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Changing the tech-industry one step at a time

As someone working in sustainable development, I am always fascinated by events that concentrate on making our planet better and healthier. So following event caught my eye: “Innovation, Big Tech and the Climate Crisis” by Royal Bank of Scotland Entrepreneurship, which was held on Wednesday 17th of March 2021. The event concentrated on challenges on climate and technology and how we need to innovate towards sustainability. I’m not a tech-oriented person and know very little about the industry, so it was a learning experience.

Marc O’Regan, CTO EMEA at Dell Technologies, presented what and how Dell is trying to reach a 2030 moonshot goal to accelerate the circular economy.

We know that sustainability is about the ecological perspective and the well-being of people and economic balance. These three elements need to be in balance for sustainability to take place effectively. A great quote from SEOS- Ideation cards for positive impact says: “Designers do not need to become experts in environmental and social issues to make a difference. Basic awareness and understanding of these areas, however, increases their ability to do the right thing from the beginning.”

This is where Marc hit the spot. They understand that all of these perspectives need to be considered since it’s not only about production and manufacturing. What they do and how they do it also has an environmental and societal impact. It requires taking all partners and suppliers together with customers towards a sustainability journey.

He listed some key examples of how people get involved:

  • Enriching communities and strive for sustainability
  • Inclusion in workspace
  • Closing diversity gap
  • Drive inclusion
  • Environment of empowerment

So what Dell is designing? Marc said that tech and programs are created to solve problems. They work with NASA, healthcare and other industries which require new technological approaches, but that is not the only thing Dell is doing. They are also working towards transforming lives and the future.

At the centre of everything is sustainability. They have three strategic approaches: accelerating the circular economy, protecting the planet and championing the people who build their products. They are constantly improving their sustainable actions to change the systems. Such as:

  • finding ways to do a circular economy,
  • being part of a culture that shifts towards a greener planet, and
  • working together with people who help Dell implement sustainable actions through programs, products, software, and other ways.
  • There are also constantly auditing that standards are met.

A new insight for me was that E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world and that only 20% of electronics are responsibly recycled. By law, you can bring your old electrical appliances into stores that sell electrical equipment in Finland. Also, we have waste collection points where you can bring your old electronics free of charge. We have a good situation in Finland since almost 90% of e-waste is recycled. We are doing a good job, but it’s not perfect. Part of the collected e-waste is exported to developing counties where they end up in landfill or are burnt.

As Marc said, there’s massive pressure regarding this situation on a global scale. Therefore it is also a team sport and requires a collective effort. They are working closely with and engaging their own design teams, suppliers, manufacturers, and users to find a solution and change the system not only as a business itself but as a whole industry.

So what Dell is currently working on?

They are adding more resale and recycling services around the worlds, adding circular design standards in their operation concept, creating circular material innovations, and using scraps such as reclaimed carbon fibre. The result is that “no tech should end up in waste”. In addition to this, they also co-operate with non-profits. They are collecting plastic waste from the oceans and using that plastic in their products. The aim is to keep the plastics out of the sea.

They are also trying to reduce their carbon footprint by changing designs and using AI to solve many problems. For instance, making data-centres more efficient, lowering costs, risks and environmental impacts. The idea is to generate more than what it is using.

“It’s doing the right things in the right ways.”

When hearing this, I couldn’t help think that this is what the design process all about.

Post by: Tereza Dickson
Current Topics in Service Design.

Game changers

I just finished watching the “TEDxHultLondon 2021: Game Changers” event that you could also follow in an AR environment! This was an independently organized TED event by Hult International Business School. The event focuses on breakthroughs and innovations and invites very inspiring speakers to present their perspectives on a collective topic.

This was actually my very first TED event. I have, however, seen some individual TED talks on YouTube and other platforms. But following a live event and watching something afterwards has a different feel to it.

The pace of the event was quick, so I really hope I was able to catch the key takeaways. There were six speakers: Raj Balandusadam, Trudi West, Ranu Sharma, Max Klymenko, Michelle Li, and Gleb Tritus. I will only give a little insight into Raj’s and Gleb’s speeches, keeping this blog post as compact as possible.

