The international community, Service Design Network (SDN), founded in 2004, arranged an online conference focusing on service design in October of 2020. The conference was planned to be held physically in Copenhagen, but due to the global pandemic, all keynotes, workshops, and other events were held online utilizing convenient tools for collaboration.
This year’s theme was embracing change, a topic strongly reflected in all presentations. Keynote speakers this year were employees of big corporations and experts in service design from different cultures, countries and time zones.
In this blog post I summarize two intriguing presentations and ponder service design trends and opportunities for value creation in companies.
Embracing change and service design today
Birgit Mager, one of the founders of the SDN community and the first Professor in Service Design globally, has attended every SDGC conference since the beginning. In a short introductory presentation, Status of Service Design Today, Mager explains current transformation in operations of companies and how the roles of service designers have changed over time. Although service designers by default are optimistic, the “new normal” (due to Covid) has largely impacted ways of work, she says.
Mager emphasizes that the important of technology substantially has grown, but the future lies in utilizing both new technology and data to create services. Currently, we already are using a lot of technology and conduct research online, but a change has happened in agencies, where e.g. data scientists are involved as new roles in service design, Mager explains.
In addition to these, ethics has been put as a focus when creating services. Other equally relevant areas are sustainability, accessibility, and participation, Mager mentions.
Designing aviation future through design
The Dutch aviation company, KLM, founded over a hundred years ago, has recently been facing challenges due to the global pandemic and how it has changed the aviation industry. The complex industry is naturally very regulated and evolves rapidly as consumers are becoming extensively environmentally aware.
In a jointed keynote, Ryanne Van De Streek, project manager at KLM, and Anouk Randag, service design consultant at Livework, presented a sample of methods through which KLM has introduced new ways to innovate and develop services.
As a company, KLM has already for some time put efforts on design and has also started design initiatives that currently are in use. KLM, however, wanted to continue developing these new methods with a goal to activate ~1500 employees, to develop competences and to involve innovation in a system by the end of 2023.
According to Randag, high impact can be created by utilizing, developing and scaling current initiatives. In her presentation and new model was presented that had been co-created iteratively within KLM as an organization.
Although KLM drastically have had to cut budgets due to Covid, Van De Streek explains that certain areas still are being put in action. For example, are their new service design principles and process (”KLM X way of working”) shared with new employees to foster agility, as this continuously is needed in their industry.
To summarize, we can conclude that although service design is quite a broad principle, it can work as a great way to develop internal working methods and sustainable business in organizations. By being open to new ideas, utilizing current competences and starting initiatives, with a focus on building custom ways to work, organizations can achieve innovation and test new business models.
Written by Thomas Djupsjö MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences
Our journey to the realm of Design Thinking started in extraordinary conditions, because our lecturer Katja Tschimmel wasn’t able to attend the course physically – nor some of the students – because of COVID-19. In spite of this, we got an inspiring and participative start for our studies.
The best thing was the “learning by doing” mentality. It was easy to get a grip about the Design Thinking principles and Service Design process through the small exercises and the group task which tackled each service design processes’ phase one by one. The most difficult thing was the shortage of time. As Tim Brown states in his book Change by Design (2009, 84), time is the most insistent limit for design thinkers, even more insistent than limits of technology, skills and knowledge.
During the lecture we got to see that there are many ways of describing the Service Design process. Brown (2009) presents the process through three main “spaces” of Design Thinking: 1) inspiration , 2) ideation and 3) implementation. In our group work we used the Mindshake Design Thinking Model, which has six different steps. Through using the model, the process with its different phases came really concrete.
While doing our group work we also noticed that it can be difficult not to offer ready-made solutions before defining the problem to solve. A valuable tip here is that don’t ask what, ask why! It’s also good to remember that the design process can make unexpected discoveries along the way. Though the insecurity about the outcome may feel difficult, it’s better to “fail early to succeed sooner” (Brown 2009.)
Don’t just do design, live design
We’ve now learned that Service Design is all about thinking like a designer – it’s a mindset you have to switch on. Anyhow, it’s easier said than done. The mindset of an individual doesn’t change all of a sudden. Also the organizational shift is never easy and culture changes slowly. In many companies we can weekly observe a board of managers debating about internal processes and making decisions of company’s strategies behind closed doors. Concerning the change, the expectations must be set appropriately and aligned around a realistic timeline (Kolko 2015).
