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Latest Trends of Destination Marketing

Digital Tourism Think Tank – #DTTT2018
Helsinki, Bio Rex 29.-30.11.2018

I visited one of the most intriguing events in the traveling field the Digital Tourism Think Tank 2018 last November. Helsinki had the honor to host around 300 participants from all over the world in the event held in fabulous Bio Rex facilities.  #DTTT global is a perfect place to track where about traveling field and destination marketing is now and what the future holds for them.

Personally, I have been working in the traveling field altogether for more than 7 years. Surprisingly, traditionally, the field has not presented the sharpest end of digital and technological development, not to mention service design or design thinking. In my opinion, the field has been rather slow in adapting to the changes and disruptions that take place faster and faster. Due to my maternity and student leave, I had not been attending this event in two years. Now I noticed, that quite a lot had changed since the year 2015.

Many interesting keynotes were presented the day I attended the two-day event: Finnair, Finavia, Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) such as Visit Finland, Visit Dubai and Wonderful Copenhagen. They all had their interesting cases, but it would be useless trying to describe them all. What I was after, were the latest trends in the traveling field that would emerge through the inspirational cases and viewpoints.

#DTTT2018 keywords (by the author):
open data, APIs, ecosystem, platforms, seamless customer experience, experience economy, feelings, passion, co-creation, sharing, sustainability, good content

When looking at the keywords I spotted in the event, it seems the traveling business is not anymore that far away from design-led business and innovation approach. Open data, data collaboration and open API’s (Application Program Interface) were emphasized in several occasions to be the key in managing travel experience and offering a seamless customer experience.

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Also Finavia’s Eero Knuutila talked about “API economy”.

Visit Finland has started a large-scale project in data collaboration among the traveling business operators, and the Australian Tourism organization has even a specific Tourism Data Warehouse which collects, manages and shares all the relevant information regarding their business. Most importantly, as Visit Finland’s Kaisa Kosonen stated: “attitudes towards sharing have changed during the last years”.

“Attitudes towards sharing have changes during the last years.”
– Kaisa Kosonen, Visit Finland

This has been a very important step in going to the direction where sharing is viewed more advantageous that keeping information for competitive reasons and trying to do everything alone. Also, the limited budgets several DMOs unfortunately have, certainly have encouraged in taking a new direction in this sense.

Almost in every speech the word “platform” was mentioned, and in many also “ecosystem”. As Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi captured, “digitalization is not about apps and channels but ecosystems and platforms”. The sharing approach has led to the inclusive approach of different actors which form the ecosystem of a good service selection to the traveler. Now, every DMO wants to offer a platform which offers and/or gathers good content and where all the customers, potential and existing, can connect to before, during and after the visit. Some of them have succeeded better than others, and I am very happy to notice that Helsinki Marketing’s MyHelsinki service in top-notch in this category. A service that is referred to by the most impactful DMOs and traveling field actors.

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Tia Hallanoro from Helsinki Marketing presenting the customer journey of a Helsinki visitor.

It is a known fact that feelings and passion are related to traveling ever since it has become a leisure activity. What is new, is that now marketing strategies and even business cases are built on feelings and experiences, such as the new service developed by Finnair, which promotes and sells experiences to their visitors. Also, “customer experience” was mentioned several times during the day. A seamless customer experience is something that the DMOs and other travel operators are reaching for by new means.

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Finnair’s Kristiina Kukkohovi explaining how happiness can be digitalized.

Some of the DMOs are already using co-creation as a means to develop the experience. And at least one of them even has a clear design thinking approach to their entire strategy, like the example of Wonderful Copenhagen, the DMO of Copenhagen.

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Have you ever thought about the locals being the most important factor in the traveling experience for visitors? I haven’t, or at least not in this scale that Wonderful Copenhagen presented. There has been, and still is, a hype around live-like-a-local phenomenon. Many DMO’s, including Visit Helsinki, has put into use the knowledge the locals possess and used that in marketing. Local experiences interest even more visitors, rather than famous monuments or big attractions.