Raj Balandusadam presented the topic “Can AI save the planet?”. He built a story around a cheap shirt, and that “cheap always comes at a high cost”.

His speech concentrated on how AI can help us understand what we really need. Manufacturers, retailers, and distributors could use the information AI gatherers to produce and sell only what is needed, thus reducing waste and pollution. In addition to this, AI can learn what style we like, what actually fits and suits us best, and predict what we will need in future.

Also, we need information that will help us towards the right and sustainable choices. In Finland, we don’t have traffic light labels, but personally, when visiting the UK, they have impacted my food choices.

Source: British nutrition foundation

Raj presents an idea that this traffic light system would be used in a much broader context, such as the fashion industry. Just imagine when buying a simple piece of garment, such as a t-shirt or pair of socks, you’d have choices from Green, which is good for the planet, Yellow, which has a caution, or Red, which is not good for a planet. Which one would you choose?

Gleb Tritus, with the topic “Travel and mobility after the storm”, presents 3 examples that could influence the next game-changers in the mobility industry.

The first, due to COVID-19, we are adapting to the new normal. Through this new normal, there are massive technological advances. Travel and mobility industries need to adapt and reinvent themselves and their offerings to this new normal.

The second is that we need to utilize existing systems better. With the help of digital innovation, we can make current systems more efficient.

The third and last example was about understanding that consumers have changed. In just a few years, all of us will have a digital footprint. But unfortunately, in the current state, the travel and mobility industry still fails to utilize digital information to satisfy our needs because the industry in itself is very complex and consists of many parts.

Gleb concluded his speech with future foresight:

  • Soon, we might travel by air taxis.
  • There will be more autonomous vehicles.
  • We will substitute a lot of travelling through digitalization. A great example was the event itself.

I highly recommend watching the entire event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbTvmyaX8Io

Post by: Tereza Dickson
Current Topics in Service Design.

Innovation through human-centred design thinking

General Assembly hosted a weeklong event called “break into tech” from 16th to 22nd of February 2021. One of the events that caught my attention was “Innovation through Human-Centered Design Thinking”.

The host was Steph Mellor, a coach and consult in human-centred design, ethnography, leadership and change. She’s also a Principal at DigIO, Design and UX instructor at General Assembly.

This was a truly insightful and useful event to follow. Steph answered the most common questions that might come to mind when thinking about design-thinking: what it is, when should we use it, why we need it, how to begin the process, what do we need, and how to utilise Design councils double-diamond framework, so it provides value and right solutions.

What it is

To summarise what the double-diamond framework is all about, here’s a short list:

  • It can be applied to any design, service, product, UX etc.
  • It is a creative problem-solving approach where innovation is the result
  • Emphasis is on understanding the problem thoroughly before attempting a solution
  • Explorative, iterative and collaborative
  • Honours human experience and responds to human behaviour and intuition
  • Design the right thing, then design the thing right
  • Spending equal time on each part of the diamond.

Steph pointed out that when people learn about design thinking – they try design thinking on everything. Innovations don’t always come from design thinking – or we could say you cannot force innovations through design thinking.

When should we use it

Design thinking should be applied when problems are complex and there are people involved. For instance, we don’t need to design-think our way through how to get fuel into our car since it is a straightforward problem with a relatively straight forward solution (simple)

Source: Drawing change

But when adding humans, the situation is always at least complex.

In the end, the process will get you somewhere useful, even though the beginning might feel difficult and frustrating.

Why we need it

First of all, the design thinking process and results should not shift the original problem somewhere else. The idea is to solve the problem. It also provides us with a better understanding of how people behave, and we must design according to their behaviour – not how we wish for them to behave.

How to begin with the design thinking process

We will go through the double-diamond process in this section. Starting with the discover and define phase.

Souce: Wikipedia

The design thinking process begins with a designerly mindset. You need to be empathetic, human-centred, inclusive, collaborative and ego-less with an agile and iterative mindset. You also need to be ready to observe and learn during the process and give away your “power”.

