Tag Archive | Gijs van Wulfen

Collectively ‘Thinking Design’

..my experience..
Starting studies after a decade…years of work life and now back again to a student life!

Was not sure what to expect and get from the SID master’s program starting on the morning of 4th September 2015 with ‘Design Thinking’

A very exciting day to begin, students around full of inspiration, motivated, energized and from various backgrounds. Getting to know and learn from each other all about the concept of Design Thinking was the essence of the two-day workshop held by guest lecturers Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença.

An interesting ice breaker for the team was the ‘mind shake warm-up’ and ‘who is who’ activities. Learnt a lot of new things not only on the subject but also about other students as well as myself! That’s when I realized that it is going to be an exciting learning journey ahead!

 Mind Shake game

Ice breaker – Mind Shake game

 who is who

Group exercise – who is who

..my knowledge..
Why design thinking?

Design Thinking is a way of thinking which leads to transformation, evolution and innovation. Tschimmel, K. (2012) it is human-centric approach which starts with observing people in their natural surroundings, helps to understand customer’s actual needs and create business that taps into their existing behavior. This way customers are much more likely to relate to the new business.

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Designing is about doing, not talking!


“Design is all about action, and business too often gets stuck at the talking stage. Uncertainty comes with the territory when business objective is growth. But that doesn’t mean that you are powerless to do anything about it. You can’t make it go away, but you can manage it rather than allow it to manage you.” 

Ogilvie, Tim, and Liedtka, Jeanne. Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers


According to Dr. Katja Tschimmel Design Thinking has, in fact, become an effective toolkit for any innovation process, connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking. It is just what business managers need when looking for new opportunities to take their businesses to the next level.

Becoming a Design Thinkerdesign thinking2

Ogilvy and Liedtka assimilate TQM & quality with Design Thinking & organic growth and innovation. Surely the transformation from a structured and rational fact-based business manager into an ambiguous and empathy-focused Design Thinker calls for true desire to learn a new way of thinking. It also means challenging and rethinking some of the most common business tools and development practices.


6 helpful tips on how to apply Design Thinking:

  1. Choose a method or process model and follow it – there are plenty to choose from
  2. Throw away the facts, figures and trends you already have and focus on what you do not know
  3. Be empathetic: take a deep-dive into your customers’ lives to understand their TRUE needs
  4. Embrace trial and error – it will not make you look stupid, it will make you stronger
  5. Test your innovation and be prepared to iterate – it will not be ready the first time around
  6. Include as many people as possible and share the ownership in your internal (and external) Network

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3 lessons in innovation that changed my way of thinking

Have yOne_new_thing_a_dayou ever heard that you should learn one new thing a day? Well one September day I was lucky to learn three interesting new things that changed my way of thinking. I attended an intensive course held by Design Thinking gurus Gijs van Wulfen and Katja Tschimmel. Design Thinking offers a process to transform challenges into opportunities. Isn’t that something that we all want? Tschimmel says that Design Thinking is a way of thinking which leads among other things to transformation, evolution and innovation. In Design Thinking innovation is a very collaborative process. “You can invent alone, but you can not innovate alone.” says van Wulfen. According to Liedtka et al. (2011) innovation is not about producing ideas nobody else has ever thought of before; it’s about creating better value for customers and your company by combining elements into innovative business designs.

Here’s three insights that caught my attention during the course:

1. People never agree on what is an innovation

Innovation can be desI_disagreecribed as the delivery of a viable, new, elegant offering. We were asked by Gijs van Wulfen what is an innovation: We were shown pictures of an iPad and a frozen pizza among other things – we didn’t seem to agree unanimously on any of the images shown.

Lesson I learned: Take discussion from defining things to creating understanding of the value of innovation.

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You cannot innovate alone!

Picture by Leena Salo

You’ve got a great idea, now what? How to get innovation off the ground in your company?


“You can invent alone, but you can’t innovated alone.”

– Gijs van Wulfen


In the first course of our Service Innovation and Design studies we got to tackle the fascinating subject Design Thinking in an innovation process. In class we developed a new idea to enhance learning at Laurea in groups of 4 or 5 people.


Not only did we get a great exercise in team work, but also learned to use different DT tools such as interviews and observations techniques, brainstorming and brainwriting, mind maps and rapid prototyping, which are introduced in Katja Tschimmel’s article “Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation”. In the end we got a chance to present our new service concept to Laurea faculty members.


I found the DL toolkit and The FORTH method of Gijs van Wulfen very useful and interesting considering my own work and projects in the company I work for. FORTH is an innovation method for creating new concepts. The chapter titled “Raise Ideas” explains how to develop great ideas and get internal support for them inside your company.


Why do great ideas fail?

