Wicked, wicked problems

New study in the field of service design!

Mari Suoheimo’s doctoral examination was held on 18th of September in the University of Lapland. The opponent was professor Mikko Koria from Loughborough University London and thesis supervisor was professor Kaarina Määttä.


First Suoheimo introduced us to complex and simple problems and made some examples of them. A simple problem is tying shoelaces and complex or even wicked problem is solving the Covid-19 situation. Suoheimo also pointed out that there is a lot of discussion of wicked problems in the field of service design. The talk in the field is that all design issues or problems are in fact wicked or that the concept of wicked problem is already solved. To Suoheimo’s point of view, that is not how ever the case. But she continued that almost any design problem can be turned in to a complex or wicked one. As an example she said that designing a envelope is simple design issue, but designing and developing an envelope that has zero impact on environment is already a complex issue.

An example of a wicked problem.
Source: Google free images.

In the thesis Suoheimo addresses how to approach these questions. And she said that her interest in the topic already raised in her studies in Brazil when her teacher introduced her to wicked problems that are intangible problems, just like all services usually are.

The thesis it self consists of introduction, three articles, discussion and conclusions. First article is a literature review on the Relation and Role of Service Design with Wicked Problems, second is called “Strategies and Visual Tools to Resolve Wicked Problems” and last focuses on how to apply the theory in to practice and is based on case study “Process of Mapping Challenges of Cross-Border Mobility in the Barents Region”, done with Toni Lusikka.

In the thesis she also introduces the new Iceberg model of design problems developed together with Rosana Vasques and Piia Rytilahti, co-authors of the first article. The model does not only help to understand the different levels of complexity of wicked problems but also helps to choose the approaches and tools to use in different levels.

An iceberg. The model can be seen in Suoheimo’s thesis.
Source of the photo: Goole free images.

In the beginning of the event there was a little bit definition of service design it self, like how it has evolved from hands on designing to much more complex service science. The aim of service design is to create better services. This can be done through designing a good service experience using tools like service journey, and mapping it. Suoheimo also talked about Stickdorns et all. five principles of service design. That I would like to stress that are actually newly developed to six principles: Human-centered, collaborative, iterative, sequental, real and holistic. (Stickdorn et all, 2018, 16). Suoheimo also says that the talk originates to Buchanan article on 1973 about wicked problems that started the whole debate and introduced one service science frame.

Suoheimo sees that there are four levels of design: 

1: Graphic design
2: Industrial design
3: Service design
4: System design

And points out that service design actually touches all the four levels. Service design is also not an island, it touches and goes limited with other fields too. And when in comes to complexity some fields actually understand it’s use more deeply, like social sciences. Also action research and design thinking are similar nowadays. The new double diamond process is closer to action research, and Suoheimo points out that all the models start to look the same.

The opponent Mikko Koria said that the theme of the thesis is interesting, topic and valuable if not even essential for the field. But the thesis actually raises more questions than answers, which is a wicked problem it self. He also conducts that there is a loose use of the term wicked problem in the field, it’s now a buzz word, which is a worry.

The problem with wicked problems is that in service design we are using tools that are not designed to solve wicked problems which makes the process even more painful, ’cause the process is anyway painful, not ever easy. And wicked problems can have many sides too (political, social, and so on). You first have to understand the problem to know how to solve it.

An example of wicked problem solution. Source: Google free images.

So what we need is new courses! And programs! Especially interdiciplinary courses with organizational studies and management …and more resources in the service design field.

The good news: Service designer’s role is to be an agent of change because we are able to make the change.

Author: Iiramaria Virkkala, SD student.

References and to look for more info: 

Väitös: Palvelumutoilun ikeät ongelmat

Suoheimo’s thesis

Stickdorn, M., Lawrence, A., Hormess, M. E. & Schneider, J. 2018. This is service design doing: Applying service design thinking in the real world : a practitioner’s handbook. First Edition. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

Buchanan (1990) Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. Design Issues, Vol. 8, No. 2, (Spring, 1992), pp. 5-21. The MIT Press.

