Tag Archive | design thinking

Diving Into the World of Design Thinking

“Now I want you all to introduce yourselves, but this time you will do it differently.” – this is how our Design Thinking course started and little did we know what will follow afterwards. To present ourselves we were divided into groups, where each of us had to first, speak about her/himself, second, count one minute, third, draw the speaker and fourth, listen. What a mindshake on a Friday morning! 

In this blog we will tell you what else we did during our workshop. But first, let’s focus on the definition and purpose of Design Thinking.

Our Portraits Created by Our Teammates in Miro

What is Design Thinking?

Historically design has not been a key step in the developing process. Designers came along at the very end of the process to make the product look aesthetically desirable or have a nice package. Due to the shift from industrial manufacturing to knowledge work and service delivery, the objectives of innovation are no longer physical products, but they can be services, processes or applications.  (Brown 2008)

Design Thinking today is understood as an effective method with a toolkit for innovation processes in multidisciplinary teams in any kind of organization (Tschimmel 2021). User-centric perspective and empathy for gaining a deeper understanding of the user’s needs is essential in the design thinking process (Kouprie & Sleeswijk 2009). 

Motee (2013) emphasizes the role of business leaders in creating a design thinking culture within a company. In his opinion, future business leaders should practice disciplined imagination to formulate problems and generate alternative outcomes, look beyond the limits and enable collaboration in the company.

Mindshake E6² Model in Practice

Professor Katja Tschimmel introduced us to the Mindshake Evolution 6² model, which we will describe below and explain how we used it in the workshop.

To begin with, we were given a topic of “Inclusion at work”. We started by identifying challenges and opportunities of the issue. At this stage, we created an Opportunity map and formulated an Intent statement (Emergence). 

We planned and conducted short Interviews in order to gain Empathy with the target group and filled the results into the Insight map.  

In the Experimentation stage, we used Brainwriting for ideation and learned to come up with as many ideas as possible since the first ideas are always the obvious ones. 

The purpose of the Elaboration is to figure out how to transform an idea into a tangible concept. We utilized Rapid Prototyping to visualize our concept. 

Collaborating in Miro / SID Design Thinking Master Class Autumn 2021. 

In the Exposition stage, we created a Storyboard of our concept for presenting the key results of our innovation process and the benefits of the new vision.

At the Extension stage, we collected feedback from our classmates to potentially develop our idea-solution. Normally, at this stage, the team has to think how to implement the solution in practice. Because of the time and resources frames we couldn’t fully experience the Extension stage, however, we went through the whole cycle of the Innovation process and understood the main principles. 

The Key Points Learned of the DT Process

  • Human-Centeredness and Empathy  – We need to step into the user’s shoes.
  • Co-creation and Collaboration – Include as many stakeholders as possible throughout the process.
  • Creativity – Every idea is welcome.
  • Creativity can be developed through practice.
  • Visualizations help to communicate ideas with others.
  • Experimentation – Playful thinking and making mistakes are an important part of every creative process.

Written by Sari Eskelinen & Lada Stukolkina SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

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

Courtney, Jonathan (2020). What Is Design Thinking? An Overview. YouTube Video.

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life (Links to an external site.) in Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448 

Mootee, Idris (2013) Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. Wiley. 

Tschimmel, Katja (2021): Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation”. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79879-6.

Tschimmel, Katja (2021). Design Thinking course lectures, September 3–4 2021. Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

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Self-organizing organizations and well-being

Tampere University and The Finnish work environment fund has studied self-guiding organizations from occupational well-being point of view. The study drilled into topics like: On what level is employee’s well-being in organizations that have no management? What is the common stress factor in self organizing companies? Which ways of working would support employee’s well-being? 

Study group found seven development areas that should be taken into consideration when developing self-organizing teams. 

  • Clarification and management of work itself
  • Adjusting workload
  • Know-how and growth (as individual, – team and – organization)
  • Increasing the sense of community
  • Increasing / managing the information flow
  • Equal and functioning decision-making process
  • Managing organizational tension and solving conflicts

Picture by Heli Penttinen, source, Hyvinvoinnin seitsemän elementtiä itseohjautuvassa organisaatiossa- hankkeen keskeiset kehittämissuositukset. Webinaaritallenne 24.8.2021


All these seem like everyday problems or development areas to all kind of companies. Painting a clear vision of what the company is doing and making sure all understand the strategy at least on basic level the same, has always been a priority in companies. All companies also struggle with information and workload problems. Works does not distribute equally, and some get more load than other as the same time others get bored the same time. We also know that only organizations that learn to learn will survive in the futures faster and faster renewing business environment. 

