Today the world around us is continuously evolving and companies must be flexible and able to adapt to changes in society. Therefore, companies are testing new business logics and models to solve wicked social and business problems.
This is where Design Thinking comes into play. This process is described by Tschimmel (based on Brown 2009) as “not only a cognitive process or a mindset, but […] an effective method with a toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking”.
The “Why and How” of Design Thinking
Businesses are looking for solutions to provide services that are compelling and innovative by closely following latest trends. In other words, companies strive to give a better sense of customer fulfilment by bringing something new and useful to the world.
Design Thinking puts people who use a service in the heart of the design process consisting of inspiration, ideation and implementation phases. Implementing Design Thinking requires getting whole organization involved in embracing its principles. It is crucial that firms discover unmet customer needs and create new products to gain competitive advantages. This process, a core of Design Thinking, might just be a pathway to truly successful innovations.
The “Why Not” of Design Thinking
If the benefits of Design Thinking are so remarkable, how come it is not yet a standard toolkit of every organization?
Organizations consist of people and many of us may believe that creativity is just for Design Thinkers. Design Thinking forces us to face uncertainty and we might be unwilling to share incomplete, let alone extravagant ideas: we want to be seen as know-it-all-professionals.Creativity is a window to one’s soul which can’t be opened without psychological safety.
As to companies, they are challenged with organizational silos and competing agendas as well as counterproductive cults such as short-term performance and efficiency, that may cause issues when implementing Design Thinking. Furthermore, the iterative nature of the process takes time and resources as ideas are put to life through rapid experimentation and prototyping, and return on investments of design may be hard to measure.
Based on our perceptions, we justify utilizing Design Thinking by the following:
The world is changing – So should you and your business Regardless of how successful your business is, you can’t stay still. Although becoming a proficient Design Thinking organization may be challenging, it can be THE success factor. Can you afford not to try?
Believe in yourself – Everybody has what it takes As Tschimmel puts it, you don’t need to be gifted genius, we all have “the innate potential to think creatively and can improve creative thoughts by applying certain techniques and methods.”
Be persistent – You will learn by trial and error Edison said: “it is 99% perspiration and 1% of inspiration.” Grasp how to fail fast and learn quickly.
Believe in group power – Embrace uncertainty Go with the flow and allow yourself to be surprised by the power of collaboration.
And the definition of non-Design Thinkers? They don’t exist; they just need to discover their inner Design Thinker.
For further inspiration
Brown, Tim (2008). Design Thinking Harvard Business Review, No. 8492
Fraser, Heather M.A.: Designing Business: New Models for Success in Design Thinking Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York.
Jenkins, Julian: Creating the Right Environment for Design in Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York.
Løvlie, Lavrans, Downs, Chris and Reason, Ben: Bottom-Line Experiences: Measuring the Value of Design in Service in by Lockwood, Thomas in 2010. Allworth Press. New York.
Kolko, Jon (2015). Design thinking comes of age. Harvard Business Review, September 2015, p. 66-71.
Tschimmel, Katja (2020 forthcoming). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois
Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5th 2020. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.
Design Thinking workshop and concomitant readings have given us a lot of inspiration. However, it has also activated inner critics in us. We would like to share our thoughts about prejudices and limitations in creative thinking.
Creativity – a gift or a skill?
In the workshop, we were thrown to the deep end to practice Design Thinking instead of analysing the term which might have confused us. For example, in the article “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” (Buchanan, R. 1996) the focus is heavily on the philosophical question on what Design Thinking is. While the core idea of Design Thinking being about experimenting and understanding human experience is in the article, it does not bring it to concrete level. Buchanan’s work is also criticized by Lucy Kimbell (2011) for his generalisation of designers’ role in the world rather than studying individual designers’ approaches.
By throwing us in the deep end in the beginning we were forced to train what is the beginning of all thinking – ideas and creativity. We learned that creativity is not something a person has or not, but it is more like a muscle you can train. Many of us suffer from of our insecurities and prejudices such as “I’m not a creative person” and “I can’t come up with any ideas”. In the Social Distancing in Educational Institutions assignment we learned to create new ideas by making unlikely combinations of topics identified in mind maps.
Letting go of your insecurities and prejudices help you in the process of becoming creative and designing new services. This happened also to highly introverted, technical and rule-oriented people such as Akshay Kotheri and Ankit Gupta who by attending a Design Thinking workshops in Stanford University eventually invented an app that was praised by Steve Jobs (Kelley, T. & Kelley, D. 2015).
As an encouragement for training our creativity we often hear “Think outside of the box!”. Although, how far outside of the box are we expected to think? Do constrains make us more creative or do they block our ability for ideation?
We as designers are always limited, among other aspects, by the culture of the society. In the article “Creativity, Design and Design Thinking a ménage à trois” (2020) Katja suggested that the result of creativity is “changing a symbolic domain of culture”. If a product is too revolutionary, it might not be acknowledged as valuable by the community. It happened before to famous painters, writers, musicians, and scientists.