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.

Human in Center

Design thinking can be learned and utilized by everyone: whatever is your expertise or field in business, anyone can do things experimentally, with an agile and human-centric way.  The importance of humanity and empathy in today’s business is enormous: during the Covid19 Pandemic, companies have been required to learn to consider the customer experience in a whole new way.

During the Design Thinking course, we learned that customers’ voice needs to listen carefully, but a Service Designer must also dare to make visionary and bold decisions based on knowledge, and in some part, with intuition.

From 3I to E.62  

Highlighting two takeaways from Design Thinking workshop, the first would be the whole design thinking model Evolution 62 (E.62). Professor Katja Tchimmel presented the various DT process models from simple 3I-model to broader models, which introduce also prototyping and amount of iterations. The E.62 model differs from others by systematically and practically offering relevant tools and methods to core phases and keeping the human being in the center.  

Picture: Tschimmel, Katja (2020). Design Thinking course lectures, September 4–5 2020


Another takeaway was the eye-opening bisociation approach which we applied in the teamwork. We were running out of ideas on “How to keep social distancing in educational institutions” but then combined the not-so-obvious dots (IT and Cleaning) resulting the new idea – the gift of bisociation! 

“Someone who makes something better for someone else”

The Design Thinking book emphasizes the importance of developing deep empathy and understanding in order to discover also customers’ unarticulated needs.  As the needs and feelings are not solid and stable, the experiences are constantly in motion and thus evaluation and re-design are needed.

Subheading’s definition of a designer (Oliver King, the Engine Group) is wrapping in its simplicity. Again, a human is in the center and one can start the service design process from empathy, exploring, understanding, and building the insight of the human being. This leads us to the notion of “empathic design”, which Kouprie and Sleesvijk Visser has conceptualized. It is based on the principle that a designer steps into the life of the user, wanders there for a while, and then steps out with a deeper understanding of the user. It covers four phases: discovery, immersion, connection, and detachment. This framework does not leave the designer “on the surface” yet leads systematically into a deeper empathy.

Picture: Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life

It’s an ongoing process

Experience is a result of customer’s perception where all touchpoint’s matters. If one point is missed, it will stand out: whether it’s about object or service, a bad design is always visible.

Kleber, S. & Marco, D. (2018). Design Thinking for Creating an Increased Value Proposition to Improve Customer Experience.

Daniel Marco and Stefan Kleber (2018) pointed out that a turbulent and rapidly changing business environment needs new tools for thinking and developing innovative business propositions. Today the lines of products, services, and concepts are blurring, and companies need to think the whole combination of elements and systems. Thus the quite a linear Liedtka J. model was updated to a more dynamic and iterating model for a “Wheel of Design”, that helps to actively develop and reconsider to achieve superior customer experience -human in center.








Thank you for the inspiration for

Tschimmel, K. (2020). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a ménage à trois. In Perspectives on Design: Research, Education and Practice II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. (in process)

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life (Links to an external site.) in Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448

Kleber, Stefan & Marco, Daniel (2018). Design Thinking for Creating an Increased Value Proposition to Improve Customer Experience.
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/7874/cb1f74da63e63f1d4b7d6be1fc3e65b9d4f3.pdf

Lockwood, Thomas (ed. by) (2010) Design thinking: integrating innovation, customer experience and brand value. New York: Allworth Press.

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

Written by Johanna Laakso & Piia Lehtinen

Designing your own way with design thinking

Making career choices when you’re 18 years old can be cumbersome. The childhood dream jobs, being a doctor or a policeman, probably have changed multiple times leaving you uncertain about what the future will look like. So, what does it take to find your dream job?

As we started out journey in the SID program and got to know one another better, we found out that both of us had had the same career idea; working with design. At that time, applying for any program majoring in design required skills in drawing, which we didn’t have on the required level. In the end, it felt like one career opportunity had closed its doors although the interest towards the field didn’t pass.