It is important to internalize that Design Thinking is a collective and participatory process. The more parties and stakeholders are involved in the development process, the greater range of ideas, options and different perspectives will occur. Also, to harvest the power of Design Thinking, individuals, teams and whole organizations have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power to create new ideas, that will serve unmet needs, and that will have a positive impact. (Brown 2009.)
There are many cases to show how Design Thinking can be used for social change and the common good. For example, the Indias Aravind “Eye care system” has built a systemic solution with Design Thinking to a complex social and medical problem (Brown 2008, 90-91). Also Warren Berger explains how design can change the world through solving problems on a case-by-case basis around the world.
The advantages of Design Thinking seem obvious. It offers an powerful, effective and accessible approach to innovation which can be integrated into all aspects of business and society and that all individuals and teams can use it to generate breakthrough ideas. So: get into the world to be inspired by people, use prototyping to learn with your hands, create stories to share ideas, join forces with people from other disciplines. Don’t just do design, live design! (Brown 2009.)
Thought and conclusions by Maiju Haltia-Nurmi and Elena Mitrofanova, first-year SID students at Laurea UAS
The global pandemic outbreak in spring 2020 is continuing to disrupt markets, organizations and even our behaviours. As changes, new needs, expectations and innovations are emerging, it is important to proactively make sense of this new context.
The era of disruption tends to provide a valuable moment to experiment with new business ideas and even launch businesses. In fact, as Trend Hunter highlights, a large number of companies has been established during a recession, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, Disney, Hyatt, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
As an innovation designer and change facilitator, I have helped both small and large businesses to build an understanding on the importance of trend spotting and scanning. In this article, I will cover the current context and challenges for innovation, the benefits of trend spotting and scanning, 3 insightful sources for trends and one practical framework to get started.
Many brands are highly valuing the innovations. If we take Peter Drucker’s definition for the term innovation (in Harvard Business Review 2002), i.e. “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential”, it should indeed be high on every brand’s agendas.
Interestingly, according to Salesforce research released in May 2020, marketers’ current top priority is innovating, while simultaneously it is also one of their top challenges. This example demonstrates the dilemma people tend to have for activities related to innovations.
Based on various research conducted, a majority of people state they simply don’t have time to work on ideas, although many acknowledge its importance. As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter, emphasized in his keynote speech “How to Make Innovation & Change Happen”, there are a plenty of other distractors we all have, which are preventing us to focus on innovating. These can be categorized under six themes, as shown here.
Having said that, sometimes there’s no other choice than removing distractors. The research by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, published in May 2020, confirmed how small and medium-sized businesses are facing immediate cash flow issues, lack of demand and an uncertain future.
Yet, despite of this rather gloomy context, entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are also present among businesses. Since small and medium-sized businesses are vital e.g. for local communities, finding new and creative ways to reach and serve customers is thus highly encouraged.
Benefits of Trend Analysis
Asemphasized by J. Peter Scoblic in the article “Learning from the Future”, published on Harvard Business Review in July-August 2020, the practice of strategic foresight provides capabilities to sense, shape, and adapt to change as it happens. As such, there are multiple frameworks and tools to anticipate possible futures.
One practical way going forward is to spot systematically evolving trends and new innovations and, consequently, analyze what these could mean for your brand, customers and the industry as a whole. Before moving on, it is meaningful to clarify how the term “trend” can be understood. A trend is a new manifestation among people, related to behaviour, attitude or expectation, of a fundamental human need, want or desire (Mason et al. 2015, 46). Trend analysis, on the other hand, is about considering the potential influence of patterns of change that are already visible (J. Peter Scoblic 2020, 44).
All trends, in the end, can offer valuable innovation opportunities. The key is to unlock these prospects by adapting them for your context. The focus should be how a trend is relevant, rather than whether it is relevant (Mason et al. 2015, 145).
This fact alone highlights the advantage of the trend analysis. Moreover, it can bring in multiple other benefits along the journey from fueling your creativity to meeting, or even exceeding, your customer expectations, as I have summarized in the illustration inspired by the Double Diamond model of the British Design Council.