You also need to conduct design research. Design research is

  • Not academic or scientific research
  • Not statistical research
  • Not investigative journalism
  • Not interrogation

But common research techniques are, for example, contextual inquiry, observation or shadowing, surveys and questionnaires, usability or interactivity tests, facilitated workshops, journey or relationship mapping, etc. It’s about asking the right questions and having good listening skills (don’t respond or correct).

Also, since we’re trying to learn and uncover the needs, preferences and expectations, we can conduct experiments and scenarios, ideal futures or simple likes and dislikes.

The key to starting the design process is to begin with the question: what do we want to know, and then we ask: who might have the answers. Quite often, people fail into the trap of starting from the second question – and end up with the wrong type of solution. But when you have successfully collected the data, it’s time to put it all together and define the problem. The end result is that you have found the answer to your question, which addresses the people for whom you’re designing.

The last diamond in the double-diamond process concentrates on the develop and deliver phase.

During the developing phase, you need to be inclusive, collaborative, and creative. Focusing on the “what” and not on the “how”. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible. The ideas need to be desirable, viable and feasible. Additionally, innovations come from creative problem solving, and this is how design thinking breaks through. When you’ve gathered all your ideas, you can process them similarly like you’ve processes your research data. Just be careful of your biases.

Finally, we get into the last phase: deliver. The key to this phase is to do fast and cheap prototypes, which allow you to fail early. That’s why it’s a prototype, so you have room for improvements and adjustments. When people are trying the solution, your task is not to sell, persuade, or convince people. You need to listen to their feedback, and it’s better to ask questions rather than giving them answers. If the tester asks: “what does this button do?” you don’t give the answer. You ask: “what do you expect it to do?”. Learn and don’t correct.

Not all innovations are glamorous, and most of them are small and quiet. They don’t need to be revolutionary since the idea is to provide value and help people.

Post by: Tereza Dickson
Current Topics in Service Design.

Future at work: What are the new skills service designers will need?

A webinar by Perttu Pölönen, futurist, inventor and author.

When thinking about the future, we might assume that the skills we need to have will be related to AI, Robotics, Coding, and everything involving technology, however, Perttu Pölönen has a different view on the skills of the future. The question he posed to everyone during his Thought Leaders’ Talk was:

“What can I get from you that I can’t get from a computer?”

This question immediately made me think of a future in which an AI could easily replace the work of a service designer.  However, is this thought something real or is the field of service design too human-centric to be replaced by computers?

Pexels Stock Image, Danny Meneses, March 2018

According to Perttu Pölönen, the working environment is shifting from an information era into a human revolution working environment in which the main skills will be our personality, our characters, and what we have to offer as humans. We will evolve from information professionalisms into creative problem solvers. Leveraging the silent knowledge computers don’t have, will be our main focus for future years.  

With all this in mind, one can only wonder: what will change in the field of service design?

In order to prepare for the future, we shouldn’t focus on the skills and professions which will change in the future, rather we should focus on the skills that won’t change at all. According to P. Pölönen, these are some of the skills of the future we should really start nurturing now.

List by Perttu Pölönen, December 2020 Online Webinar

However, how can we validate these skills, and most importantly when this change will start to happen?

No one can verify one’s levels of humility and spontaneity, however to develop and nurture these skills so that we can take them into use in the working environment, we need to update our mindset. Change is happening right now and we can see this with the younger generations. Instead of them being though by adults on how to use technology the tables have turned and the younger generations are teaching and guiding the older generations how to adapt to this new developing digital native era.

With the rapid evolution of technology and the future fast global internet connection, we will be able to bring online half of the global population and drastically increase the innovation happening worldwide. We have gained the potential power to change the world through our ability to connect, which was merely impossible 30 or 40 years ago.  Our creativity, courage, motivation, enthusiasm cannot be measured or achieved through a university degree, but it can be encouraged and showcased by easily connecting to people from all around the world from the comfort of your sofa.

Pixbay Stock Image, Tumisu 2014

Thus, to boost these skills P. Pölönen has envisioned a future curriculum that might be a bit different from what everyone might have thought for the future.