The world is changing rapidly around us, which requires flexibility and innovation from both employees and companies. As the operational environment of businesses change constantly, also duties in work places change. Joining work life made it even more obvious. One big change we have seen within design and its position in the organizational culture. According to Kolko (2015), the importance of applying the principles of design to the way people work was largely due to the increasing complexity of modern technology and modern business. Thus, many companies have put design thinking at the core of the company, making designers an increasingly competitive asset in creating new forms of value (Brown, 2008). Putting design thinking into practice helps companies understand the constant disruption better as well as maintain and develop competitiveness (Motee, 2013).

Making a cultural shift

Making a cultural change towards design thinking comes of age. And, so does for many of us. Adopting this perspective isn’t always easy but having natural aptitude towards design helps. Usually, it flourishes after right development and experience (Brown, 2008). Probably, many of us in SID program can relate to this. Having natural aptitude towards design doesn’t yet guide you to your desired career path in working with design. A design thinker’s profile develops through time with the right experiences but owning the capability is as important. So, what are the traits of a design thinker? It takes empathy, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentalism and collaboration (Brown, 2008). Many of these characteristics take time to develop.

Nowadays companies tend to share similar problems and transitions as the world becomes smaller through internalization. Also, different fields of businesses become even more connected with each other. According to Motee (2013), design thinking assists in understanding complex connections between people, places, objects and ideas, which is also highly effective tool for innovation. We also noticed this during our first days at SID program as we all have different backgrounds, but we share the same passion for design. During the group work tasks, our distinct knowledge became our strength since we were able to combine several perspectives and ideas by means of design thinking.

In the past, being employed at the same company, in the same position wasn’t abnormal. Today, there is no permanent career solution to choose from. As with design thinking, finding your dream job comes through experimenting, from trial and error. Without exploring choices and being open to even unorthodox possibilities, new career directions won’t emerge.

Written by Emmi Kytösalmi and Jenna Isokuortti

REFERENCES

Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.

Kolko, David J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.

Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley.

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.

Use storytelling to turbocharge your design thinking

Humankind has transmitted information through stories since time immemorial. Indeed, hearing and telling stories seem to be a fundamental need for us. Friends are made through the exchange of stories: they bring us together and build trust and intimacy in a relationship.

Design thinking comprises of 5 factors (Carlgren, Rauth, Elmquist, 2016):  1) user focus, 2) problem framing, 3) visualizations, 4) experimentation, 5) diversity. With storytelling permeating every aspect of the collaboration. And it’s a two-way street.

On one hand, you can use storytelling to sell your idea: to convince the stakeholders it’s beneficial to start the project, to make the workshop participants feel at ease and willing to contribute, to create (an authentic) story for the service so that customers feel they can relate and view the service useful.

On the other hand, and perhaps even more importantly, you can use storytelling to understand others. In essence, you could utilize design thinking tools to enable and encourage customers to share their experiences, you let them tell you their stories. Although one rarely comes to you to tell their life history, via means of design thinking, you actively seek to hear people’s stories to better understand and empathize with them.

How, then, do you tell an “effective” story? We think it comes down to empathy. A story that works in a business meeting may not be the one you want to tell to your date and vice versa. Through empathy you should seek to understand your audience and tailor the narrative to fit the context.

However, you can also increase your audience’s receptivity to your “main story”, i.e. the idea you’d like them to subscribe to, by making them feel connected to you. How? By sharing something about yourself, a personal anecdote, to make yourself more relatable. If your audience likes you, they will more likely believe you.

But what if the conditions are not optimal for you to tell the story, to convey your idea? We experienced this first hand at our Design Thinking workshop with Doctor Katja Tschimmel. Due to the prevailing covid-19 situation and the fact that some of our student colleagues live abroad, the workshop had to be arranged as a hybrid with some of the students in the classroom (with masks) and others (including the lecturer Katja) participating via zoom.

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Through this personal experience we found out yet again that when connecting through technology, it’s much better to connect via video than via audio only (not to speak of a pure text-based approach like chat). Hearing a story is much more effective when you can see the person telling it.