3 Insightful and Inspiring Sources for Trends
How to spot trends easily? There are numerous organizations that are focusing on collecting, synthesizing and publishing insightful trend reports on a regular basis. These reports can be considered as valuable starting points to gain an overview on what’s trending. Especially acknowledging the issue with time most of us seem to have, it is easier to take advantage of curated and regularly updated trend reports by the trend agencies and the foresight specialists. My 3 favorite sources right now are the following.
Trendhunter.com is said to be the world’s largest trend community with 20 million monthly views and a database of over 400,000 ideas and innovations. The insightful content also includes inspiring trend reports, articles, newsletters, talks, tools and books.
Think with Google
Think with Google provides regular reports on signals, trends and insights based on Google data, research and analysis conducted by Google teams. Their newsletter is packed with interesting point of views and special collection pages on emerging trends with multiple data points, illustrated in graphs and other visual formats, are to the point.
TrendWatching, a company specialized in consumer trend and innovations scanning, has both free and premium content available, but to start with, you can find a number of articles, reports, keynote talks and more. In 2020, TrendWatching has launched two new initiatives. Firstly, COVID Innovations site has a curated collection of over 1000 inspiring and recent innovations captured around the world, and secondly, Business of Purpose site proposes a community to exchange insights and share opportunities, and a plenty of curated resources, including statistics and insights. Moreover, TrendWatching delivers to its subscribers the “Innovation of the Day” content by email on a daily basis.
Trend Insights in Action: 1 Practical and Tested Framework
But what to do with all this future-oriented content? In the end, it is equally important to utilize these insights in ways that will be beneficial for you and your brand, while being able to grasp opportunities in a timely manner.
Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.
– Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Review, 2002
To give focus and methodology, let me introduce one concrete framework, which I have found specifically useful to conduct trend analysis.
According to this methodology, to be able to address the sweet spot, brands should track three key trend elements:
1. basic human needs,
2. drivers of change and
Let’s explore these elements.
We humans all have basic needs, wants and desires, which remain the same, despite the changes happening around us. All trends are, after all, rooted in these basic needs. Authenticity, honesty, freedom and transparency can be considered as our fundamental needs.
What comes to changes, we know the change is constant, accelerated and happening everywhere. To understand the drivers of change, brands should look at shifts, i.e. the long-term macro changes and triggers.
The examples of shifts are climate change, urbanization and aging population. Triggers, on the other hand, are more immediate changes, such as political events, environmental incidents, and new technologies. What is trending in social networks or new products can give hints on social change. Frameworks such as PESTLE and STEEPLED provide support to analyze further these changes.
Thirdly, innovations are important since they inform on how the market is changing, what are the new entrants, new services, or experiences. Thus, spotting business innovations can help to assess what consumers will want next. In the end, innovations will create new expectations, which is why the terms such as “Expectation Economy”, “Experience Economy” and “Liquid Expectations” have been discussed in the recent years.
However, main emphasis should not be on these individual elements, but rather on the sweet spot, or tension, between basic needs, drivers of changes and innovations. This tension can be further evaluated by building an understanding on customer expectations and gaps between what is currently being offered (Mason et al. 2015, 48).
Transforming Current Trends to Innovative Ideas
The trend spotting encourages to act on the opportunities and identifying points of tension. How can you transform current trends to innovative ideas, which will be beneficial for your brand and your customers? Here’s a quick guide of main steps to take using the Trend Driven Innovation Methodology.
In practice, you can kick off your analysis by taking any of these starting points:
1. a new innovation and build an understanding what drivers of change and basic needs this innovation is addressing or
2. a new driver of change and spot innovations that are tackling this change or
3. a basic need by asking do I want to address it with my business, how I might satisfy this need, and consequently, what drivers of change are relevant for me that I can leverage.
Once you have decided your starting point, you can use the Consumer Trend Canvas to help you to structure and break down your analysis and ideation.
If you are short in time, you may try to get this filled in within a few hours. This approach, however, requires ideally some pre-work such as gathering trend inspiration in advance and securing a participation of multi-disciplinary team of at least 4 people, and a facilitator, for more creative results. On the contrary, you can also take your time and do some proper research for both parts of the canvas. If you are working alone, it would be beneficial to get some peer review and iterate the outputs accordingly.
Once your ‘analyze’ part ready, you can jump into the ‘apply’ part. It will be fruitful to ideate how you can potentially apply this trend and emerging expectations in your particular case and who would actually benefit from it.
