Innovation and human centered design in the fight against HIV and AIDS

The International AIDS conferece, AIDS2020Virtual was organized 6-10 July 2020. Thousands of scientists, activists, policy makers, people living with HIV and others came together to share the newest information on HIV and AIDS. I attended the virtual conference and in this post I will discuss one of the sessions on human centered design.

Innovation has fueled medical advancements

Innovation has shaped the course of the whole HIV epidemic. In the 1980s getting an HIV diagnosis meant a certain death. Since then we’ve come a long way through several crucial innovations in HIV treatment and prevention, one of the most crucial ones being antiretroviral medication. Today thanks to effective treatment, a person living with HIV can live a long and healthy life.

Through further innovation, we can reach the end of this epidemic. There is much research in the pipeline around an HIV vaccine, a possible cure and preventive treatment, such as different options for PrEP. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a medicine that people who are at a high risk of HIV can use to prevent infection. Read more about PrEP here

Reaching the most vulnerable through human centered design

Although medical advances have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV, the development has been unequal and many people have been left behind. Therefore, HIV service provision is now gaining more attention, so that the ones that have been left behind during the past 40 years of HIV work, can be better included in the response in the future. This is where I believe that human centered design can play an important role.

During the #AIDS2020Virtual conference I attended a discussion on human centered design and how it can be utilized in HIV prevention and testing. Throughout the conference, the importance of empathy came up in discussions with people living with HIV, key populations in terms of HIV, activists and specialists. As human centered design is grounded in empathy and since it puts the person at the center of the service that is designed for their benefit, it brings a lot of value for designing HIV services and programs. Human centered design does not only take into consideration what people say, but beneficiaries of services can actually impact the final service through their actions, based on their needs, motivations and desires. The session included speakers from USAID, JSI, Matchboxology and Ideo.org. They all introduced case studies in advancing HIV treatment or prevention through human centered design.

Designing an HIV prevention program with and for young women

I will share with you the case study introduced by Matchboxology. The case study focused on young girls in South Africa, as women and especially young girls have a higher risk of HIV infection than men in the country. (Avert 2020)

A multidisciplinary team came together to develop the methodology, conduct user research and in the end develop a concept and brand to increase PrEP use among young girls in South Africa. One of the main successes in the human centered design project was that they flipped the script and redefined the patient as the consumer. Through the user research they found that the young women did not see themselves as patients and they did not feel like they needed medical interventions. Taking a strictly medical approach to preventing HIV would therefore be challenging.

Screenshot from Matchboxology’s presentation during AIDS2020Virtual. Redefining the patient as the consumer in an HIV prevention campaign.

The team redefined the paradigm of HIV prevention as something that focuses on self-empowerment rather than on the message of not getting HIV. They collaborated with young people across South Africa and the private sector to create a brand that presents PrEP as something equally as fun and desirable as makeup and fashion. The successful project developed the brand V, which included visuals, messaging, packaging and brand ambassadors to help young women protect themselves from HIV by using PrEP.

Screenshot from Matchboxology’s presentation during AIDS2020Virtual. Branded materials used in the South African HIV prevention campaign “V”.

When you understand consumers better, you can disrupt, innovate and generate behavior change!

When asking one of the participants in the design process what she thought the best part of the human centered design process was, she fittingly described the process as follows: “It’s about what I like, how I define myself, not about how others define me.” 

Additional resources and references

Resources:

The AIDS2020Virtual materials, presentations and cultural exhibitions are now available for free at: https://cattendee.abstractsonline.com/meeting/9289/meeting-info

Read more information about the “V”- campaign and the design process here: https://www.prepwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Research_and_background.pdf

References:

Avert. 2020. HIV and AIDS in South Africa. https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/south-africa#:~:text=South%20Africa%20has%20the%20biggest,and%20people%20who%20inject%20drugs.

Hivpoint. Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV. https://hivpoint.fi/en/hiv-and-aids-information/pre-exposure-prophylaxis-hiv-prep/

Written by: Michelle Sahal Estimé

The Era of Disruption as an Innovation Enabler — How to Spot and Scan Trends to Kick-Start the Change?

The future takes time to build, and each day is an opportunity to reflect on and plan for the next day

From the Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation by Carleton et al. 2013

The global pandemic outbreak in spring 2020 is continuing to disrupt markets, organizations and even our behaviours. As changes, new needs, expectations and innovations are emerging, it is important to proactively make sense of this new context.

Marketoonist

Digital Transformation and Organizational Change by Tom Fishburne, Marketoonist, April 2020

 

The era of disruption tends to provide a valuable moment to experiment with new business ideas and even launch businesses. In fact, as Trend Hunter highlights, a large number of companies has been established during a recession, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, Disney, Hyatt, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Pinterest and WhatsApp.

As an innovation designer and change facilitator, I have helped both small and large businesses to build an understanding on the importance of trend spotting and scanning. In this article, I will cover the current context and challenges for innovation, the benefits of trend spotting and scanning, 3 insightful sources for trends and one practical framework to get started.

Current Context

Many brands are highly valuing the innovations. If we take Peter Drucker’s definition for the term innovation (in Harvard Business Review 2002), i.e. “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential”, it should indeed be high on every brand’s agendas.

Interestingly, according to Salesforce research released in May 2020, marketers’ current top priority is innovating, while simultaneously it is also one of their top challenges. This example demonstrates the dilemma people tend to have for activities related to innovations.

Based on various research conducted, a majority of people state they simply don’t have time to work on ideas, although many acknowledge its importance. As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter, emphasized in his keynote speech “How to Make Innovation & Change Happen”, there are a plenty of other distractors we all have, which are preventing us to focus on innovating. These can be categorized under six themes, as shown here.

Distractors

The 6 Distractors of Innovation by Trend Hunter, as Presented by Jeremy Gutsche.

Having said that, sometimes there’s no other choice than removing distractors. The research by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, published in May 2020, confirmed how small and medium-sized businesses are facing immediate cash flow issues, lack of demand and an uncertain future.

Yet, despite of this rather gloomy context, entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are also present among businesses. Since small and medium-sized businesses are vital e.g. for local communities, finding new and creative ways to reach and serve customers is thus highly encouraged.

