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From nobody to creative designer

One Friday morning 28 students from different backgrounds sat down in a classroom at Laurea. At least as I know, majority of these people, had no or just little experience on designing, rather the opposite. The journey from nobody to be a designer had begun.

For long we have lived in a world where we have categorized people to either be creative or not.  As Tom and David Kelley state in their book Creative Coffidence, creative people were considered to be artists, architects, designers etc. Others should stay in their tightly described boxes and at least stay as far away from marketing or product development as possible. Tom and David call this “The creative myth”, which we, brave new students, were about to break.

As the world is changing into more and more complex, we need more creativity and ideas. Traditional way of creating things is just not enough anymore. Our lecturer Katja Tscimmel well pointed out; “just look around in your everyday living. Is there anyone more creative than a mon trying to get the kicking kid into kindergarten. Or have you ever realized how many variations of food you can make from yesterday’s leftovers.” How could we harness this everyday creativity to serve a bigger purpose?  The key is in mindset change.IMG_4140

Tim Brown stated already 2008 in Harvard Business Reviews article, that by changing the way we think, we can transform the way the business and the world is developed.  Creativity in business context is group work. Its taking advantage of peoples’ different experiences and outlooks on life and turning it into new innovative combinations of services, products or strategies.  Thinking an ideating together, testing new ideas and being able to think outside the given box is in the core of coming up with new ideas and innovations.

As we, new students at Laurea, were given our first task to innovate new student services, I was sceptic. Would we ever come up with any ideas or anything we would ever dear to show someone else? By letting go of the need for control or knowing the end results before even starting the work and just trusting the process, we dived into a fun, inspiring and in the end very creative group work.

Tim Brown listed some personality features needed to be design thinker and this how those showed in our case. We had to let go of our deep beliefs and step into the end users’ shoes. “What are the problems exchange student face?” Empathy combined with ability to use integrative thinking was critical. The use of “what if”, “How Could we” and “furthermore” took us forward in your thinking and in your ideation process. We had to stay optimistic and experiment things, as the clock was ticking. If it didn’t work, fail fast, take the next idea and be willing to start over if needed.

In the end of very inspiring two days we had internalized the design thinking idea, tested many creative DT tools and  created several new services to improve exchange students stay in Finland. Pretty well from “nobodies”   😉

Using Design Thinking to Build a VR Study Experience

What do you get when you put together a group of Laurea MBA in Service Innovation and Design students and Mindshake’s Katja Tschimmel and task the group to innovate a service for international students as part of the Design Thinking course? A crazy lot of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and learnings. In this blog post, I will go through how one group utilised Design Thinking to create a service offering a full in-class VR experience to anyone not physically present.

Everyone has creativity in them – uncovering our creative confidence

First, we learned the theory and about the toolkit for practical Design Thinking, including opportunity mind mapping, intent statement and insight and stakeholder maps.

As innovation starts with idea generation, these tools were great for uncovering creativity and helped narrow down our focus. IDEO’s Tom and David Kelley discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all (Crown Publishing Group, 2013) how everyone has creativity in them and these tools are a testament to that. For our team, the creative confidence was really built up by brainwriting which brought us the collective brainchild of creating a VR in-class experience from anywhere.

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Fluency and flexibility demonstrated during the brainwriting exercise which finally lead us to cluster the ideas that had to do with VR

Presenting the prototype

Then it was the time to create a prototype to visually present the concept. This concept test gave us invaluable feedback from the other team which we then incorporated in the service (it was great that we had to listen to the feedback in silence as there was only the feedback, no defending of what we thought – making us concentrate on just what people want and need in their lives, also highlighted of importance by IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown in HBR back in 2008).

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A prototype of the VR in-class experience

 

The real test and the permission to fail

Then we moved on to the service blueprint which proved to be a bit more difficult than our team had thought. Now was the time we actually had to answer some tough questions and we realised that we may not have actually gathered all the information we thought we did.

In real life, we would have taken a few steps back and interviewed international students (and other stakeholders), and possibly decided that this service was not viable. Failure was an option, but for the sake of the learning experience, we decided to come up with some of the answers. Tom and David Kelley also discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all about the “permission to fail” which essentially means that you have to learn to embrace failure to come up with better innovations. For us, the service blueprint demonstrated well that failure is part of the innovation process and not something to be afraid of.

