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

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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.

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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

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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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