Benefits of Trend Analysis

Asemphasized by J. Peter Scoblic in the article “Learning from the Future”, published on Harvard Business Review in July-August 2020, the practice of strategic foresight provides capabilities to sense, shape, and adapt to change as it happens. As such, there are multiple frameworks and tools to anticipate possible futures.

HBR_Jul-Aug20

The Cover of Harvard Business Review Magazine of July-August 2020

One practical way going forward is to spot systematically evolving trends and new innovations and, consequently, analyze what these could mean for your brand, customers and the industry as a whole. Before moving on, it is meaningful to clarify how the term “trend” can be understood. A trend is a new manifestation among people, related to behaviour, attitude or expectation, of a fundamental human need, want or desire (Mason et al. 2015, 46). Trend analysis, on the other hand, is about considering the potential influence of patterns of change that are already visible (J. Peter Scoblic 2020, 44).

All trends, in the end, can offer valuable innovation opportunities. The key is to unlock these prospects by adapting them for your context. The focus should be how a trend is relevant, rather than whether it is relevant (Mason et al. 2015, 145).

This fact alone highlights the advantage of the trend analysis. Moreover, it can bring in multiple other benefits along the journey from fueling your creativity to meeting, or even exceeding, your customer expectations, as I have summarized in the illustration inspired by the Double Diamond model of the British Design Council.

Trend_Analysis_Benefits_Nina_Kostamo

Trend Spotting and Scanning Can Deliver Benefits Along Your Journey. (The Visualization Created by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

3 Insightful and Inspiring Sources for Trends

How to spot trends easily? There are numerous organizations that are focusing on collecting, synthesizing and publishing insightful trend reports on a regular basis. These reports can be considered as valuable starting points to gain an overview on what’s trending. Especially acknowledging the issue with time most of us seem to have, it is easier to take advantage of curated and regularly updated trend reports by the trend agencies and the foresight specialists. My 3 favorite sources right now are the following.

Trend Hunter

trendHunter

Trendhunter.com Covers a Wide-Range of Trends and Innovations. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020)

Trendhunter.com is said to be the world’s largest trend community with 20 million monthly views and a database of over 400,000 ideas and innovations. The insightful content also includes inspiring trend reports, articles, newsletters, talks, tools and books.

Think with Google

google

Think with Google Leverages Global Data Points and Packs Them in Insightful Reports. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020).

Think with Google provides regular reports on signals, trends and insights based on Google data, research and analysis conducted by Google teams. Their newsletter is packed with interesting point of views and special collection pages on emerging trends with multiple data points, illustrated in graphs and other visual formats, are to the point.

TrendWatching

Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 17.36.17

TrendWatching Has Launched Multiple New Trend and Innovations Sites in Spring 2020. (A Screenshot Taken in August 3, 2020).

TrendWatching, a company specialized in consumer trend and innovations scanning, has both free and premium content available, but to start with, you can find a number of articles, reports, keynote talks and more. In 2020, TrendWatching has launched two new initiatives. Firstly, COVID Innovations site has a curated collection of over 1000 inspiring and recent innovations captured around the world, and secondly, Business of Purpose site proposes a community to exchange insights and share opportunities, and a plenty of curated resources, including statistics and insights. Moreover, TrendWatching delivers to its subscribers the “Innovation of the Day” content by email on a daily basis.

Trend Insights in Action: 1 Practical and Tested Framework

But what to do with all this future-oriented content? In the end, it is equally important to utilize these insights in ways that will be beneficial for you and your brand, while being able to grasp opportunities in a timely manner.

Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.

– Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Review, 2002

To give focus and methodology, let me introduce one concrete framework, which I have found specifically useful to conduct trend analysis.

Trend Driven Innovation Methodology

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Trend Driven Innovation Methodology by TrendWatching

TrendWatching has developed a framework called Trend Driven Innovation Methodology, which was thoroughly introduced in the book “Trend-Driven Innovation: Beat Accelerating Customer Expectations”.

According to this methodology, to be able to address the sweet spot, brands should track three key trend elements:

1. basic human needs,

2. drivers of change and

3. innovations.

Let’s explore these elements.

We humans all have basic needs, wants and desires, which remain the same, despite the changes happening around us. All trends are, after all, rooted in these basic needs. Authenticity, honesty, freedom and transparency can be considered as our fundamental needs.

basic-needs

Examples of Needs (TrendWatching Webinar)

What comes to changes, we know the change is constant, accelerated and happening everywhere. To understand the drivers of change, brands should look at shifts, i.e. the long-term macro changes and triggers.

The examples of shifts are climate change, urbanization and aging population. Triggers, on the other hand, are more immediate changes, such as political events, environmental incidents, and new technologies. What is trending in social networks or new products can give hints on social change. Frameworks such as PESTLE and STEEPLED provide support to analyze further these changes.

Changes_Examples

Examples of Changes (TrendWatching Webinar)

Thirdly, innovations are important since they inform on how the market is changing, what are the new entrants, new services, or experiences. Thus, spotting business innovations can help to assess what consumers will want next. In the end, innovations will create new expectations, which is why the terms such as “Expectation Economy”, “Experience Economy” and “Liquid Expectations” have been discussed in the recent years.

However, main emphasis should not be on these individual elements, but rather on the sweet spot, or tension, between basic needs, drivers of changes and innovations. This tension can be further evaluated by building an understanding on customer expectations and gaps between what is currently being offered (Mason et al. 2015, 48).

Transforming Current Trends to Innovative Ideas

The trend spotting encourages to act on the opportunities and identifying points of tension. How can you transform current trends to innovative ideas, which will be beneficial for your brand and your customers? Here’s a quick guide of main steps to take using the Trend Driven Innovation Methodology.

Step 1.

In practice, you can kick off your analysis by taking any of these starting points:

1. a new innovation and build an understanding what drivers of change and basic needs this innovation is addressing or

2. a new driver of change and spot innovations that are tackling this change or

3. a basic need by asking do I want to address it with my business, how I might satisfy this need, and consequently, what drivers of change are relevant for me that I can leverage.

Step 2.

Once you have decided your starting point, you can use the Consumer Trend Canvas to help you to structure and break down your analysis and ideation.