List by Perttu Pölönen, December 2020

Taking a closer look at this curriculum we can clearly see that the field of service design develops many, if not all of these skills. Problem-solving, teamwork, and curiosity are some of the core skills that every service designer should have when starting a service design journey. Adopting this future mindset and focusing on these human-centric skills to develop is already putting us on the right path for the future. 

Service Design might change over the years, and many tools and methods might be simply applied and executed by an AI. However, having in mind the five main service design principles: user-centric, co-creative, sequencing, evidencing, and holistic, we can discover, define, develop and deliver from all corners of the world at all moments in time.

Published on 11. 01. 2021

Written by Andreea Cozma on 12th of December, 2020

Refrences:

Thought Leaders’ Talk by Perttu Pölönen

Streamed live on Dec 2, 2020, Youtube videosharing platform

Current Topics in Service Design.

Unnecessary office?

The global pandemic Covid-19 has changed a whole lot how we relate to work and specially towards workplaces. Since spring 2020 almost all office workers have been quided to work remotely from home offices. Long awaited freedom for some, and prison to those who need social contacts to stay sane.  First qualitative studies show that many employees globally feel they will work more remotely after the pandemic is over. When asked, majority feels 3-4 days a week would be the new normal for remote work. Where will this lead? 

Vitra, a well-known design company held their annual two-day Vitra Summit on 22- 23 of October, exceptionally online. The seminar was divided into four categories, “The Human and the office”, “dynamic Spaces”, “Design matters” and “Remote World”. All themes dealt more or less the changed situation we are facing and how it effects to the ways we are working. The message was clear. “We are living in a totally new world. The attitude environment changed at the same phase as the physical environment around was closed. As I work in a field of workplace development, I deal this theme in my text.

Vitra Summit 2020

What comes to working during these abnormal times, it is evident that many psychological or trust related barriers were concurred overnight. Things that were said to be impossible to arrange worked out fast and quite easily. Learning curve in adapting new technologies and online working methods surprised us all. We have seen a peak on efficiency when meetings have been taken to Teams and no time has been wasted on moving from place to another. At the same time the number of meetings during the workday has exploded, activity during workdays has crashed down, there is less recovery time between meetings and spontaneous ideation with colleagues has dropped close to zero.  Good or bad, the way we consider our offices has changed, probably for good. 

In a discussion “will we miss the office if it disappears? The participants shared a common vision that the offices as we known will change. They are too expensive and as many feels, also too dangerous. At the same time the speakers in many discussions raised up the fact that we people are social animals. We get energized when we meet other people. Ideation and innovations don’t happen in a vacuum. Co-creation is more fruitful when people share a physical space. 

It came clear that most of the speakers felt that offices will get more dynamic. We have spoken of dynamic offices for a quite some time, but it in real life we have still designed open platform and multifunctional offices that are quite fixed. To be able to narrow down spaces into smaller sections or connect them into bigger co-creation spaces in according to the needs and situations will be the future. Also the seamless interaction of physical space and digital environments will take over. 

Remote working has become to stay, if we agree with the summit speakers. This has an impact on environment, our health and also our homes.  If the companies won’t have such a huge offices in the future will they provide ergonomic home office systems together with all the latest digital tools to the employees.  Will homes work as an office hub for one or will we see the raise of small city block hubs or co-working spaces? How we ensure that the company goals are achieved if people don’t interact face to face? Does this mean shifting down the fast speed of business economics? Is this just a momentary phase that we won’t even remember in ten years? A lot of open questions that we can start answering with empathy and design.

Tarja Paanola
SID Student @Laurea

#officespace #workplace #remoteoffice #covid19 #newnormal


https://www.vitra.com/en-fi/summit

Let’s play!

In service design you stumble sooner or later in the use of Legos. They can be used in many different ways and stages. In Global CX 2020 Day which themes this year were CHANGE, Transformation and Future of CX, one of the keynote speakers Sirte Pihlaja, CX/EX advisor, community creator and global #1 best-selling author tells on her talk “Get ready, Get serious, PLAY!” us how to use Legos and how to play, seriously!

