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Where is the Groan Zone in Design Thinking?

By Salla Kuuluvainen

Abductive thinking is a skill crucial for Design thinkers. It refers to being able to stay analytical and emphatic, rational and emotional, methodical and intuitive, oriented by plans and constraints, but spontaneous at the same time (Tschimmel 2012,3). We practiced our best capability in abductive thinking in a two-day workshop with Katja Tschimmel, learning a process for Design Thinking called E6 developed in her company Mindshake.

Trust the Process – There Will Be One Solution at the End!

As facilitator I have worked quite a while with enabling better collaboration in teams. In the workshop I paid special attention to the process of divergent and convergent thinking, which is very important in creating new ideas – divergent meaning the space where we create new ideas and convergent the space where we make decisions and prioritize on the ideas. Tim Brown (2009, 68), explains that as design thinker it is important to have the rhythm of divergent and convergent spaces, and with each iteration arrive at a result that is less broad and more detailed than the previous iterations.

I have worked with the Double Diamond process for quite a while, and I was fascinated about the level nuance in the E6 process in regards of convergence and divergence, which in this process were simply not only seen as phases in the process but as qualities of the different tools. I found this approach allowed for a very in-depth process.

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The Classical Double Diamond model – only two iterations with divergence/convergence.

I liked how different forms of prototyping were present in different phases of the process, not only at the end, and how prototyping could also be a generative, divergent tool for expanding on the idea. In our group I noticed very clearly the value of our prototype in not only showcasing the consept, but also in expanding the idea, by working with our hands and thinking at the same time.

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Our first prototype allowed for lots of discussion and expanding on the idea.

Better brainstorming is what every creative team needs

Some more detailed observations in regards to creativity were Katja Tschimmel’s instructions to brainstorming, which I found great. Often the problem with brainstorming is that ideas have a very different level of detail: some are on very high level and vague, others very specific and almost ready concepts.

Often the problem in the Double Diamond method is that we tend to loose the more detailed ideas in the process of clustering ideas under bigger headlines. But in the Mindshake process the vague ideas were developed further and semantically confronted with other ideas to have more detail.

I noticed that we did not end up in the famous Groan Zone, which lies somewhere between the convergent and divergent zones of process, where the group experiences feelings close to despair and has a very hard time finding their way forwards in the process. Even if some facilitators claim that Groan Zone is natural appearance in every process and can indeed produce some of the best solutions, I as facilitator try to minimize it in the processes I facilitate, since I feel that with the right tools the groups can often avoid it.

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I think that the reason why the process felt easy was the fluctuation between divergent and convergent – in most cases people feel at ease on one area of the process but not the other, and now they were allowed to find their comfort zone in many phases of the process.

I still think I have some personal journey ahead to become a full Abductive Design Thinker, but this workshop was a great start on the path of creativity and collaboration.

References:

Brown, T. 2009. Change by Design. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.

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.

(Service) Designers, what for?

by Kaisa Hölttä

On the very first day of the Design Thinking course by Professor Katja Tschimmel, two existential questions rose in my mind: What is the role of a (service) designer in the innovation process? In the world where customers´role is more and more emphasizes, can customers even take a full responsibility of design processes themselves?

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Designer? Photo: Pexels.com

In Change by Design, Tim Brown refers to his colleague Jane Fulton Suri who explores if the next step in design evolution is moving from designing for people to with people, to designing by customers themselves (Brown 2009, 58). This approach suggests that even a customer can be a designer. So can we move from earlier producer-generated ideology all the way to the user-generated one? What makes us future designers then?

City of Helsinki has recently introduced a participatory budgeting, where 4,4 million euros will be allocated annually to city development proposals made by the residents. The Participatory model utilizes know-how and expertise of individuals and communities and gives people an opportunity to design urban initiatives themselves. One could think that there is a torrent of proposals on line. However, just few weeks ago, a friend who works in engaging local communities to urban development, wondered, why only a small number of people seem to be interested in the participatory budgeting.

I would claim that there is lot of latent potential out there but people find it hard to conceptualize their thoughts and ideas, and turn them into concrete suggestions – or even imagine beyond the usual. As Brown puts it, analytical and convergent thinking are so dominant in education it makes us think that creativity is something that belongs only to a few talented ones (Brown 2009, 222-223).