If you are short in time, you may try to get this filled in within a few hours. This approach, however, requires ideally some pre-work such as gathering trend inspiration in advance and securing a participation of multi-disciplinary team of at least 4 people, and a facilitator, for more creative results. On the contrary, you can also take your time and do some proper research for both parts of the canvas. If you are working alone, it would be beneficial to get some peer review and iterate the outputs accordingly.

Screenshot 2020-08-03 at 22.12.02

Consumer Trend Canvas bby TrendWatching

 

In either way, focus firstly on the analyze part of the canvas and leverage the trend sources mentioned above to get you going. For inspiration, you can also use trend cards, Pinterest, or other trend reports to trigger further thoughts and ideas.

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Trend Cards Can Be Useful to Trigger Inspiration. These Cards Were Used in a Workshop Facilitated by TrendWatching during the NEXT Conference 2018. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

Step 3.

Once your ‘analyze’ part ready, you can jump into the ‘apply’ part. It will be fruitful to ideate how you can potentially apply this trend and emerging expectations in your particular case and who would actually benefit from it.

Spend some time to ideate possible innovations and what would be the innovation potential. To get more ideas, I would recommend additionally to use a structured brainstorming method such as Creative Matrix. When ideating, remember to go for quantity over quality and focus on opportunities on where the attention and expectations are. Out of this ideation method, you can bring the most interesting ideas back to the Consumer Trend Canvas.

Step 4.

At this stage, you may wonder what shall you do once you have your first canvas filled in.

Ideally, you are ready to take a step forward, and go deeper how would this innovation actually work. For that purpose, you can use, for instance, the Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer and further ideate how to experiment the innovation using the Experiment Canvas, created by Ash Maurya.

If you can imagine an improved future state, you can likely make it happen

From the Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation by Carleton et al. 2013

To conclude, current challenging time calls for deeper reflections, creative ideas and experimentations.

Different types of organizations from the well-established brands to new solo entrepreneurs can benefit from systematic trend spotting and scanning activities. Trend analysis provides opportunities to rethink the strategies, ways of operating and the overall offerings. In the end, regardless of your motivation and interests, you can take a proactive role in sensemaking and ideating an inspiring future.

 

Written by:

Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016

Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive

twitter.com/NinaDeNapapiiri

10 Days to Make a Change — What I Learned from the Cross-European Virtual Hackathon

Using design and online collaboration to address challenges as a result of global COVID-19 outbreak

GoneVirtual

As in spring 2020 we were experiencing nearly a global lockdown, I was searching for opportunities to collaborate with others virtually and contribute to the vast societal challenges that were taken place. After worrying news related to pandemic, I felt it was meaningful to be able to connect with others, learn and devote to an important cause. This triggered me to join a 10-day open innovation design process named as UNA.TEN (Transform Emergency Now! 10 days for change) hackathon by the University Alliance Europe.

Una.ten

UNA.TEN hackathon communication material by Helsinki Think Company

 

To achieve local impact through European collaboration, UNA.TEN hackathon brought virtually together over 100 master level students from seven universities and several local partners across Europe to develop solutions to address challenges related to the COVID-19 context in April-May 2020. I participated in the event with virtual Helsinki team together with Helsinki Think Company and the University of Helsinki and was able to collaborate with participants from Bologna, Edinburgh, Krakow, Leuven, Madrid and Paris.

 

What made this really unique was that the fact that the hackathon was online, and we were all experiencing the same situation of being locked down in our homes.

I had previously participated in numerous design events such as design sprints, hackathons, co-creation workshops and global service and sustainability jams in different roles varying from a facilitator to a mentor and participant throughout Europe. However, all these events had been conducted face-to-face and participants had travelled to the same location, sometimes even from another side of the world, to benefit from the close on-site collaboration. I was thus curious to find out how would all virtual 10-day hackathon work in practice.

Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process virtually

Design thinking mindset and open innovation design process were framing the hackathon. Each local team could choose between four design challenges. The topics, formulated as statement starters, were relevant and diverse:

  • How might we rethink entertainment and cultural activities during the COVID post-emergency period?
  • How might we protect our privacy and help to fight dangers, fears, and misconceptions in a digital world?
  • How might we ensure travellers’ safety while COVID-19 is not fully defeated yet?
  • How might we avoid food waste due to supply chain disruption?

Schedule_una_ten

Timeline and activities of UNA.TEN hackathon (Material shared by Helsinki Think Company to participants)

Following the local and international kick-off events, organized as video calls, and creative online warm-ups, each team initiated an intense research phase to explore the context. Within a short timeframe, teams were conducting online interviews with relevant stakeholders to better understand the needs and aspirations of the people who were at the center of design.

Based on the sensemaking and the 1st insights, the challenges were reframed to scope the next phases of design accordingly. An international benchmarking call helped to gain additional inspiration and build an understanding what paths other teams had investigated. Based on the challenge reframing, the ideation could be kicked off. Teams were encouraged to move quickly to prototyping to gather more information and feedback. Again, joint calls with other teams helped to reflect and develop further.

As such, sounds like a regular open innovation design process. So what were the lessons learned of this all online 10-day event?

100% virtual hackathon — it works!

Until very recently, I was one of those who strongly believed how design process, from design research to ideation and testing, should be conducted mostly, if not entirely, face-to-face to be successful. Indeed, there’s a long list of benefits that onsite creative and collaborative process is bringing, and I was not questioning it. This is why I also literally travelled around the world to conduct research and facilitate co-creation workshops and design sprints. Moreover, I often encouraged my client teams to invite their distributed team members to one specific location to harness the power of on-site collaboration.

Onsite_Collab

On-site collaboration in action. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

However, these special times have demonstrated fast our ability to co-create engaging online experiences.

Indeed, based on our hackathon, people collaborate eagerly, use new online tools and design methods and are excited about the overall experience and the outcomes.

Yes, there might be some hiccups here and there, but not necessary more than in regular face-to-face events.

For me, as a fan of onsite co-creation events, this was a clear a-ha moment.

aha

Next let me share my reflections and three lessons learned what made this virtual hackathon successful. I also add a few things to consider if you are about to plan a similar type of online event.