To understand this study better, we need to also understand the typical features or descriptions of self-organizing company. In self organizing companies’ responsibilities and decision-making rights are distributed to the whole organization. Common goals and purpose guide peoples’ actions. Abilities to decide and influence your own work are high. Employees can choose the ways, time, and place where they work. In self organizing companies employees have power also to influence on the team structures, recruitments and rules.  The ability to influence on different issues in the company goes as high as the strategy that guides all actions. 

It seems that experienced well-being in self. Organizing companies is quite high. This is partly due the autonomy, freedom to choose and influence. When comparing traditional companies and self-organizing ones, it can be seen that work engagement is higher in self-organizing companies (Tampere University, 2021)


From service designers’ point of view self-organizing team structure seams more than right. By bringing everyone’s opinions and ideas to the table, I believe we are more able to solve more complex problems and create more innovative solutions. The idea of giving everyone a change to influence walks hand in hand with design thinking ideology.  
As the Tampere University study also states, this kind of model yet requires clarity in vision, common rules and guidelines, transparent communication and regular reviews and discussions of how we are doing and where we are going. When management is missing, leadership is needed more. I feel this will be the future, but before that, we have some rocky road ahead of us turning traditional organizations to more flexible mode. 

After listening the webinar and discussions followed, I stayed thinking which kind of design thinking methods and service design tools we could use to create tools to ease pointed development areas in self-organizing companies.

Text by Tarja Paanola
SID MBA Student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

Source; Seven steps to occupational 
wellbeing in self guiding organization- Webinar

Tampere University and 
The Finnish Work environment fund
24.8.2021 

Once upon a time, there was a design thinker…

The first course in our exciting journey of Service Innovation and Design learning started with a deep dive into the world of Design Thinking. Our class has an interesting mix of different professional domains and backgrounds, which, as we learned from professor Katja Tschimmel, is a great foundation for a creative team. 

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on unsplash.com

…who believed in the power of collaboration

The two intense sprint days gave us an overview of what design thinking is and can be. During those days most of the learning was done in the form of practical teamwork. We were put into teams to find solutions to inclusion-related problems in workplaces. This is where we discovered what it was like to work intensively with other people, using Creative Thinking methods to find new ideas, doing mind mapping, brainstorming, and collecting data from real interviews. As teams, we first worked out solutions and chose one that we pitched to the others using storyboarding. During the class, we also saw the importance of warmups and wakeups and how they impact the atmosphere and create a safe, innovative space to work in.  

…who stepped into the life of others

Design Thinking is a framework embracing empathy in design thoughts. Design serves people best when based on real needs. The way to get optimal results is to have end-users be part of the process, from start to finish. To gain a deeper understanding of the users, the designer needs to step into their life, feel their emotional state and get to know their circumstances and experiences. On our intense sprint days, we had the possibility to try this in practice as we planned and conducted interviews with our potential end-users and collected good insights on how to proceed with ideating.   

Photo by Nicolas Hippert on unsplash.com
Photo by Javier Esteban on unsplash.com

…who found creativity all around

Professor Katja Tschimmel presented us with several ways to open our minds to creativity and think outside the box. We learned creativity is for all and can be found everywhere. It is a very comforting idea, that it is not just some supernatural gift, but a skill that can be practiced and improved. The Kelley brothers highlight the fact that the creative potential is a natural human ability that exists within us all, and if blocked, it can be released. They also point out that in order to gain your own creative confidence you have to believe in the ability to create change around you.  