This is where the role of designers step in. We need Design Thinking methods to articulate people´s latent needs and to convert them into concrete suggestions and protypes, in co-creation with the people. Creativity needs practice, and support. Designer´s role is to encourage people to give up their mental constrains and help them to “braindump” their thoughts. Quantity over quality. Without new approach and Design Thinking tools, it is hard to gain “rule-breaking, game-changing, paradigm-shifting breakthroughs”, Brown stresses (2009, 40).

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Practicing Design Thinking tools. Photo: Kaisa Hölttä

Therefore, new initiatives should not be designed only by customers themselves but together with them. According to Tschimmel, in the participatory approach product users should been seen as experts and partners in the whole creative process, from data research on to prototyping the new ideas and design solutions (Tschimmel 2012, 4).

In case of the participatory budgeting, people should be included in the design processes already in the inspiration (Brown 2009) or emergence (Tschimmel 2012) phase, and not left alone with their unclarified needs. Helsinki residents are experts in their own urban experiences. In order to convert these experiences into concrete proposals, we need Design Thinking methods, and educated designers to facilitate the co-creation process.

References:
Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Practical Design Thinking – Power of Fast Prototyping

The Course in Practical Design Thinking at Laurea was definitely a wow-moment. After two days of practicing design thinking we left inspired and empowered to take a new look of our life and work challenges. It f I would to choose the most powerful powerful tool I learned during this course it would be rapid prototyping.

What Fast Prototyping really is ?

Fast prototyping is a method often used by designers in Elaboration Phase (Tschimmel, K. 2012) or in Ideation Phase (Brown, T.,  2008)

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Tim Brown calls rapid prototyping ‚Building to Think’ (Brown, T., 2009) . According to Brown, prototypes are ‚quick and dirty’ way to generate understanding and access idea feasibility faster. Prototypes should consume only as much time and effort and investment as it is necessary to obtain the valuable feedback.

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How to Prototype?

Both mentioned authors give examples of different technologies/solutions for rapid prototyping. From Lego, paper, to 3D digital visualisation and mobile app mockup software. Some of these technologies are especially useful when designing services. Prototyping allows to act out the end-to-end service in order to make sure that designers will be able unlock the additional insights by transitioning back and forth in between theoretical and physical models.

High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity Prototyping

In the literature we can find an ongoing debate on high vs low fidelity prototyping. The authors argue  how much the prototype should resemble the final product (Walker et al 2002).

  • „Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and do not allow user interactions.  They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts.  In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create. Low-fidelity prototypes are helpful in enabling early visualisation of alternative design solutions, which helps provoke innovation and improvement. An additional advantage to this approach is that when using rough sketches, users may feel more comfortable suggesting changes.
  • High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based, and usually allow realistic (mouse-keyboard) user interactions. High-fidelity prototypes take you as close as possible to a true representation of the user interface. High-fidelity prototypes are assumed to be much more effective in collecting true human performance data (e.g., time to complete a task), and in demonstrating actual products to clients, management, and others.”

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A good balance of low cost and representation is a essential if we want to fully benefit from the power of prototyping.

10 prototyping Principles

Prototyping might seem simple, however to make it useful it’s good to know the basic rules. Alex Osterwalder his book „Value Proposition Design” (2014) gives us 10 principles of prototyping.

  1. Make it visual and tangible – moving from conceptual to physical in at the very essence of prototyping
  2. Embrace beginners Mind – don’t let existing knowledge to limit you.
  3. Don’t fall in love with the first ideas, create alternatives instead
  4. Feel comfortable in liquid state
  5. Start with lo fidelity and refine – avoid refined prototypes as they are difficult to throw away
  6. Expose work early – seek criticism. Don’t take negative feedback personally, embrace it as valuable information to improve the model.
  7. Learn faster by failing early often and cheaply. Avoid fear of fear of failure as it is holding you from exploring new territories.
  8. Use creativity techniques to break out of how things are usually done in your company
  9. Create „Shrek Models” – extreme prototypes not for building, buy igniting discussion
  10. Track learnings, insights and progress.  You might use them later in the process.

Prototyping in practice 

The course allowed us to unveil the power of prototyping ourselves by puting theory into practice. While designing a new learning experience at Laurea that would transform a school into world-renowned institution we found the fast prototyping with Lego extremely useful. Our low fidelity model represented a new Laurea education experience. We tried not to hold back to current physical structural limitations of campus and be comfortable with a liquid state of gradually refining the model. Exposing the work to our fellow students was especially revealing. It was hard not to discuss the feedback but to take it and use for model improvement.  Rapid prototyping once again proved itself to be a powerful way to transform ideas and deliver solutions.

