Design Thinking – the challenge in daring to embrace the mess of non linear thinking.
The Design Thinking course on September 2nd-3rd 2016 was very illuminating. Doing Design Thinking by following a specific model really shows how much work should be put in design work itself from exploring to implementing. Doing the same thing over and over again with different methods (moodboard, brainwriting etc.) truly opens up new ideas during the process.
We started our service planning from one idea and through all the steps ended up in something different. Continuing the process further and with more time would have, in my opinion, led to another outcome. Doing so much work in such a short time really doesn’t give space for ideas to develop by themselves.
The difference in similarities
During the lessons we learned especially the use of the Evolution 6² model, which has more stages than other models discussed in class and in the paper Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation (Tschimmel 2002). Nevertheless, all the models can be, more or less, divided in three main stages: first you have to learn the problem (through observing, exploring, understanding, defying etc.), then you develop an idea/ideas based on your observations (through experiments, ideating, reflecting, elaborating etc.) and finally you’ll find a solution that can be made available to public (through prototyping, testing, implementing etc.).
Brainwrite instead of brainstorm. Why? No need to feel ashamed of saying something idiotic out loud while you can write it on a Post-it anonymously.
That was my main concern during the Design Thinking course. Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença familiarized us with practical Design Thinking. Katja gave us introduction to design thinking, its background, literature and visual models for design thinking process. We familiarized ourselves better with The Mindshake Design thinking model: Evolution 62. The two days of studying were full of inspiring activities to get to know Evolution 62 -model in action.
For some reason I had difficulties letting go of my result-oriented mind-set to complete the activities. I tried to convince myself to focus on simply learning the tools and getting to know my new classmates. But still having the “right” answers to exercises and following the given instructions precisely were my main concerns. It was frustrating and energy-consuming. My goal to have the right answers was preventing me from actually embracing the full meaning of Design Thinking. Because Design thinking is neither art nor science nor religion, it is the capacity, ultimately, for integrative thinking. Design thinkers need to have a holistic view of the problem (Brown), as in this case the holistic view of Design Thinking instead of predicting the answers.
It must had been frustrating also for my group member to have me continuously question what were we actually ideating during the Evolution 62 process. Tim Brown emphasizes that in Design thinking, failure is totally acceptable as long as it happens early and becomes a source of learning. Well, at least I got half of the failure right. After the study days I felt I had failed trying to be a design thinker but when I read more, my failure became a source of learning. Brown wrote that behaviour is never wrong or right but it is always meaningful. He of course refers to people´s behaviour when observed for insights. But I decided to use this on my own behaviour analysis. What if my result-focused way of learning was actually a coping mechanism to deal with the new situation? I have no graphic skills and as visualizing is key elements in Design thinking, this was a big source of uncertainty. And as Design Thinking is a new field for me, I needed to follow the given instructions precisely to stay on board.
Dealing with incomplete information, with the unpredictable, and with ambiguous situations, requires designers to feel comfortable with uncertainty. (D-think) This is a goal I need to keep working for, but luckily Brown wrote something that gave me hope. Don´t ask “what?” ask “why?” Asking “why?” is an opportunity to reframe a problem, redefine the constraints and open the field to a more innovative answer. (Brown) This made me realize that I was actually doing the right thing by questioning our group work, but I was asking the wrong question. In terms of learning and design thinking I should had been asking “why?” to have the answer to convince me for my worry of us heading toward the wrong result and to grasp a more holistic view of the process.
So to answer my question from the beginning – I almost did it right!
Service Innovation and Design MBA Student
Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja; Santos, Joana; Loyens, Dirk; Jacinto, Alexandre; Monteiro, Rute & Valenca, Mariana 2015. Research Report D-Think. http://blog.mindshake.pt/category/research/
“Here was a curious thing. My friend’s instinct told him the North End was a good place, and his social statistics confirmed it. But everything he had learned as a physical planner about what is good for people and good for cities neighbourhoods, everything that made him an expert, told him the North End had to be a bad place.” Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Change by Design 
In the very first masterclasses about Design Thinking running by Katja Tschimmel and Marina Valenca we, toddlers in the field and students in Service Innovation and Design Programme, went into renaissance era of the design which now is perceived and used as a perfectly crafted methodology by a wider audience including business itself. Big Bang of Design Thinking which – as we were assured – Comes of Age!  As lectures went fast with a short history of design and presented different approaches to the design process to smoothly show us their own – well equipped with a whole range of precisely picked tools ; like many others, I was waiting for practical part of the meeting. For doing stuff not learning about it, to experience it, to feel it in my heart and to answer fundamental questions: what is, what if, what wows and what works . After all, I took home some thoughts which I present below.
If you were asked to describe DT you probably would start drawing something, using Post-its notes, prototyping anything but not words themselves. Visualisation played a priority during our jam session. There is no way to disagree with Liedtka & Ogilvie that “Visualisation make ideas tangible and concrete. […] make them human and real.”  It also allows us to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation. After that few hours together it is hard to polemise with Katja while saying that “designers analyse and understand problems of the artificial world.” in the meaning that every tangible aspect of the performance was before the creation of intangible thoughts, ideas, notions, and intuition. From this perspective visualisation lets us grab our unrevealed ideas, bring them to the surface and make them enough concrete to evaluate. It also put individual and collective intuition before learning and maybe this is what I the most love about it.
