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Can Design Thinking Provide the Breakthroughs We Need to Reduce Global Poverty and Domestic Violence?

 

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Woman cooking next to the port and market in Cotonou, Benin [Image (c) Jeffrey Allen]

By Jeffrey Allen

25 Sep, LONDON – For the past seven years, I’ve designed and managed projects to improve lives in developing countries, focusing on education, health, good governance, human rights, agriculture, employment, the environment… everything that impacts people’s quality of life. It’s a wildly complex field, where managers have to understand business, sociology, communications, technology, innovation, politics, psychology, and more if they’re going to be successful.

I spent the first several years just getting my head around the basics, learning on the job, by trial and error, and by soaking up what I could from those around me. Before starting the job, I had observed international development work – mostly from the outside – for more than six years as a journalist remixing stories published by organizations working in the field. Looking on through my outsider’s lens, I was consistently impressed by the work development practitioners did every day to make lives better and open opportunities for billions of people in difficult circumstances across the globe. Continue reading

Educating the Design Thinkers of Tomorrow

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First day at school

My Daughter

My first-born started her school journey this autumn. It’s the same school that I attended 30 years ago, a respected and multicultural school, back then quite a traditional one – discipline based, classroom centric, the teacher standing in front of the class, the pupils listening. It still is a good school, but I already have come to notice some important changes.

The first graders’ theme for the first weeks has been their hometown Helsinki. They have already made many excursions (e.g. Children’s town at the City Museum), spent time outside of school moving and observing their environment (e.g. how many cyclists use helmets) and learnt through their own experience (e.g. mapping how they travel to school). Currently, they are building in teams a city block, which involves planning, discussing different alternatives, making decisions together and executing their plans. The number one hit has been the intelligent carpet, a huge iPad as my daughter says, for doing math exercises, memory games and other cool stuff with your feet. A big thank you goes out to the progressive thinking and creativity of the class teacher. She acts rather as a facilitator and coach in the knowledge creation process than as the knowledge provider, like in the traditional teaching approach.

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The “Intelligent Carpet” in action!

 

Whether the school’s management and teachers are talking about Design Thinking when planning the curriculum or teaching methods is secondary. Most important is what they are doing and how they are doing it. The fact is that the school’s teaching approach celebrates the ideology and values of Design Thinking, such as human-centricity, empathy, multidisciplinary thinking, holistic approach, creativity, collaboration, playfulness and visualization of thoughts. Also the phases and methods are similar to those used in Design Thinking, such as the design process introduced by IDEO for educators: discovery, interpretation, ideation, experimentation and evolution. Most importantly, the pupils are taught to think on their own and exercise analytical thinking, mixing facts and rational thinking with feelings and emotions. I truly hope they also learn to tolerate uncertainty and risk-taking and accept that doing mistakes and failures is an important part of the process. This wasn’t self-evident when I went to school.

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Stages, more stages and the same stages all over again

The Design Thinking course on September 2nd-3rd 2016 was very illuminating. Doing Design Thinking by following a specific model really shows how much work should be put in design work itself from exploring to implementing. Doing the same thing over and over again with different methods (moodboard, brainwriting etc.) truly opens up new ideas during the process.

We started our service planning from one idea and through all the steps ended up in something different. Continuing the process further and with more time would have, in my opinion, led to another outcome. Doing so much work in such a short time really doesn’t give space for ideas to develop by themselves.

The difference in similarities

During the lessons we learned especially the use of the Evolution 6² model, which has more stages than other models discussed in class and in the paper Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation (Tschimmel 2002). Nevertheless, all the models can be, more or less, divided in three main stages: first you have to learn the problem (through observing, exploring, understanding, defying etc.), then you develop an idea/ideas based on your observations (through experiments, ideating, reflecting, elaborating etc.) and finally you’ll find a solution that can be made available to public (through prototyping, testing, implementing etc.).

brainwiriting

Brainwrite instead of brainstormWhy? No need to feel ashamed of saying something idiotic out loud while you can write it on a Post-it anonymously.

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Learning Design thinking – did I do it right?

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Katja and Mariana, our inspiring lecturers

That was my main concern during the Design Thinking course. Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença familiarized us with practical Design Thinking. Katja gave us introduction to design thinking, its background, literature and visual models for design thinking process. We familiarized ourselves better with The Mindshake Design thinking model: Evolution 62. The two days of studying were full of inspiring activities to get to know Evolution 62 -model in action.

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stevton.com

For some reason I had difficulties letting go of my result-oriented mind-set to complete the activities. I tried to convince myself to focus on simply learning the tools and getting to know my new classmates. But still having the “right” answers to exercises and following the given instructions precisely were my main concerns. It was frustrating and energy-consuming. My goal to have the right answers was preventing me from actually embracing the full meaning of Design Thinking. Because Design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion, it is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking. Design thinkers need to have a holistic view of the problem (Brown), as in this case the holistic view of Design Thinking instead of predicting the answers.