The society constraints were also (accidentally) demonstrated in the class during Perception exercise (Picture 2). The task had only one “correct” answer, although fellow students suggested three other decent options. In this case the range of correct solutions was limited by the task creator.
Although limitations might be a brake in creating process, designers could also benefit from them.
Famous Russian blogger and designer Artemiy Lebedev suggested that limitations, are “a real creative opportunity”. A designer receiving a clear assignment would do a good job, while a designer asked to do “the best something” would produce nothing (Lebedev, A. 2012.). Also, Kelley (2015) mentions that a few boundaries can not only spur more creativity but might also help to (re)frame the challenges. We felt this in class when workshop tasks had time limits.
Combining the best of both worlds
All in all, creativity is a doing process. Although studying history and a variety of theories of Design Thinking is vital, we found practicing creativity more efficient for understanding the ideas behind the subject. We also agreed that setting constraints – staying inside the thinking box – is a working solution for embracing creativity. However, when all the participants are in creative process with open heart and mind, not only innovative ideas are welcomed more likely by the community, but we grow as designers and realize that we can create.
Our assignment was to write a blog article in pairs reflecting on the topics discussed in the course Design Thinking. The two-day intensive course during September 4-5th 2020 was held by Katja Tschimmel, the founder of design agency Mindshake and the model Evolution 6² or E6² (2018), and our tutoring teacher Päivi Pöyry-Lassila.
In our group we used the model E6² to identify opportunities for the topic Social Distancing in Educational Institutions. We started from the Emergence phase and gradually made our way to Exposition which we finished with an elevator pitch. Our group chose to focus on the topic of promoting more outdoor activities in educational institute grounds.
Personal learnings about the Design Thinking Masterclass in a dialogue:
Laura: This was the first time I participated in this kind of workshop and I was amazed what a creative environment I had boarded into. I felt enormously inspired to be surrounded by students who have such a variety of professional backgrounds and knowledge, they are bringing to the classroom. During the process I discovered two crucial themes: interacting and communication with the users cannot be emphasized too much, their ideas and viewpoints should be heard closely. Another theme is that presenting your concept orally in front of the audience truly helps you crystallize the ideas you have.
Joni: I agree with Laura. There was much to learn just from this introduction course. For me there were two revelations during this course. According to Tschimmel all people can be creative when enough experts in a domain (e.g. company) accept the idea as innovative. Previously I had only considered artistic people as creative, not myself. During the course Tschimmel also highlighted not to “fall in love with your first idea”. I cannot emphasize enough how valuable this realization was and how many ideas would have been left undiscovered if we settled for our first one.
Importance of empathy and creativeness in Design Thinking
In conclusion, we highlighted several personal key learning’s from the course. Looking at the related materials there are several recurring themes. First Tschimmel (2020), Brown (2009), Kolko (2015) and Kouprie and Sleeswijk (2009) all highlight the importance of empathy in Design Thinking. Secondly, already in 2009 Brown argued that interdisciplinary teams can “tackle more complex problems” than multidisciplinary teams. This also supports empathetic processes as according to Kouprie and Sleeswijk (2009) individuals have an “empathic horizon” that limits the ability to empathize beyond certain characteristics such as nationality, race etc. The empathetic horizon can be improved with time and experience. This information encourages us to push ourselves out of our comfort zone.
These themes were also present during our group work. Using the E6² model’s Design Thinking methods we were able to work in an interdisciplinary team and innovate a new concept, prototype it and pitch it to our class just within two days. Through group and individual interviews, we could start to understand the importance of empathizing. This success made us realize that Design Thinking is truly a universal concept that enables all individuals to be creative within their own domain.
Written by Laura Parviainen-Vilo and Joni Prokkola
References and links:
Brown, Tim (2009). Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
The global pandemic outbreak in spring 2020 is continuing to disrupt markets, organizations and even our behaviours. As changes, new needs, expectations and innovations are emerging, it is important to proactively make sense of this new context.
The era of disruption tends to provide a valuable moment to experiment with new business ideas and even launch businesses. In fact, as Trend Hunter highlights, a large number of companies has been established during a recession, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, Disney, Hyatt, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
As an innovation designer and change facilitator, I have helped both small and large businesses to build an understanding on the importance of trend spotting and scanning. In this article, I will cover the current context and challenges for innovation, the benefits of trend spotting and scanning, 3 insightful sources for trends and one practical framework to get started.
Many brands are highly valuing the innovations. If we take Peter Drucker’s definition for the term innovation (in Harvard Business Review 2002), i.e. “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential”, it should indeed be high on every brand’s agendas.
Interestingly, according to Salesforce research released in May 2020, marketers’ current top priority is innovating, while simultaneously it is also one of their top challenges. This example demonstrates the dilemma people tend to have for activities related to innovations.
Based on various research conducted, a majority of people state they simply don’t have time to work on ideas, although many acknowledge its importance. As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter, emphasized in his keynote speech “How to Make Innovation & Change Happen”, there are a plenty of other distractors we all have, which are preventing us to focus on innovating. These can be categorized under six themes, as shown here.