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Pitch perfect innovation and collaboration

We were then ready to pitch our innovation using storytelling. Overall, the tools really gave the framework for innovation, directing us to the goal of being able to pitch a concept.

What was also remarkable was how well we collaborated, even though we barely knew each other. Tim Brown also states in his HBR article from 2008 that the best Design Thinkers are not just experts in their own discipline but have experience from others. After working in a truly multidisciplinary team, I can fully see how much innovation benefits.

What do you think, how has your experience with practical Design Thinking been?

I am on a path to somewhere! by Annamarja Paloheimo

Two days of learning by doing, experimenting, prototyping, role playing and presenting under the tutelage of Katja Tschimmel has certainly guided me on a path to something new.

Katja put her research into work as she introduced the Evolution 6 -Innovation & Design Thinking Model to us. In the model 36 different tools are introduced with the purpose of guiding us through the innovation process from identifying the challenge to presenting and implementing the solution. We worked through nine tools and created a presentable solution to the identified challenge.

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During the workshop it was comforting to understand that creativity and design is all about listening to customers, understanding their needs and getting feedback. Based on these observations and with the help of Design Thinking tools in an organized, interactive and iterative manner it is possible to transform existing conditions to something better.

After this experience it is easy to agree with Katja Tschimmel that Design Thinking methodology and tools are an effective way to find new perspectives, make sense of various phenomena affecting life around us and to innovate.

Design Thinking methodology and tools make the innovation process understandable, workable and approachable. The tools give a framework to work within, and the rules and assignments related to each tool will guide us to the next step on the process. With the help of the process and the tools the outcome is likely to be desirable, feasible and viable.

The two-day workshop with Katja Tschimmel gave me two true learning experiences.

First was understanding the value of listening to feedback. In order to benefit from feedback, it is necessary to have an open mind and understand that there is no need to defend the work, but to listen. Feedback gives an opportunity to improve the quality of the work. Feedback is a gift.

Second is the importance of presentation and visualization.Every solution or new product needs to be sold; both to the end-user but also to the organization producing it. Ideas need to be pitched to management and boards. In pitching the idea visualization and the presentation of the idea is a key to success. The pitch needs to be comprehensive but short, descriptive but simple and easy to digest both visually and verbally.

Gijs van Wulfen’s approach in presentation is very appealing. He recommends the usage of Business Model Canvas. It is a clear, strategic, commercial, professional and financial plan for a new initiative. By making a business case of the new initiative the persuasiveness of the case gets stronger as it highlights the strategic, commercial and financial aspects of the plan. In business context the initiative must always either increase revenue or decrease costs.

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After the work-shop I truly feel that I am on a path to somewhere. I like the idea of structured thought process and the tools to support it. I like the usage of analogies and semantic confrontations in the process. I am convinced that quick prototyping, roleplay and feedback will increase the quality of the outcome. Finally, it all boils down to presentation and storytelling. Doesn’t everyone just love a good story?

Learnings from Facilitation-as-a-Service

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

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Keep the focus

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

Choose right methods and language

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

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

Timing, timing, timing…

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

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And finally…

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

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

 

UX and Service design excursion at Eficode

This week I was again lucky to be able to get a seat to an interesting excursion hosted by Eficode. The topic of the excursion was User Experience and developing digital services and it was held together with VIMAPA and KäY (Frieds of the User), a cross-disciplinary community of students interested in usability, user experience, user centric methods and services.

At Eficode, we were first welcomed with fresh salads and selection of beverages. It was nice to find yourself sitting next to new acquaintance to discuss about the evenings topic –and off the topic. 😉

But of course, the main motive for me to join this excursion was not only to meet new faces and enjoy refreshments, but to find out more and understand in more detail what UX means and how is it applied in practise: How professionals nowadays test usability and users and how is UX linked to the overall process-ecosystem and design process? What are the roles of the relevant stakeholders (clients, service-providers, users etc.) involved in the design process? Also, the topic is spot-on for my kind of marketing professional studying service design and having a keen interested in human behaviour.