3 Lessons Learned from Virtual Hackathon

 

1. With people for people

As usual in a hackathon, people do not necessarily know each other upfront. In this event, although we had never met face-to-face and had very different backgrounds, we felt united. We all shared the same situation, being in self-isolation at our homes, willing to connect with others and eager to be able contribute to something purposeful. It felt we were together despite of distances, with a clear vision and enthusiasm. This shared motivation was one of the enablers, which made this hackathon a rewarding experience.

Participants

UNA.TEN hackathon participants’ motivation was an important success factor. (Photo shared originally on Twitter by Helsinki Think Company)

 

Ultimately, it is easier to create a great experience and results when people are motivated. In this event, motivation came naturally as participants were volunteering. On the contrary, often at workplaces, participants’ motivation tend to vary, e.g. some participants might feel forced to join, while others might feel distracted due to stress related to their daily jobs, which consequently can hinder the focus on the process and collaboration.

Things to consider:

If you are conducting a virtual design event, such as a design sprint, hackathon or co-creation workshop, take time to reflect and plan:

  • How to motivate people to participate? Even better, ask them upfront.
  • How to secure participants’ full engagement and keep them engaged throughout the process. What methods and techniques can you bring to facilitate the motivation virtually?

2. Trusting the process — and facilitation

This hackathon provided a joint learning experience where students and coaches connected across Europe in several occasions to share experiences, ideate, learn, present and receive feedback. Many of the participants were not familiar with a human-centered design approach, design process with divergent and convergent thinking, methods or tools we were using. Yet, it turned out well.

Outcome-focused remote facilitation and well-balanced constraints help to reach the goals

Although the process as such might be robust, you do need facilitators — those who think over the process and select the most suitable, outcome-focused, methods, plan the schedule and organize the logistics, provide guidance and inspiration, help people to get over the obstacles and remind them on the overall goals. This is a familiar topic from face-to-face events, but this online hackathon emphasized it again.

The facilitation needs to happen at multiple levels, at the process, the group but also individual levels to keep the focus and rhythm. We had facilitators and coaches for the overall hackathon, but also for the challenge area at the European level and locally.

Additionally, having set constraints, such as tight timelines and regular checkpoints to share, learn and inspire helped people to move in the right direction within the agreed timeframe. Multiple channels created on Slack encouraged people to share their thoughts and best practices in between the video calls. We could feel the pace, even though we were not physically in the same room.

Things to consider

To ensure a successful virtual design event:

  • How can you secure a sufficient number of skilled facilitators to get and keep the ball rolling over multiple remote teams and team members?
  • What kind of schedule would be realistic enough to get the results needed for each phase, from research to ideation and testing, yet feel slightly challenging to get most out of people’s creative capabilities?

3. Virtual collaboration facilitated by the thoughtful methods, enabled by technology

To conduct this all virtual hackathon, multiple digital collaboration tools were used throughout the process, e.g. Google, Miro, Slack and Zoom. Although one could get easily lost between these different channels and online spaces, our experience went rather smoothly.

The last time I had used Miro was back in 2017 when it was still known as RealtimeBoard. Throughout our design process from research to concepting, it turned out to be valuable tool.

In fact, for the hackathon purposes, facilitators and coaches had pre-selected canvases, i.e. the templates, and set up our virtual collaboration spaces, which made it easy to jump in right away. However, not that long time ago, printing large canvases and securing a good number of sticky notes were mandatory prerequisites of a successful co-creation workshop. Indeed, sometimes, as facilitators, we found ourselves dragging canvases to airports, hotels and workshop locations to capture the ideas and outcomes of the creative process and secure we could later convert the details into a digital format.

Dragging

From paper canvases to digital canvases. On the left side, we were dragging the co-design workshop canvases in a hotel corridor. On the right side, the screenshots of UNA.TEN hackathon’s digital canvases on Miro. (Photo by Nina Kostamo Deschamps)

So having tested the latest of these digital tools during this hackathon, I must say they do enable the creativity, proactive collaboration and facilitate the process. For instance, Miro has not only ready-map templates but also kits with step-by-step guides.

And there are a plenty of other tools and guides to make this happen regardless of your role in the design process. Jake KnappJohn Zeratsky, and Jackie Colburn just published a new guide how to conduct design sprints remotely and Mural has been busy with creating how-to guides and more during the recent months. All in all, these tools and guides do not only enable efficient remote collaboration and provide an opportunity to conduct end-to-end design thinking and innovation processes virtually but, in many cases, they also facilitate the processing the outcomes quicker.

Miro

Ready to use templates and kits on Miro.

Things to consider

  • What tools and methods can you best leverage to conduct your virtual session successfully? Do you have a sufficient amount of time reserved to set and test the overall flow prior to day 1?
  • What is your plan B in case the participants face issues with the selected tools?

To conclude, what were the outcomes and highlights of this all virtual hackathon?

UNA.TEN was concluded with presentations on May 8th, just one day prior to Europe Day 2020. Interesting and innovative solutions were ideated, such as an immersive experience connecting international audiences and performers virtually, while exploring the historic city of Edinburgh, the ‘bubble’ festival with live music, with a concept of being together but safe, a social distancing framework, a new way to discover local activities with safety measures, a digital service to organize trips in the countryside, a platform to connect local travel entrepreneurs to jointly package their offering with others to create more meaningful experiences to travellers and so on. Some teams, with the help of their local partners are proceeding further with their concepts.

Reflecting the overall experience

The UNA.TEN hackathon was time well spent, and it inspired me to continue to explore virtual possibilities.

Here are the highlights of this virtual hackathon:

  1. Participation in an engaging social experience
  2. Getting to know people across Europe
  3. A reminder about the benefits of cross-European collaboration
  4. First-hand experience and lessons learnt how design process works all online and virtually
  5. Possibility to test the latest tools and digital templates
  6. A chance to contribute to topical issues
  7. Concrete ideas how to help entrepreneurs who are suffering from the COVID-19 implications
  8. Opportunity to continue experimenting with concepts created.

Finally, it will be interesting to see how our ways of working will be digitized in a longer run. Will this special era disrupt the way we work and collaborate for good, also within innovation and design thinking scene?