Having said that, sometimes there’s no other choice than removing distractors. The research by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, published in May 2020, confirmed how small and medium-sized businesses are facing immediate cash flow issues, lack of demand and an uncertain future.
Yet, despite of this rather gloomy context, entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are also present among businesses. Since small and medium-sized businesses are vital e.g. for local communities, finding new and creative ways to reach and serve customers is thus highly encouraged.
Benefits of Trend Analysis
Asemphasized by J. Peter Scoblic in the article “Learning from the Future”, published on Harvard Business Review in July-August 2020, the practice of strategic foresight provides capabilities to sense, shape, and adapt to change as it happens. As such, there are multiple frameworks and tools to anticipate possible futures.
One practical way going forward is to spot systematically evolving trends and new innovations and, consequently, analyze what these could mean for your brand, customers and the industry as a whole. Before moving on, it is meaningful to clarify how the term “trend” can be understood. A trend is a new manifestation among people, related to behaviour, attitude or expectation, of a fundamental human need, want or desire (Mason et al. 2015, 46). Trend analysis, on the other hand, is about considering the potential influence of patterns of change that are already visible (J. Peter Scoblic 2020, 44).
All trends, in the end, can offer valuable innovation opportunities. The key is to unlock these prospects by adapting them for your context. The focus should be how a trend is relevant, rather than whether it is relevant (Mason et al. 2015, 145).
This fact alone highlights the advantage of the trend analysis. Moreover, it can bring in multiple other benefits along the journey from fueling your creativity to meeting, or even exceeding, your customer expectations, as I have summarized in the illustration inspired by the Double Diamond model of the British Design Council.
3 Insightful and Inspiring Sources for Trends
How to spot trends easily? There are numerous organizations that are focusing on collecting, synthesizing and publishing insightful trend reports on a regular basis. These reports can be considered as valuable starting points to gain an overview on what’s trending. Especially acknowledging the issue with time most of us seem to have, it is easier to take advantage of curated and regularly updated trend reports by the trend agencies and the foresight specialists. My 3 favorite sources right now are the following.
Trendhunter.com is said to be the world’s largest trend community with 20 million monthly views and a database of over 400,000 ideas and innovations. The insightful content also includes inspiring trend reports, articles, newsletters, talks, tools and books.
Think with Google
Think with Google provides regular reports on signals, trends and insights based on Google data, research and analysis conducted by Google teams. Their newsletter is packed with interesting point of views and special collection pages on emerging trends with multiple data points, illustrated in graphs and other visual formats, are to the point.
TrendWatching, a company specialized in consumer trend and innovations scanning, has both free and premium content available, but to start with, you can find a number of articles, reports, keynote talks and more. In 2020, TrendWatching has launched two new initiatives. Firstly, COVID Innovations site has a curated collection of over 1000 inspiring and recent innovations captured around the world, and secondly, Business of Purpose site proposes a community to exchange insights and share opportunities, and a plenty of curated resources, including statistics and insights. Moreover, TrendWatching delivers to its subscribers the “Innovation of the Day” content by email on a daily basis.
Trend Insights in Action: 1 Practical and Tested Framework
But what to do with all this future-oriented content? In the end, it is equally important to utilize these insights in ways that will be beneficial for you and your brand, while being able to grasp opportunities in a timely manner.
Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.
– Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Review, 2002
To give focus and methodology, let me introduce one concrete framework, which I have found specifically useful to conduct trend analysis.
According to this methodology, to be able to address the sweet spot, brands should track three key trend elements:
1. basic human needs,
2. drivers of change and
Let’s explore these elements.
We humans all have basic needs, wants and desires, which remain the same, despite the changes happening around us. All trends are, after all, rooted in these basic needs. Authenticity, honesty, freedom and transparency can be considered as our fundamental needs.
What comes to changes, we know the change is constant, accelerated and happening everywhere. To understand the drivers of change, brands should look at shifts, i.e. the long-term macro changes and triggers.
The examples of shifts are climate change, urbanization and aging population. Triggers, on the other hand, are more immediate changes, such as political events, environmental incidents, and new technologies. What is trending in social networks or new products can give hints on social change. Frameworks such as PESTLE and STEEPLED provide support to analyze further these changes.
Thirdly, innovations are important since they inform on how the market is changing, what are the new entrants, new services, or experiences. Thus, spotting business innovations can help to assess what consumers will want next. In the end, innovations will create new expectations, which is why the terms such as “Expectation Economy”, “Experience Economy” and “Liquid Expectations” have been discussed in the recent years.
However, main emphasis should not be on these individual elements, but rather on the sweet spot, or tension, between basic needs, drivers of changes and innovations. This tension can be further evaluated by building an understanding on customer expectations and gaps between what is currently being offered (Mason et al. 2015, 48).