What Wonderful Copenhagen inspirationally pointed out, was that the locals do not live in a destination but in a city. They also suggested that instead of asking what locals can do for you, ask what you can do for locals. They consider locals strategically important factor in the customer experience of visitors. Therefore, it is rightful to ask what tourism can do for locals.

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The background for this kind of thinking comes from over-tourism, which many popular cities and countries as destinations have faced. Amsterdam is one of them, and Copenhagen has faced similar challenges. In a rather small city, the growing number of visitors want to visit exactly the same places at the same time, such as the Little Mermaid, Anne Frank’s house, etc. This has led even to strategies which drive visitors away from these super attractions, even in the outskirts of the city.

Wonderful Copenhagen has valiantly stated that tourism is not a goal in itself for them, but as a means to develop the city. This is their strategic choice, and recently they introduced their new strategy “Tourism for good”.

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This example leads us to perhaps the most important keyword the emerged in the event: sustainability. The traveling field and DMOs are facing perhaps the biggest disruption ever come to their way, which comes alive in such phenomena like over-tourism and people’s changing traveling behaviors, especially linked to flying. This is something which the DMOs still have a very different approach to.

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Visit Dubai announced that they want to grow the number of visitors because they have the infrastructure to support it. Whereas Helsinki Marketing clearly stated that Helsinki seeks “not quantity, but quality in growth”. And then there is Wonderful Copenhagen which bases their entire tourism strategy on sustainability. Clearly, this is the theme that will be, or at least it should be, grasped immediately in the traveling field and destination marketing organizations.

It remains to be seen what the #DTTT2019 will present for us in this sense. And it remains to be seen how, or if, the DMOs will apply design thinking or service design more into their business operations. If you are interested in traveling, and it is in any way possible for you, I recommend attending the next event which will be held in Espoo somewhere around late November this year.

Laura Saksala

Can Design Solve Everything?

Design Forum Talks: Design, Value and Meaning
Valkoinen Sali 28.11.2018

In late November 2018, I attended a seminar organized by Design Forum Finland, which, once again, discussed design and its overarching possibilities in solving complex problems in business, innovation and life in general. Many interesting keynotes were expected, such as Berlin-based phi360 consultant Arndt Pechstein’s “Hybrid Thinking” as well as cases such HEI School, which has successfully combined design and pedagogy. Yet, some very familiar topics and aspects were presented in the agenda: e.g. “Human-centric Design and Value”, “Designing Impact” and “Design Methods Supporting Social Innovation”.

Ville Tikka, the Strategic Director at Wevolve, described how the society has evolved from the 1950’s to 1980’s modern society to the post-modern society (1980’s-2000’s) and further to post-contemporary society (2010’s and onwards). In modern society, it was viewed that the world functioned like a machine and the “truth” could be found. Design was about designing products. In the post-modern society, the knowledge was critically questioned, and the world was viewed as socially constructed and where design created services. Whereas now, from the 2010’s onwards, the post-contemporary society is being viewed as a complex system of systems where design creates platforms.

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This complexity, as we know, makes planning extremely difficult and constitutes new challenges to overcome. As the problems are more complex and wicked, new ways of solving them are needed. As witnessed in this event, today, it is even more common to argue that design can solve many of these problems.

Many brilliant services and solutions embracing human needs and building on empathy were presented, and human-centric approach in designing services was emphasized.

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One of the most inspiring ones was the case of HEI Schools, a pedagogic concept which brings the Finnish preschool system to the whole world. An exiting example of what designing is capable of when practiced carefully and when it is guided by a clear vision and based on in-depth knowledge.

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Pechstein’s keynote about “Hybrid Thinking” was an extremely interesting way of seeing business design of the 21stcentury. It is described as “a combination of the four most powerful approaches of innovation and change management”: Agile/Design Thinking, Biomimicry, Neuroscience and Circular Design and Platform Business Modeling. Basically, Hybrid Thinking puts together different elements of thinking and doing, and intuition is embraced  to achieve trust, loyalty, and emotions. Biomimicry utilizes the power of evolution by mimicking nature in designing solutions. This was something new and interesting, I recommend watching his keynote on Youtube.