Spend some time to ideate possible innovations and what would be the innovation potential. To get more ideas, I would recommend additionally to use a structured brainstorming method such as Creative Matrix. When ideating, remember to go for quantity over quality and focus on opportunities on where the attention and expectations are. Out of this ideation method, you can bring the most interesting ideas back to the Consumer Trend Canvas.
At this stage, you may wonder what shall you do once you have your first canvas filled in.
Ideally, you are ready to take a step forward, and go deeper how would this innovation actually work. For that purpose, you can use, for instance, the Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer and further ideate how to experiment the innovation using the Experiment Canvas, created by Ash Maurya.
If you can imagine an improved future state, you can likely make it happen
To conclude, current challenging time calls for deeper reflections, creative ideas and experimentations.
Different types of organizations from the well-established brands to new solo entrepreneurs can benefit from systematic trend spotting and scanning activities. Trend analysis provides opportunities to rethink the strategies, ways of operating and the overall offerings. In the end, regardless of your motivation and interests, you can take a proactive role in sensemaking and ideating an inspiring future.
Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016
Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive
Using design and online collaboration to address challenges as a result of global COVID-19 outbreak
As in spring 2020 we were experiencing nearly a global lockdown, I was searching for opportunities to collaborate with others virtually and contribute to the vast societal challenges that were taken place. After worrying news related to pandemic, I felt it was meaningful to be able to connect with others, learn and devote to an important cause. This triggered me to join a 10-day open innovation design process named as UNA.TEN (Transform Emergency Now! 10 days for change) hackathon by the University Alliance Europe.
UNA.TEN hackathon communication material by Helsinki Think Company
To achieve local impact through European collaboration, UNA.TEN hackathon brought virtually together over 100 master level students from seven universities and several local partners across Europe to develop solutions to address challenges related to the COVID-19 context in April-May 2020. I participated in the event with virtual Helsinki team together with Helsinki Think Company and the University of Helsinki and was able to collaborate with participants from Bologna, Edinburgh, Krakow, Leuven, Madrid and Paris.
What made this really unique was that the fact that the hackathon was online, and we were all experiencing the same situation of being locked down in our homes.
I had previously participated in numerous design events such as design sprints, hackathons, co-creation workshops and global service and sustainability jams in different roles varying from a facilitator to a mentor and participant throughout Europe. However, all these events had been conducted face-to-face and participants had travelled to the same location, sometimes even from another side of the world, to benefit from the close on-site collaboration. I was thus curious to find out how would all virtual 10-day hackathon work in practice.
Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process virtually
Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process were framing the hackathon. Each local team could choose between four design challenges. The topics, formulated as statement starters, were relevant and diverse:
How might we rethink entertainment and cultural activities during the COVID post-emergency period?
How might we protect our privacy and help to fight dangers, fears, and misconceptions in a digital world?
How might we ensure travellers’ safety while COVID-19 is not fully defeated yet?
How might we avoid food waste due to supply chain disruption?
Timeline and activities of UNA.TEN hackathon (Material shared by Helsinki Think Company to participants)
Following the local and international kick-off events, organized as video calls, and creative online warm-ups, each team initiated an intense research phase to explore the context. Within a short timeframe, teams were conducting online interviews with relevant stakeholders to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people who were at the center of design.
Based on the sensemaking and the 1st insights, the challenges were reframed to scope the next phases of design accordingly. An international benchmarking call helped to gain additional inspiration and build an understanding what paths other teams had investigated. Based on the challenge reframing, the ideation could be kicked off. Teams were encouraged to move quickly to prototyping to gather more information and feedback. Again, joint calls with other teams helped to reflect and develop further.
As such, sounds like a regular open innovation design process. So what were the lessons learned of this all online 10-day event?
100% virtual hackathon — it works!
Until very recently, I was one of those who strongly believed how design process, from design research to ideation and testing, should be conducted mostly, if not entirely, face-to-face to be successful. Indeed, there’s a long list of benefits that onsite creative and collaborative process is bringing, and I was not questioning it. This is why I also literally travelled around the world to conduct research and facilitate co-creation workshops and design sprints. Moreover, I often encouraged my client teams to invite their distributed team members to one specific location to harness the power of on-site collaboration.
However, these special times have demonstrated fast our ability to co-create engaging online experiences.
Indeed, based on our hackathon, people collaborate eagerly, use new online tools and design methods and are excited about the overall experience and the outcomes.