Transforming Current Trends to Innovative Ideas
The trend spotting encourages to act on the opportunities and identifying points of tension. How can you transform current trends to innovative ideas, which will be beneficial for your brand and your customers? Here’s a quick guide of main steps to take using the Trend Driven Innovation Methodology.
In practice, you can kick off your analysis by taking any of these starting points:
1. a new innovation and build an understanding what drivers of change and basic needs this innovation is addressing or
2. a new driver of change and spot innovations that are tackling this change or
3. a basic need by asking do I want to address it with my business, how I might satisfy this need, and consequently, what drivers of change are relevant for me that I can leverage.
Once you have decided your starting point, you can use the Consumer Trend Canvas to help you to structure and break down your analysis and ideation.
If you are short in time, you may try to get this filled in within a few hours. This approach, however, requires ideally some pre-work such as gathering trend inspiration in advance and securing a participation of multi-disciplinary team of at least 4 people, and a facilitator, for more creative results. On the contrary, you can also take your time and do some proper research for both parts of the canvas. If you are working alone, it would be beneficial to get some peer review and iterate the outputs accordingly.
Once your ‘analyze’ part ready, you can jump into the ‘apply’ part. It will be fruitful to ideate how you can potentially apply this trend and emerging expectations in your particular case and who would actually benefit from it.
Spend some time to ideate possible innovations and what would be the innovation potential. To get more ideas, I would recommend additionally to use a structured brainstorming method such as Creative Matrix. When ideating, remember to go for quantity over quality and focus on opportunities on where the attention and expectations are. Out of this ideation method, you can bring the most interesting ideas back to the Consumer Trend Canvas.
At this stage, you may wonder what shall you do once you have your first canvas filled in.
Ideally, you are ready to take a step forward, and go deeper how would this innovation actually work. For that purpose, you can use, for instance, the Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer and further ideate how to experiment the innovation using the Experiment Canvas, created by Ash Maurya.
If you can imagine an improved future state, you can likely make it happen
To conclude, current challenging time calls for deeper reflections, creative ideas and experimentations.
Different types of organizations from the well-established brands to new solo entrepreneurs can benefit from systematic trend spotting and scanning activities. Trend analysis provides opportunities to rethink the strategies, ways of operating and the overall offerings. In the end, regardless of your motivation and interests, you can take a proactive role in sensemaking and ideating an inspiring future.
Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016
Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive
Using design and online collaboration to address challenges as a result of global COVID-19 outbreak
As in spring 2020 we were experiencing nearly a global lockdown, I was searching for opportunities to collaborate with others virtually and contribute to the vast societal challenges that were taken place. After worrying news related to pandemic, I felt it was meaningful to be able to connect with others, learn and devote to an important cause. This triggered me to join a 10-day open innovation design process named as UNA.TEN (Transform Emergency Now! 10 days for change) hackathon by the University Alliance Europe.
UNA.TEN hackathon communication material by Helsinki Think Company
To achieve local impact through European collaboration, UNA.TEN hackathon brought virtually together over 100 master level students from seven universities and several local partners across Europe to develop solutions to address challenges related to the COVID-19 context in April-May 2020. I participated in the event with virtual Helsinki team together with Helsinki Think Company and the University of Helsinki and was able to collaborate with participants from Bologna, Edinburgh, Krakow, Leuven, Madrid and Paris.
What made this really unique was that the fact that the hackathon was online, and we were all experiencing the same situation of being locked down in our homes.
I had previously participated in numerous design events such as design sprints, hackathons, co-creation workshops and global service and sustainability jams in different roles varying from a facilitator to a mentor and participant throughout Europe. However, all these events had been conducted face-to-face and participants had travelled to the same location, sometimes even from another side of the world, to benefit from the close on-site collaboration. I was thus curious to find out how would all virtual 10-day hackathon work in practice.
Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process virtually
Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process were framing the hackathon. Each local team could choose between four design challenges. The topics, formulated as statement starters, were relevant and diverse:
How might we rethink entertainment and cultural activities during the COVID post-emergency period?
How might we protect our privacy and help to fight dangers, fears, and misconceptions in a digital world?
How might we ensure travellers’ safety while COVID-19 is not fully defeated yet?
How might we avoid food waste due to supply chain disruption?
Timeline and activities of UNA.TEN hackathon (Material shared by Helsinki Think Company to participants)
Following the local and international kick-off events, organized as video calls, and creative online warm-ups, each team initiated an intense research phase to explore the context. Within a short timeframe, teams were conducting online interviews with relevant stakeholders to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people who were at the center of design.
Based on the sensemaking and the 1st insights, the challenges were reframed to scope the next phases of design accordingly. An international benchmarking call helped to gain additional inspiration and build an understanding what paths other teams had investigated. Based on the challenge reframing, the ideation could be kicked off. Teams were encouraged to move quickly to prototyping to gather more information and feedback. Again, joint calls with other teams helped to reflect and develop further.
As such, sounds like a regular open innovation design process. So what were the lessons learned of this all online 10-day event?
100% virtual hackathon — it works!
