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The Age of the Customer

Photo: unsplash.com

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
  • Jussi Mantere, Head of CX and Design at Kesko Oyj
  • Mikko Koskinen, Brand & Marketing at Kyrö Distillery

Look to the future

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.

Sitra’s megatrend cards (Finnish version)

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.

Overnight digital transformation – virtual facilitation to the rescue?

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?

Useful virtual facilitation resources:

Online facilitation tools catalogue

Virtual Facilitation Finland – Facebook group

Remote Design Sprints – Facebook group

The future belongs to those who prepare for it today – Malcolm X

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!

Futurice Scenario Co-Creation Workshop 5.3.2020

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 workputting 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 first and second canvas: PESTLEY and futures table

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 third and fourth canvas: Creating the narrative and backcasting

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!

For everyone interested in creating scenarios, download the free Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit here >>

My first touch with design thinking and why it was so difficult to write about it

Design Thinking workshop on September 7th 2019 at Laurea Leppävaara campus
Photo credits: Bento Haridas

The journey of writing this blog post

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.

Photo source: Design Thinking for strategic innovation – What they can’t teach you at business or design school, page 37.

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 ❤

23.1.2020 by Katriina Granlund

This adorable panda bear is not in any way related to the design thinking workshop. I was having lunch at Roots kitchen in the charming old Turku market hall one day, and they use these animal figures instead of regular numbers to bring the food to the correct table after order. Such a nice idea!

The power of “playing with hands” in Design Thinking

Photo by Vlad Hilitanu on Unsplash

I have been thinking about writing this article for so long that I haven’t yet found a proper start. I guess my fear of failing has been always too high in my personality, too many expectations about myself and from others and my natural inclination for perfection hasn’t really helped me in the past. 

In this moment I recall in my head the words of professor Katja Tschimmel, who held a lecture in Design Thinking at the SID Master Program:

Perfection is the enemy of creativity

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking course lectures, September 6–7 2019. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.

And also the words from the authors of the book “Designing for Growth”:

“Fail fast to succeed sooner is the essential paradox of design thinking”

Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. 2011. Designing for growth: A design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press. pag 150

Time is running and I want to succeed with my assignment so let’s get straight to the point.

What is Design Thinking for me

Design Thinking is a creative process that let you experience different phases, divergent and convergent alternatively, where you explore problems&needs of people and organisation, think about possible solutions and eventually solve problems by implementing a prototype. 

Design Thinking master class by Katja Tschimmel

All my understanding of Design Thinking was presented, during the master class, more in depth in the model Evolution 6², developed by Tschimmel. This model presents the DT process divided into six spaces inside one another.

Evolution 6² Model

The six spaces of the Evolution 6²Model:

  1. Emergence (E1)
  2. Empathy (E2)
  3. Experimentation (E3)
  4. Elaboration (E4)
  5. Exposition (E5)
  6. Extension (E6)

Professor Tschimmel gave us a case (Studying at Laurea) where our Team needed to explore and identify an opportunity to innovate (Emergence and Empathy Phase), generating and testing ideas (Experimentation and Elaboration) and finally present the final solution to the other students (Exposition and Extension).

For each step, she guided us through the most appropriate tool to use till we finalised the Storyboard of our solution: specific facilities that support well being at Laurea University.

Storyboard – Well Laurea

LEGO – Playing with hands

My highlight for this post is how powerful was the choice of using LEGO when it came to prototype our solution.

When you think about LEGO I bet you think about playing, having fun and nothing related to work and being serious with a project.

Yet, LEGO is an excellent tool used in Design Thinking to visualise ideas, create 3D models to spark conversation with partners, users and test those models with them and eventually co-crete a better one together.

When my Team started to prototype for our challenge – Well being at Laurea – we worked in couples to implement three solutions: Health & Sports Facilities, Nutrition Lounge and Relaxing Space for Laurea students.