Its is said in her introduction that Sirte Pihlaja’s purpose in life is to make people happy and happiness is also what she first talks about. She points out that for three years in a row Finland has been selected the happiest country in the world, even though even her colleagues wonder that every year. The aim of the company Shirute is anyway to make people happy.

Picture 1. The happy emoji. Photo by author.

Why happiness is then so important?

You have to be happy to deliver happiness. The atmosphere of the workplace is important and how workers feel is vital for business. If you are not feeling well, the customers won’t be neither. One of the first researchers of happiness was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who recognized and named the psychological concept of flow, a highly focused mental state of mind. Flow is important cause it raises your creativity and productivity, when you are in the highest mode of concentration. And why this interests also business life is that you can achieve more in one hour during flow than in one day in normal working state of mind. It was also said that boredom is the opposite of flow.

One way to feel happiness and engagement is playing. Play is the most fundamental human learning mechanism. It helps innovate new solutions that we need in business and life over all. Or as Stuart Brown has said: Play is like oxygen, once it’s missing, you’ll know it. Pihlaja says that also businesses should be more playful, because that’s how you keep up in the competition.

How do me find new solutions?

Pihlaja also says that we are born creative but the surrounding world and education system actually makes us less creative and it has also been tested. Already in 1965, 1600 children aged 4 to 6 years were tested and it showed that 98% of them were creative, after 10 years the creativity rate had sunk to 30% and after 15 years it was only 12%. The test was repeated with one million adults and the numbers were even more crucial, only 2% of them hit the genius level on creativity (see pic 2). Or as Esa Saarinen says it, the world is full of great philosophers, it is just that most of them are about 5 years old.

Pic 2. How your creativity “evolves”. Photo by author from the slideshow.

Let´s teamplay!

Playing helps us feel connected to our group of people, while you’ll also get to know other people better and faster. Teams grow sense of belonging when playing together. Members of a organization also feel then fresh and boosted! As Amber Case says, we have become slaves to our digital devices, when people’s primary task is not to be computing but being human. And what else is more human than interaction, or play? Imagination is actually the human superpower.

How do you built playful culture?

You have to change the ways of working, invest between your ears, not on material or equipment. And we should also accept, if not embrace failure, because it makes company more mature and open.

Pihlaja says that in a company we have to ask why we do something instead of what we do. You first have to get your employees know that “why” and then people will buy your product. But you need to think differently than everybody else. Pihlaja off course introduced us to LEGO Serious Play, a methodology that LEGO created for themselves when they needed to renew their business. It is a registered trademark for a catalyst for change (see pic 3).  It has different variations and applications like: Strategy, Beast, Cx play and Identity.

Pic 2: Lego Serious Play. Photo by author from the slideshow.

And as said before, imagination is the only limit what you can do while playing. Pihlaja says that with Legos you can for example do customer journey experience and mapping, customer management, built personas and so on. You can also corporate landscapes and make a shared model made out of individual models. And built future scenarios! In addition to everything mentioned in pic 4.

Pic 4: What Lego Serious Play can be used for. Photo by author from the slideshow.

One of Pihlaja’s teaching during the workshops is: Don’t think, just built! That is how you unleash your potential!

Author: Iiramaria Virkkala, SD student.

I´m not creative at all! And other experiences from the first workshop of SID-programme 2020

What makes a great designer? Who is creative enough? What is design thinking? Design itself is not anymore merely about aesthetics or product design, but about creating new kind of processes, services, interactions and collaboration. As new service innovation design students we all might worry that are we in the right programme; are we able to express enough creativity and generate new, bright ideas?

The definition of creativity has changed over time.  The term “creativity” derives from the Latin creare, which means “to generate” or “to produce”. Creativity refers to cognitive capacity to create something new.  (Tshcimmel 2020.) “The lone creative genius” myth is nowadays replaced by interdisciplinary collaborator (Brown, 2018).