Until very recently, I was one of those who strongly believed how design process, from design research to ideation and testing, should be conducted mostly, if not entirely, face-to-face to be successful. Indeed, there’s a long list of benefits that onsite creative and collaborative process is bringing, and I was not questioning it. This is why I also literally travelled around the world to conduct research and facilitate co-creation workshops and design sprints. Moreover, I often encouraged my client teams to invite their distributed team members to one specific location to harness the power of on-site collaboration.
However, these special times have demonstrated fast our ability to co-create engaging online experiences.
Indeed, based on our hackathon, people collaborate eagerly, use new online tools and design methods and are excited about the overall experience and the outcomes.
Yes, there might be some hiccups here and there, but not necessary more than in regular face-to-face events.
For me, as a fan of onsite co-creation events, this was a clear a-ha moment.
Next let me share my reflections and three lessons learned what made this virtual hackathon successful. I also add a few things to consider if you are about to plan a similar type of online event.
3 Lessons Learned from Virtual Hackathon
1. With people for people
As usual in a hackathon, people do not necessarily know each other upfront. In this event, although we had never met face-to-face and had very different backgrounds, we felt united. We all shared the same situation, being in self-isolation at our homes, willing to connect with others and eager to be able contribute to something purposeful. It felt we were together despite of distances, with a clear vision and enthusiasm. This shared motivation was one of the enablers, which made this hackathon a rewarding experience.
Ultimately, it is easier to create a great experience and results when people are motivated. In this event, motivation came naturally as participants were volunteering. On the contrary, often at workplaces, participants’ motivation tend to vary, e.g. some participants might feel forced to join, while others might feel distracted due to stress related to their daily jobs, which consequently can hinder the focus on the process and collaboration.
Things to consider:
If you are conducting a virtual design event, such as a design sprint, hackathon or co-creation workshop, take time to reflect and plan:
How to motivate people to participate? Even better, ask them upfront.
How to secure participants’ full engagement and keep them engaged throughout the process. What methods and techniques can you bring to facilitate the motivation virtually?
2. Trusting the process — and facilitation
This hackathon provided a joint learning experience where students and coaches connected across Europe in several occasions to share experiences, ideate, learn, present and receive feedback. Many of the participants were not familiar with a human-centered design approach, design process with divergent and convergent thinking, methods or tools we were using. Yet, it turned out well.
Outcome-focused remote facilitation and well-balanced constraints help to reach the goals
Although the process as such might be robust, you do need facilitators — those who think over the process and select the most suitable, outcome-focused, methods, plan the schedule and organize the logistics, provide guidance and inspiration, help people to get over the obstacles and remind them on the overall goals. This is a familiar topic from face-to-face events, but this online hackathon emphasized it again.
The facilitation needs to happen at multiple levels, at the process, the group but also individual levels to keep the focus and rhythm. We had facilitators and coaches for the overall hackathon, but also for the challenge area at the European level and locally.
Additionally, having set constraints, such as tight timelines and regular checkpoints to share, learn and inspire helped people to move in the right direction within the agreed timeframe. Multiple channels created on Slack encouraged people to share their thoughts and best practices in between the video calls. We could feel the pace, even though we were not physically in the same room.
Things to consider
To ensure a successful virtual design event:
How can you secure a sufficient number of skilled facilitators to get and keep the ball rolling over multiple remote teams and team members?
What kind of schedule would be realistic enough to get the results needed for each phase, from research to ideation and testing, yet feel slightly challenging to get most out of people’s creative capabilities?
3. Virtual collaboration facilitated by the thoughtful methods, enabled by technology
To conduct this all virtual hackathon, multiple digital collaboration tools were used throughout the process, e.g. Google, Miro, Slack and Zoom. Although one could get easily lost between these different channels and online spaces, our experience went rather smoothly.
The last time I had used Miro was back in 2017 when it was still known as RealtimeBoard. Throughout our design process from research to concepting, it turned out to be valuable tool.
In fact, for the hackathon purposes, facilitators and coaches had pre-selected canvases, i.e. the templates, and set up our virtual collaboration spaces, which made it easy to jump in right away. However, not that long time ago, printing large canvases and securing a good number of sticky notes were mandatory prerequisites of a successful co-creation workshop. Indeed, sometimes, as facilitators, we found ourselves dragging canvases to airports, hotels and workshop locations to capture the ideas and outcomes of the creative process and secure we could later convert the details into a digital format.
So having tested the latest of these digital tools during this hackathon, I must say they do enable the creativity, proactive collaboration and facilitate the process. For instance, Miro has not only ready-map templates but also kits with step-by-step guides.
And there are a plenty of other tools and guides to make this happen regardless of your role in the design process. Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Jackie Colburn just published a new guide how to conduct design sprints remotely and Mural has been busy with creating how-to guides and more during the recent months. All in all, these tools and guides do not only enable efficient remote collaboration and provide an opportunity to conduct end-to-end design thinking and innovation processes virtually but, in many cases, they also facilitate the processing the outcomes quicker.