Lego Prototype – Well Laurea

During this time – as I was already familiar with this prototyping method –  I observed how my peers were enjoying their experience of constructing bricks and situation, learning by watching others and being in the flow to externalise and produce what we had in our minds and written post-it of course.

This reminded me of what I learnt and read about the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method, an approach to help organisation solve complex problems and/or define their strategy and their vision by asking specific question and make them represent and storytell their answer using only LEGO bricks.

When we “THINK THROUGH OUR FINGERS” we release creative energies, modes of thought and ways of seeing things that may otherwise never be tapped […] and that most adults have forgotten they even possessed.

The Science of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®

The LSP Method takes many ideas from the field of psychology and behavioural science, specifically from Constructivism, a theory of knowledge developed by Jean Piaget, his colleagues and his institute in
Geneva, Switzerland and Constructionism, a theory of learning developed by Seymour Papert and his colleagues at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Those theories could be roughly summarised in the phrase Building Knowledge by Building Things.

The LEGO elements work as a catalyst – and when used for building metaphors, they trigger processes that you probably were previously unaware of.

Who approaches Design Thinking and prototyping for the first time is probably not aware of these more scientific background and here I wanted to share it with a tangible example.

Author: Francesca A. Frisicale, October 2019

References & Links

Tschimmel, K. 2018. Evolution 6² Toolkit: An E-handbook for Practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Mindshake.

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking course lectures, September 6–7 2019. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.

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

The Science of LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, executive discovery llc.
www.seriousplay.com

Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. 2011. Designing for growth: A design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press.

Mindshake, Portugal http://mindshake.pt/design_thinking

Unsplash, https://unsplash.com

What is Design Thinking and how to “design think”?

Modern world possesses bigger challenges and more complex problems with people in the centre. To tackle these and come up with a creative solution, we need to use an explorative approach such as Design Thinking to innovate and solve these problems.

I was familiarized to Design Thinking when I attended a course led by Katja Tschimmel, the founder of Mindshake. Katja introduced us to the Design Thinking process and mindset by leading up through the Innovation and Design Thinking model called Evolution 6² (E.6²). The E.6² model includes steps with questions and tools that help design thinker or innovator to find out what the problem is, who is the solution intended for, what is the best solution, and how to implement it.

According to Katja the principles of Design Thinking are 1) Human-centered approach: Products and services should be experienced from the user’s perspective. 2) Collaboration: As many stakeholders as possible should be included throughout the phases of the process. 3) Experimentation: Playful thinking, making mistakes and learning by doing are an important part of every creative process. 4) Visualization: Quick prototyping helps the learning process and improves the initial ideas by visualization. 5) Holistic perspective: The big picture (environment and context) behind the product or service that is being developed needs to be understood (Tschimmel 2019, p.10).

Continue reading

Design Thinking and Business – the Yin and Yang !

In 1960, a MIT professor had found the fundamental mechanism of deterministic chaos, where one variable could have profound impact on the outcome of an entire system. This was the “butterfly effect”. This method was used in weather forecasting based on past and present data points. Similar, to what we are doing in business. Our society is rapidly changing, and we have a very dynamic, unpredictable and volatile value constellation. With our business leaders doing a linear fashion strategy creation based on past and present data – it can bring us to an edge of destruction. Business today, is disconnected from the global ripple. And I believe, this is why the importance of Design Thinking is growing.

Design Thinking powers strategic innovation and not strategic planning. Planning and vision statement does not re-invent business but only rejuvenates few top line management. It is the true beauty of Design thinking with it’s human-centered approach that can truly create value in a radically changing networks and in a world of disruptive technology.

The creative and qualitative world of Design Thinking perfectly marries quantitative realm of business world. It perfectly clicks !