It must had been frustrating also for my group member to have me continuously question what were we actually ideating during the Evolution 62 process. Tim Brown emphasizes that in Design thinking, failure is totally acceptable as long as it happens early and becomes a source of learning. Well, at least I got half of the failure right. After the study days I felt I had failed trying to be a design thinker but when I read more, my failure became a source of learning. Brown wrote that behaviour is never wrong or right but it is always meaningful. He of course refers to people´s behaviour when observed for insights. But I decided to use this on my own behaviour analysis. What if my result-focused way of learning was actually a coping mechanism to deal with the new situation? I have no graphic skills and as visualizing is key elements in Design thinking, this was a big source of uncertainty. And as Design Thinking is a new field for me, I needed to follow the given instructions precisely to stay on board.

Dealing with incomplete information, with the unpredictable, and with ambiguous situations, requires designers to feel comfortable with uncertainty. (D-think) This is a goal I need to keep working for, but luckily Brown wrote something that gave me hope. Don´t ask “what?” ask “why?” Asking “why?” is an opportunity to reframe a problem, redefine the constraints and open the field to a more innovative answer. (Brown) This made me realize that I was actually doing the right thing by questioning our group work, but I was asking the wrong question. In terms of learning and design thinking I should had been asking “why?” to have the answer to convince me for my worry of us heading toward the wrong result and to grasp a more holistic view of the process.

So to answer my question from the beginning – I almost did it right!

Written by
Aino Saari

Service Innovation and Design MBA Student

Sources
Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja; Santos, Joana; Loyens, Dirk; Jacinto, Alexandre; Monteiro, Rute & Valenca, Mariana 2015. Research Report D-Thinkhttp://blog.mindshake.pt/category/research/

Design Thinking big bang!

“Here was a curious thing. My friend’s instinct told him the North End was a good place, and his social statistics confirmed it. But everything he had learned as a physical planner about what is good for people and good for cities neighbourhoods, everything that made him an expert, told him the North End had to be a bad place.” Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Change by Design [1]

In the very first masterclasses about Design Thinking running by Katja Tschimmel and Marina Valenca we, toddlers in the field and students in Service Innovation and Design Programme, went into renaissance era of the design which now is perceived and used as a perfectly crafted methodology by a wider audience including business itself. Big Bang of Design Thinking which – as we were assured – Comes of Age! [2] As lectures went fast with a short history of design and presented different approaches to the design process to smoothly show us their own – well equipped with a whole range of precisely picked tools [3]; like many others, I was waiting for practical part of the meeting. For doing stuff not learning about it, to experience it, to feel it in my heart and to answer fundamental questions: what is, what if, what wows and what works [4]. After all, I took home some thoughts which I present below.

Omnipresent visualisation

If you were asked to describe DT you probably would start drawing something, using Post-its notes, prototyping anything but not words themselves. Visualisation played a priority during our jam session. There is no way to disagree with Liedtka & Ogilvie that “Visualisation make ideas tangible and concrete. […] make them human and real.” [4] It also allows us to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation. After that few hours together it is hard to polemise with Katja while saying that “designers analyse and understand problems of the artificial world.” in the meaning that every tangible aspect of the performance was before the creation of intangible thoughts, ideas, notions, and intuition. From this perspective visualisation lets us grab our unrevealed ideas, bring them to the surface and make them enough concrete to evaluate. It also put individual and collective intuition before learning and maybe this is what I the most love about it.

A stream of consciousness. 

If I were asked to show the greatest values of Design Thinking process, I would say that its collaborative, multidisciplinary and co – creative aspects are the most precious one. I enjoyed brain-writing part of our session vastly. But, we always put a human in the heart of all “doing”. In Virginia Woolf’s book the different aspects of Ms. Dalloway; her needs, feelings, context, and experiences are constantly subjected to individual and collective influence and turn from intentions into reality. In DT process it all above makes possible to arise great and innovative idea anchored in the essence of an end user of the service or offering.

Secret Ingredient

Nevertheless to make it happen, I learned that we need to listen to others with engagement on every possible step. In my opinion, like visualisation is the tool of understanding and expressing all ideas and thoughts as listening is the value without which no meaningful idea can authentically bloom. I like how about listening speaks Otto Scharmer and I leave you with his short video to contemplate where innovation and tipping point in any sector starts. Enjoy!