Katja used storytelling techniques exceptionally right from the start. She opened the worksop with a personal anecdote from her doctoral dissertation, where a member of the audience had drawn a picture of her. This instance exemplified 3 major tools of design thinking that we have discussed here:

  1. It was a personal anecdote to make her feel more relatable to us, the students
  2. It was a story to convey the idea of visualization
  3. Simple and easy example of visualization – a hand drawn picture of her

Katja used a story of a portrait made of her as an example and introduction to our next assignment, which was to draw pictures of each other.

In conclusion, we think that both storytelling and empathy work in two directions in design thinking:

Storytelling: 1) Tell a story to sell your idea, and 2) Use design thinking tools to encourage customers/clients to tell you their story (i.e. to better understand and empathize with them).

Empathy: 1) Empathize with your audience (customers/clients) in order to tell an effective story, 2) Arouse your audience’s empathy towards you by telling a personal anecdote to make yourself more relatable and your idea (story) more attractive.

Lastly, we have prepared a couple of practical tips for aspiring young designers to embrace empathy in these covid-struck times:

  • Storytelling is the only thing that can evoke empathy in this situation
  • Video surpasses mere audio (visualization)
  • Acknowledge the situation is difficult for everyone
  • Engage everyone equally and facilitate active participation from both sides
  • Remember that people love stories, encourage others to share theirs!

Written by: Galina Leväsluoto & Tero Jyrhämä

Inspired by:

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

Tschimmel, K. (2020). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a ménage à trois. In Perspectives on Design: Research, Education and Practice II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. (in process)

Tschimmel, K. (2018). Toolkit Evolution 6. An E-handbook for practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Porto: Ed.Mindshake.

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. in Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448

Carlgren, L., Rauth, I. & Elmquist., M. (2016). Framing Design Thinking: The Concept in Idea and Enactment. Creativity and Innovation Management, Vol. 25, Nr. 1. 38-57.

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.

Unblock your creative potential with Design Thinking

Do you remember yourself back in kindergarten? You played and experimented and tried out weird things without fear or shame. And then you grew up and started to see yourself as “not the creative type”, if you happen to be like us. What happened?

In this blog post we’ll show how creativity isn’t a rare gift to be enjoyed by the lucky few, instead unblocking creative spark with Design Thinking can have far-reaching implications for yourself, your organisation and your community.

You don’t have to be artistic, just creative. With Lego Serious Play it was easy to visualize our E-bike concept.

Design Thinking comes to help

Creativity is not magic, it’s a skill. The IDEO brothers Tom and David Kelley strongly believe that most people are vastly more creative and capable than they know. It’s that the fear of social rejection and failure is something we learn as we get older. We believe this happened for us too. That is why it felt like seeing light at the end of the tunnel when we got to know Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a process for creative problem solving. It can be understood as a way of thinking which leads to transformation, evolution and progress, to new and better forms of living. Design Thinking humanizes and simplifies technologies, problems and several complex issues. As a personal note, trying and testing Design Thinking processes and methodologies have fueled our personal creativity.

Our kids couldn’t have been more proud of us.

No more supernaturally gifted geniuses

In the last century, according to Tschimmel (2010), the perception of the creativity concept gradually moved from the paradigm of the “supernaturally gifted genius” to the paradigm of the “creative person”. He or she has the innate potential to think creatively, but more importantly, can improve creative thoughts by applying certain techniques and methods.

Decisive in determining whether a person is creative or not, is no longer just the characteristics of the personality and cognitive abilities. What counts is the recognition of a work as a creative achievement and its integration into the domain.

After some sweaty moments we were able to transform our concept into a storyboard.

Five ways to practice your creativity muscles

Like a muscle, your creative abilities will grow and strengthen with practice. We summarized five tips from the literature how you can take the most out of Design Thinking to unblock your creativity.

1. Don’t expect the most brilliant ideas strike like lightning, instead they are the result of hard work augmented by a creative human-centered discovery process. Empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them.