A stream of consciousness.
If I were asked to show the greatest values of Design Thinking process, I would say that its collaborative, multidisciplinary and co – creative aspects are the most precious one. I enjoyed brain-writing part of our session vastly. But, we always put a human in the heart of all “doing”. In Virginia Woolf’s book the different aspects of Ms. Dalloway; her needs, feelings, context, and experiences are constantly subjected to individual and collective influence and turn from intentions into reality. In DT process it all above makes possible to arise great and innovative idea anchored in the essence of an end user of the service or offering.
Nevertheless to make it happen, I learned that we need to listen to others with engagement on every possible step. In my opinion, like visualisation is the tool of understanding and expressing all ideas and thoughts as listening is the value without which no meaningful idea can authentically bloom. I like how about listening speaks Otto Scharmer and I leave you with his short video to contemplate where innovation and tipping point in any sector starts. Enjoy!
1. “Change by design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.” Tim Brown
2. “Design Thinking Comes to Age”, Jan Kolko Harvard Bussiness Review, https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age
3. “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation.”, Katja Tschimmel http://www.academia.edu/1906407/Design_Thinking_as_an_effective_Toolkit_for_Innovation
4. “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers.”, Liedtka & Ogilvie
As far as Design Thinking goes, I must confess to being quite the “newbie”. Having only recently been enlightened to the magical world of service design, innovation and co-creation, I was excited to learn of the many different models that the design thinking world has to offer.
Katja Tschimmel describes the similarities and differences of the models in both her article “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation” as well as in the research report D-think. These include IDEO’s 3 I model (Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation), IDEO’s HCD model (human-centred design, Hearing, Creating, Delivering), the models of the d.school (Hasso-Plattner Institute and Stanford University), the Double-Diamond model of the British Council, and the DT toolkit for Educators. Mindshake’s E6 model was also introduced, and I got the opportunity to try it out myself during the course.
During the class sessions, I got a glimpse of how the design thinking process could be applied to solve student-related issues. There was no lack of empathy during this task, as we all dived into tackling issues concerning thesis stress, time-management issues and networking needs. We grouped ourselves into small multidisciplinary teams, and our team went through a the Design Thinking process to come up with our final conclusion; a service called “Matchup”. It was a service to tackle the issue of networking within our SID group. The idea actually won!
Have you ever been in a situation when you know your business isn’t going as smoothly as it should? You know that something should be done but you don’t know where to start or can’t identify the business problems or the customers’ needs? How do you feel about failure as a part of innovating? Have you ever thought about establishing an innovation process WITH your customers instead of old fashioned way, FOR your customers? Are you confused?
These are all questions that pop up when talking about Design Thinking (DT).
What is it and how can it help to develop your business?
Design Thinking combines human-centricity and design methods with problem solving and innovation process. It focuses in organization’s ability to produce new content, develop business and make development work cross sectoral and organizational boundaries. DT’s core is located somewhere between human-centered approach, collaborative way of working and co-creation with stakeholders and the end-users.
The work itself takes place in multidisciplinary teams that are facilitated by designers whose expertise consists of the ability to match human needs with technical resources, constrains and objectives of the project or business, and ultimately conversion into customer value and market opportunity by using different DT process and tools. In DT feelings and emotions as well as failures and mistakes plays big role when achieving the results like new processes, services and ways of communication and collaboration.
There are multiple different Design Thinking process models that can be used. The choice depends on various factors, e.g. the characteristics of the innovation project and its context, the team dynamics and the time available for the process. There’s no such thing as a perfect DT process model and pioneers in the field all have their own opinions.
Design Thinking in practice
We had two-day intensive DT workshop where we concentrated on Evolution 62 model developed by Katja Tschimmel in 2015. The name of the process model refers to the six phases that all start with the letter E:
Play has evolved as an advantageous and necessary aspect of behaviour. Why is it then that we so often leave it on other side of the office door? (Michlewski & Buchanan, 2016)
The power of Design Thinking
Design Thinking is as a creative way of thinking which leads to transformation and evolution of new forms of living and to new ways of managing business. Designers not only develop innovative solutions by working in teams with colleagues and partners, but also in collaboration with the final users.
Its visual tools (drawing, sketching, mapping, prototyping, brainstorm, etc) help professionals to identify, visualize, solve problems and preview problems in innovative ways. Enable designer inquire about a future situation or solution to a problem and transform unrealized ideas into something to build on and to discuss with colleagues, final customers and other stakeholders.
Design Thinking characteristics are analytical and emphatic, rational and emotional, methodical and intuitive, oriented by plans and constraints, but spontaneous.
Several process models have been presented. The criteria used to choose the more appropriate model include the characteristics of the task, its context, the number and composition of the team and its dynamic and the available time for the innovation process.
Some examples are: IDEO’s 3 I and HCD Models; Model of the Hasso-Plattner Institute; 4 D or Double Diamond Model of the British Council; Service Design Thinking (SDT) Model; Evolution 6² Model.