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While design as an approach to solve complex problems in people’s lives was presented from many different viewpoints and through various small or large-scale service or business solutions, the big questions were existent and discussed by many of the speakers. It was stated that “design should be everywhere” and that “design should be part of each and every work place, not just a separate department in an organization”. “Design affects everything what is done and how is it done” and that “systemic thinking should come actionable”. “Creativity is in all of us and it should be nurtured”, “and that “human being is the creative, innovator and visionary not only professional designers”. It was also suggested that “we should come out of the concept of design” because “that is also one silo”.

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My question is, how is this achieved? How can we extend design approach throughout our organizations and even stretch it to the level of strategy and leadership? How can we make everyone a visionary, innovator and creative, even those who do not have a slightest idea of design thinking or service design?

These questions are relevant in order to one day reach these declamatory visions, while the ordinary worker still seems quite small and unaware of these great plans and possibilities design hold. Even our managers and leaders have not all assimilated the idea of design as an enabler, let alone to conduct business.

Recently, it has been academically argued that the hype surrounding the concept of design thinking has resulted in a need to understand its core essence. It also has been argued that the concept is vague and that the effectiveness of the approach is unclear. (e.g. Hassi & Laakso 2011, Johansson & Woodilla 2010) Two separate discourses on the topic of design thinking have been identified: the “design discourse” and the “management discourse” the first having a history of about 50 years focusing on the cognitive  aspects of designing (“the way designers think as they work”) and the latter appearing around the change of the millennium which regards design thinking as “an overarching method for innovation and creating value” and focuses on the need to improve managers’ design thinking skill for better business success. (Hassi & Laakso 2011, 2) It is also argued, that the management discourse lacks empirical evidence on the usefulness of design thinking and that it’s not linked to a theoretical base. (Hassi & Laakso 2011)

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As service design students, it may be useful to acknowledge this ongoing academic debate around the concept of design thinking (if not familiar yet) and about the lack of academic evidence on the effectiveness of design thinking. This debate came into my mind when going back to these pleasant and declarative visions of design (thinking) taking over in every organization and in society heard in Design Forum Talks event.

To conclude, we do not know if design can solve every wicked problem in this everchanging world. Furthermore, there is a long way of making an ordinary manager a design thinker, innovator and visionary. However, design (thinking) indeed has the characteristics and capabilities built in to have the potential in drastically changing the course of thinking and doing things in the society – also in doing business.

All the keynotes can be watch on the Design Forum Finland website.

Laura Saksala

References

Hassi, L. & Laakso, M. 2011. Conceptions of Design Thinking in The Design and Management Discourses. Open Questions and Possible Directions for Research. Conference Paper. Proceedings of IASDR2011, the 4thWorld Conference on Design Research, 31 October – 4 November, Delft, the Netherlands.

Johansson, U. & Woodilla, J. 2010. How to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water: An ironic perspective on design thinking, strategy, and innovation. 8thEuropean Academy of Design Conference: April 1-3, 2009, Lisbon, Portugal.

Two different solution spaces

 

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As a part of School of Startups, Toni Perämäki from Valohai wanted to show us a structured way of finding customers via Lean Startup method. The one way of ideating is to build, measure and learn in a cycle. The key question in Lean Startup is: Do I have a problem worth solving? One idea is to make a list of problems (3-5) that your idea would be solving. You need to think many sectors in the beginning of the process. These include reviewing the customer pain, considering the size of the market and is it reachable. Also you need to think technical feasibility: are you able to build your product/service?

Even though Toni was telling about customer discovery through Lean Startup methology, I was able to find a lot of similarity to Design Thinking. First of all, they both are used in innovation processes to create something new. Iteration is a key action in both methods. Design process is always about iteration when building products or services. The Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop in Learn Startup is operating solemnly in the solution space in order to create Minimum Viable Products. That loop is very similar to Design Thinking prototypes and testing. They both collect feedback.

Understanding customers is crucial in both points of views. Who are the customers that the idea would help? In this part Toni urged us used user personas and value proposition canvas to help you understand the motivation and also the gain and pain of customers. These both are methods used in Design Thinking. User personas are based on fictional characters whose profile gathers up the features of an existing social group. In this way the personas assume the attributes of the groups they represent: from their social and demographic characteristics, to their own goals, challenges, behaviour and backgrounds. Value Proposition Canvas is a simple way to understand your customers needs, and design products and services they want. It works in conjunction with the Business Model Canvas and other strategic management and execution tools and processes.