Yes, there might be some hiccups here and there, but not necessary more than in regular face-to-face events.
For me, as a fan of onsite co-creation events, this was a clear a-ha moment.
Next let me share my reflections and three lessons learned what made this virtual hackathon successful. I also add a few things to consider if you are about to plan a similar type of online event.
3 Lessons Learned from Virtual Hackathon
1. With people for people
As usual in a hackathon, people do not necessarily know each other upfront. In this event, although we had never met face-to-face and had very different backgrounds, we felt united. We all shared the same situation, being in self-isolation at our homes, willing to connect with others and eager to be able contribute to something purposeful. It felt we were together despite of distances, with a clear vision and enthusiasm. This shared motivation was one of the enablers, which made this hackathon a rewarding experience.
Ultimately, it is easier to create a great experience and results when people are motivated. In this event, motivation came naturally as participants were volunteering. On the contrary, often at workplaces, participants’ motivation tend to vary, e.g. some participants might feel forced to join, while others might feel distracted due to stress related to their daily jobs, which consequently can hinder the focus on the process and collaboration.
Things to consider:
If you are conducting a virtual design event, such as a design sprint, hackathon or co-creation workshop, take time to reflect and plan:
How to motivate people to participate? Even better, ask them upfront.
How to secure participants’ full engagement and keep them engaged throughout the process. What methods and techniques can you bring to facilitate the motivation virtually?
2. Trusting the process — and facilitation
This hackathon provided a joint learning experience where students and coaches connected across Europe in several occasions to share experiences, ideate, learn, present and receive feedback. Many of the participants were not familiar with a human-centered design approach, design process with divergent and convergent thinking, methods or tools we were using. Yet, it turned out well.
Outcome-focused remote facilitation and well-balanced constraints help to reach the goals
Although the process as such might be robust, you do need facilitators — those who think over the process and select the most suitable, outcome-focused, methods, plan the schedule and organize the logistics, provide guidance and inspiration, help people to get over the obstacles and remind them on the overall goals. This is a familiar topic from face-to-face events, but this online hackathon emphasized it again.
The facilitation needs to happen at multiple levels, at the process, the group but also individual levels to keep the focus and rhythm. We had facilitators and coaches for the overall hackathon, but also for the challenge area at the European level and locally.
Additionally, having set constraints, such as tight timelines and regular checkpoints to share, learn and inspire helped people to move in the right direction within the agreed timeframe. Multiple channels created on Slack encouraged people to share their thoughts and best practices in between the video calls. We could feel the pace, even though we were not physically in the same room.
Things to consider
To ensure a successful virtual design event:
How can you secure a sufficient number of skilled facilitators to get and keep the ball rolling over multiple remote teams and team members?
What kind of schedule would be realistic enough to get the results needed for each phase, from research to ideation and testing, yet feel slightly challenging to get most out of people’s creative capabilities?
3. Virtual collaboration facilitated by the thoughtful methods, enabled by technology
To conduct this all virtual hackathon, multiple digital collaboration tools were used throughout the process, e.g. Google, Miro, Slack and Zoom. Although one could get easily lost between these different channels and online spaces, our experience went rather smoothly.
The last time I had used Miro was back in 2017 when it was still known as RealtimeBoard. Throughout our design process from research to concepting, it turned out to be valuable tool.
In fact, for the hackathon purposes, facilitators and coaches had pre-selected canvases, i.e. the templates, and set up our virtual collaboration spaces, which made it easy to jump in right away. However, not that long time ago, printing large canvases and securing a good number of sticky notes were mandatory prerequisites of a successful co-creation workshop. Indeed, sometimes, as facilitators, we found ourselves dragging canvases to airports, hotels and workshop locations to capture the ideas and outcomes of the creative process and secure we could later convert the details into a digital format.
So having tested the latest of these digital tools during this hackathon, I must say they do enable the creativity, proactive collaboration and facilitate the process. For instance, Miro has not only ready-map templates but also kits with step-by-step guides.
And there are a plenty of other tools and guides to make this happen regardless of your role in the design process. Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Jackie Colburn just published a new guide how to conduct design sprints remotely and Mural has been busy with creating how-to guides and more during the recent months. All in all, these tools and guides do not only enable efficient remote collaboration and provide an opportunity to conduct end-to-end design thinking and innovation processes virtually but, in many cases, they also facilitate the processing the outcomes quicker.