I didn’t have to leave disappointed from this excu-visit that offered a lot of discussion and talk about the UX and testing followed by an impressive presentation on Eficode’s strategy and way of doing business.

First part of the visit was about UX and the importance of qualitative research and codesign. The practise on measuring customer satisfaction merely by quantitative methods was challenges and the importance of qualitative research that is needed for deeper customer understanding was stressed. I fully agree on the above. What do you do with merely a numeric rating, no matter how good or bad it is, if you aren’t able to understand the reasons and arguments behind it? “Oh, our customer’s give us 4/10… Seems we need to improve the quality of our services… BUT how do we do that? What are our customers dissatisfied with?”

Qualitative research and testing play an important role in developing digital concepts and services and is needed to validate the work including such as concepts, ideas, goals and usability i.e. user interface.

Optimally, testing would be done throughout the development process to ensure the ease of use (usability) and concept interesting enough, both key factors behind a successful product or service. Poor quality user interface can ruin the whole product or service to succeed, no matter how interesting your concept is. Usability is the key success factor especially when competing in an industry with homogenous service offerings. Think for instance banks with very similar lone and insurance offerings: the ease and smoothness of use of the online bank accounts. (You can always check my previous blog post on doing Business Design at OP Group, a customer of Eficode. 😉)

It is also good to understand the difference between the two: Usability testing and User testing.

Usability testing is about testing the products’ usability to determing how well it works from technical perspective. Mainly done by the developers and throughout the development process.

User testing on the other hand focuses on User Experience (UX) and studying the people using the product to understand what they click and why and how well they find what they’re looking for, e.g. task oriented testing. User testings are made in focus groups and optimally testing can be followed by clients and stakeholders. Also, this is a good way to convince and justify to the client. And at times also the experts working on the product development.

Note! The above testing should be considered as service design instead of scientific study. No huge reports of these will be made and are to validate a project with a short time to go market.

Very often a product is tested during the development (go-to-market) stage, but once a customer launches the product, no one cares about testing anymore. However, in this rapidly developing digital ecosystem and business environment full of competitive offering entering the market, in order for your product to survive and be successful, you should not forget about the continuous testing and frequent follow-up. As seen also at Eficode, the launch is only the beginning of the journey.

Accessability testing was also briefly mentioned. at the end of Rainos presentationis important and will become more important. From September 2018 onwards our national legislation requires equal accessibility for all when the EU Accessibility Directive will be implemented in Finland. Meaning that service providers are required to create fully accessible websites and digital services to all users. Although this directive binds only the public sector, private sector cannot afford not to follow and develop to meet the requirements.

I have to admit I had a gap in my civilisation here. Hence right after the visit I had to go to google to update my knowledge on the Directive and its implementation throughout the EU. In case interested, check here to start from.

Second part was about Eficode’s Digital Building concept. Their way of developing digital services and products and supporting clients on their digital transformation and how service design methods (from gaming, cross-functional collaboration and cocreation) have been implemented in the development processes to ensure fast and cost effective go to market time and to enhance client commitment. Interesting topic especially to an SD student.

Eficode’s concept from a clear and transparent project starting from the 5-day innovation session with the prospect client from zero* to ready product in 4 weeks –and even beyond in terms of post-launch support sounded truly impressive. *point where not a single code exist yet but the coding can be started.

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Final part of our excursion was a visit to Eficode’s UX studio offering various techniques to test and follow:  Streaming, online screens, “interrogation rooms” that could be followed behind a mirror glass… We got to visit the testing rooms and the different techniques were explained to us.

Eficode had also created a Digital Building Toolkit -game for a one-day co-creation workshop to kick-start the client’s digital transformation initiative and to enhance the common understanding and commitment throughout the different stakeholders.
1st part of the DBT-game is on defining who and what is needed at different stages of the project whereas the 2nd part concentrates on the project purpose and actions needed.

We did not have time to play this game, but I am in the hope of getting an invite to an open gaming session that was advertised to us. Maybe I’ll post a blog on the gaming session if it is to happen…

Phew, this blog turned out longer than planned. Congrats for making it to the end, appreciated. Hope you also find the content interesting.