Written by:

Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016

Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive

twitter.com/NinaDeNapapiiri

Going Circular

Event: LOOP Circular case studies, webinar series in May and June 2020

A couple of months ago I participated in a circular design workshop, where I became acquainted with the key concepts of circular design. As the topic was really interesting, it was inspirational to find a webinar series with presentations of concrete cases how to move from linear to circular economy in practise. Webinar series was provided by LOOP which is a Nordic Innovation ecosystem with interest in making companies go circular. It was founded in 2018 as a cooperation between Avanto Ventures, Sitra and Nordic Innovation, and the network is continuously expanding. As circular economy demands partnerships and collaboration, LOOP ecosystem is a response to those demands.

The webinar series, which included four webinars, was held during May and June 2020 and all the cases were extremely interesting and highlighted well different aspects that must be taken into consideration in circular design – for example new business models, importance of collaboration and role of ecosystems. In this blogpost I will go through briefly three cases: case Fiskars Vintage, Omocom and TotalCtrl. In addition to shortly explain the cases, I will focus especially on discussing my main takeaways from the circular design point of view.

Circular into profitable business – Case Vintage from Fiskars

In the first webinar Nora Haatainen, Director, New Business and Growth, from Fiskars Group described how Fiskars Group, an old consumer goods company, has started to create value to the customers through new business opportunities in the circular economy. Fiskars Group has set sustainability targets, which aim to find ways for reusing, reselling, and recycling their main brand products. It was really interesting to hear how a company with a long history of manufacturing moves towards circular economy.

The project that Haatainen explained in her presentation was about one of Fiskars’ main category, tableware, and considered especially brands Iittala and Arabia. The purpose was to find out specifically what kind of aftermarket business opportunities there exists from circular economy point of view. Focusing on the smallest circular loop – reusing and reselling – is logical from the profitability perspective because it retains the value the best way as the products do not demand processing. As any business projects, also circular business projects must be profitable and valuable to the customer in order to be successful in the future. For this purpose, key performance indicators were specified right in the beginning of the project, defining aims for the business perspective as well as customer perspective (Picture 1).

Picture 1. Key performance indicators (Slide from the presentation of Haatainen)

It was interesting to hear the different steps of design process, how it proceeded from ideation, hypothesis creation and co-designing with the customers to business simulation and in the end, selecting four most potential service concepts for piloting. The first new service concept from the project – Vintage Service – is already normal business for Fiskars Group. It allows people to buy and sell old and used Iittala and Arabia tableware products through Fiskars Group’s own retail channels. Currently Fiskars Group has done piloting for another service concept, Arabia Tableware Service, which is a subscription-based tableware service.

For me, the presentation showed well that it is possible to move from linear to circular business models, but it also became clear that there are many challenges along the way. The first challenge is to look beyond the linear model – it requires a fundamental shift in thinking, because circular design demands overcoming the dominant industry logic. Another challenge is to remember that having a circular business model is not good enough, it must work also in practice. Based on the experiences from the project, Haatainen emphasizes the importance of the core team: they should have different kind of skills, a lot of can-do attitude, and they must be empowered. Another advise is to start piloting as early as possible in order to get things to move on – endless discussions will not take you anywhere.

Circular economy demands new solutions – Case Omocom

The other speaker of the first webinar was Ola Lowden, a Founder of Omocom, a Swedish digital insurance solution start-up. The story of Omocom began when the founders worked for Swedish government as digital trade experts and they interviewed big insurance companies about their capabilities to answer to the demands of new consumption types of sharing economy. They found out that insurance companies were not able to adapt their offerings to these new requirements. It became clear that moving towards sharing and circular economy requires a new kind of insurance model, which encourages people to share their belongings.

Based on this, Omocom created a digital insurance solution for sharing platforms. Having an insurance is important for sharing platform providers, as it builds trust between people who do not know each other beforehand. Also, even if damages happen, insurance keeps customers satisfied and willing to continue to use the sharing platform. In the solution, Omocom does collaboration with insurance companies who bear the insurance-related risk, while Omocom takes care for example development of software and insurance solutions.

From sharing and circular economy point of view the founders of Omocom found traditional insurance challenging especially for three reasons (Picture 2).

Picture 2. Challenges with traditional insurance and circular economy (Slide from the presentation of Lowden)

The first challenge with traditional insurance is the model, as the focus and responsibility are only on product owner, not on the product user. This kind of model does not encourage people to share their belongings, especially with strangers. The answer from the Omocom solution is to focus also on product user and provide short-term insurances that are suitable for renting and sharing. The second challenge is that insurance companies are highly dependent on data. If they do not have enough data for risk calculations, they are not willing to take the risk. Omocom deals with this challenge by collaborating with sharing platforms, and based on the data that they provide, Omocom has developed their own risk calculation algorithm, which can be used for risk assessment. Third challenge is that some of the services from insurance companies are still analogue, which makes them quite slow and inflexible, and digital solution responses to these challenges as well.

I think that Omocom is a good example of how moving from linear economy to circular economy creates new business opportunities. There is a need for new kind of solutions and business models, which answer to the demands of circular economy. Also, it clearly showed that in order to make a successful circular business model, it must be a part of an ecosystem of circular business models to ensure the circular flow of resources. This means, that when designing circular business models, the focus should be also on systems level.

Preventing food waste with technology – Case TotalCtrl

The topic of the last webinar was food waste, which was extremely interesting subject for me, as food and eating have been the subject of many of my work projects. From circular economy point of view, the food waste problem is enormous, and solving that is really crucial in the future. Charlotte Aschim, the Founder and CEO of Norwegian start-up TotalCtrl, gave a presentation of how their solution – food waste prevention software called TotalCtrl Restaurant – is tackling the problem in restaurant context (Picture 3).

Picture 3. TotalCtrl Restaurant (Photos from the presentation of Aschim)

The food waste problem became familiar to the founders of TotalCtrl already when working at grocery stores as students. Based on their own experience and later when doing collaboration with different restaurants, they noticed that food waste problem was due to the fact that many restaurants did not have a proper control over their food inventory. The result from this is that food expires quite easily and finding out how much food and what kind of food there exists in storage requires a lot of manual work. It was understood that there is a demand for an easy-to-use digital solution, which helps restaurants to know what kind of food they have in their storage, in which storage it is and when it is going to expire.

