We had two great mind shaking days on September when Katja Tschimmel introduced us to Design Thinking (DT), the concept and toolkit for creative processes. You can call DT also a mindset: “the way of thinking and doing”. It is meant also for organisations and businesses outside design field.
We had a concrete case and went through DT process using Evolution 62 model, which Katja has developed, as our guide through creative process. In different spaces of the model, there are several tools from which to pick up the most suitable ones. Those collaborative tools helped us on our way to get understanding and knowledge of the people and context, emerge and generate new ideas from the insights, define and evaluate solutions and finally prototype our value proposition.
It was a very good learning process by doing and we had fun!
Characteristics of Design Thinking
DT is human-centered approach. Multidisciplinary teams design product/services with users. Users are experts in interaction with products/services and their experiences are always true. When understanding other people you need to be able to empathize by stepping on your customer´s shoes (remember to take your own ones away first) to understand their mental state (emotions, feelings), motivations and hidden unstated needs in their context.
Visualising the problem and solution helps to build common understanding. Visualising is like “an external visual memory” for creative process. It frees space to dialogue, to thinking and to seeing all aspects between the problem and solution. Making abstract issues tangible and concrete is important. Early, cheap prototyping and fast failure belong to DT cost-effective process.
Design thinking is iterating and non-linear process although models are usually visualised in sequence order. What is common for DT models is that divergence and convergence phases follow each other. Design thinkers need to be comfortable with uncertainty, unexpected situations and incomplete information.
Using abductive reasoning, seeing new perspectives and future possibilities that do not fit on existing business models is typical.
DT is made for businesses
I see that Design Thinking concept helps organisations to think wider the innovation possibilities to develop existing value propositions, innovate new ones and solve problems to create better future.
Design Thinking brings to business people guiding structured model and helping tools to innovate and develop their businesses in complex, fast changing ecosystems where value chains aren´t linear anymore and you need to understand value networks with multiple actors when constantly developing your business. DT encourages organisations to experiment beyond existing products/services.
There is several good DT models to choose from and it depends on issues like existing resources, timetable, context, innovation field and of course which model feels to be the best for organisation`s purpose. I see this part also a challenge for DT concept as it is offered to business organisations which may not have experience from design models and tools before hand. The challenge can be that organisations do not have time to figure out which model to choose, they may feel confused about different models available and that way loose interest.
Build innovations through humans and experiences
I read Vijay Kumar`s 101 Design Methods book, which presents a structured, practical design thinking approach for building innovations within organisations.
Kumar raised the importance to understanding organisation as whole, its culture and processes, and what innovation actually is, before diving into the innovation process. In my point of view Kumar sees DT possibilities even wider perspective, not only as a concept for innovation processes, but change management tool to building innovation culture to organization`s DNA. In his book he raised four key principles that can be found from organisations, which have been successful innovators.
1# Build innovation around experiences
2# Think of innovations as systems
3# Cultivate an innovation culture
4# Adopt a disciplined innovation process
I see that the wider understanding about the humans, their experiences and context is crucial for building reliable innovations. Especially I like the first principle as it is really human-centered concentrating to user experiences beyond the product or services e.g. running shoes vs running. Reframing the perspective greatens the possibilities for innovation. Design Thinking process helps design thinkers to create this kind of experience-focused innovations.
Kumar`s easy to follow DT model for innovation processes is divided into seven modes. Every modes has their own goals and activities. Book practically guides to cultivate right kind of mindset in every mode. Right mindset helps being fluency enough to be creative and effective in the innovation process.
Vilay Kumar`s Design Innovation Process model, seven modes and 101 methods.
The future and world we are living may seem to be foggy, but when you go out and observe world with empathy and then visualise your insights everything comes clearer. Design Thinking is there to help and guide organisations to better future.
Written by Marjukka Rantala – Laurea, Helsinki, Finland
Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
Kumar, Vijay 2013. 101 Design Methods: Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New Jersey.