Things to consider
What tools and methods can you best leverage to conduct your virtual session successfully? Do you have a sufficient amount of time reserved to set and test the overall flow prior to day 1?
What is your plan B in case the participants face issues with the selected tools?
To conclude, what were the outcomes and highlights of this all virtual hackathon?
UNA.TEN was concluded with presentations on May 8th, just one day prior to Europe Day 2020. Interesting and innovative solutions were ideated, such as an immersive experience connecting international audiences and performers virtually, while exploring the historic city of Edinburgh, the ‘bubble’ festival with live music, with a concept of being together but safe, a social distancing framework, a new way to discover local activities with safety measures, a digital service to organize trips in the countryside, a platform to connect local travel entrepreneurs to jointly package their offering with others to create more meaningful experiences to travellers and so on. Some teams, with the help of their local partners are proceeding further with their concepts.
Reflecting the overall experience
The UNA.TEN hackathon was time well spent, and it inspired me to continue to explore virtual possibilities.
Here are the highlights of this virtual hackathon:
Participation in an engaging social experience
Getting to know people across Europe
A reminder about the benefits of cross-European collaboration
First-hand experience and lessons learnt how design process works all online and virtually
Possibility to test the latest tools and digital templates
A chance to contribute to topical issues
Concrete ideas how to help entrepreneurs who are suffering from the COVID-19 implications
Opportunity to continue experimenting with concepts created.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how our ways of working will be digitized in a longer run. Will this special era disrupt the way we work and collaborate for good, also within innovation and design thinking scene?
Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016
Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive
We live in a world where customers can demand more from companies by taking advantage of various digital channels. It is now the consumers who have the power to force companies to react and change. Companies that fail to understand this new reality will be out of business quicker than ever.
This was the main theme behind the most recent Design Forum Talk called Design and New Value which took place on Wednesday 20 May as a free online event. The event’s theme reflected the fact that consumer behaviour has changed, and people nowadays have more possibilities to influence how companies function and what kind of values they represent.
The covid-19 has only strengthened this new trend. The companies that want to be among the survivors of the pandemic will need to build trust, stand behind their values, work towards a meaningful brand and have an authentic mission. You can also call this “profit with purpose”.
The 2-hour Design Forum Talk included five presentations from five speakers:
Katri Vataja, Director of the Foresight, Insight and Strategy at Sitra
Sonja Lahtinen, Researcher from the University of Tampere
Annika Boström-Kumlin, Marketing Director at Verso Food
Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the most important trends of the 2020s and the kind of challenges their impact brings to design and business. Katri mentioned that the mega trends such as the urgent need for ecological reconstruction or the ageing population help us to understand the future. However, the key question is what kind of future we want to build.
Solve the puzzle
Sonja Lahtinen referred to these major challenges that our generation must face as wicked problems. She used the Rubik’s cube as a metaphor to explain that we already have all the pieces at hand. Now, we only need to solve the puzzle. In order to do this, we need creative people and completely new kinds of solutions. Companies have a big role in this. By bringing more sustainable products to the market, the consumers will have a chance to make better choices as well.
Create new value
The last three speakers represented companies that have understood the importance of the new value and have been able to respond to quick changes on the market.
Annika Boström-Kumlin from Verso Food talked about their mission to change the image of vegan food so that people would only think of it as food (and really tasty food as well).
Jussi Mantere from Kesko talked about how they use digital data and insight to design customer-centric services that enable people to make environmentally sustainable buying decisions.
The last speaker, Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery, gave an interesting presentation about how their company has managed to keep the business running through covid-19 by shifting from whiskey production to produce hand sanitizer.
All of the speakers confirmed that by creating new value companies can create additional value to the customers, employees, environment, stakeholders, society and eventually to the owners of the company. The change starts from strategic thinking, courage, creativity and better understanding.
The black swan of our days, in other words the corona virus pandemic, has forced an accelerated digital transformation upon organizations around the world. This has included working from home for many, but also either cancelling events and workshops or restructuring them to be organized digitally.
This sudden push for digital transformation has been challenging for many industries. To support NGOs in this process, the umbrella organization for Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo has organized a few online facilitation sessions to support NGOs in fostering the quick move from face to face to virtual. I attended one of these workshops on April 29th, together with 30 other people who attended the fully booked session on Zoom.
We all can benefit from virtual facilitation skills
Facilitation is one of the pillars of service design and organizing workshops. A good facilitator can lead successful co-creation sessions even with difficult groups or contentious tasks. Virtual facilitation brings the art of facilitation to the online sphere. Over night, virtual facilitation skills went from something service designers and professional facilitators need to know to something that everyone working from home would benefit from. Organizing virtual workshops and simply co-creating online within the workplace have become increasingly more common in our new reality.
The virtual facilitation session I participated in was a tips and tricks type of session, where specialists shared very concrete examples on facilitating online work. After attending the session, I feel more confident in both using different online facilitation tools and leading a co-creation session virtually.
