Tag Archive | design thinking

Panel Discussion: Design Thinking – a tool to create and develop better services

Fraktio, a Finnish company crafting state of the art web applications, arranged an online panel discussion to explain and analyze Design Thinking principles. All five participants had a vast experience in designing services and contributed with practical examples on how Design Thinking had been taken in use with their customers.

Fraktio, Design Thinking
Fraktio, a Finnish software company, arranged a discussion on Design Thinking with a panel of experts in October of 2020.

To start with, Vitali Gusatinsky, who leads the design team at Fraktio, emphasized the importance of innovation and experimentation in service design. Vitali also described how renewing services from scratch, in an old-fashioned manner, many times require sizeable resources involving high risk-taking. This was the basis for the panel discussion; comprehensively looking at optional (new) ways of creating value through an iterative design process.

As a tool to develop services, Fraktio presented a five-phased model, which looks as follows:

  1. Empathize – Listen to users
  2. Define – Define and select a challenge
  3. Ideate – Create proposals
  4. Build – Build a solution
  5. Test – Show the solution to

To truly understand consumer behavior, you really need to go out there and listen to users (empathize), e.g. through semi-structured interviews. According to the panelists, it many times is needed to sell this phase to stakeholders in organizations, as people sometimes falsely think they already know what users want and need. Although user research is a powerful tool to minimize risk and wasting resources, it unfortunately still often is underestimated.

In an interview setting, however, one should focus on finding new insights rather than taking things for granted or focusing excessively on stereotypes. By challenging both yourself and the interviewee, you can validate concepts and develop new ones quite effectively. This again pushes you towards innovation together with a customer, that in a perfect world creates sustainable value for both actors.

As we know, multidisciplinary teams and co-working is a key factor in a design process and the panelists agreed on a few crucial aspects to consider. Firstly, one should closely define and analyze the challenge at hand from many perspectives. This involves collecting all types of data (current state) that supports co-creation of ideas constituting towards possible solutions.

When facilitating multidisciplinary workshops, it’s important to build an environment where participants feel like a designer. The panel ensured, that everyone can draw (sketches) and that everyone has the brainpower to produce both a variety of ideas and possible solutions. Certainly, there may occur tension and resistance in the beginning, but it’s the facilitators role to ensure everyone feels comfortable.

When a substantial amount of ideas has been produced, it’s necessary to converge; in other words, prioritize and focus on one solution to be developed as a prototype. According to Fraktio’s designers, a prototype can literally be anything and does not by any means have to be something complete. A prototype should work as “something real that evokes discussion”, preferably created as rapidly and cheap as possible. By iterating and quickly generating new, developed, prototypes for testing purposes, you’ll be able to capture feedback and help showing direction in service development.

In my opinion, it’s crucial to build a culture that allows failing and testing radical ideas. The purpose of a design process is not to be right, but rather gaining insights through a systematic approach and most importantly, creating services that create user value.

Written by Thomas Djupsjö
MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences

The panel discussion was held in Finnish. Content has been translated by the author.

Resources

We are Fraktio – Fraktio (2020)
https://www.fraktio.fi/in-english

Perjantaipaneeli: Kuinka Design Thinking auttaa luomaan parempia palveluita? – Fraktio (16.10.2020)
https://www.fraktio.fi/perjantaipresikset/2020/10/16/perjantaipaneeli-kuinka-design-thinking-auttaa-luomaan-parempia-palveluita

Why every problem solver needs design thinking

You might have heard of design thinking in business context and its possible perks. A design thinking approach is usually chosen when there’s a need for new inventions, growth or increasing satisfaction. Design thinking is the way designers think – putting human needs in the centre of development and creating engaging and inspiring solutions. Design means an invention or a solution to a problem. Without inventions, there’s no growth. That is why you should get involved.