 

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Value Proposition Canvas

 

In order of validating your concept Toni adviced us to think of ways of testing idea before prototyping or having a ready product. Good ways are storytelling and demos. Also used in Design Thinking.

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About customer understanding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toni introduced us to few (many) rules that I find useful when trying to understand customers. When gathering information, don’t use surveys. Surveys are too structured and it’s not a dialog. Also don’t use focus groups. People tend to change their opinion due to external influence. You don’t want people to follow some strongheahed persons ideas under group pressure.

Don’t ask what they want. The idea is to experience and understand the problem. Don’t go in alone. You get more insight of the problem at hand when comparing gathered information. Select neutral location. People need to feel comfortable. Use pen and paper to make notes. It it important to document results but having a lapotop between you and customer is not a good idea.

 

More info and ideas:

https://valohai.com

http://www.servicedesigntools.org

https://strategyzer.com/canvas/value-proposition-canvas

https://www.boardofinnovation.com/blog/2017/07/18/lean-startup-versus-design-thinking/

 

The author Siru Sirén is MBA student in Futures Studies and Customer-Oriented Services in Laurea UAS// Licenced social service professional

Design thinking – an influential combination of tools, methods and a mindset

by Jenni Leppänen

Design thinking has gained worldwide hype over the past decade. Its tools and methods are being discussed and implemented also in many fields not traditionally seen as designing fields, e.g. services. Design thinking is defined as a “process of continuously redesigning a business using insight derived from customer intimacy” (Jeanne Liedtka 2014). There’s nothing new in focusing on the customer’s needs and adapting one’s offering accordingly, so what’s all the hype about?

Gathering in-depth insight

Design thinking makes its mission to truly understand the customer and his world. Doing a round of customer satisfaction surveys online once a year is not sufficient – in the design thinking approach you put a lot of effort in gathering in-depth information from your customers on an ongoing basis. In other words, you need to procure and maintain a holistic understanding of your customer’s context, activities, practices and experiences. To truly understand how the business’s current and possible future offering appear in the customers’ context, you invite them to co-create the services with you. There are dozens of tools available – a great summary is the practical “Evolution 6^2” model, the Innovation & Design Thinking Model by Katja Tschimmel.

Evolution 6-2

E6^2 introduces altogether 36 tools in each phase of the whole design process:

  • Emergence (of a challenge and an opportunity),
  • Empathy (towards the customer in his context),
  • Experimentation (for generating ideas and concepts),
  • Elaboration (on solutions),
  • Exposition (visually presenting the new solution) and
  • Extension (implementing the solutions).

The list includes many wide-spread tools, such as interviewing, user journey maps and questionnaires, and also innovative tools, such as intent statement, insight map and evaluation matrix. The templates are available on Pinterest of Mindshake Portugal.

More focused collaboration

However, knowing the tools is not enough to alone explain the success of design thinking. A successful designer has a mindset that supports the design process and implementation of tools. As an example, in the beginning of the development phase, you are expected to be optimistic, curious and playful – to throw in ideas on the ideal world, with no rules or limitations for imagination. Traditionally, the so-called “engineering mind” would jump quickly into assessing the feasibility of the idea, but a “designer mind” would explore future possibilities in different directions, against stereotypes.

Design thinking is all about collaboration. According to Liedtka, “the highest payoff from adopting a design-thinking approach was not necessarily in identifying a solution, but rather in innovating how people worked together to envision and implement the new possibilities they discovered”. In the organizations Liedtka studied, team members stayed longer with the problem, and examined the topic through various design tools and methods. Having thorough research findings as a foundation made positive behavioral changes in the way teams worked together: team members listened to each other to truly understand their colleague’s perspectives, and to build on them – there was no need to guess and argue over your personal perception on the customer’s preferences. The focus therefore was on envisioning new possibilities together, instead of searching for weaknesses in others’ ideas and strengths in their favorite suggestions. Empathy towards the customer also helped gain focus and speed.