Based on the experiences with TotalCtrl Restaurant so far, it seems that it is possible to diminish food waste even up to 85%. In addition, the solution saves time and money, as it simplifies daily routines. For me, TotalCtrl was a good example of how going circular actually can go hand in hand with profitability. Also, it shows that sometimes with right kind of technological solution, it is possible to take a huge step in business and in profitability.

From the perspective of service design, it was interesting to hear the importance of observation in developing and designing the digital solution. Aschim mentioned that although restaurant staff answered to several questions during development work, many things that were important from the perspective of food waste did not come up until doing observation days in restaurants. It seems that many restaurants have inefficient everyday routines, that are taken for granted, and recognizing these could provide opportunities to improve business.

Above I went through just some of the cases which were presented in LOOP webinar series. If you are interested to know more concrete examples from circular economy and circular design, there is a possibility to join to LOOP digital ecosystem where all the cases are available.

Author: Erika Niemi-Vanala

The importance of routines

I participated on 28.5.2020 in a digital event focusing on organizational change and service design. The four-hour-event was hosted by Livework studio, an international service design company, and Delft University of Technology, technological university in Delft, Netherlands.

The event had two keynote presentations. The first keynote speaker was Professor Brian Pentland from Michigan State University, a pioneer in routine dynamics. Second keynote talk about service design aspect was brought by Marzia Arico and Jan Koenders from Livework studio. Rest of the afternoon was spent in round-table discussions and breakout rooms, ending with a open discussion to sum up the day.

Photo by Unsplash

In addition to service design, the focus of the event was organizational changes, science of routines and especially the idea of routine dynamics, a branch of research on routines, and the stability and change behind it.

Understanding organizational changes and routines inside an organization is vital for any service designer, especially from the point of view of implementing a new, designed service. Livework studio’s Director of Design Marzia Arico and Senior Design consultant Jan Koenders talked about the common frustration that service designers face.

“51% of service design projects run by Service Design agencies never get implemented.”

Marzio Arico, Livework studio

“Corporate entertainment”, as Arico called it, is when you’re only generating ideas to entertain organization’s innovation department but never actually implementing them. The lack of impact in their work can be frustrating and demoralizing to service designers.

Understanding organizational change and routines allows service designers to boost the probability of a successful implementation. Arico and Koenders introduced a four-layer-approach to battling implementation problems: capability building, doing, learning and adopting.

Through establishing routines, constant reiterations and feedback and careful training, it is possible for the organization to adopt the new, designed service into their “business as usual”. The presence of routine is vital in the approach, as it makes sure that changes are not just done in paper, but also in practice.

Slide from Livework studio’s Marzia Arico’s and Jan Koenders’ presentation

Key take-aways:

  • Routines: don’t deliver only frameworks and materials, but also provide thorough coaching
  • Collaboration: hands-on collaboration within teams encourages new routines being used with actual customers

Photo by Unsplash

Circle is the new black

Photo from Unsplash

I participated on 19.5.2020 in an online event “Accelerating the shift to circular” hosted by Livework studio, a global service design company, and Metabolic, a Dutch consulting company focused on sustainability and circular economy. The topic of the event was exploring the synergies between service design and industrial ecology, and the importance of moving towards a circular economy.

As we are going through a global pandemic, we are starting to see the long-term impact it has on business. Add to that the environmental crisis that carries even more severe and more long-term impact, and it’s clear that there is an immense urgency for a change to happen.

Companies need to reconfigure their value proposition. In the end, it’s organisations that manage to do so in a sustainable way that will thrive.

From linear to circular

“There is no such thing as a sustainable product. There can only be sustainable product-service systems.”

– Pieter van Exter, 2020

Pieter van Exter from Metabolic talked about the current linear system and the importance of moving to a circular economy or “circularity”.

Linear system is “take – make – dispose”. It’s about taking the raw material, making the product and in the end disposing of it as waste. Circular economy aims to eliminate waste and the constant use of new resources, hence making the life cycle circle.

Van Exter explained the simplified four-step-process of moving from linear economic system to a circular one. The four-step-process starts with analyzing the current state and identifying root causes throughout the whole product life cycle. In step two you set goals and think about the overall vision, not just the financial gain you can get from the product but all the key elements such as social impact, biodiversity, materials, etc. The third step is about identifying interventions and leverage, and figuring out how to get to your goal. Last step is implementation which includes developing business cases and engaging stakeholders.

4 steps of moving to circular economy. Slide from Pieter van Exter’s presentation.

Van Exter highlighted that throughout the whole linear to circular -process, you should constantly iterate and re-think your solutions. The key question you should always ask from yourself in every step is: “do we actually need this?” In short, should we try to make a bamboo version of a plastic straw, or should we rethink the need to even have straws in the first place?

From “can we make it” to “should we make it”

Sanne Pelgröm from service design company Livework studio talked about the evolution of service design and how to design with circular change in mind.

It is important to move from designing for individual needs to designing for the collective. The question in mind should move from “can we make it” to “should we make it” and “can the ecosystem handle it”.

In his work as a service designer, Pelgröm explained that when designing with circularity in mind, you take three aspects into consideration: customer, organisation and the chain collaboration, while simultaneously moving towards a new behavior in all three areas. The key is not just designing a service, but a service process.

Pelgröm also introduced an outline of the journey change in all three sections:

Slide from Sanne Pelgröm’s presentation

In customer segment, the goal is for the customer to evolve from detached consumption to engaged relation with the company.

In organisation level the design is about the general transformation from product oriented approach to more service oriented, essentially moving from cost driven to value driven. In order to do that, it’s important to understand the organizational dynamics: the culture, strategy, processes, etc.

The chain collaboration aspect brings a new layer of dimensions. The goal should be to move from efficiency oriented system into a collaboration oriented. Collaboration could be for example between sectors: two industries sharing cycles can unlock solutions and have a major impact in the overall chain.