For some time, strategic management leaders tried collaborating with scientists and studying behaviours in nature to replicate same models. Although they were successful in creating some compelling models for strategic management but these were not fail-proof. I believe that no strategic management measures can be full-proof at any given point – we are only devising the strategies based on past and present data. As Service Dominant Logic very well points out that every service is based on a galaxy of other services, which makes the mega-system very unpredictable and volatile. We can of course devise the best-hit strategies but always make room for unpredictability. And this where some organisation excels with their ability of intuition. Intuition has the subtle balance of quantitative and qualitative art which is often needed for all parts to click.

Design Thinking promotes such qualities which are rarely found in the business world. It is yin to yang. It is the perfect balance between the hard-coded world of business with the creative and intuitive part of Design.

Yin Yang – in Chinese Philosophy it is said that sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected.

What are these qualities which makes Design Thinking so harmonious with Business – the yin to yang?

Firstly, Design Thinking supports going out in the field and talking to customers, uncovering needs, understanding the real value proposition which matters to customers, experimenting and prototyping. Design Thinking pertains to real doing whereas Business is more about talking – talking about great visions over powerpoints and pointing at numbers through Excel.

Secondly, Business makes prediction based on past and present datapoints. Moreover, they base their strategy based on stable world. But our world is hardly stable. This where Design plays a crucial role. Design Thinking thrives on uncertainty. Design allow us to experiment, fail and celebrate chaos.

Thirdly, the crucial and one of the most important factors why Design Thinking is an absolute necessary for Business for it’s obsession with understanding user, their needs and aspirations. Business does market segmentation based on demography which might not truly reflect a user’s actual experience and aspirations.

Insight Map which we used in classroom. It is a tool to develop a closer empathy for our user, understand their aspirations and empathise with their pain points.

Fourthly, Business Vision Statement and Strategy is a very top-down approach. Few leaders devise the strategy and the whole organization re-organizes and strives itself to achieve it. It is very far-off from the approach of Design Thinking, which is very collaborative in nature. It allows people from different background, stakeholder groups, expertise – join together and bring different perspective to table.

So how does Design Thinking works ?

Largely, Design Thinking through it’s different models evolved over years tries to answer these four fundamental questions

Design Thinking tries to understand the following questions :

What is

What if

What wows

What works

Largely, What is – starts with Discovery. In this phase we are trying to understand the user, their context, user needs, pain points and aspirations.

What if – coincides with the discovery phase where we are trying to understand what probable concept of Product or Service might work through Pain Point identification, Value Proposition, Brainstorming and Concept Development,.

The team at El Bulli doing rough sketches of their concept dishes. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

In the third phase of what wows– we try to understand what can delight the user. We do so by rapid prototyping to learn what elevates the user experience of the product to WOW.

The team at El Bulli doing rapid prototyping of their concept dishes. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

The final phase of what works– emphasise on going out in the filed with our prototype and testing with our real users. This step enhances us to get more real feedback, improve our concept and iterate back to actually build a wow experience.

Now, we might ask who is a Design Thinker? What makes a person – a Design Thinker?

The answer might lie in the ability to merge logic with creative intelligence, emotional quotient, ability to collaborate and celebrate chaos. Tim Brown in Harvard Business Review June edition (2008, 87) mentioned some characteristics of a successful Design Thinker. Design Thinkers have the ability to empathise, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentalism and collaboration. To me, the ability to empathise and collaborate stands out the most.

Wannabe Yogis 🙂 – my amazing team !

In our first Design Thinking Masterclass, our group had come with brilliant results because we were able to collaborate with each other drawing in our different backgrounds and experiences.

Ferran Adrià at El Bulli collaborating in the deep creative process with his team. Picture available at : https://uxdesign.cc/how-elbulli-turned-dining-into-an-experience-38f1c015e9f6

I find similar collaboration method was implemented by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.

The world celebrated chef and food experience creator collaborated with all his colleagues and different stakeholders to strategies and create elaborative dining experience. His lab would go through several workshops, brainstorming and concept development phases before planning out experimentation. His team would welcome iteration and failure with enthusiasm as they believed nothing novel arises without chaos. Though, traditionally outside the realm of business world but he showed every attributes of a Design Thinker.