Design thinking can be taught and learned, it’s not a personality trait 

In Dunne & Martins (2006) article they refer to the problem that the word design withholds. Usually the word design is associated with product development or fashion and it is seen as unrelated to the business world. Contentwise design thinkers use the same business tools, like KPI´s and ROI´s, but they always add the question “In service of what?”. 

Another reason experts do not embrace design thinking is the idea that design means creativity. We, as a society, tend to categorise people as talented or untalented in different areas, ourselves included. But people are not born leaders, analysts, designers or rockstars – you need to learn the competences! Creativity and design thinking can be taught, and you can learn them.


The human-centric way to solve problems

First you need to understand the why and then you can learn the how

According to Liedtka & Ogilvie (2011) the whole point of design thinking is to learn a new, systematic approach to problem solving. If you want to compete in the same market in few years, you need to grow and build resilience – you need to innovate. If the innovations are made internally, inside an organisation, a team, or even worse, inside someone’s head, you are heading to trouble. 

Most experts know the straightforward way of problem solving: define the problem, identify various solutions, analyse each and pick the best one (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011). Traditional problem solving can be seen as a linear process. It follows a process of build-measure-learn, focusing on the building. 

The traditional approach is problematic. It’s optimistic with no proof of the solution delivering great value. The process is cold and clean and all the learning about the solution comes afterwards (Liedtka & Oglivie, 2011). 

In a design process you turn the roles other way around, learn-build-measure, focusing on the learning. A design process is never linear and it consists of multiple failures and iterations (Brown, 2018).

The process aims in discovering genuine human needs and developing specific solutions. It all starts from empathy – trying to imagine what others think (Liedkta & Oglivie, 2011). Others meaning your customers, team members, users or partners. As they say, they are not numbers! They are always real people with real emotions, problems and personal targets. A design process creates solutions that inspire through true engagement and emotional connection. 

Learning design thinking doesn’t just mean learning a new set of tools. It also means learning to collect and analyse large quantities of data, learning to think what might be instead of is, learning to manage the feeling of uncertainty and collaborating with many new parties (Liedtka & Oglivie, 2011).


Why haven’t all organisations embraced design thinking?
 

Organisations with new innovations and best customer and employee experiences recruit the best experts and dominate the market. Still human-centricity is fairly rare. 

Comparing the two approaches presented, design process can seem slower. When the emphasis is in the beginning of the project, where all the learning and value creation systems are mapped, the project will not provide solutions as fast as the traditional approach. This is why I’ve seen multiple projects crumble under the feeling uncertainty and change to the traditional approach.


Where next? 

Now that you have some understanding of the why, you can start expanding your personal tool kit with new, collaborative tools.


Written by: Elina

References: 

Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.

Dunne, D. & Martin, R. (2006) Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education: An Interview and Discussion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2006, Vol. 5, No. 4, 512–52.

Liedtka, Jeanne & Ogilvie, Tim (2011). Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers, New York: Columbia University Press.

Tschimmel, K. (2020). Design Thinking Masterclass, Laurea.

Design thinking as a unique fusion of tools and approaches to unlock innovative potential

As the pace of technological change is constantly increasing, we are spending more time consuming the constant flow of innovation rather than creating something new. Tschimmel (2020) suggests that “innovation is the driving force for the quality of life and economy”. However, how to unlock the hidden capabilities all of us possess to enable this contribution to the common good? Design thinking helps to use a broader range of tools and approaches to expand one’s creativity and enable innovation processes. Design thinking is built on the 7 key principles:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Human-centred approach
  3. Experimentation
  4. Divergence
  5. Visualisation
  6. Holistic perspective
  7. Prototyping

During a 2-days masterclass on Design Thinking at Laurea we were presented, and had a chance to use in practice, Katja Tschimmel’s Innovation & Design Thinking Mindshake model. The model includes a step-by-step process to design and create something new.

As part of the workshop, we walked through each of the steps and applied the methodology for solving a suggested problem. At first I was skeptical about the value of “another ideation tool”, but once applied in practice, the value has become more apparent. This design process enables the imagination to flourish and brings new perspectives by utilizing a fusion of techniques and approaches.