…who wasn’t afraid to try, as there’s a lesson in every failure

Working in an iterative way gives the best results. One of the most significant learning out-come for us has been the “fail fast, improve faster” -approach. The earlier you fail, the earlier you can learn from the failures and improve what needs fixing. The key-idea is not to give up, but to keep trying and let the failures guide you towards the right direction. Both Tim Brown and the Kelley brothers have brought up Edison’s invention of the lightbulb as a great example of the Design Thinking process. Edison understood the importance of teamwork, the needs of people, and saw the possibilities to learn from each iterative step, and then managed to combine this with a market opportunity and a viable business strategy.  

The Design Thinking method and approach is for everybody, and it might just be the thing needed to find the right solution.  

And this is not the end, the story has just begun. 

Photo by Carmen Martinez on unsplash.com

Written by: Venla Knuutila & Marja Gorbinet 

Inspired by:  

Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.  http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf (Links to an external site.)    

Kelley, David. & Kelley, Tom. (2013) Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All. Crown Business. (http://www.creativeconfidence.com/ (Links to an external site.))  

Kouprie, Merlijn & Visser, Froukje Sleeswijk. (2009) A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life (Links to an external site.) in Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5, October 2009, 437–448  

Tschimmel, Katja. (2022). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking - a human-centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II: Research, Education and Practice II. “Serie in Design and Innovation”. Springer International Publishing. (in print)  

Tschimmel, Katja (2021). Design Thinking course lectures, September 3–4 2021. Laurea University of Applied Sciences (online)  

A Design Thinking Crash Test

Erika Bäck & Sabine Maselkowski

Two days of Design Thinking ‘crash test’ (read: course) behind. All we think is we need to pass, like a car tested for the safety standards. Days went by at high-speed, challenging our ways of thinking and working, let’s start…

Design? Design Thinking? 

To get answers we looked both past and present practices and understandings. Design Thinking combines traditions from different fields and disciplines, arts and science alike. It is accepted that DT(=Design thinking) is found in the “everyday” and it is a procedural work. Often design is understood only as the final product rather than a process including several steps of e.g. researching, ideating or testing. Therefore, there have been more recent attempts to establish and agree on a design process.

‘Design’ can be a verb, noun and adjective. It is an approach to innovation that is applied in and between many different fields. The benefit of using DT in problem-defining and solution-finding processes is the focus on learning from each repetition, i.e. iteration. Design’s role is currently understood as creating something that meets consumers’ needs rather than “just” making it more attractive to them. The change lies in the understanding of consumers’ role: from passive recipients to active participants. The future component of design and DT are in “changing existing situations into preferred ones” (Simon, 1996, in Michlewski, 2015). and in the possibility of affecting the future. 

An incomplete checklist for potential designers 

(based on Brown, 2008, Michlewski, 2015, and the course)

Example of a (wicked) design problem

During our crash test, the theme of the DT challenge was introduced as inclusion at work. We were not expecting to solve the challenge in less than 48 hours. Rather this challenge opened our eyes for so-called wicked problems. Wicked problems are characterised, amongst others, by 

  • intederminancy
  • non-existence of clear definition
  • underlying higher-level problem
  • multitude of explanations 

(Rittel, 1972, as cited in Buchanan, 1996)

Such problems can have many solutions, all affected by context and actors, as our trial on inclusion at work showed.

What exactly happened in class?

During the ‘crash test’ with Katja Tschimmel, we took first steps towards “designers’ culture” (Buchanan, 1996). We shifted between the roles: facilitators, active participants, potential consumers. The role during class seemed to be ambivalent, and pointed out the difficulty to detach oneself from the DT process, e.g. when noticing how own assumptions made their way into interview questions and data gathering. We also learned to work on confidence; be brave with the ideas in order to get recognition from the audience and be confident to accept uncertainty e.g. when using the Miro Board.

Starting from not even a brief but only the three words “inclusion at work”, all these new ways of working, new people and new contents interestingly led six sub-groups to six distinct angles and solutions to the vaguely defined problem. Those pointed out a) the ability of designers to discover new relationships as well as b) design thinking as a “liberal art” (Buchanan, 1996: 14), be it by combining play with age discrimination, the environmental need of reforestation and equal access to information, or others. 

We might need a bit more finetuning after this initial test, but it seems we’ll hit the design road eventually!

Sources:

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

Buchanan, Richard (1996). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In: Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 

Michlewski, Kamil (2015). Design Attitude. Farnham, Surrey: Gower.

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.