Posted by : Debarati Rakshit , 1st year SID student

References :

  • Brown, Tim 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95
  • The evolution of design thinking. Harvard Business Review. Sep 2015; Vol. 93 (9)
  • Liedtka, Jeanne & Ogilvie, Tim 2011. Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley

Design Thinking process activated!

I realized some time ago that service design is the key issue to improve and develop processes and customer satisfaction. After I found this definition and concept, it felt that different pieces found their places – I love developing customer experience and always try my best in understanding and identifying customer needs. I was thinking that SID program might help me to develop more.

The first course “Design thinking” was much more than I expected. After the lectures I have a huge passion to figure out more of the design thinking methods and I have now gathered a good set of tools for that.

Idris Mootee (2013, 33.) defines the design thinking as following:

Capture

Design thinking can help people from diverse backgrounds to find connections between people, places, objects, events and ideas. According to Mootee (2013, 69.) the empathy helps to approach the innovations with a human-centered perspective. Empathy enables us to communicate and understand:

  • Current and future needs
  • Behaviors
  • Expectations
  • Values
  • Motivations

Design thinking itself is a powerful driver for future opportunities and innovation management. I also really like that in design-thinking processes, ideas are usually evaluated democratically, and persons can freely express their viewpoints in order to practically develop the concepts.

During the lecture we learnt different cases of Service innovation by the lecturer Katja Tschimmel, who was really inspiring and also introduced the group the Mindshake’s Evolution 6^2 tools, which we also implemented during two intensive study days. I can warmly recommend you these tools!

I think this work was useful, as the group has professionals from diverse backgrounds and only it gave me many new ideas! My favorite tool was the insight map, which also supports the human-centered approach and empathy with the end users. For me, that seems to be essential tool to develop new or existing services.

I also liked the opportunity mind-map and storyboard. We also, got to try the Lego and Post-its. My classmates have written in this blog about other interesting tools, so I better not to repeat their words – as I agree with them about the usability of those tools.

Our version of Insight Map, following the guidelines of 6^2 Tools. It was also interesting to see the results by other groups – so different approaches to same opportunities!

According to Tim Brown (2008, 90-92.) the basis is deep understanding of the consumers’ lifestyle and value building. I think this check list will be useful for integrating the design thinking as part of the work flow.

1. Think outside the box; Involve design thinking in the very beginning – it can help exploring new idea!
2. Human-centricity; observe and consider human behavior, needs and preferences – what do your customers need and want? Reflect the results with the innovation models – do not forget the empathy!
3. Trial and error; have the courage to create and test prototypes
4. Co-creation; you can also expand the ecosystem and develop together with other stakeholders and customers to create new added value for all parties
5. Blend different projects; this might be revolutionary – projects can be of different size, disciplinary, units etc.
6. New funding approaches and opportunities; Well, money still runs the project world.
7. Hunt for talents!
8. Give the process some time; enable the design of the whole cycle, which might take a while.

Example on how Design Thinking can help to identify common goals and visions, picture available:
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/design-thinking-team-building/

So – let’s start the work and hope to have a learning journey full of inspiration, innovations and meaningful encounters. Right?

Posted by Suvi Ruippo – 1st year SID student

Sources

Can we save the world by unblocking our creativity?

When was the last time you tried something new and failed? Did you feel proud of yourself then? You probably should have, because chances are that your failure was a sign of you pushing your creativity to the limit. And it takes a lot of guts to do so.

As IDEO founders David and Thomas Kelley point out in their book Creative confidence creativity means that you can imagine the way the world should be, believe in your capacity to make positive changes and be brave enough to take action (2013, p. 64). Creative thinkers discover new opportunities, think in variety of possibilities and take multiple perspectives into account. They experiment and operate against well known solutions and stereotypes. The plot twist? We all have what it takes to be a creative thinker (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p.4-6).