Motivated by inspiring discussions, I next approached one of the recommended books called “Change by design”. Tim Brown’s seminal paper on Design Thinking describes approaches that made a firm IDEO one of the leaders in design consulting. Tim emphasizes the human-centered aspect of design thinking arguing that empathy is the fundamental tool to grasp problems and perspectives the end users are dealing with. I ended up giving the book 3 on the scale between 1 to 5 on Goodreads due to heavy marketing implications of the included stories, however the paper definitely brought my understanding of the design thinking fundamentals to a new level and stirred up my interest in the topic further.

Coming from a professional services field where structural problem-solving is the key enabler, design thinking at first seems like a discipline full of “fluff” with unnecessary “poetic” or even esoteric implications. Luckily, I enjoy these genres. Like the “not-necessarily 100% scientifically-backed” works of Carlos Castaneda or Marshall Rosenberg at some point in my life gave me new momentums to start something new, I have high hopes for Design Thinking to expand the professional boundaries I’ve been locked into in the recent years.

Resources:

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

Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tschimmel, Katja (2020 forthcoming). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – a human-centred ménage à trois 

Pereira, J.C.; Russo, R. (2018). Design Thinking Integrated in Agile Software Development: A Systematic Literature Review.

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.

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.

Unlocking Creativity for Design Thinking

We started our journey as SID students in early September 2020 with a two-day workshop that introduced the concept and process of Design Thinking. It was hosted by Katja Tschimmel and our tutoring teacher Päivi Pöyry-Lassila. Katja is the founder of design agency Mindshake and the model Evolution 6² or E6² (2018), Päivi is a Principal Lecturer at Laurea.

In the limited timeframe, Katja walked us through the design process with Mindshake’s Evolution 6² model to support the creative thinking process. This helped us form an understanding of what the design process can be like.

Group work for idea clustering in the Design Thinking workshop

We are all designers

Historically designers were typically arts-based design professionals. It is now known that successful designers do not differentiate themselves only through their specialised knowledge, but by their ability to think creatively. (Tschimmel, K. (2020).

According to Kamil Michlewski (Design Attitude, 2016) we all possess some form of design skills. Even though some are inherently better at designing than others, there are a set of steps anyone can follow on the road to innovation.

Unlocking creativity and getting to know the team

Design Thinking

Design for Innovation always implies the creation of something new, it is always based on creative thinking or design thinking. Design Thinking is not only a cognitive process or a mindset, it has today become an effective method with a toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking.

Design is also no longer viewed as just a creative or rational problem-solving process, but rather as an opportunity and knowledge generating activity that helps to deal with intricate problems.

It’s important to remember however that, as concluded in Design Thinking comes of age, “Design doesn’t solve all problems”, it offers unique opportunities for humanising technology and developing emotionally resonant services and products.

Today design is making significant economic contribution to businesses, organisations and economies and designers are the closest group between the company and its internal and external consumers, they are change agents who are transforming organisational cultures.

Courage to take risks, empathy for understanding

An underlying theme from our research is courage and the ability to embrace risk and ambiguity. For creativity to flourish, the culture needs to be one that allows not getting things right the first time, gives room for quick prototypes and iteration.

So, to “boldly go where no man has gone before” we need creativity, design thinking and a design attitude. We need to have courage to experiment, a toolbox to choose tools from for divergence and convergence for designing and to create new meaning from complexity. When we are able to solve problems, we are at best creating meaningful value for the society and our planet.

Blog text written by Elena Howlader and Anna Sahinoja, SID2020 students

References: 

Kimbell, Lucy (2012). Rethinking Design Thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, Volume 4, Issue 2, July 2012, 129-148.

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. 

Michlewski, Kamil (2015). Design Attitude. Gower Publishing Limited. England.

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. 