Things to consider
What tools and methods can you best leverage to conduct your virtual session successfully? Do you have a sufficient amount of time reserved to set and test the overall flow prior to day 1?
What is your plan B in case the participants face issues with the selected tools?
To conclude, what were the outcomes and highlights of this all virtual hackathon?
UNA.TEN was concluded with presentations on May 8th, just one day prior to Europe Day 2020. Interesting and innovative solutions were ideated, such as an immersive experience connecting international audiences and performers virtually, while exploring the historic city of Edinburgh, the ‘bubble’ festival with live music, with a concept of being together but safe, a social distancing framework, a new way to discover local activities with safety measures, a digital service to organize trips in the countryside, a platform to connect local travel entrepreneurs to jointly package their offering with others to create more meaningful experiences to travellers and so on. Some teams, with the help of their local partners are proceeding further with their concepts.
Reflecting the overall experience
The UNA.TEN hackathon was time well spent, and it inspired me to continue to explore virtual possibilities.
Here are the highlights of this virtual hackathon:
Participation in an engaging social experience
Getting to know people across Europe
A reminder about the benefits of cross-European collaboration
First-hand experience and lessons learnt how design process works all online and virtually
Possibility to test the latest tools and digital templates
A chance to contribute to topical issues
Concrete ideas how to help entrepreneurs who are suffering from the COVID-19 implications
Opportunity to continue experimenting with concepts created.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how our ways of working will be digitized in a longer run. Will this special era disrupt the way we work and collaborate for good, also within innovation and design thinking scene?
Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016
Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive
Wouldn’t it be great to know what the future holds for us? Particularly in the difficult times we are currently living, it’s easy to wish we’d know what the world looks like in six months or a year. This of course isn’t possible, but futures thinking provides a framework for us to foresee what possible futures might look like. In the words of Malcolm X – the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. So let’s prepare!
To learn how to use foresight strategically and to network with specialists in the field, I attended a scenario co-creation workshop at Futurice. The event was organized on the eve of National Futures Day in order to introduce the newly developed Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit.
Similarities between design thinking and futures thinking
Futures thinking and design thinking have some synergies and overlap, not only in theory but also in practice. Personally I have more experience attending and organizing service design workshops and only a bit of experience in futures thinking through coursework at Laurea. Although I am quite new to futures thinking, the tools and canvases used during the workshop felt familiar due to my experience in service design.
My Laurea coursework introduced me to all the futures thinking concepts discussed in the workshop. With this background, the workshop contributed to my learning and provided me with additional tools for my personal toolkit.
The future of work – putting the Lean Futures Creation toolkit to the test
We started off with a brief introduction to the new toolkit and quickly formed groups of 6-7 and started working. The workshop focused on the future of work and all participants had been tasked with finding five trends or weak signals on what work might look like in 2030. Based on these we filled in a PESTLEY table, which we used as the basis for our alternative futures. The PESTLEY table was the first canvas we used.
The PESTLEY table guided our work in the next step; creating alternative futures. For this we used the second canvas. We selected seven topics, came up with alternative outcomes and finally developed three alternative futures based on this work. The team divided into pairs and used the third canvas to guide the development of the different narratives.
The very last canvas we used guided the development of scenarios. My group had been so swept away by the previous steps that we didn’t have enough time to backcast and develop complete scenarios. We did still get to try it and as the facilitator kept reminding us – today was less about the substance and more about the process!
We got to practice using four canvases, developed a deeper understanding about co-creating scenarios and networked with likeminded professionals. The night was a great success in my books!
What if an organization would know what are the pain points of its future customers, which are emerging competitors and partners, what type of ecosystems organization should be part of, what type of legal, social or political issues are arising, what is going to be next industrial trend, how to disrupt the industry? “What if” is one of the most important questions in futures thinking. It enables stretching our thinking and imagine possible futures.
Minna Koskelo, futures designer had a presentation about “What is futures thinking” on Waffle Wednesday at Wonderland in February 2020. According to Koskelo “you can’t control the future but you can have a sense of control if you do understand more the drivers that are affecting the future. “ We don’t know the future but futures thinking gives us a mindset and offers a systematic approach that combines, methods, and tools to explore alternative futures which can support organizations to make right decisions. Koskelo’s presentation made me think about how well organizations are actually aware of the powerful mindset of futures thinking and its methods? Organizations are doing customer insight, business insight but how systematically and continuously companies are conducting future-oriented insight a.k.a. futures thinking? Feels like many organizations are focusing more on what is already visible instead of investing on what is about to come. Research shows that future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth and were 33% more profitable than average!