Creativity, like any other skill, can be trained (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 5-6; 30). The training program for your mind muscles are processes that these days goes by the name design thinking (see for example Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 69). These processes help to build empathic understanding, to find new perspectives and make sense of the world around us. Design thinking processes are human-centred, multidisciplinary, collaborative, optimistic and experimental (Tschimmel et al. 2015, p. 6; 72). Design thinking is also design doing: it always aims to produce something concrete and new to the world.

Stirring the status quo

Unfortunately many of us adults are too afraid of failure and the lost of appreciation of our peers to fully tap into our creative potential (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 6; 44; 53-55). We often see creativity as something that “the artistic” or “the innovative” types have. Because of these beliefs good ideas are left unshared and the unique solutions go undiscovered (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 62). 

In the future working life transversal skills such as creativity, collaboration skills and ability to take initiative are on high demand (Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 6). But using design thinking to unleash the full power of our creative capacity is not only a matter of skilled workforce. As the over 7 million people marching in the global Climate Strikes in September 2019 reminded us: there are no jobs on a dead planet.

climate-strike

The young climate activists are expressing their creative confidence in several ways when attending Climate March in Helsinki in September 2019.

The biggest challenges of our times are summarized in UN Agenda 2030 goals that are interlaced and overlap each other. Like in design thinking the needs of people are in the center of these goals: for example the need for a livable environment is fundamental. As many of these challenges are described as wicked problems, it is becoming increasingly clear that we can’t tackle the problems created by the current ways of living by continuing “business as usual” (see also Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 72). As the problems we are facing as humankind are getting more all-encompassing and complex, the need for human superpowers like empathy and creativity is ever increasing.

So where do I start?

Not all of us are educational leaders or politicians who have the power to disrupt systems teaching us how to think and behave. Luckily, as we have established, everyone can make a difference. Here are some of the tips from the experts that we can try in our everyday life to unblock the creative superpowers within us and the others around us:

  • Try until you fail and push others to try too. Learning cycles including failure are an essential part of unblocking creativity. You can think that if you haven’t failed yet, you weren’t reaching far enough. Try to create opportunities for those around you to fail as well in a supportive environment. Start by failing small and aim for massive failures as your creative confidence increases.
    (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 50-53; Tschimmel, Santos, Loyens, Jacinto, Monteiro & Valença 2015, p. 7; 72.)

  • Label your next great idea as an experiment and let everyone know that you’re just testing it out. Make sure that the people around you know that you only have reasonable hope for success and the whole point is what you can learn from the failure if and hopefully when it happens. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 47; 50.)

  • Pay attention and intervene when someone around is feeling insecure or undervalued. Keep in mind that insecurity isn’t always a sign for lack of skills or experience. Perfectionism can be crippling if we think that being and expert means excelling without a flaw. Fight these feelings of insecurity by always giving credit when credit is due. Remember to give credit from trying and failing as well, not only succeeding. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 57; 61-63.)

  • Start keeping an idea journal. It doesn’t matter whether you write, draw or dictate your ideas. Create a way to have a way to store you ideas right away no matter where you are, because even the greatest ideas might be fleeting.
    (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 216-218.)

  • Remember that creative processes are collaborative processes. Share your ideas, ask for help and take care of your social support system. (Kelley & Kelley 2013, p. 58; Tschimmel et al. 2015, p. 72.)

Enjoy creating, embrace failing!

 

The writer is a career counsellor venturing in the world of design thinking. She failed yesterday with a new veggie stew recipe, but is determined to try again (much to her family’s horror).

Sara Peltola
@Sara_Peltola

 

REFERENCES:

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. 2013. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All. New York: Currency.

Tschimmel, K., Santos, J., Loyens, D., Jacinto, A., Monteiro, R. & Valença M. 2015. Research Report D-Think. Design Thinking Applied to Education and Training. ERASMUS+ KA2 Strategic Partnerships. Available online: http://www.d-think.eu/uploads/1/6/2/1/16214540/researchreport_d-think-dv.pdf [Accessed September 30th 2019].