Top three takeaways
1) Preparation, preparation, preparation! Preparing to facilitate an online event is even more important than preparing for a face-to-face event. Once you have chosen and created the tools you will use during the event, make sure to try them out. Also do a test run of the technology, divide breakout rooms and practice moving between these. It is a good idea to share some information and materials with the participants before the session, to create shared understanding of the technology and tools to be used during the event.
2)Schedule more time for the beginning. In addition to the regular warm ups and getting to know each other, virtual events require doing a technical check. You should also agree on how participants can ask questions, whether it is by writing in the chat or any other way. If you intend to use the chat, it would be useful to have a co-facilitator who could keep an eye on the chat while you are presenting. It is a good idea to have your camera on and make some time for casual chit chat, to help set the mood for the event.
3)Activating and engaging participants is more important than ever! Long monologues and uncertainty about the tools are sure ways of losing the focus of your participants. Make sure that everyone knows what is happening, do not assume and use the chat or polls to activate participants. You could also keep tabs on which of the participants have contributed to the discussion and address quiet participants directly by name.
With these simple tips and tricks, even a less experienced virtual facilitator can lead a successful online event. Personally, I will try these out already next week, will you?
Wouldn’t it be great to know what the future holds for us? Particularly in the difficult times we are currently living, it’s easy to wish we’d know what the world looks like in six months or a year. This of course isn’t possible, but futures thinking provides a framework for us to foresee what possible futures might look like. In the words of Malcolm X – the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. So let’s prepare!
To learn how to use foresight strategically and to network with specialists in the field, I attended a scenario co-creation workshop at Futurice. The event was organized on the eve of National Futures Day in order to introduce the newly developed Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit.
Similarities between design thinking and futures thinking
Futures thinking and design thinking have some synergies and overlap, not only in theory but also in practice. Personally I have more experience attending and organizing service design workshops and only a bit of experience in futures thinking through coursework at Laurea. Although I am quite new to futures thinking, the tools and canvases used during the workshop felt familiar due to my experience in service design.
My Laurea coursework introduced me to all the futures thinking concepts discussed in the workshop. With this background, the workshop contributed to my learning and provided me with additional tools for my personal toolkit.
The future of work – putting the Lean Futures Creation toolkit to the test
We started off with a brief introduction to the new toolkit and quickly formed groups of 6-7 and started working. The workshop focused on the future of work and all participants had been tasked with finding five trends or weak signals on what work might look like in 2030. Based on these we filled in a PESTLEY table, which we used as the basis for our alternative futures. The PESTLEY table was the first canvas we used.
The PESTLEY table guided our work in the next step; creating alternative futures. For this we used the second canvas. We selected seven topics, came up with alternative outcomes and finally developed three alternative futures based on this work. The team divided into pairs and used the third canvas to guide the development of the different narratives.
The very last canvas we used guided the development of scenarios. My group had been so swept away by the previous steps that we didn’t have enough time to backcast and develop complete scenarios. We did still get to try it and as the facilitator kept reminding us – today was less about the substance and more about the process!
We got to practice using four canvases, developed a deeper understanding about co-creating scenarios and networked with likeminded professionals. The night was a great success in my books!
What if an organization would know what are the pain points of its future customers, which are emerging competitors and partners, what type of ecosystems organization should be part of, what type of legal, social or political issues are arising, what is going to be next industrial trend, how to disrupt the industry? “What if” is one of the most important questions in futures thinking. It enables stretching our thinking and imagine possible futures.
Minna Koskelo, futures designer had a presentation about “What is futures thinking” on Waffle Wednesday at Wonderland in February 2020. According to Koskelo “you can’t control the future but you can have a sense of control if you do understand more the drivers that are affecting the future. “ We don’t know the future but futures thinking gives us a mindset and offers a systematic approach that combines, methods, and tools to explore alternative futures which can support organizations to make right decisions. Koskelo’s presentation made me think about how well organizations are actually aware of the powerful mindset of futures thinking and its methods? Organizations are doing customer insight, business insight but how systematically and continuously companies are conducting future-oriented insight a.k.a. futures thinking? Feels like many organizations are focusing more on what is already visible instead of investing on what is about to come. Research shows that future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth and were 33% more profitable than average!
From where to start Futures Thinking?
When talking about the future there are certain terms that we need to understand. These terms are: megatrends, trends, signals.
Megatrend is a dominant long-term phenomenon with a global impact. Megatrends can change slowly. Examples of megatrends are climate change, senior citizens, digitalization, and circular economy. Koskelo mentioned that many times it is said that companies shouldn’t focus on megatrends when finding business innovation because megatrends aren’t bringing any competitive advantage. Then again we could also ask how many companies are today actually tackling on helping senior citizens?
Trends are changes in people’s behavior, attitudes, and values locally and globally. They have an impact on the culture, society or business sector. Trends indicate which direction development is going. Trend has a lasting impact, but the impact is smaller than megatrends’ impact.