From where to start Futures Thinking?
When talking about the future there are certain terms that we need to understand. These terms are: megatrends, trends, signals.
Megatrend is a dominant long-term phenomenon with a global impact. Megatrends can change slowly. Examples of megatrends are climate change, senior citizens, digitalization, and circular economy. Koskelo mentioned that many times it is said that companies shouldn’t focus on megatrends when finding business innovation because megatrends aren’t bringing any competitive advantage. Then again we could also ask how many companies are today actually tackling on helping senior citizens?
Trends are changes in people’s behavior, attitudes, and values locally and globally. They have an impact on the culture, society or business sector. Trends indicate which direction development is going. Trend has a lasting impact, but the impact is smaller than megatrends’ impact.
Signal is a phenomenon, the first expression of change or a new trend. Signal might be a weak signal that is very surprising and weird that forces companies to challenge current assumptions. So if a company would spot a weak signal and tries to develop it to a trend, it might offer a competitive advantage.
Tools for exploring the future
The more aware organizations are of the opportunities that the future holds, the more future-proof decisions can be made. There are various tools for supporting in future decision making. Four of them are described below.
What if an organization would get a holistic view of opportunities and obstacles in its future environment? It feels like organizations focus their future view heavily on technology and ignore other important trends. But in order to get a more holistic view, an organization could utilize a framework called STEEPLED that is an acronym for: Social, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographics. STEEPLED offers a checklist for exploring external factors that might have an impact on the organization’s success – the organization could find signals that might turn into trends!
What if organization could really reach their vision?Backcasting would be the tool to be used in this case. In backcasting the organization defines first its desirable future and from there works backward to identify the critical steps necessary to achieve the desired future, the vision.
What if organization would be able to anticipate its future customers? By using future personas the organization would provide insights of future customers, anticipate what motivates them and what are their future needs.
What if organization would recognize the direct and indirect consequences of a decision, trends and events that might have an impact on the organization’s ecosystem?Futures wheel is a visual tool that supports to create a structured map of the future. When working with the futures wheels a particular trend will be put in the center after which the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of the trend will be explored in a structured way.
Six business benefits of Futures Thinking
Based on Minna Koskelo’s presentation and my earlier studies in futures thinking I would sum up futures thinking benefits as below.
Futures Thinking 1. offers a safe space to consider and discuss unthinkable options,
2. encourages to think beyond the company’s current value proposition and reveal new business opportunities,
3. offers new innovative ways for decision-making processes and enhance decision making under uncertainty,
4. enables test ideas before translating them into business or innovation strategies,
5. helps to align the whole organization working towards a common vision in their daily work practices,
6. offers a roadmap for navigating complexity and reaching the vision.
Future does not just happen, it depends on today’s choices and is created through interaction and collaboration. What if we start to influence our future today?
References: From signals to future stories Futures Thinking Ojasalo, Koskelo and Nousiainen. 2015. Foresight and Service Design Boosting Dynamic Capabilities in Service innovation. In: Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (ed.) The Handbook of Service Innovation. London: Springer. 193-212.
A modern organisation chart? From Work Up! x HDW: AI and Ethics
New artificial intelligence solutions are popping up everywhere, including the public sector. The amount of available data and constantly increasing computing power make it possible for algorithms to take on more and more complex tasks.
Will artificial intelligence take our jobs and make us useless? Can we trust the robots? The public discussion around these emerging technologies often seems to paint a negative, even dystopian picture of the future. When it comes to disruptive technological change, this is nothing new though. Lack of information or transparency usually leads to fear instead of trust towards the technology. But can we tackle this issue of trust with design?
Last week I attended a Helsinki Design Week seminar called “Future Talks”. It was organized by Future Specialists Helsinki and featured four keynote speeches loosely related to designing for trust in future services. Inspired by the event, I decided to write this blog post and dig a little deeper on the theme of trust in AI and robotics.
Why is trust important?