2. Multitalented team beats the lone genious inventor. The increasing complexity of products, services and experiments forces us to adapt a team-based approach to innovation.

3. Use your empathy. By taking a people first approach you can observe things that other do not. Many of the world’s most successful brands create breakthrough ideas that are inspired by a deep understanding of consumers’ lives.

4. Embrace risk and failure. “If something hasn’t been done before, there’s no way to guarantee its outcome.” View failure as part of the cost of innovation.

5. Feed your creativity by doing new things or things differently daily: wash your teeth by standing only one leg, try new recipes or invent ones, draw whatever even if you think you can’t, write down daily one idea or inspiration. Start with Dan Roam, the man behind “Napkin Academy”, who shows how to draw anything.

Written by Katriina Valkeapää and Maarit Saari

References and links: 

Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.

Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business.

Kolko, J. (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.

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

Tschimmel, K. (2020). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois. In Perspectives on Design: Research, Education and Practice II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. (in process)

Thinking with our hands and hearts

With emerging complex health and societal problems, such as Covid-19 and climate change, the world needs creative mindset and collaboration more than ever. Two new Laurea SID students interviewed each other about the key elements of design thinking after taking the master class of design thinking at Laurea.

Design thinking brings different people together and aims to liberate their creativity. Photo by Unsplash

M: Ahmed, what made you interested in service design?

A:  Well, I was born and raised in Egypt. It’s a country with no structure, and for me being creative was the only chance of survival. I have always dreamed of assisting humanity and adding value to the world. While I was participating in a fellowship in Washington and working on a digital application, I got introduced to service design. During the master class in Finland, I learnt that design thinking is actually a language of empathy and creativity, and that it allows us to create better solutions that are tailored based on consumer’s needs. What about you, Mirkka?

M: That’s so fascinating. I can certainly recognise the desire for wanting to create something meaningful that’s valuable for people and the planet we live in. I have previously studied social anthropology and have been always interested in human behaviour. While working in the communications roles, I have noticed that often companies lack resources or tools to understand consumers and service users. I agree that catching the valuable “native’s point of view”, as described in anthropology, is essential in order to create better services. Nowadays it´s even more important because we live in a world where every service is expected to be a great experience.

Design thinking tools include different techniques and activities. For example, mind mapping makes it possible to identify untapped opportunities.

A: What are your first impressions about design thinking based on the course?

M: One reason I like the design thinking approach is that it brings different people and perspectives together. It forces people to think differently, and more visually. Design thinking means exploring new opportunities, “thinking with your hands”, as Tim Brown puts it in his book Change by design. During our class, the creativity exercises demonstrated well how our own perspective is limited to what we understand and know already. If we want to find new solutions it’s essential to create an environment where a constant flow of exchanging ideas takes place. I see that the tools of design thinking are facilitating that shared process of thinking differently.

A: I totally agree with you. Also in my opinion, The Mindshake Design Thinking Model Evolution 6² with its six steps makes the process of innovating even more logical. In my opinion, empathy is the most important part of the design thinking process. Empathy focuses more on the consumer’s feelings and experience, by how they think, and what they feel. When an innovation project is based on the deep understanding of the consumer, you can develop truly creative solutions. Without empathy results can be very unsatisfying.

Design thinking in practise at Laurea. Fast prototyping makes it possible to build a shared understanding and vision and to test and improve ideas.

M: I agree that the user understanding is probably one of the most important elements in the design thinking process. Without it the service might be innovative but not necessarily needed or wanted. Empathic design requires curiosity and motivation from designers but also design techniques that assist designers in stepping into the world of a user. I used to understand empathy as an individual attribute, not as something you can trigger in yourself or in others or even create systematically. But it makes sense, even literature or theater uses the very same tools. Yet, I think that even empathy or user data isn’t enough if designers seek to be human-centered. Whenever possible, the users should be included in designing the services that matter to them. After all, they are the people whose lives we are designing.