Letting go of your prejudices (while staying inside that thinking box)

by Miia Lemola & Ekaterina Nikitina

Design Thinking workshop and concomitant readings have given us a lot of inspiration. However, it has also activated inner critics in us. We would like to share our thoughts about prejudices and limitations in creative thinking.

Creativity – a gift or a skill?  

In the workshop, we were thrown to the deep end to practice Design Thinking instead of analysing the term which might have confused us. For example, in the article “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking” (Buchanan, R. 1996) the focus is heavily on the philosophical question on what Design Thinking is. While the core idea of Design Thinking being about experimenting and understanding human experience is in the article, it does not bring it to concrete level. Buchanan’s work is also criticized by Lucy Kimbell (2011) for his generalisation of designers’ role in the world rather than studying individual designers’ approaches.

By throwing us in the deep end in the beginning we were forced to train what is the beginning of all thinking – ideas and creativity. We learned that creativity is not something a person has or not, but it is more like a muscle you can train. Many of us suffer from of our insecurities and prejudices such as “I’m not a creative person” and “I can’t come up with any ideas”. In the Social Distancing in Educational Institutions assignment we learned to create new ideas by making unlikely combinations of topics identified in mind maps. 

Letting go of your insecurities and prejudices help you in the process of becoming creative and designing new services. This happened also to highly introverted, technical and rule-oriented people such as Akshay Kotheri and Ankit Gupta who by attending a Design Thinking workshops in Stanford University eventually invented an app that was praised by Steve Jobs (Kelley, T. & Kelley, D. 2015).

Picture 1. Tschimmel, K. 2020. Workshop 4.-5.9.2020. 

What about the box?  

As an encouragement for training our creativity we often hear “Think outside of the box!”. Although, how far outside of the box are we expected to think? Do constrains make us more creative or do they block our ability for ideation?

We as designers are always limited, among other aspects, by the culture of the society. In the article “Creativity, Design and Design Thinking a ménage à trois” (2020) Katja suggested that the result of creativity is “changing a symbolic domain of culture”. If a product is too revolutionary, it might not be acknowledged as valuable by the community. It happened before to famous painters, writers, musicians, and scientists. 

The society constraints were also (accidentally) demonstrated in the class during Perception exercise (Picture 2). The task had only one “correct” answer, although fellow students suggested three other decent options. In this case the range of correct solutions was limited by the task creator. 

Picture 2. Tschimmel, K. 2020. Workshop 4.-5.9.2020. Edited by Ekaterina Nikitina 

Although limitations might be a brake in creating process, designers could also benefit from them. 

Famous Russian blogger and designer Artemiy Lebedev suggested that limitations, are “a real creative opportunity”. A designer receiving a clear assignment would do a good job, while a designer asked to do “the best something” would produce nothing (Lebedev, A. 2012.). Also, Kelley (2015) mentions that a few boundaries can not only spur more creativity but might also help to (re)frame the challenges. We felt this in class when workshop tasks had time limits. 

Combining the best of both worlds 

All in all, creativity is a doing process. Although studying history and a variety of theories of Design Thinking is vital, we found practicing creativity more efficient for understanding the ideas behind the subject. We also agreed that setting constraints – staying inside the thinking box – is a working solution for embracing creativity. However, when all the participants are in creative process with open heart and mind, not only innovative ideas are welcomed more likely by the community, but we grow as designers and realize that we can create. 

Picture 3. Source: Unsplash 

Miia Lemola & Ekaterina Nikitina. Course A9299-3004 Design Thinking. Laurea 2020

Ideas stolen from: 

Lebedev. A. 2012. The virtue of limitations
Buchanan, R. 1996. Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. 
Kelley, T. & Kelley, D. 2015: Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All 
Kimbell, L. 2011. Rethinking Design Thinking: Part I
Tschimmel, K. 2020. Lectures in Laurea University of Applied Sciences, 4.-5.9.2020 
Tschimmel, K. 2020. Creativity, Design and Design Thinking a ménage à trois.