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

Innovation & Design Thinking Start with the Assessment of Now

“Innovation and design thinking are considered as the principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage in the business world today. Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and even strategy” Tim Brown (2008). 

Ironically, I never considered myself an innovative or creative person. Instead, my organized and systematic way of working sometimes seems to be even conflicting with the idea of being innovative. However, I like challenging myself. That’s why I enrolled to the “Service Innovation and Design” program at Laurea University of Applied Sciences, to build my confidence and skills towards being a more innovative person. 

My Service Innovation and Design journey started with the course of “Design Thinking” from Katja Tschimmel in September. Katja herself is a Professor, Researcher and Consultant with the strong focus on creative thinking and design. The 2-days intensive course emphasised the fact that “design thinking (aka. Design doing) is a systematic approach to problem solving.” 

By deep dive into the Figure 1 – Evolution 62(E6) model, we can see it has been divided into 6 phases, which starts with Emergence – identification of an opportunity in the centre. Then under each phase, there are various tools as recommendations or proposals to choose from. However, due the iterative nature of design thinking, tools can be freely selected based on the needs and context. 

Figure 1: Evolution 6Mindshake Design Thinking Model by Katja Tschimmel (2018)

From the well instructed group exercises, we were able to familiarize ourselves with different design thinking tools. Also, from Katja’s concrete consulting case example, we were able hear how design thinking applied into real-life examples and best practices.  

To enhance the design thinking understanding, I further on read the Harvard Business Review article by Tim Brown called Design Thinking (2008). In the article, Tim stressed that for any design projects, Design thinking ultimately goes through 3 stages: 1) Inspiration, 2) ideation, and 3) Implementation.

In more details (Brown, 2008, P88-P89): 
– inspiration is about understanding current circumstances and using the findings to search identify problems or opportunities.
– ideation is about generating, developing and testing ideas that may lead to solutions.
– implementation is about charting a path to market

In the end, Tim highlighted that innovation is the result of hard work, which starts with an idea that based on deep understanding of consumers’ live, then followed by iterative cycles of design thinking practices, such as porotypes, testing and refinement, to innovate and build value (2008, P90).

Similarly, in the book of “Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers”, Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011) introduced the design model with 4 basic questions (Figure 2).  The “what is” stage explores current reality. “What if” envisions a new future. “What wows” makes some choices, and “what works” takes us to the marketplace (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P36). 

Figure 2:Design Process by Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011)

By comparing 3 different design thinking models mentioned above, we can quickly come to the realization that, despite all the differences, all design thinking starts with the current reality and circumstance understanding. You might be wondering, isn’t design thinking is about creating something new for the future, but why starts with now? 

The answer is simply. Because successful innovation always goes back to the basics of “what is the job to be done” and how can we improve it? To answer that question, we need to pay close attention to what is going on today to identify the real problem or opportunity that we want to tackle.

Without an accurate reality assessment, the innovation outcome loses the meaning and values. Also, in most cases, we tend to find innovation clues right lies in the dissatisfaction of the presence. By taking a closer look at users’ frustrations today, we will be able identify opportunities for improvements. Therefore, we can all agree that reality assessment is the foundation of innovation, and starting point of any design thinking process. (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P38-P39)

So now you might be thinking that “Okay, now I get the point, but how to conduct the reality assessment in practice, and which tools I should be using?” There are many available tools to choose from based on the needs and situation. However, here are a few that I personally find useful to try (Tschimmel, 2018; Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011). 

Media, Market and Customer Analysis to obtain the understanding of what is happening or emerging currently to produce Trend Matrix. 
Intent Statement to collaboratively define “what do we want to innovate”? 
Stakeholder Map to identify various individuals or groups involved in the project, foresee possibility challenges, and develop strategies to engage them. 
Persona to define who are the users in the project. 
Customer Journey Mapping to provide a visual representation of the touchpoints where users interact with company services or solutions. 
Value Chain Analysis to study an organization’s interaction with partners to produce, market, distribute and support its offering. It is the business-side equivalent of customer journey mapping, to highlight pain points and opportunities when working with partners.
Mind Mapping to extract meaning from vast amount of collected information to look for patterns and identify innovation opportunities.

Have fun with trying different design thinking tools! Enjoy! 

Written by Xiaoying Wang on 22nd September 2019.
Service Innovation and Design student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences


Tschimmel, K. (2018). Evolution 62: An E-handbook for Practial Design Thinking for Innovation. MindShake. 
Brown, T (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review P85-P95. 
Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. (2011). Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press. 

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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