Signal is a phenomenon, the first expression of change or a new trend. Signal might be a weak signal that is very surprising and weird that forces companies to challenge current assumptions. So if a company would spot a weak signal and tries to develop it to a trend, it might offer a competitive advantage.
Tools for exploring the future
The more aware organizations are of the opportunities that the future holds, the more future-proof decisions can be made. There are various tools for supporting in future decision making. Four of them are described below.
What if an organization would get a holistic view of opportunities and obstacles in its future environment? It feels like organizations focus their future view heavily on technology and ignore other important trends. But in order to get a more holistic view, an organization could utilize a framework called STEEPLED that is an acronym for: Social, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographics. STEEPLED offers a checklist for exploring external factors that might have an impact on the organization’s success – the organization could find signals that might turn into trends!
What if organization could really reach their vision?Backcasting would be the tool to be used in this case. In backcasting the organization defines first its desirable future and from there works backward to identify the critical steps necessary to achieve the desired future, the vision.
What if organization would be able to anticipate its future customers? By using future personas the organization would provide insights of future customers, anticipate what motivates them and what are their future needs.
What if organization would recognize the direct and indirect consequences of a decision, trends and events that might have an impact on the organization’s ecosystem?Futures wheel is a visual tool that supports to create a structured map of the future. When working with the futures wheels a particular trend will be put in the center after which the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of the trend will be explored in a structured way.
Six business benefits of Futures Thinking
Based on Minna Koskelo’s presentation and my earlier studies in futures thinking I would sum up futures thinking benefits as below.
Futures Thinking 1. offers a safe space to consider and discuss unthinkable options,
2. encourages to think beyond the company’s current value proposition and reveal new business opportunities,
3. offers new innovative ways for decision-making processes and enhance decision making under uncertainty,
4. enables test ideas before translating them into business or innovation strategies,
5. helps to align the whole organization working towards a common vision in their daily work practices,
6. offers a roadmap for navigating complexity and reaching the vision.
Future does not just happen, it depends on today’s choices and is created through interaction and collaboration. What if we start to influence our future today?
References: From signals to future stories Futures Thinking Ojasalo, Koskelo and Nousiainen. 2015. Foresight and Service Design Boosting Dynamic Capabilities in Service innovation. In: Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (ed.) The Handbook of Service Innovation. London: Springer. 193-212.
I have written this blog post so many times and felt so insecure and confused what to write about. The assignment for the Design Thinking course was to read couple of articles and books and reflect on your own learnings.
Over and over again, I have read my notes from our workshop days from September 2019, facilitated and lectured by Katja Tschimmel. I have also read her article “Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for innovation” and a book “Design Thinking for strategic innovation – What they can’t teach you at business or design school”. I have had good discussions with my colleagues, at work (you know who you are) and in the SID program.
I have familiarized myself with the different Design Thinking models and in general why and how design methods can be used creatively in solving any problems, regardless of the context. I have learned that it is a great tool to frame the problem and find the right problem to be solved. The variety of Design Thinking tools can be used by anyone, you don’t have to be a designer or creative person to use those tools.
In organizations, Design Thinking approach and tools work well in gathering people together across the organizational silos. Bringing people together regardless of the background and helping people to discuss and share thoughts in supporting and safe environment was one of the important things I noted down. I also learned that Design Thinking allows people to try different solutions, even if they do not know if this is the right one or right direction. Design Thinking accepts and encourages people to learn through making failures. The well known benefit of that in business world is that making failures quickly actually makes the development timeline shorter and that way cheaper.
Getting in touch with feelings is hard
Before the workshop, I knew some theory and benefits of Design Thinking. But only through the personal experience and quite many months of mental processing I have started to understand why it has been so difficult to write about Design Thinking. The playful methods and way of working together co-creatively was just so much fun. I actually felt something.
For many reasons, I have been used to just rely on my rational, logical and analytical thinking at work, working in a big corporate with big corporates in solving their challenges as a management consultant. But this approach touched and opened something in my heart and I could also use my ability to feel to solve the problem we worked with in the workshop.
People have natural need to be in connection with people, to work with people, feel that they are part of something. Especially in large organizations people can feel very lonely. Design Thinking brings people together and makes you feel you are part of something.
When organizations and people face changes, very often people feel fear of the coming change. Fear again makes people to fight or run away, or in a very difficult situation, paralyze. Organizations are in a constant change, and change happens fast. I feel that Design Thinking is powerful tool to address the change, to plan the changes together and go through the journey together. You will still need to make your research to understand the needs of your customers, make a business case for the change, you need to get people onboard to the change, you will need to find technological solutions, you need to figure out the operating model and design efficient processes. Design Thinking is a new perspective to add on. That’s why it makes so much sense in organizations to use design methods.
The power of of Design Thinking is definitely in the psychological side, among the many others such as giving tools for ordinary people in organizations to be creative and innovative and making organizations more human places to work in.
I will end this post by sending lots of hugs and kisses to everyone who reads this post! Let’s be brave and make organizations good places to work in ❤