Jenny

Ps. At Eficode they surely understand what a customer support genuinely means 😉

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Testing out the co-creation game ATLAS

 

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On 4th April a group of service designers and service design enthusiasts met up after work to play the service co-creation game ATLAS. The game was made as part of the research project ATLAS, a project executed in 2012-2014 by Aalto University and funded by the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation Tekes. The goal was understanding, facilitating and planning co-creation. The game was introduced to us both by two of its makers, Päivi Pöyry-Lassila and Anna Salmi, as well as by the host of the evening Laura Virkki from city of Vantaa.

From a map to a game

According to Päivi and Anna, at the start of the ATLAS project the vision was not actually to create a game but something of a map to gather together co-creation theories and practices to facilitate co-creation projects. During the project the group had worked on bringing multiple information co-creation theories together, hence the game is heavily based on information co-creation theories. However it was noted that knowledge of these theories was not essential for playing.

atlasThe end result of the research project became a game instead of a map as the result of the iterative and thorough research/design process including several Sprints. The game could be described as one that helps people understand and learn about co-creation and, to some extent, service design. The goal was also to help anyone have open access to the game and tailoring it to one’s own needs e.g. by translations to different languages is encouraged – so long as credit is given to the original game when variations are made. The city of Vantaa had done exactly that and had both translated the game from English to Finnish as well as modified it slightly to better suit their user needs. The version we tried out was this modified one in Finnish.

Playing it out

After the intros we were divided into small groups and started to ponder on the topic to set as the theme of the game. Our group’s one was how to make service design as way of working in an organization. The game was then built around this topic and included discussing various aspects of the theme with the help of the game cards: motivation, project definition, participants, tools & methods, and so on. The cards facilitated discussion nicely, helping shape out the various aspects of the theme and arrive at an at least somewhat shared understanding of how one might continue working on this topic.

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At the end after testing out the game we had a brief discussion across all the groups present. Each group introduced their theme and some findings and discussions they had experienced while playing. We also discussed the various possible uses for the game and what would work better than other uses. City of Vantaa had used the game as a tool to make a project plan. This had suited their needs and as far as we heard was successful. However, one of the makers of the game mentioned that in their opinion it was not exactly made as a tool for project planning. Based on our game groups’ different themes around which we played the game, it seemed it could indeed also help as a project planning tool, perhaps more as a kick-off session for starting a project and getting everyone on the same page about it than as actual detailed planning tool. It was also discussed that another game session after this initial kick-off one could then again maybe yield different, more detailed or deeper results if there was an actual project in the horizon – in this session all but one team were working around a more or less vague theme not tied to e.g. a specific organization or setting making it hard to be concrete on a project planning level. The consensus seemed to be that the game was well suited for facilitating discussion around co-creation, and one of its strengths seemed to be that it was not heavy on jargon or did not require prior experience of knowledge on service design – therefore making it a great tool to be used also with people who might be doubtful about service design in general.

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Were we at our happiest 15 million years ago, and what’s happened to the lingo of design?

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On the morning of 20 March, Reaktor Design Breakfast event took place in Helsinki. Evolved from a small, mostly local and IT focused company to an international one of strategy, design and engineering, Reaktor is perhaps one of the hottest companies in Finland. Known for its flat hierarchy and multiple prizes won for best place to work, Reaktor also hosts an array of tech and design events for the public.

The main speaker of the event was Katri Saarikivi, a cognitive neuroscientist from Helsinki University and one of the leading researchers and speakers on empathy particularly in digital environments. As always, her presentation was delightful: nicely flowing from empathy as a survival skill for humans 15 million years ago to empathy online and in modern day work organisations. Starting from such ancient setting was not only interesting in order to learn about empathy and its implications for humans throughout our history but, as it was noted, some researchers think 15 million years ago was when us humans were at our most happiest: living in forests and focusing on survival, way before invention of the first tools. Makes one think how much we really have evolved and to what direction…

From there we moved on to the concept of work that Saarikivi describes as “solving the problems of other human beings“, responding to others’ needs besides one’s own. Hence, according to Saarikivi, the need for work done by humans continues to be constant, despite any and all changes that might be coming due to advances in technology such as AI and machine learning.

