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)

Failing fast can get your idea to fly

Swimming noodles, bubble wrap, hula hoops, playmobil toys and lego blocks – yes, this definitely is the Design Thinking master class of the Service Innovation and Design Master Degree Programme.

During the two-day workshops we ran through Mindshake’s model Evolution 6², guided by professor Katja Tschimmel from Mindshake. The model has six phases: emergence, empathy, experimentation, elaboration, exposition and extension accompanied by a set of methods for each phase.

The E.6² builds on previous models of Design Thinking, such as IDEO’s first model in 2008 (inspiration, ideation and implementation) or Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (2010) which defines the steps as emphatize, define, ideate, protype and test. Kelley & Kelley (2013) describe the phases of design-driven innovation to be inspiration, synthesis, ideation and experimentation and implementation. It came evident that it is not the exact methods or practices that count but the overall process that triggers new ideas and innovations.

During the lessons, we learned about for example the importance of reframing the problem and generating many different ideas. Not to be satisfied with first idea, but to push our minds further. (Tscimmel, 2020)

We had the opportunity to find new solutions to educational institutes and students affected by Covid-19 pandemic through the exercises.

What were the swimming noodles for then? The visualization and experimentation phase!

Prototype of the storytelling app using Playmobils. Photo: Minna Elo.

In the Mindshake model this part of the process is called the elaboration phase. At first, we might have been a little skeptical about the simple Playmobil and Lego prototypes. However, the feedback received based on them from other groups was very useful; they had so many questions about the services and users regarding our 1) storytelling app for informal familiarisation with fellow students and 2) the concept to raise funds for educational institutes. The feedback brought up some questions we had not thought of in our groups. This fast exercise showed that even with limited time and rough prototypes, testing your idea early can help it evolve a lot.

Legos in action. Photo: Kimmo Kemppaala.

As Brown (2008) states, the goal of prototyping isn’t to finish the product or service, it is to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea and to identify new directions.

Posters to support our elevator speech pitches. Photo Minna Elo & Kimmo Kemppaala.

What really struck us, was a fellow student’s comment about being relieved by the fact that we didn’t need to work on this concept after the workshop, as these solutions were not intended to be real services, like those in our workplaces. We are not sure what the student really meant with that, but it got us thinking about fears that we have. Are we afraid that our ideas are not right or not clever enough to be considered as new innovations?

Kelley & Kelley (2013) discuss this fear that blocks us from being creative and provide new innovative approaches or solutions. Even though Design Thinking embraces failure as a part of the process, many times we might feel that our ideas or solutions are not good enough and we stay silent. That was also evident during first day as many of us found it hard to come with ideas or at least say them aloud.

Carlgren et al. (2016) also suggest that idea is to “fail often and fail soon”. That is why we need to lose our fear to fail and have courage to try our ideas early and get feedback from customers that can guide us to right direction.

During second day of our workshop it became more natural to speak up and everyone of us was coming up with new ideas. That is the magic of Design Thinking methods.

At home, the kids are growing but we might not get rid of the Legos just yet…

Text: Minna Elo and Kimmo Kemppaala

References

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

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.

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

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

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

A complex conversation over the (business) world

A Helsinki Design Week’s Aalto University’s Designs for a Cooler Planet’s program Design Club talk on 10th of September about the topic “System Innovations for Business Sustainability” and how does the talk transfer into today’s global business environment with academic researcher Dr. İdil Gaziulusoy and business Dr. Heli Antila, the Vice President, Biobased Solutions at Fortum was highly interesting and complex. 

First İdil Gaziulusoy challenged us with her ideas of System Innovations for Business Sustainability. She shared us that the system innovation works in three levels aka Three Spheres of Transformations that are:  

Practical – > product, services, innovations, technology (technological responses) 

Organizational -> New business models (systems and structures) 

Socio-cultural ->  Zone of difficult questions, the role of businesses (beliefs, values, worldviews and paradigms) 

What is wrong in the current business world 

Normal businesses function in basic level and need to change to be able to keep in the run but to have the changes done in 5 years is too slow. Innovations are also done separately and system innovation for business sustainability is really hard to accomplish. Innovations happen in boarders, that might be only partly linked to companies strategies. Regulations work differently in different sections. Other problem is those multiple sectors and that sectors themselves are in silos .

A big problem is that we have imagination crises. We are in lack of time and lack of imagination. Innovation policy is made in short time frames in mind as well are political circles and decisions. One thing that’s holding us back is that there is only narrow idea of innovation, that is usually technological, when innovation itself is much more broader concept. We have the old models in our heads that also narrow the visioning. 

Transition to renewable energy resources could have been done earlier, but we have been keeping up funding the past world and old energy sources even though we have known for a long time that it’s not sustainable. Mainstream businesses work different because they have to undo their mistakes in the past.

We should not save the day, but save the future far away! 

We need to think not only if this is good for us but also for environment and society over all since no system innovation can be done alone. To built an ecosystem you actually need a huge network. Like university, regulation, non-governmental organizations, the state, government and so on. 