Learning opportunities

Another key word in design thinking is iteration. Instead of spending time on perfecting an action plan with your colleagues, you start small and experiment early on with various concepts and prototypes. It is quicker and cheaper to fail early, although failing in front of actual customers might seem discouraging. In the book “Creative Confidence” Tom and David Kelley (2013) argue that we all are creative, but many people don’t have the confidence to even try experimenting something new, as the prospect of failure is too paralyzing. In the iterative design thinking every experience is an opportunity you can learn from. Failures are crucial for innovation, and it is the only way to create something very new. Tolerance of mistakes is increased, and confidence in being creative boosted, when practicing and experimenting becomes a part of your daily life. You also gain small successful experiences. “Like a muscle, your creative abilities will grow and strengthen with practice. Continuing to exercise them will keep them in shape.”

 

References:

Tschimmel, Katja. 2018. E.62 Mindshake – Innovation & Design Thinking Model

Liedtka, Jeanne. 2014. Innovative ways companies are using design thinking. Strategy & Leadership. Vol. 42 No. 2 2014, pp. 40-45, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Kelley, David and Kelley, Tom. 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.

(Lights, camera,) ACTION!

 

On a rainy Tuesday I attended School of Startup hosted by The Shortcut. This weeks theme was Design and there was a lot of workhops related. Idea of the track is to wake up design mind and skills through design methods. There will be other post(s) coming about the design week. This workshops topic was Behaviour Design by Ashwin Rajan. In the beginning Rajan started with reminding us that design thinking process isn’t linear.

 

The spirit of design thinking consist of many things.

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Design process

 

Curiosity is one of the key factors. You need to want to learn and create new things and understand the underlining things in designing process. You also need to endure discomfort because moving in new territory means that there is not much to rely on. Some times your ideas are not welcomed so you need to accept rejection. That is also why you need to fail-forward.

When synthesising I believe you get better results because the issue/task is reviewed from many points of viewes. Finding answers while being inclusive gives better knowledge. Continuing topics ”Yes, and..” gives you more information. Learning with your hands is essential, thats why many of the design prosesses include sketching and prototyping as tools. You need to be action-driven and do things to go forward.

”Experience cannot be measured. Behaviour can.”

– Ashwin Rajan

Ashwin Rajan

Ashwin Rajan (photo from LinkedIn profile).

 

According to Rajan, “behaviour is action on digital technology”. There are different types of action, some are seeking information (serve information) and other actions are doing tasks (give tools). When you are hungry, you search for food. If for example Wolt advertises ”Hungry? Wolt” it straightforwadly implifies you that in order to satisfy you need you need to take action. An action towards them. In the future it will be easier to do the same thing because it is already familiar to you. That makes sense when you think of learning by doing and how doing things changes the way you think.

The core consepts of behaviour design are important to understand because those factors determine how well you can design a product or service. Behaviour design explains customers and users as psychologal and social beings. It is interesting how everything is sort of linked together as long as it is humans that are using the service. Even though behavioral design consists more than three core consept, Rajan decided to introduce us to the following ones:

Positive Self-Concept helps us to build identity and contuinity in our lives. We want to feel good so we seek for experiences that gives us that feeling. And also we avoid decicions that make us feel bad. Bounded rationality in decicion making process creates many suboptimal desicions simply because we use shortcuts and are biased when it comes to what we want.

Cognitive dissonance happens when situation conflicts with our attitude, perception or belief. I wonder, if information bubble is partially about cognitive dissonance? We generelly don’t accept information that is in conflict with your worldview. Or is it more about keeping positive self-concepts in order not to challenge our identity? Creating action is a way of solving cognitive dissonance. Either you change the way you think or believe or you change your behavior.

Motivation always has a direction. You go towards something or seek for avoidance. The source for motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. This reminded me of my other course in which I’m studying about inner motivation. Same principles work in different contexts. Understanding motivation truly helps you affect things. Either way, there is two ways to change behavior when motivating people. You align action with existing motivation or you carefully create dissonance while restoring positive self-consept.

