” – extreme prototypes not for building, buy igniting discussion
  10. Track learnings, insights and progress.  You might use them later in the process.

Prototyping in practice 

The course allowed us to unveil the power of prototyping ourselves by puting theory into practice. While designing a new learning experience at Laurea that would transform a school into world-renowned institution we found the fast prototyping with Lego extremely useful. Our low fidelity model represented a new Laurea education experience. We tried not to hold back to current physical structural limitations of campus and be comfortable with a liquid state of gradually refining the model. Exposing the work to our fellow students was especially revealing. It was hard not to discuss the feedback but to take it and use for model improvement.  Rapid prototyping once again proved itself to be a powerful way to transform ideas and deliver solutions.

Osterwalder, A. et all (2014) Value Proposition Design, Wiley 


Brown, T. and Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.


Walker, M. Takayama, L., & Landay, J. A. (2002). Low- or high-fidelity, paper or computer? Choosing attributes when testing web prototypes. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES 2002, USA, 661-665.


Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona. 


Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. June, pp. 84-92


https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/prototyping.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Design Thinking Models to Help You in Your Project

by Miikka Paakkinen

Design in a business context looks to answer two questions: what problems are your customers facing, and how might we solve those problems while providing the best possible experience? Design thinking models can help you in your quest for the answers. Along the way, they might also assist you in asking better questions and finding the biggest underlying problems worth solving.

In this blog post, I will introduce three design thinking models that offer free toolkits for you to use.

Why does design thinking work?

 

 

Before going to the models though, let’s take a quick look at what design thinking can do for you.

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Can you learn to be creative?

by Kati Kaarlehto

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This question was asked from our lecturer Katja Tschimmel at the very beginning of our contact days of the Design Thinking study module. This question in my mind I chose to read  Creative Confidence – Unleashing the Creative potential With Us All by David and Tom Kelley as my very first book in my Service Innovation and Design MBA-studies at Laurea. I was soon to find out that the question of creativity is definitely one of the profound questions in the “Design Thinking Universe”.

Why and how to be creative is the core of the Kelleys’ book. We often perceive that only artists, and designers are the privileged ones to be creative. Too often parents, teachers or study counselors categorize us into the “uncreative” and blog our creativity. However, being creative is something more than just drawing or writing a poem and can be unbloged in all of us. What we really need are creatively thinking engineers, doctors and government officers who are creative in the way that they face their everyday life problems and challenges, in the way that they design new solutions and develop their services in their own work environment.

The Kelleys have a very simple solution to the question in the caption. At some point, you just make the decision to be creative. Then act according to your decision. And how is that done? Design Thinking methodology and tools are designed and develop to assist in that.

You should ask questions, especially Why-questions. You should leave your desk and office to observe your customers or end-users and thus learn true customer empathy. You should get surrounded with same-minded creatively thinking people and to keep up with all the possible trends and phenomena around you – a not just related to your own field of business but beyond.

In her article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation Katja Tschimmel also concludes that Design Thinking is not merely the designer’s mental ability, but can be developed and trained by anybody who wants to solve problems in a creative way, who wants to conceive new realities and who wants to communicate new ideas.

The Kelleys emphasis open mindedness and liberation from your preconceived ideas and assumptions. They quote Mark Twain who once said “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so”.

I recognized that too well during the work shop sessions led by Katja and where the Design Thinking tools of the Mindshake Design Thinking Model were applied. Our task was to perceive the Laurea world through an International student´s eyes with some chosen Design Thinking tools. As I have worked with international university students, way too often in the group I captured myself thinking or even saying “this would not work or this has already been tried out or this Laurea would not support”.

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If I felt a slight shame about my narrow-minded, not-so-creative thoughts during our work shop, I also felt that something truly different could take place in this class with these tools, some familiar and some new to me, and with these mates representing so different professional backgrounds and experiences.

While reading “Creative Confidence” I also felt splashes of joy and confidence – by applying and starting these studies I have definitely taken right steps to unleash my creative potential. I have definitely made the decision: I am creative (always been!) and want to shake my ways of thinking and perceiving this world and my work – with the help of Design Thinking tools but also of all my lecturers and wonderful class mates.

Let the journey begin!

 

Learnings from Facilitation-as-a-Service

I had a possibility to facilitate three workshops for two different projects (2 ws + 1 ws) in this spring. The projects were related to improve empathy in health care, facing the patients and their relatives in new ways and find development ideas in the workspace. The participants of workshops were personnel and students of health care. I was a “hired” facilitator for these workshops with my fellow students. While still learning the magics of facilitation, I would like to share my early key findings and learnings. These findings are from my perspective and do not form any comprehensive list. I had no former background from health care at all. The workshops located in a hospital and a health centre premises in Helsinki, Finland.

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Keep the focus

The most important thing to start when planning a workshop, whom contents and themes are not familiar to you, is that you need to understand the target of the project and this specific workshop. To have a workshop is not the reason itself, it should create something valuable. Ask targets from different perspectives, clarify them to yourself and make sure, that you have understood right. And make sure that the subscriber of the facilitation, the person who has hired you, understands you. Actually, it is not so important to understand the subject matter (for example the daily life of a hospital department).

Choose right methods and language

When the target is clear to you, choose right methods and tools for the workshop. You need to understand the backgrounds and expectations of participants. A lot can be done in few hours’ workshop, but too much is too much. Always. What are the things which can or need to be done in advance? For example, in my cases, the basis work was done by health care students. Source material for the workshops were personas and stories. It was quite easy to start with those.

We modified the name of the methods. Customer journey paths were used in workshops, but we used a word “patient path” instead of “customer journey”. Respectively, the empathy map was called “emotion path”. It would have been nice to ask the participants to create an idea portfolio, but we asked participants to prioritize ideas like picking up “pearls”.

Timing, timing, timing…

A big part of planning was the scheduling of the workshops. It was important to imagine the whole workshop from the very beginning to the end. How much time is needed for introduction of the agenda and facilitators? How many breaks are needed? How much time needs each new method or part of the workshop? And their instructions? Still, you need to make the schedule slightly flexible – some surprises happen always! One tiny thing, which can totally ruin your wonderfully planned schedule is the IT-equipment of the premises. Please ensure beforehand, that your laptop fits to displays and other devices. Be prepared for that nothing works except papers and pens. Have a lot of those!

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And finally…

After all careful planning, take a deep breath and relax. Everything will go well – and if not, invent quickly something! Remember the target and find to way to achieve it. Good luck 😊

 Author of the blog is Pia Rytilahti, MBA candidate at Laurea University of Applied Science

 

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.

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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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