Ilkka Halava at Future Talks
If users don’t trust a service, they will not use it unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is obvious, but all the more important to acknowledge in the age of extreme competition and easy availability of information and alternatives. As futures researcher Ilkka Halava put it in his keynote at “Future Talks”, digitalization is a massive power shift from systems to humans. Bad and untrustworthy services will quickly become obsolete because they can easily be bypassed.
When creating services based on new technologies that users might not fully comprehend, such as AI or robotics, it’s especially important to gain trust for the service to succeed and provide value.
The question then seems to be – how can we design trust?
7 things to consider
Olli Ohls at Future Talks
To answer that question, we need to understand the core elements that foster trust towards such technologies.
At “Future Talks”, Olli Ohls (Robotics Lead at Futurice) talked about key points on research results regarding what creates trust in the field of social robotics.
Based on Ohls’s speech and Enkel’s article, I compiled a summary of seven things to consider when designing for trust in AI and robotics:
Transparency – when the purpose and intention of the AI or robot is clear, and the underlying logic is understood by the user, it is much more likely to be trusted. A major positive impact was noticed in robotics when a robot was able to verbally explain its purpose to a user, as pointed out by Ohls. The development process behind the technology should also be transparent.
Compatibility – the technology obviously needs to match with the problem it’s trying to solve. It’s also important to consider how users feel how it matches with their values and guides them towards their goals.
Usability – the more intuitive and easier the innovation is to use, the better the chance of creating trust. Additionally, users should be able get a basic understanding of how the technology in question works, what its limitations are, and how one should work with it. As a crude comparison: it’s hard to start driving a truck if you don’t understand the basics of what automobiles do.
Trialability – when users can test the solution before actual implementation, perceived risk is reduced. A trial can be conducted, for example, via a prototype.
Performance – seeing an AI or a robot make a small mistake here or there won’t likely hinder our trust toward it, but constantly underperforming will. Expectation management is important here – users need to know what the technology is supposed to achieve and how it should do it.
Security – the technology should be perceived to be safe to use from both a physical and a data security viewpoint.
Control vs. autonomy – it’s important to understand the context and the purpose of the technology and find the suitable level of automation. Ask the question: should we lean towards the technology making the decisions, or the technology assisting a human in making decisions?
Takeaways and thoughts
AI and robotics are still very new to most people and the concepts might seem intimidating. To use the technologies to create real value, we need to design services around them that are trustworthy for their users and for the society at large. Keeping the points above in mind during your service design project could be a good start in working towards that trust.
The author Miikka Paakkinen is an MBA student in Service Innovation and Design with a background in business management and information technology.
What do you think of the list? Could your experiences regarding trust in services be translated to AI or robotics? Please share your thoughts below!
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.
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” 😉
We participated design breakfast arranged by Kuudes. According to their web pages Kuudes is Nordic insight, strategy and design agency. They have been doing motive based profiling of the customers for over ten years and they have published their latest studies last year. Kuudes has found eight different Finnish customer profiles based on different motivations. You can see those from the picture below.
Different kind of profiles appreciate different kind of things. This comes close to different kinds of values of life. Profiles also get irritated about different things. They are categorized to x and y axis according to conservation vs. openess to change and according to being selfish or selfless. From the web-pages of the study you can find more detailed information about different profiles. There are insight about profile´s behaviour and demographic details. Moodboards and checklist are also used to visualize the profile.
Picture: moodboard of the dreamer
You can also find videos from the web-pages that show you how different profiles choose their daily foods. There can be found many kinds of opinions which foods are healthy and which are not. Different profiles adopt services in different stages as you can see from the picture below.
We found these studies very interesting, but what we can do with all the information and data about these eight profiles? We think service designers can really use this data to design personalised services and products for different profiles. Or at least we can use these ground surveys as a stepping stones to our own service design projects. Kuudes has done very nice work and their work encourages us as service design students to dig deeply those human insights, motivation and values in our own projects.
Last but not least here are some guidelines how to do your own motive based profiles, shared by Kuudes.
Profiling must be done and seen as big picture because different profiles are related to eachother.
Profiles have to be based on deep customer insight: motives and values.
Clarify organisation´s inner needs
Clarify who are going to use profiles
Final results should be easily available to all members of the organisation
Profiles should be visual and inspiring
Co-creation in organisation supports implementing
You have to also understand the future, on which direction things are going in crucial fields