Deep understanding of customers, their needs and emotions is crucial in developing more attractive offering. This is where the design thinking has a central role. Design principles can be applied to the way all people work, not just designers, which makes the role of design more central to businesses than before. Design thinking includes e.g. empathy with users, prototyping, tolerance for failure and embracing risk. (Kolko 2015.) Motee (2013) describes design thinking quite poetically as: « the search for a magical balance between business and art, structure and chaos, intuition and logic, concept and execution, playfulness and formality, and control and empowerment ». Design thinking can also refer to cognitive process, a mindset or a method with a toolkit for innovation process (Tshcimmel 2020).

A classroom full of enthusiastic collaborators, great designers-to-be, in the Design Thinking Masterclass were given a task to produce new solutions of the theme: Social distancing in the educational institutions. The 2-day workshop was lead by professor Katja Tschimmel from  Mindshake company. Our team selected to elaborate the theme of safe commuting to the campus, thus we developed an e-bike concept to Laurea. The process of development followed the workshop structure: team member introductions, sketching the ideas into the mindmap, selecting three project ideas, voting the most feasible idea, elaborating the idea, prototyping it with the Lego serious play -toolkit, testing the prototype by introducing it to another team,  modification based on the questions from another team, preparing for pitching; converting the prototype into story with a comic strip picture and finally pitching the concept to the SID -classmates. This was an excellent start of our SID programme;  two days loaded with intensive teamwork and theoretical knowledge of design thinking, key concepts and practical training.

I am particularly interested in visualization, team leadership and creative problem solving within multidiciplinary teams. Therefore I wanted to learn how different visualization techniques were used in the Design Thinking workshop. Power of visualization was used in the team building: through visual introduction; drawing pictures and writing notes about team members, making a prototype; it helped us to see the big picture, and identifying the missing points and failures in our concept and in mind maps; seeing the connections between different elements from which our e-bike concept was constructed and finally converting our prototype into storytelling with a story board. From the team leading learning perspective in mind, I also observed what kind of stance do our team members take on their own creativity during teamwork sessions and how will our team perform in decision making situations. All in all I learned most about the process of concept development and the core elements of design thinking.

It was indeed a pleasure to see the sparking creativity in action – especially of those team members, who themselves claimed not to be creative at all! I can not wait to see what we will develop in collaboration with each creative mind bubbling with new ideas.

Written by Tanja Saloniemi

REFERENCES

Brown, Tim (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf   

Kolko, Jon (2015). Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. (Links to an external site.) Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.

Tshcimmel, Katja (2020). Creativity, Design ja Design Thinking – ménage à trios. In Perspectives on Design: Research, Education ja Practice II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. (in process).

Mootee, Idris (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation : What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/laurea/detail.action?docID=1358566

Design thinking as a unique fusion of tools and approaches to unlock innovative potential

As the pace of technological change is constantly increasing, we are spending more time consuming the constant flow of innovation rather than creating something new. Tschimmel (2020) suggests that “innovation is the driving force for the quality of life and economy”. However, how to unlock the hidden capabilities all of us possess to enable this contribution to the common good? Design thinking helps to use a broader range of tools and approaches to expand one’s creativity and enable innovation processes. Design thinking is built on the 7 key principles:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Human-centred approach
  3. Experimentation
  4. Divergence
  5. Visualisation
  6. Holistic perspective
  7. Prototyping

During a 2-days masterclass on Design Thinking at Laurea we were presented, and had a chance to use in practice, Katja Tschimmel’s Innovation & Design Thinking Mindshake model. The model includes a step-by-step process to design and create something new.

As part of the workshop, we walked through each of the steps and applied the methodology for solving a suggested problem. At first I was skeptical about the value of “another ideation tool”, but once applied in practice, the value has become more apparent. This design process enables the imagination to flourish and brings new perspectives by utilizing a fusion of techniques and approaches.

Motivated by inspiring discussions, I next approached one of the recommended books called “Change by design”. Tim Brown’s seminal paper on Design Thinking describes approaches that made a firm IDEO one of the leaders in design consulting. Tim emphasizes the human-centered aspect of design thinking arguing that empathy is the fundamental tool to grasp problems and perspectives the end users are dealing with. I ended up giving the book 3 on the scale between 1 to 5 on Goodreads due to heavy marketing implications of the included stories, however the paper definitely brought my understanding of the design thinking fundamentals to a new level and stirred up my interest in the topic further.