Osterwalder, A. et all (2014) Value Proposition Design, Wiley 


Brown, T. and Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.


Walker, M. Takayama, L., & Landay, J. A. (2002). Low- or high-fidelity, paper or computer? Choosing attributes when testing web prototypes. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES 2002, USA, 661-665.


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. 


Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. June, pp. 84-92


https://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/prototyping.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Design Thinking Models to Help You in Your Project

by Miikka Paakkinen

Design in a business context looks to answer two questions: what problems are your customers facing, and how might we solve those problems while providing the best possible experience? Design thinking models can help you in your quest for the answers. Along the way, they might also assist you in asking better questions and finding the biggest underlying problems worth solving.

In this blog post, I will introduce three design thinking models that offer free toolkits for you to use.

Why does design thinking work?

 

 

Before going to the models though, let’s take a quick look at what design thinking can do for you.

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A beginner’s guide to Design Thinking

by Jenny Kurjenniemi

Simply put, Design Thinking is a process for creative problem-solving.

This means solving any kind of problem, from how to secure clean water supply in developing countries, to how to create the kind of service that people will be interested in and gain financial value for the innovation.

It’s good to understand from the beginning that there is no design thinking without design doing. Super artistic skills are not required but sketching, visualizing, and prototyping are an integral part of it. We all need creative problem-solving and yes – we can all do the creative hands on part with some practice.

 

I will take you through the design thinking process and the text is divided into four chapters.

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Design Thinking – Be creative and fail fast

“What if I´m not creative?”
– Of course you are, we all are – otherwise we don´t survive in this world.
Prof. Katja Tschimmel

This is how our lecturer, Prof. Katja Tschimmel, answered the question when our two-day Design Thinking module started at Laurea. An interesting journey started for all the new Laurea MBA Service Innovation and Design students. After the module I realised that those two days were an amazing trip to a Design Thinking world – collaboration, new innovations and solving problems that required being creative and explore failures.

What is Design Thinking?

“Design Thinking today is not only a cognitive process or mind-set, but it has become an effective toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking, based on planning and rational problem solving”.
Prof. Katja Tschimmel – Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation

DT mindsetThis is Tschimmel´s description of Design Thinking in her article `Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation`. Before the module I didn’t know much about Design Thinking. I had only read Jeanne Liedtka´s article `Innovative ways companies are using design thinking` for the Laurea entrance exams and remembered it had something to do with how companies can solve problems using the design tools. Katja introduced Design Thinking to us via her own Design Thinking process model called Evolution 62. First I was a bit confused – I remembered the process model and the toolkit from the article to be a bit more simple and that there weren’t so many tools as described in Evolution 62. Katja´s toolkit is quite complex and we only had two days to learn how to use it. Usually it takes months to experience and get to know such a complex tool!

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Should design thinking really be human-centred?

While reading Tim Brown’s “Change by Design”, I was touched by the story of the ORAL B toothbrush found among the rubbish deposited on the beach. Through this story Tim Brown asked himself and us about the responsibility of designers and design thinkers when designing. That resonates with me. We’re responsible for creating sustainable, eco-friendly change in the world either as creators or facilitators. But how to remember this and most importantly how to implement it? Does education, existing methods and tools give us any hints here? It seems that they concentrate mostly on human needs.

 

 

In early design thinking literature such as “Change by Design” or Tim’s article in the Harvard Business Review ”Design Thinking”, the subject of ecological responsibility wasn’t elaborated and included in the design thinking process. Although Roger Martin (in “The design of business”) listed social responsibility as part of Design Thinking, what about ecological responsibility? We missed placing it explicitly within existing DT models such as the IDEO one: Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation or Jeane Liedtke’s and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth approach or Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model. I browsed a few books collecting design thinking tools and couldn’t find any tools including ecological responsibility.

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Tim Brown seemed to answer this need in 2017, a year when IDEO in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created “The circular design guide”. Check this website https://www.circulardesignguide.com . You will find ready-to-use tools: workshops scripts, modified templates to use in the process of designing for the sake of the circular economy.

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