 

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Ashwin Rajan has a great way of explaining things and concepts. I truly enjoyed while he was explaining how people react to different types of actions and how behavioral design provides tools to extend or change human behaviour. In a way, it seems relatable to psychoterapy prosess. You understand and create a behavioral intervention. After the workshop I felt inspired, motivated and hungry for more information. The key learning for me was how important is to understand the psychology of users or customers in order to learn and make better processes.

 

The author Siru Sirén is MBA student in Futures Studies and Customer-Oriented Services in Laurea UAS// Licenced social service professional

 

More info and ideas:

https://theshortcut.org/school-of-startups/

https://www.fabricbd.com

What about brick and mortar?

We are living in a world where change is present, and it is forcing many industries to redefine or reshape themselves in the near future. Of all industries retailing as we know it today is for sure facing one of the biggest challenges through its existence. People´s buying behaviour and preferences are rapidly changing and, one of the biggest questions up in the air is what will be the future of brick and mortar stores?

In the Laurea´s Masterclass study unit called Design Thinking facilitated by a quest Professor Katja Tschimmel we familiarised ourselves with the design thinking concept and the Mindshake Innovation and Design Thinking Model called Evolution 62 (E.62). Practical exercises done during the 2 contact session days in September 2018 deepened participants´ understanding of the process and different tools, and it all also expanded my thinking beyond classroom walls. Since the E.62 model and related toolkit were developed in organisational context to promote Design Thinking and to show how Design Thinking tools can be applied in practice, could Design Thinking and its tool pack in general also be used for reshaping retail, more precisely brick and mortar stores?

 

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Mindshake Innovation and Design Thinking Model (Katja Tschimmel, 2018)

 

In his book called Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation (2013), Idris Mootee offers Design Thinking lens as an approach to various business challenges. He does not stop there but presents a reader a concrete list of design thinking solutions that are matched to specific business challenges. I must say that I am usually little sceptic about these kinds of lists since they tend to oversimplify matters, but in this particular case, I think he managed to make his point clear: business problems can be approached with empathy, creativity, foresight, and last but not least consumer-centricity.

 

The list

Business challenges with matching Desing Thinking Solutions (Idris Mootee 2013)

As I see it, disruption in retail business is mostly due to the fast and dramatic changes in the way individuals nowadays prefer to shop and retail´s inability to adapt to these needs (quick enough). Consumers of today like to play the game with their own rules and they want to decide how, when and where they shop. From retailers´ perspective constantly developing new technologies and all the possibilities they offer to business make everything even more complex and the future is anything but easily predicted. Essentially, it is all about the many individuals with individualistic needs and wants and retailers´ inability to predict the future.

The name of Mindshake E.62 model refers to six Es, six phases, one of which is called Empathy. As mentioned before consumers of today are more individualistic than ever and they like to set the rules, so we should study them and their rules. Empathy phase is all about deep and thorough customer (user) understanding. The E.62 tools that can be used in this phase for gaining the understanding are for example Empathy Map, User Journey Map, Persona Map and Cards (Personas), Field Observation and last but not least Interview. The idea is to be able to step into the customers´ shoes and understanding the wider context. Interview on the other hand, is an efficient tool to discover what people really need and desire. In general, the importance of this phase cannot be overly emphasized: in today´s world it is all about knowing your customer.

Predictability is also one of the business challenges Idris Mootee (2013) describes in his book. He states: “By studying, developing, and visualizing forward-looking scenarios, an organization can equip and prepare itself for tomorrow”. He continues: “Foresight is an iterative and cumulative learning process that employs design thinking tool kit.” In this case, according to him, the tool kit includes Weak Signal Scanning, Weak Signal Processing, Weak Signal Amplification, Context Mapping and Scenario Development.

Earlier in my blog post I criticised Mootee of oversimplifying things, and now I have to admit that I have committed the same crime when categorising all retail under one umbrella. Retailing, of course, encases a huge number of different sectors – grocery, electronics, clothing, home decoration and home furnishing just to mention few – with sector-specific challenges, segmentations, buying preferences and so on, and cannot or should not be treated as one entity. Personally, my passion lies within home furnishing and physical customer experience i.e. in brick and mortar, and I am itching to dig deeper into this topic when I proceed in my Service Innovation and Design studies. Please, stay tuned.