“Empathy might be at the very core of our best problem-solving ability”

A part of the presentation was around human-centric work and human-centric design: highlighting the role of empathy in understanding the differences between people and thus working better together as well as better responding to others’ needs. The importance of collective intelligence was highlighted: “Best thinking, best work is more often than not a shared activity.” And one of the factors greatly affecting it was non-surprisingly empathy.

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Based on studies, Saarikivi also argued that humans are naturally selfless, empathic, and look after one another. However according to research, being in a position of power can reduce your empathy; and the higher your economic status, the lower your empathy skills. The research showed that brains of people in a position of power did not respond as much to other people’s pain as others’ did. Hence one could claim that having artificial positions of power – such as hierarchy in a work place – is not the way to increase empathy in an organisation.

 

IMG_0884As an example of an organisation not at all encouraging empathy or collective intelligence Saarikivi humorously (or, sadly?) showed us a photo of the main hall of the Finnish Parliament: a setting that encourages competition, highlights monologue, and gives no equal opportunity to all to speak nor respond. Saarikivi continued that disregard of emotions can lead to detrimental effects on work, collaboration, and information quality. This is something to consider especially in digital (work) environments, as the digital tools we still have largely transmit emotions rather poorly.

Empathy: Understand, Act, and Experience

During her presentation Saarikivi also discussed what can be seen as the three sides to empathy: understanding, acting, and experiencing. All three parts are needed for empathy; any one of them missing would not result in the real thing. Empathy skills, however, can be improved by practice. Your imagination is an important empathy skill, Saarikivi reminded, and reading fiction has indeed been scientifically proven to enhance our imagination and empathy skills.

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She walked us through each of the three aspects of empathy, and also continued on the interesting themes while responding to some participant questions. She pointed out that empathy is not an inherently a positive personality trait but a cognitive skill or mechanism. When asked about any negative aspects of said mechanism, Saarikivi mentioned narcissists. This turn tied it nicely back to the earlier discussion on benefits of flat organisations, narcissist not being interested in applying for positions in flat organisations as they don’t want to be equal wanting to rather rise higher than others. The whole presentation and discussion it encouraged was an interesting dive into empathy – a skill often mentioned as one of the most important tools of a Service Designer.

“Design’s focus has shifted from user needs to business needs”

After Katri Saarikivi’s presentation it was time for Reaktor’s own speakers: Hannu Oksa, Vesa Metsätähti, and Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen. Out of those presentations, Reaktor’s Creative Director Hannu Oksa’s resonated with me the most. He discussed the evolving role and ways of design, recently seemingly moving away from designing with and for the user towards focusing on the business needs. He also gave some chilling examples on the rise of fake news and purposely addictive design, stating this has made him deeply consider whether he is part of the problem and making it worse for others. Responsible design in the field of tech is not a topic I’ve often heard about – especially introduced by someone whose career is in the field. IMG_0889

Oksa also discussed the trend of worshipping data without criticism, despite all data being based on history: after all, historical data is exclusive, divisive, and by definition looks back rather than in the future. This hit very close to home, as in many situations and settings even fairly clever people have loudly expressed wanting to e.g. base their entire product or service development on data gathered digitally about their users (or potential users). That can perhaps be all good and well when trying to understand the past situations and coldly follow one’s users’ steps on some platform etc. with for example the help of A/B testing, however how would that give you actual information on WHY they have been doing what they have been doing on a deeper level? Would that tell you what they are like or what they will do in the future? And will that tell you if that is what they actually need or want, or is it simply a representation of the current (well, past) offering – not necessarily having anything to do with the user’s ideal scenario or solution? This kind of worshipping of (past!) data always gives me the chills and certainly wakes up the human-centric designer in me. Often, unfortunately, it’s not a battle worth fighting.

Another thought-provoking, perhaps accidental point was made by Vesa Metsätähti right at the start of his presentation, when he introduced his presentation topic radiot.fi by describing it being “an old service, at least 3-4 years old now.” Indeed, what is the life expectation of a service nowadays, and how long do we consider a service new?

The last presentation by Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen was “From Design Vision to Reality”. They introduced a project done for Finnair with a mix of physical and digital services. This gave some practical examples on how to work on a multi-platform project with focus on the customer experience in both the physical and digital parts of the same service.

The breakfast event was definitely worth attending, and hopefully there will be equally interesting ones organised in the near future!

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.