There is also need for innovations in innovation policy! And that is why we need strategic and creative foresight. That can be accomplished in cross-disciplinary vision workshops. We should get beyond the expert lines and to think over the boundaries. We need to have a real creative foresight! And have responsibility, take the initiative how can we make this happen. 

In circular economy for example new kind of business models are needed. From a company perspective it takes time, more than few years. You need to see what you can achieve from different perspectives and operators. In operational level we need new funding mechanisms, for example for research. University has an important role and should do also it’s basic research. 

Companies need be urged to think about business in a de-growth context. It’s companies who need to push for the regulations! We have to imagine how will our cities look like and have bold policy making since the businesses are ready for this. What companies should do then? Engage with researcher, connect with each other, push the policies, signal the market (like already done in mode) and have futures thinking.  

Some good examples 

To mention some examples of how different disciplines and sectors have successfully been brought together to jointly address global complex systemic challenges are already done in transition context and with collaboration, like urban and energy transition. One good example in Finland is also recycling plastic waste that has accomplished only in few years.

There are systematic changes in Fortum like in excess heat usage. Fortum also started to work for CO2 free products a long before it was regulated since it seemed “a good time to move to that direction”, already in year 2000. Even when the market didn’t support it. Fortum’s vision for the energy crises now is that in the future we will have a lot of solar and wind power and it will be cheap. But then we have lack of material that is hard even to imagine now.   

The micro enterprises are pushing the boundaries first. Nolla (a zerowaste restaurant) is a good example of that and we should not overlook micro enterprises and their power to make the change and create innovations that can be used in many sectors. 

We need innovations! 

Good news for service designers! The traditional role of designers isn’t diminishing. There are opportunities for designers, like role in transition concepts and other collaboration. We always need new innovators and innovations! 

Pic: How to participate in Design club talks during Covid-19. Photo by author.

Author: Iiramaria Virkkala, SD student.

To look for more info: 

Info of the talk
Information about Fortum
Nolla restaurant
Certified B Corporation

Fail like a designer

Our image of the world is built on assumptions and schemas. Without them, our everyday life would feel chaotic and quite burdensome. However, in an innovation process, our assumptions mainly work against us. They keep us from thinking outside the box. You could even say that assumption is the mother of all screw-ups 

Without intentionally reflecting on our thinking patterns, they will act like the shining exit signs that show us the closest way out from whatever maze or task it is we are working on. Our brains are saying, “look, the exit is just here, take it. It is safe, and you’ll be out in no time!” The rest of the maze remains unexplored, but at least we survive.  

Get out of the box 

The first insight or idea is likely to be obvious one, not innovative nor original, as we learned in Katja Tschimmel’s master class course. To be able to truly innovate, it is necessary to step out to the un-known and out of the comfort zone with curious mind.  By Design Thinking processes, we become more aware of our assumptions and intentionally move them aside, becoming brave and curious explorers and resolvers of the latent needs of people, needs that even the people themselves struggle putting into words. 

Image text:
Design Thinking is like being balancing on a tightrope where on the other side is the chance of failure and on other side the chance for innovation. Our own assumptions and uncertainty of success will push us towards failure, while curiosity, trust and empathy will give us a good nudge towards innovation. 

Big emotions at stake 
 
Fear towards failure in the efforts to innovate is human. Failing just is uncomfortable. Emotions overall are an inseparable part of our humanity, and they strongly affect our actions. The possibility of feeling shame makes it less tempting to be vulnerable and represent our rough and preliminary ideas to the audience without carefully fine-tuning and polishing them first.  

As designers, it is a necessity to consciously train our ability to handle failure. Accepting failing as an essential, positive part of innovation process is something us as becoming designers will have to learn to do. Besides professional growth, becoming a service designer is therefore also a matter of personal growth.  

No fail, no gain 

In Design Thinking, there is no other way to innovation besides the try and error cycle. In fact, in Design Thinking failure is not seen as failure, but as an essential part of the process towards something innovative.  
 
Tom and David Kelley state in their book Creative Confidence (2013:41): “In fact, early failure can be crucial to success in innovation. Because the faster you find weaknesses during an innovation cycle, the faster you can improve what needs fixing.”  

The more failures we get, the more possible improvements become tangible, if we just are able to analyze them carefully. Every (mis)step is a step forward, even if it sometimes might feel like a step backward. 

It’s all about the people 

Design Thinking is human-centric by nature. The true needs, perspectives and feelings of other individuals and groups become concrete and tangible only when we address empathy. This requires us to take the leap out of our comfort zone and interact with people.  
 
According to Kelley brothers, Michael Schrage wrote in his famous book Serious play: “Innovation is always more social than personal”.  

Could we even argue that innovation is always something that will somehow serve others?  


Written by Taika Rantanen and Nora Rahnasto. 
 

References and links 

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

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

Kolko, 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. (https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age

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.