A: Exactly the point. I also see that testing and evolving ideas is very important. One of the tools that grabbed my attention is the feedback map. The design team will develop and elaborate the prototype based on the consumers’ feedback. Only after this point you can be assured that the idea is 100 per cent user-centric. I can’t wait to apply all of these tools to the design challenges of our times.

M: Indeed. We really need new ways to tackle the world’s complex issues and in that design thinking can be very useful.

Text by Ahmed Abdrabo and Mirkka Helkkula

A note from authors: We wanted to test a different method of writing an article, using a dialogue as a format. We also used images to feed our imagination. Our goal was to demonstrate how an unconventional concept combined with a free flow of thoughts could create something unexpected, similarly to a design thinking process.

Inspired by:

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

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

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. in Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448

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

Tschimmel, Katja (2018). Evolution 6² Toolkit: An E-handbook for Practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Mindshake.

Becoming a Design Thinker and Doer

Design Thinking in action

Our journey to the realm of Design Thinking started in extraordinary conditions, because our lecturer Katja Tschimmel wasn’t able to attend the course physically – nor some of the students – because of COVID-19. In spite of this, we got an inspiring and participative start for our studies.

When quantity is more important than quality: the process of identification of opportunities.

The best thing was the “learning by doing” mentality. It was easy to get a grip about the Design Thinking principles and Service Design process through the small exercises and the group task which tackled each service design processes’ phase one by one. The most difficult thing was the shortage of time. As Tim Brown states in his book Change by Design (2009, 84), time is the most insistent limit for design thinkers, even more insistent than limits of technology, skills and knowledge.

The process of Ideation.

During the lecture we got to see that there are many ways of describing the Service Design process. Brown (2009) presents the process through three main “spaces” of Design Thinking: 1) inspiration , 2) ideation and 3) implementation. In our group work we used the Mindshake Design Thinking Model, which has six different steps. Through using the model, the process with its different phases came really concrete. 


Mindshake Design Thinking Model, Pinterest

While doing our group work we also noticed that it can be difficult not to offer ready-made solutions before defining the problem to solve. A valuable tip here is that don’t ask what, ask why! It’s also good to remember that the design process can make unexpected discoveries along the way. Though the insecurity about the outcome may feel difficult, it’s better to “fail early to succeed sooner” (Brown 2009.)

Don’t just do design, live design

We’ve now learned that Service Design is all about thinking like a designer – it’s a mindset you have to switch on. Anyhow, it’s easier said than done. The mindset of an individual doesn’t change all of a sudden. Also the organizational shift is never easy and culture changes slowly. In many companies we can weekly observe a board of managers debating about internal processes and making decisions of company’s strategies behind closed doors. Concerning the change, the expectations must be set appropriately and aligned around a realistic timeline (Kolko 2015).

It is important to internalize that Design Thinking is a collective and participatory process. The more parties and stakeholders are involved in the development process, the greater range of ideas, options and different perspectives will occur. Also, to harvest the power of Design Thinking, individuals, teams and whole organizations have to cultivate optimism. People have to believe that it is within their power to create new ideas, that will serve unmet needs, and that will have a positive impact. (Brown 2009.) 

There are many cases to show how Design Thinking can be used for social change and the common good. For example, the Indias Aravind “Eye care system” has built a systemic solution with Design Thinking to a complex social and medical problem (Brown 2008, 90-91).  Also Warren Berger explains how design can change the world through solving problems on a case-by-case basis around the world.

The advantages of Design Thinking seem obvious. It offers an powerful, effective and accessible approach to innovation which can be integrated into all aspects of business and society and that all individuals and teams can use it to generate breakthrough ideas. So: get into the world to be inspired by people, use prototyping to learn with your hands, create stories to share ideas, join forces with people from other disciplines. Don’t just do design, live design! (Brown 2009.)

Thought and conclusions by Maiju Haltia-Nurmi and Elena Mitrofanova, first-year SID students at Laurea UAS

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

Kolko, Jon (2015). Design thinking comes of age (https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age). Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71. 

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

Warren, Berger (2009). Can design change the world? (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/11/06/berger.qanda/index.html)