Customer in mind

Van Exter reminded that throughout the whole process, you should never forget about the actual end user: the customer. He gave an example of Pepsi’s new type of bioplastic they developed for the packaging of a bag of chips. The product ended up being banned due to being too loud, over 95 decibels.

Pelgröm was asked in the event how to keep circular thinking through the design process, and whether there are specific tools that help you come up with sustainable solutions. Pelgröm recommended that instead of looking for specific tools, you should reach to specialists and involve them in the process and let them contribute. Balancing all aspects early on before it becomes too technical and complicated is key.

The event tackled interesting points about service design, its future and circular economy. There are still a great number of challenges in this area, for instance the majority of companies haven’t stopped thinking in terms of indefinite economic growth, and most targets they have are very much growth-related. Change is never easy and it can’t happen in only one area, but cohesively all around.

Photo from Unsplash

Food for thought:

Kate Raworth’s TED Talk about healthy economy

Tina Arrowood’s TED Talk about circularity

New values, who dis

I had the pleasure of participating in an online event on 20.5.2020 hosted by Design Forum Finland and Arctic Factory. The topic of the event was design and new values, with the focus on sustainability and the role of companies in creating new value. The topic is especially current now during an ongoing, global pandemic, which has only increased the need for a change.

Slide from the presentation of Design Forum Finland CEO: Petteri Kolinen

The idea of new value is not just about creating financial value to company stakeholders, but a new type of added value to employees, society, and environment as a whole. We’re in a new era where customers demand more from companies.

Design thinking has a big role in creating new value. Design thinking is essentially about understanding the needs of people, being innovative and solving challenges in an agile way. Companies can find business opportunities and create new value through design thinking, for example by utilizing sustainable products and involving ecological thinking.

Megatrends 2020

One important aspect of design thinking is understanding what is happening in the world, what kind of trends are taking place and how they are affecting people. By understanding your surroundings, can you be strategic and proactive.

Photo from Unsplash

Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the future and the increasing need for having foresight. She discussed in detail the five megatrends of 2020 set by Sitra:

  • ecological sustainability crisis and the urgency of its reconstruction
  • strengthening of relational power
  • ageing and diversifying of population
  • technology being embedded in everything
  • the redefinition of economy

Vataja emphasized the importance of ecological reconstruction and stated that the key factor influencing the future is climate change and other ecological issues, and how we respond to them.

“The decisions we make in the next 10 years will impact the next 100 years.” – Katri Vataja, 2020

Vataja ended the segment with a great question to think: what kind of a future would you like to help build?

The bees of the business world

Sonja Lahtinen from University of Tampere discussed the new values and the changing culture. Her main focus was the importance of sustainability transition: a cohesive, long term change towards sustainable modes in society’s foundation, culture and practices.

Innovative companies are like the bees of the business world: they are the vital pollinators of the society without which sustainability transition would not be possible. Lahtinen stated that companies have the needed capabilities for this important change in resources and innovation.

Lahtinen highlighted the importance of companies’ role in the transition and more importantly why they should strive towards this.

“We’re now entering into an era of the unknown, the unclear, and the unfolding. Being in tune with what is emerging around, we can seize immense, but not instantly obvious, opportunities to better the world.” – Sonja Lahtinen, 2020

Photo from Unsplash

Those who adapt, thrive

The event couldn’t have had a more inspirational end than Kyrö Distillery’s segment.

Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery’s brand marketing talked about the evolution of the company from the first brainstorming session in sauna, to adapting to corona times by switching from rye whisky to hand sanitizer. Koskinen emphasized the importance of strategy and values in their company and how they are not just a slogan on their website but a tool in their daily work.

All in all, the event raised great points about new values and the role of companies in this change. It was perhaps Kyrö Distillery’s last slide that best described not only the inspirational message of the event but also Finnish “sisu” at its core:

Kyrö Distillery’s presentation slide

For more inspiration on the subject:

Ikea’s chief sustainability officer Steve Howard’s Ted talk

The Age of the Customer

Photo: unsplash.com

We live in a world where customers can demand more from companies by taking advantage of various digital channels. It is now the consumers who have the power to force companies to react and change. Companies that fail to understand this new reality will be out of business quicker than ever.

This was the main theme behind the most recent Design Forum Talk called Design and New Value which took place on Wednesday 20 May as a free online event. The event’s theme reflected the fact that consumer behaviour has changed, and people nowadays have more possibilities to influence how companies function and what kind of values they represent.

The covid-19 has only strengthened this new trend. The companies that want to be among the survivors of the pandemic will need to build trust, stand behind their values, work towards a meaningful brand and have an authentic mission. You can also call this “profit with purpose”.

The 2-hour Design Forum Talk included five presentations from five speakers:

  • Katri Vataja, Director of the Foresight, Insight and Strategy at Sitra
  • Sonja Lahtinen, Researcher from the University of Tampere
  • Annika Boström-Kumlin, Marketing Director at Verso Food
  • Jussi Mantere, Head of CX and Design at Kesko Oyj
  • Mikko Koskinen, Brand & Marketing at Kyrö Distillery

Look to the future

Katri Vataja from Sitra talked about the most important trends of the 2020s and the kind of challenges their impact brings to design and business. Katri mentioned that the mega trends such as the urgent need for ecological reconstruction or the ageing population help us to understand the future. However, the key question is what kind of future we want to build.

Sitra’s megatrend cards (Finnish version)

Solve the puzzle

Sonja Lahtinen referred to these major challenges that our generation must face as wicked problems. She used the Rubik’s cube as a metaphor to explain that we already have all the pieces at hand. Now, we only need to solve the puzzle. In order to do this, we need creative people and completely new kinds of solutions. Companies have a big role in this. By bringing more sustainable products to the market, the consumers will have a chance to make better choices as well.

Create new value

The last three speakers represented companies that have understood the importance of the new value and have been able to respond to quick changes on the market.

Annika Boström-Kumlin from Verso Food talked about their mission to change the image of vegan food so that people would only think of it as food (and really tasty food as well).

Jussi Mantere from Kesko talked about how they use digital data and insight to design customer-centric services that enable people to make environmentally sustainable buying decisions.

The last speaker, Mikko Koskinen from Kyrö Distillery, gave an interesting presentation about how their company has managed to keep the business running through covid-19 by shifting from whiskey production to produce hand sanitizer.

