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Becoming a Design Thinker

Nearly two decades ago I completed my Master’s Degree in Business. My work history is in consumer marketing and brand management. In the marketing, thinking “outside the box” has been a common way of working. Now, as a new Service Design student at Laurea, I am learning to become a “Design Thinker”.

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Design Thinking is a methodology applied in Service Design to solve problems in order to improve existing services and innovate new ones. I look forward to discovering the creativity in me, something they did not teach me at business school.

Design Thinking Course at Laurea

My Service Design studies started with a two-day intensive Design Thinking workshop presented by Katja Tschimmel. This course was an introduction to the concept of Design Thinking, its history and different process models developed to take Design Thinking into practice. Continue reading

MyData 2017 – Health Profile Hackathon

Juha-Pekka Ahvenainen, Markus Alavaikko, Markus Torkkeli

The National Institute of Health and Welfare (THL) is a state agency that promotes the wellbeing and health of the population, prevents diseases and social problems, and develops social and health services. It also is the statutory statistical authority in health and welfare in Finland maintaining a knowledge base within its field of operation.

We among roughly 25-30 others participated in MyData 2017: Health Profile Hackathon on September 4th 2017 organized by THL. We enrolled in hackathon through Facebook. It was THL’s first attempt arranging a public hackathon in trying to get new ideas on how to reach out to people more efficiently.

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According to Wikipedia a hackathon is usually a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects. Participants usually form groups gathering around a subject that has being set beforehand so that each group consists of a heterogeneous mass. Service designers may act as facilitators to the groups enabling their fertile work flow. A form of service design process is followed to keep things holistic and a set of methods are used to get on and beyond.

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At the Footprints of Nobel Winners – Cambridge Venture Camp 2017

Hello,

We are three Master´s Degree students from Laurea Tikkurila where we are studying in a program called “Future Studies and Customer Oriented Services”. Last autumn we participated in a course ”Digitaalisen palvelun käyttäjäkeskeinen suunnittelu” and there we started to develop a business idea for a digital application called ”Big Steps for Little People”, and with that idea we won WeLive -designing competition early 2017. After that our teacher encouraged us to apply to Cambridge Venture Camp 2017 with our business idea. Cambridge Venture Camp is an international entrepreneurship boost camp by Laurea Entrepreneurship Society, LaureaES. We sent in our application and received invitation to be interviewed. We heard afterwards that LaureaES had received about 50 ideas/applications and only 8 of them were chosen to participate the camp. Guess what? We were one of them!

So that was a start of an interesting and motivating journey to learn about entrepreneurship and developing our business idea further. First there was a Finnish week at the end of March in Leppävaara campus which included lectures of pitching, team building, MVP (minimum viable product), external funding and finance. Week also included different kind of workshops for example regarding value proposition canvas. We also got to visit Microsoft Flux, where we had our first pitching competition. In our team it was Katri, who lost in lottery. Just kidding, Katri is a great speaker and for that reason she presented our idea.

The highlight of the Cambridge Venture Camp 2017 was the Cambridge week, that was organized during 9.-13.4.2017 in Cambridge. At the same time as we were there, Laurea´s BIB Bootcamp participants were also there. We had partly the same program with them. We stayed at Downing College in Cambridge University. Week included lectures from local professors and Finnish lecturers as well.

During the week we learned about Cambridge ecosystem, market research, marketing and business design, valuation, creating prototypes, funding possibilities for startups, lean business model canvas and also more about pitching skills. We had many workshops and we learned to use different kind of service design tools. During the whole week we developed our business idea further with help of all this. Days were very intensive and required 100 % attention the whole time. This was a great hands on way to learn basics about entrepreneurship and business idea development in a short time. All the lecturers were great and very professional. We also got realistic feedback about our business idea from lecturers and from other participants as well.

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Trinity College. Photo: Katri Rantanen.

But it was not just hard work and studying! On Tuesday evening we had a fine dining dinner at Trinity College (picture above) with all the LaureaEs and BIB participants and also some Cambridge professors joined us. Trinity College is a very rich and highly appreciated campus. They have 32 Nobel winners and for example Prince Charles has studied there. Dinner tasted excellent and we had many interesting conversations during the evening with other participants. After dinner we had an after party in Vodka Revolution Bar. On Wednesday we went all together punting on the River Cam (picture below). Luckily it was a great weather and we had some sparkling and strawberries with us. Yam! We also had some free time in the evening to see the beautiful city and do some shopping. It is easy just to walk around in the city because distances are short. We recommend Cambridge to all, it will make you feel very intelligent (or not).

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Punting on River Cam. Photo: Katri Rantanen.

During the whole Cambridge Venture Camp 2017, we had great atmosphere and team spirit. LaureaES did an excellent job organizing everything and making sure that we could focus on the essential – learning and development. Did you know that they do all this on their free time?

In overall this was a once in a lifetime experience. We encourage everyone to apply to next Cambridge Venture Camp with your own business ideas, in case you are interested in entrepreneurship or just learning more. As Isaac Newton, one of Cambridge University´s famous alumni said “What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.”

Mervi Kleimola, Katri Rantanen and Niina Rinkinen

#CVC17 #WeLoveBusiness #LaureaES

http://www.laureaes.fi/en/home/

https://www.cam.ac.uk/

https://www.downing-conferences-cambridge.co.uk/

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.).

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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/