Marta Kuroszczyk

Sources:
1. “Change by design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.” Tim Brown

2. “Design Thinking Comes to Age”, Jan Kolko Harvard Bussiness Review, https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age

3. “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation.”, Katja Tschimmel http://www.academia.edu/1906407/Design_Thinking_as_an_effective_Toolkit_for_Innovation

4. “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers.”, Liedtka & Ogilvie

Creative professionals can also be design thinkers

I must confess that design thinking is a thing  I haven´t really thought about before I applied to Laurea University of Applied sciences to study the degree Master of Hospitality Management. One of the entrance examination tasks was a text about design thinking in hospitality  management. That was really the first time I read about it.

In any case I got in to school and now I have really started to study the art of design thinking. My studies started at Friday 2th September and Saturday 3th September 2016. Our instructors were Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença from Portugal and Satu Luojus from Finland. Check out this video that explains shortly what is design thinking.

According to Tschimmel (2016), Design Thinking has started in the seventies and it has always been a catalyst for innovation processes in product and service development. But only about seven years ago it started to gain popularity also in business management. Design Thinking is now understood as a way of thinking which can lead to transformation, evolution and innovation. It can lead to new forms of living and to new ways of business management.

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To creativity and beyond

If I had only one word to describe the two days I spent with Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valenca on September 2nd and 3rd 2016 at Laurea Leppävaara, it would be creativity. There are, of course, other possible options as well, like innovative and colorful to name a few, but if I was to choose one, it would be creativity.

So what was the two days about? It was about Design Thinking (DT), a form of solution-based thinking currently surrounded with a big hype. DT changes the way we do business, because it is a way to make business people think like designers and designers think like business people (Mootee 2013, p.14). The more I read about it, the more I got the feeling that it was kind of a business life superhero. Something that comes to the rescue when innovation is in a standstill.

The Design Thinking process starts with empathy. DT is a human-centered approach, that focuses on participatory methods (Tschimmel 2012, p. 4).  Then it moves on to defining the problem, to giving solution ideas, to prototyping it and finally – to testing it. To make this understandable I gathered some pictures to help you understand the superhero process model:

design-thinking-process-model-saraste

But why Design Thinking? The world is full of business solutions, do we really need another one? According to many experts, we actually do. Take for example this  Stanford University webinar which stated that in business and in life, you have to innovate to change or you die.

Many companies in the market have understood that. To give an example Fazer Food Services organized a CXHack Fazer hackathon event to encourage innovative ideas on digitalizing restaurant services at Aalto University. This kind of event not only brings them new business ideas but also develops commitment and interest towards the company. Not to mention all the great publicity!

In addition to competitive advantage and other vertical actions, innovative solutions should be used horizontally in organizations; encouraging all teams to innovative thinking. According to this report by Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, innovative ways of working increase staff’s trust and commitment towards the company. Using DT in management, companies become resilient – flexible and repellent, says Anne Stenros (Miettinen 2014 p. 60).  It is easy to say that innovation creates success in more ways than one.

So that is what it is all about but how to use it in your everyday work? What’s Design Thinking in practice? To figure that out, I participated in the two day DT workshop at Laurea UAS. We learned about the Mindshake 6²  Design Thinking model and worked in groups presenting business solutions. One of the tasks was to create a moodboard, here´s mine about studying:
design-thinking-moodboard-saraste

For a rational and organized person like me, this creative type of working was a great opportunity to go “out of the box” and to try something new. In my opinion, the key to successfully think like a designer  is to be more innovative for new solutions and not to be afraid of mistakes. To step out of the comfort zone, as they say.  Bill Burnett, the Executive Director of Design Program in Stanford University, says that when you start being more creative in your everyday work, others will start too.

Inspired by this, I started working more creatively myself. In only three weeks, I have presented things more visually in my work. I even organized a brainstorm to receive innovative ideas.  It is a quite traditional and non-creative organization so there is a lot of work to do, but you have to start somewhere.

To change business culture in your organization, it doesn´t necessarily take much. Begin with a small step. Or a short flight, as Buzz would put it.

Written by Katri Saraste, Master of Hospitality Management student at Laurea UAS


Sources:

Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Design_thinking
Mindshake http://mindshake.pt/design_thinking
Stanford Online webinar: Apply Design Thinking in your work https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U499U4TcyY8
Stanford Online webinar: Strategic Innovation – Design Thinking in business https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmkGNXfYmYw
Fazer Food Services http://www.amica.fi/uutiset-ja-artikkelit/hacaton/
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health
https://www.julkari.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/130787/Ty%C3%B6hyvinvointi%20paremmaksi.pdf?sequence=1
Miettinen, Satu (toim.) 2014. Muotoiluajattelu. Helsinki:  Teknologiateollisuus ry.
Mootee, Idris. 2013. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley.
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.