All of the speakers confirmed that by creating new value companies can create additional value to the customers, employees, environment, stakeholders, society and eventually to the owners of the company. The change starts from strategic thinking, courage, creativity and better understanding.

One size does not fit all – Creating better innovations through equality and diversity

Photo from Unsplash

I participated in a digital event on 13.5.2020 focusing on how gender equality and diversity can create better innovations. The online event was hosted by Stockholm-based innovation community Openlab. Together with five expert panel members from different fields of work, a panel moderator and a visual facilitator, the importance of gender equality and diversity in workplace was discussed in detail.

Five by five -method

An interesting detail about the event was the creativeness of the event itself. I’m sure we have all experienced the mundane way of online presentations during this pandemic, so it was a welcome surprise to see a different online presentation format ‘Five by five’. In ‘Five by five’ each presenter has precisely five minutes for their presentation with exactly five slides to show, while each slide is programmed to automatically change after 60 seconds. The added pressure of strict timetable keeps the discussions short, the topic focused and makes sure each presenter is thoroughly prepared.

Gender gaps in tech field

Photo from Unsplash

The discussion was kicked off by Elise Perrault from Future Place Leadership, a Nordic management consultancy company. Perrault together with her two colleagues wrote a report about women in tech and challenging existing biases. She highlighted gender equality problems especially in tech sector by talking about gender gaps and specifically women dropping out of the tech field. It gave a great premise to continue the topic and especially on how to overcome these challenges.

The I-Methodology

Slide from Annie Lindmark’s presentation

Perhaps the most interesting segment during the event came from the program director of Vinnova and the founder of W.Empowerment Annie Lindmark who talked about the I-methodology and how it limits innovation. I-methodology describes the tendency of designers to base their design choices on their own personal preferences and interests. In short, they design products for themselves, not for their customers.

An example of I-methodology is a well known facial recognition software that had problems recognizing minorities accurately due to the software being developed and tested by white males. Lindmark stated that it highlighted the basic idea why diverse groups are more innovative than others. Just as one size does not fit all, so is diversity needed in innovation.

What can I do?

Photo from Unsplash

A question asked the most during the panel discussion was what can I as an individual do for the matter.

Lindmark presented the following actions:

  • Acknowledge the existing biases your organization may have
  • Set up a plan for improvement
  • Follow up and measure it
  • Encourage diversity and inclusion in all projects
  • Start seeing it and using it as a competitive advantage

Other concrete ways mentioned during the panel were networking, training, raising awareness and Fika for change.

Fika for change

Fika for change‘ learning tool by Radicle

In Sweden ‘fika’ means much more than just having a coffee break. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, similar to Danish “hygge”. Mathilda Hult from Radicle, a Swedish innovation culture agency, talked about ‘Fika for change’ which she had created and how that could be used to strengthen a team. ‘Fika for change’ is a trust-building tool for organizations and different groups that helps create conversation beyond roles and hierarchies. It’s meant to be used in a relaxed, equal setting, such as a coffee break, hence the word ‘fika’ in its title. The goal of the tool is for the team to focus on trust, curiosity and learning, all of which can help build an innovative culture in a team.

The power of visual facilitator

The event was a great success and gave a good understanding on the importance of diversity in innovation. It’s worth noting, that the event itself was highly innovative and a breath of fresh air. Not only was the selected ‘Five by five’ -method spot on but the true winner was their real time visual illustration of the key themes discussed at the event.

Nikki Schmidt from live scribing agency Simply Draw it Big was the visual facilitator of the event.

For more information:

“We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding” -author Dana Kanze’s TED talk

Overnight digital transformation – virtual facilitation to the rescue?

The black swan of our days, in other words the corona virus pandemic, has forced an accelerated digital transformation upon organizations around the world. This has included working from home for many, but also either cancelling events and workshops or restructuring them to be organized digitally.

This sudden push for digital transformation has been challenging for many industries. To support NGOs in this process, the umbrella organization for Finnish Development NGOs – Fingo has organized a few online facilitation sessions to support NGOs in fostering the quick move from face to face to virtual. I attended one of these workshops on April 29th, together with 30 other people who attended the fully booked session on Zoom.

We all can benefit from virtual facilitation skills

Facilitation is one of the pillars of service design and organizing workshops. A good facilitator can lead successful co-creation sessions even with difficult groups or contentious tasks. Virtual facilitation brings the art of facilitation to the online sphere. Over night, virtual facilitation skills went from something service designers and professional facilitators need to know to something that everyone working from home would benefit from. Organizing virtual workshops and simply co-creating online within the workplace have become increasingly more common in our new reality.

The virtual facilitation session I participated in was a tips and tricks type of session, where specialists shared very concrete examples on facilitating online work. After attending the session, I feel more confident in both using different online facilitation tools and leading a co-creation session virtually.

Top three takeaways

1) Preparation, preparation, preparation!  Preparing to facilitate an online event is even more important than preparing for a face-to-face event. Once you have chosen and created the tools you will use during the event, make sure to try them out. Also do a test run of the technology, divide breakout rooms and practice moving between these. It is a good idea to share some information and materials with the participants before the session, to create shared understanding of the technology and tools to be used during the event.

2) Schedule more time for the beginning. In addition to the regular warm ups and getting to know each other, virtual events require doing a technical check. You should also agree on how participants can ask questions, whether it is by writing in the chat or any other way. If you intend to use the chat, it would be useful to have a co-facilitator who could keep an eye on the chat while you are presenting. It is a good idea to have your camera on and make some time for casual chit chat, to help set the mood for the event.

3) Activating and engaging participants is more important than ever! Long monologues and uncertainty about the tools are sure ways of losing the focus of your participants. Make sure that everyone knows what is happening, do not assume and use the chat or polls to activate participants. You could also keep tabs on which of the participants have contributed to the discussion and address quiet participants directly by name.

With these simple tips and tricks, even a less experienced virtual facilitator can lead a successful online event. Personally, I will try these out already next week, will you?

Useful virtual facilitation resources:

Online facilitation tools catalogue

Virtual Facilitation Finland – Facebook group

Remote Design Sprints – Facebook group