Further reading:
Liedtka, Jeanne. 2018. Why Design Thinking works. Harvard Business Review.
Mootee, Idris. 2013. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation
Tschimmel, Katja. 2018. E.62 Mindshake – Innovation & Design Thinking Model
Tschimmel, Katja. 2015. Evolution 62 Design Thinking Cards

Designing together

Everyone can – and does – design . — Nigel Cross

Design thinking is a key part of what makes us human. This is how Nigel Cross described human ability and tendency for design back in 2011. The bold statement above is best explained by a few simple examples; design appears in everyday-like situations, by people from any nationality and age, whether that is finetuning a recipe for homemade pizza into a culinary experience that seems to pause time itself (yes, I like pizza) or simply changing the arrangement of your living room furniture.

When it comes to food there are endless ways of innovating and using design thinking, as our instructor for Design Thinking module, Katja Tschimmel, would tell us during our first days in the SID program. Katja used the world-renowned restaurant elBulli as an example and walked us through how elBulli’s head chef Ferran Adriá used design thinking in their creative process which actually lasted almost six months every year, the restaurant being closed during winter.

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image 1. elBulli’s head chef Ferran Adriá in front of design sketches

Teamwork is the main ingredient

ElBulli’s success and groundbreaking dishes weren’t the end results of a “lone genius inventor” as chef Adriá relied on surrounding himself with a team of experts even from outside the culinary world and worked together with industrial designers, artists and computer engineers, besides other chefs of course. They made 5000 experiments to create 125 new dishes a year which indicates failing often and fast would be a routine part of the daily design process. The story of elBulli is quite similar to the one of Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, who is considered as the creator of team-based approach in innovation. According to Tim Brown (in his 2008 HBR article “Design Thinking”), Edison’s approach was an early example of what is now called “design thinking” – a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos.

Roles and relationships

Working as a member of a team introduces different problems such as conflicts but also opens a lot of possibilities in comparison with working alone. An obvious practical difference is that team members have roles and relationships within the team, some of which can be formally established, such as seniorities in the company hierarchy. Team leaders like Adriá and Edison would appoint team members in particular job roles in the design process. But as Nigel Cross points out, if there are no formal roles appointed, usually informal role-adoption is evident through repeated patterns of behavior. For example, a person that is good at drawing might usually end up using that skillset during the sketching and visualization part of a design process.

Hitting a dead-end

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image 2. Hitting a dead-end. Check out this video about shifting the conversation focus

One clear benefit of designing in a team is that a few bright minds put together usually produce more ideas, and more ideas develop versatility in design concepts which ultimately narrows down to the best solutions for problem-solving. But sometimes during the design process, even a team can hit a dead-end. This is what we, the fresh batch of Laurea SID students, faced during our first sessions in the Design thinking module, fall of 2018. We had proceeded with a design concept and felt it was going in the right direction but suddenly the team ran out of ideas. After a brief moment of silence the conversation shifted off-topic for a while and suddenly a new perspective arose to the entire problem at hand. Finding this detour might have been more difficult when working solo.

Brown suggests design thinkers pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions. Our instructor Katja Tschimmel also reminded us that using any design thinking toolset is hardly ever linear. Some steps during the way need more attention by the designers and as Cross concluded, everything about the process can’t be planned. It’s necessary in design also for unplanned, ad hoc exploratory activities when they seem necessary for the design team.

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image 3. Prototype ready for testing

Design thinking and the methodology around it gives us a variety of useful tools for innovation and problem-solving. Whether you’re designing alone or in a team, it seems that the rules (if there are any) can be bent when keeping an eye on the big picture. The big picture at the moment being a good Sunday pizza with paper-thin crust, a homemade tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan, pepperoni, red onion, strawberries and rocket, designed by our family design team. This time around the design process was quite straightforward and pleasant as it seems difficult to fail when designing a pizza.
References:

Brown, Tim. 2008. Design Thinking. Harward Business Review.

Cross, Nigel. 2011. Design Thinking – Understanding how designers think and work.