Coming from a professional services field where structural problem-solving is the key enabler, design thinking at first seems like a discipline full of “fluff” with unnecessary “poetic” or even esoteric implications. Luckily, I enjoy these genres. Like the “not-necessarily 100% scientifically-backed” works of Carlos Castaneda or Marshall Rosenberg at some point in my life gave me new momentums to start something new, I have high hopes for Design Thinking to expand the professional boundaries I’ve been locked into in the recent years.

Resources:

Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5 2020. Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Espoo, Finland.   

Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tschimmel, Katja (2020 forthcoming). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois 

Pereira, J.C.; Russo, R. (2018). Design Thinking Integrated in Agile Software Development: A Systematic Literature Review.

Can we feel someone remotely?

Stuck at home, we participated in Katja Tschimmel’s Design Thinking Masterclass through Zoom. And it made us think: Is it possible to gain genuine empathy remotely? Or is it the stuff of mind reading heros in Hollywood movies?

Xavier, the mind reading X-Man.
Photo from IMDB, Murray Close – © TM and 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

Empathy is a core concept of design thinking. Indeed, it is fundamental in the phases of inspiration, observation, discovery, and understanding, depending on which process variation of design thinking is used (Tschimmel 2020). 

In “Change by design”, Tim Brown (2019) describes empathy as putting yourself in another persons shoes, seeing through the eyes of another, and as such gain a subjective understanding of their experience. Quite succinctly, this sums up the psychological process of empathy. But how can we make that happen with virtual interaction only, given that it’s possible at all?

According to Kouprie and Sleeswijk Visser there are two types of empathy: Affective and cognitive. Affective is an immediate emotional response, and cognitive is understanding the emotional state of another person. They state that “Motivation is crucial for an effective process”, but don’t mention Goleman’s third type of empathy explicitly: Compassionate empathy which he describes as “knowing, feeling and being motivated to help, if needed”. (Goleman,1995; Kouprie & Sleeswijk Visser 2009).

In order for compassionate empathy to occur, there are three neurocognitive processes that need to happen (Lieberman, 2015): 

  1. Mind reading – imagining someone else’s experience,
  2. Affect matching – imitating someone else’s experience and feeling what the other person is feeling and
  3. Empathetic motivation – being motivated do something about it, providing the two frist are in place.

Of course, these processes happen entirely in our brains and bodies. But they do require input, which should at least in some instances be possible to generate through remote communication or observation. Yet, full immersion in the non-digital experience of a person whom we’re trying to empathise with, seems to us quite impossible.

Gaining empathy is a tricky thing

Empathy doesn’t happen quickly and easily. It requires time, effort, and genuine interest (Kouprie & Sleeswijk Visser 2009). Lucy Kimbell (2009) calls for sound ethnographic research methods to be able to properly understand and serve people’s needs. So in order to be empathetic, there has to be a real connection with the person, which can be built through for example collaboration and co-creation.

In his book, Tim Brown (2019) is not convinced by what the internet has to offer in regards to empathy in design. But the book is over 10 years old (we listened to the revised edition from 2019). Today, we are much more used to working with online tools to create connections between participants and to co-create online. The problem in online setting can often be the time frame: we are still not used to long online sessions which makes it difficult to establish a real connection.

Feeling connected during the masterclass

Our mentalizing and mirroring abilities are heavily influenced and are more active with visual stimuli (Lieberman, 2015).

So seeing each other’s intimate home environments, with family members “bombing our screens”, can perhaps enhancethe experience of collaborating and co-creating remotely. At least, this was the feeling we were left with: Even though the two days spent looking at a screen with headphones on were very tiring, there was an underlying feeling of genuine connection.

Written by Ana, Neea and Erlend

References

  • Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84–95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf
  • Brown, Tim (2019). Revised edition Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 
  • Goleman, Daniel (1996), Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, London. UK
  • Kimbell, L. (2009), Rethinking Design Thinking., Liverpool, European Academy of Management.
  • Lieberman, M. D. (2014). Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Broadway Books. New York, US
  • Tschimmel, K. (2020). Design Thinking Masterclass held at SID Laurea.

