Tag Archive | Design Thinking; Design Thinking Toolkit; Innovation method; Service Innovation and Design

Design Thinking for Business Innovation

I participated recently to a web course by Darden School of Business at Virginia University. Professor Jeanne Liedtka led us students to a four-week journey into the world of service design and innovation. The course included short video lectures by professor Liedtka and her colleagues (e.g. Daniel Pink and Jeremy Alexis). Several business examples were used to highlight the issues at hand. I really enjoyed having a recap to SD practices I have learnt at Laurea. I want to share my insights during the course by describing service designer’s mindset and Liedtka’s SD process. At the end I describe some qualities for a dream team.






Broaden your mindset

The starting point was to break the Moses myth of innovation being a miracle that takes special gifts – and instead make it a process for problem solving. Organizations make it sometimes a bit hard to innovate as they love big ideas, are obsessed with analyses and the managers might get trapped in growth gridlock. However, as data on the future does not exist, we need to encourage physics of innovation by having a prepared mind. That means broadening mindset by

  • Reflection in order to recognize fixed mindset
  • Learning something new every day
  • Asking questions more than giving answers (coaching approach)
  • Stretching current capabilities each week (e.g. job rotation)
  • Aiming for becoming growth oriented.


A four phase SD process

An easy to relate to SD process was discussed during the course. The same process has also been introduced in Liedtka’s and Ogilvie’s book “Designing for Growth”:

1. What is? The aim is to get insights from the customers about the status as is. Deep exploration into the lives and problems of customers is needed before generating solutions. Look at what the customers are trying to accomplish, not what they say they want. Stay in the question, don’t rush; try to understand first. Journey mapping and value chain analysis are good tools during this first phase.

2. What if? What if anything was possible to make the future differ from today? The aim is to find unarticulated customer needs, to search for higher ground. It is important to be possibility-driven and options-focused. It is wise to have multiple irons on the fire, i.e. to produce a portfolio of new ideas. Brainstorming sessions help to think out of the box; the expectation is not to get it right the first time but instead expect to iterate for success.

3. What wows? Assumptions produced during “What if” are based on guesses and need to be tested. Drill down to the essence by testing and evaluating the initial business concepts. As the aim is to fail fast to succeed sooner, we sometimes need to leave things unfinished. That is one of the hardest things for a manager but also one of the most important.

4. What works? This is the phase when customer co-creation takes place: feedback from customers is essential in order to move towards a sustainable offering: customers want it, we can do it and the economics can sustain it. The purpose is to solve customer pains and thus learn, improve and remove barriers.

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The power of design thinking

We are honored to have contact lessons with Dr. Katja Tschimmel, Design Professor at ESAD Portugal, and Gijs van Wulfen, Innovation Consultant about design thinking. I work in a design organization surrounded by designers; I always wanted to know how design thinking can be used by anyone as a toolkit. This course gives me the absolutely fantastic opportunity to learn to think like designer.

After the course, I feel am fulfilled with power which will help me to continue with my rest of SID programs. I can’t wait to learn more.  Now, let me share with you essential personal takeaways from the course.

1. The power of “Visual”

During the course I remember all the time Katja and Gijs have been talking about “Visual”, I believe that is the most important aspect which makes design thinking standing out. We tried mind mapping, foto safari, image interview, moodboard, brain writing, sketching and desktop walk through (Katja Tschimmel’s research paper Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation (2012) https://www.academia.edu/1906407/Design_Thinking_as_an_effective_Toolkit_for_Innovation) in step 1 (Full Steam Ahead) and 2 (Observe and Learn) of FORTH method (http://www.forth-innovation.com/home/) by Gijs van Wulfen. The commonality of all of these tools above is all of them are very visual.

The power of visual is obvious. Research paper shows that people remember 80% of what they see and do (Figure 1 below). That is why if you really want what you said to be remembered, you must use visual tools.


(Figure 1: Resource: http://www.hp.com/large/ipg/assets/bus-solutions/power-of-visual-communication.pdf)

I totally felt thrilled by how much more effectively I remembered our course by using sketching, mood-board, mind-mapping and desktop walkthrough. It is also very interesting to me that many times when we discuss with team members, I thought we were on same page already but not until we draw our ideas on paper or write them down, we realized that we actually didn’t understand each other fully. I learned so much by doing the exercises given by Katja and Gijs.

Right after the course, I started applying visual communication immediately into my current work. Below is an example of fast drawings to illustrate focus areas in our operational development projects portfolio (Experience Innovation collaboration and Product Execution (Figure 2)).


(Figure 2: example of using visual tool in my own work after the course)

It is also important to remember that it doesn’t matter if the drawings are not beautiful. Don’t be shy to try it out, like Katja and Gijs said, you need not to be designer to think or work like designer. Having said that, I believe the more you practice the better you will become. The key is to start using the visual tool and do it more often. This will help you to become a natural design thinker.

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