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking [lecture]. Held on 6-7 September. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Recipe for successful design process

Modern design thinking does not replace the traditional approach to design but rather adds a new layer. Today we think broader: anyone can learn to apply design thinking to any innovation challenge (Carlgren, Elmquist & Rauth 2014, p. 30). The imagination is the only limit since design thinking can be utilised to the traditional products as well as to ecosystems (Brown, TED talk, 15:34). Therefore, it can be used for improving corporate management, cracking climate change challenge or enhancing healthcare services in developing countries, just to mention few examples.

Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011, p. 21) have taken a systematic approach towards modern design thinking and suggest a set of questions which give guidance through-out the design process: What is? What if? What wows? What works? According to them, by asking these questions we are able to have a systematic approach to wider variety of design challenges. The model (see Figure 1) takes Tim Brennan’s well known design-is-a-mystery drawing a bit further and gives a practical tool-set for each of the four stages. Visualisation is the common thread that runs through the entire process. 

Figure 1. Design process by Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011).

I would like to walk you through the four critical steps of this design process. In order to have a bit richer view over the process, additional remarks will be included from Katja Tschimmel and Tim Brown.

What is – Take a reality check!

To find viable future opportunities, we need to study the present and find “real” people’s needs and desires (Tschimmel 2019). Furthermore, we need to look at how customers currently frame their problems and the mental models. While studying this, we should understand the culture and the context in order to gain a comprehensive view (Brown, TED talk, 5:38). 

Part of the task is achieved by analysing existing data. In addition, tools like media analysis, journey mapping, value chain analysis and mind mapping are needed to gather qualitative information. 

What if – Vision the perfect world!

In order to be truly innovative, think variety, multiple perspectives and fight against stereotypes (Tschimmel 2019). Also, scout for new trends and uncertainties. Based on your study and the information gathered in the previous stage, we can now formulate hypotheses about the desirable future. Tools like brainstorming and concept development have been proven to be useful when envisioning the future.

Generating new ideas by brain writing and sketching.

What wows – Find the sweet spot!

Now we need to make some difficult choices in order to hit sweet spots that offer significant value for the customers in a profitable way. This requires testing the hypotheses carefully and studying the data available (Liedtka & Ogilvie 2011, p. 127). The ambitious goal is to test the future in the present – not an easy task. Assumption testing, business canvas, desktop walkthrough and rapid prototyping, for example, are valuable tools in this process.

Desktop walkthrough over the service concept with legos.

What works – Fail early to succeed sooner!

Learning by making is the key for the successful design process (Brown, TED talk, 7:03). Prototypes speed up the process and give us critical information on strengths and weakness of our solution. In this learning-in-action-process it is important to work in fast feedback cycles in order to minimise the experimenting costs and to maximise the information flow (Liedtka & Ogilvie 2011, p. 33). Remember, that without some failures nothing truly innovative will not merge (Tschimmel 2019). Consumer co-creation, prototype testing and learning launch are examples of usable methods in this stage.

Prototyping with social robot in elderly service center.

And what are my key learnings from this “spiced-up” version of the design process? Firstly, success does not come for free: it requires a large set of tools, systematic thinking, holistic perspective and willingness to fail. Secondly, active collaboration is the key for truly successful innovations and meaningful designs. Thirdly, people must be kept in mind every step of the way – or as Tim Brown puts it – “Design is too important to be left to designers!” (Brown, TED talk, 10:45).

References

Carlgren, L, Elmquist, M. & Rauth, I. 2014. Exploring the use of design thinking in large organisations: Towards a research agenda. Swedish Design Research Journal 1/14.

Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. 2011. Designing for growth: A design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press. 

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking lectures on 6–7 September 2019. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

Tim Brown. 2009. Design Thinking: TED Talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=J0ZbVAQ8bWI