Playfulness creates savings

I participated on the 23th of September in Helsinki Design Week’s Aalto University’s Design club online talk “Creative practices for transformational futures” with Tuuli Mattelmäki, associate Professor and Head of department of Design in Aalto and Zaynep Falay a Partner in Hellon design agency, that does collaboration with Aalto University.  They were talking about their new co-project Creatures.

Picture 1. Logo of Creatures.
Photo by author from the slideshow.

This talk was very popular and international. It was said in the beginning that there were around 70 people from 17 countries around the world, all the way to New Zeeland.  And according to the poll that was held first there were people from different sectors from design to business world.

First Mattelmäki talked about the project from Aalto’s perspective. Aalto is the coordinator of the whole project. The consortium is large and international and includes practitioners and institutes from North to South Europe. There was also a pilot of the project done in the University of Sussex.

The point of this EU funded project is to bring creative practices in to design and development in different sectors. Mattelmäki showed us some examples of the meta-projects done with for example soil and environment, see picture.

Picture 2. Department of Design. Photo by author from the slideshow.

Mattelmäki also introduced us to the keys of change when it comes to managing with the problems and issues that we need to change and solve in the modern world. The keys are collaboration and direct engagement. We need to bring people together, one way or another, as the Covid-19 situation has showed us. She also pointed out that the problems and also future scenarios are scary, which can block our imagination and thinking, so that is why we need playfulness and creativity that can help us overcome it. Other keys are experimental qualities and learning together as well as intervention and processes themselves, that can lead to new ways of feeling and being, and also create innovations and knowledge. In addition Mattelmäki shared some research data about the creativity that is linked below.

Falay continued about the subject matter and introduced us to Hellon, an award winning design agency. She said that opposite to many other service design offices that are digital, Hellon focus is not in digital development but human centeredness and they really bring the person in the center. In Hellon they like to do things differently and push the boundaries, see picture.

Picture 3. About Hellon. Photo by author from the slideshow.

They have a history of designing future scenario design game, that is also linked below. In this project they are developing a new game and firmly believe that playing and playfulness is the key to solve problems and develop future design, solutions and sustainability. Falay says that playing makes uncertainty more bearable and more fun. It gives much more than traditional work methods.

The upcoming sustainability futures game creates new ways of thinking and is based on experimental practice. In the game there is no need to win, it’s more about the atmosphere and playfulness itself that pushes our thinking and makes us creative. But developing the game is serious business, you have to have relevant content and the back work that needs to be based on research is essential.

They are already testing the game with different audiences and have had a positive feedback. But sometimes it’s also a challenge to get people to take the playing as a method and the game seriously. The route to get it work is through mature design process and especially prototyping! You also need to have some more enthusiastic and open-minded people in a test environment first on board and rest will follow.

The conclusion is that for the future world, we need hope, co-creation, cross board collaboration to get things move forward and developed. We need to have science and research, designers and people in the business world to work together to create the change.

In the session there was a final poll and the results were clear.  0% answered “saving time and resources” for what is important in their work in design. Which is indicative of one of the biggest hinder we face when bringing unusual creative practices into traditional contexts and that should be tackled with managers and leaders as well. Mattelmäki stressed that academia is in fact connected to the society. There has to be research behind the work. And one of her favorite things is collaboration, how research can actually help businesses and enterprises. Research brings credibility to development. It helps also to get implementations done faster. Which saves money in the end. Or as Hellon puts it, customer experience design is today’s number 1 driver of profitable growth.

Pic 4. Collaboration. Photo: authors detail of the slideshow.

Author: Iiramaria Virkkala

References and to look for more info:

Creatures
Creatures laboratory
Hellon
Hellon’s future game
Survey about creativity

Light et al. 2018. Creative practice and transformations to Sustainability making and managing cultural change.

Light A., Wolstenholme R., Twist, B. 2019. Creative practice and sustainability – insights from research.