Picture from The Innovation Expedition by Gijs Van Wulfen

“What’s the use of brilliant ideas if there’s no support within the organization?”

– Gijs van Wulfen


Van Wulfen begins his book with words: “innovation is highly relevant to every organization. Yet, eighty percent of innovation projects never reach the market.” Everything might be working for you: it’s the right time to innovate, you are prepared and know the purpose and direction of the innovation, but still the project fails. Why?


Often this is due to the lack of support from the management. You might not receive resources to complete your project or the management might not get behind the idea and rejected it. It is impossible to innovate alone in an organization! A great idea needs to be bought by – not only the public – but management, colleagues and employees of your own company as well. Your vision needs to be shared by everyone in your organization for it to be successful and the idea to come into fruition.

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Service Innovation and Design: A Giant Leap

13th September 2013, my first master class on “Design Thinking and Innovation” at Laurea University and I must say What A START!!!

It was a very exciting day meeting all new people and introducing each other in all different ways. For example by creating persona, empathy maps and bingo game, this made it easier for our SID2013 batch to know each other better. This is when I realized that it is going to be an exciting learning journey ahead!


Laurea “Service Innovation and Design” (SID) 2013 batch Persona 🙂

Our day began with fun-filled group activities followed by introduction in to the concept of Design Thinking and Innovation. Special Thanks to Professors Katja Tschimmel and Gijs van Wulfen for introducing me to the world of different methods and toolkit used in the process of Service design and Innovation.


Design thinking is an iterative process!!

Prof. Tschimmel explained the concept very well that design thinking is an experimental and iterative process, not a linear process. Also it can be seen as a collaborative and participative process. This iterative process model is composed of four phases: Exploration(understand and observe), Creation (choose and define) Reflection (prototype & test) and then Implementation, simple isn’t it? Design thinking is all about transforming process in to evaluation and there are variety of tools that designers can use, such as visually related tools – drawing, sketching, mapping and prototyping.

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Innovation in perspective

In our first contact session with Gijs van Wulfen and Katja Tschimmel, we experienced a lightning version of an innovation process with Design Thinking: 2 days, not even 14 hours of work. And I’ve been wondering… What about real-life innovation? Can you expect to find a great brand new solution in just a couple of days? If not, how much time and effort does the process require? I hope to draft an answer to this question by gathering information from The Innovation Expedition

Note: don’t get me wrong! I loved the approach. We could live the whole process and understand what we are supposed to do as service designers in a flash. That’s a great guidance for the rest of our studies and beyond. But I really need some perspective…

So, what did we do in class?

We solved an innovation assignment by applying a short version of the Forth innovation method structure, developed by Gijs. And completed each step with design tools —very visual and intuitive—, provided and clearly explained by Katja.

Forth method and design tools used in class

Forth method and design tools used in class

And the long version…

The structure of the method remains, but a little more time is used… About 20 weeks per project! Let’s see how much bigger this looks.

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeksprojects

Comparison between our two-days workshop and the Forth consultancy 20 weeks projects

What do they do with so much time? (And what did we do with so little?)

Full steam ahead – 5 weeks

Exploring the assignment

Exploring the assignment. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

At the beginning of a real innovation assignment, many sensitive issues have to be decided:

  • Establish the innovation assignment and evaluation criteria.
  • Form the innovation team.
  • Plan the approach.
  • Set the total costs.

Once all of those are decided, you can:

  • Introduce the team members to each other.
  • Make the team familiar with the innovation assignment.

Those are basically the two parts we did. Only the real workshops are longer than ours.

Observe and learn – 6 weeks

Primary and secondary research combined

Primary and secondary research combined. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

Key activities in this phase are somehow similar to ours, but much deeper. Individuals:

  • Explore trends and technology by gathering secondary information and visiting outside sources of inspiration.
  • Discover customer frictions with qualitative research.

Note one key difference: to research on customer frictions, they meet real users and talk to them.

At several stages the whole team meets to share all those findings and chooses the most promising opportunities.

Raise ideas – 2 weeks


Brainwriting. Source: Visual Report. Master class. Practical Design Thinking. Laurea University 13-14 September

On the basis of the opportunities spotted in the previous phase, the team gathers in small groups to brainstorm new product or service ideas. In total, they:

  • Produce 500-750 ideas.
  • Cluster them into 30-40 idea directions.
  • Form 12 concepts.
  • And improve them with feedback from other groups.

Our process for this was similar, but we only produced about 10 times less ideas, didn’t cluster them and simply chose or formed one concept.

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The journey of Design thinking begins

There are thousands of things that can go wrong on the path from an idea to a problem solving solution. To help with the process there are plenty of methodologies and tools to formulate, conceptualize and execute ideas into a feasible business plan. At the end, the goal is to bring the ideas to life and make them work.

It was inspiring to spend two days in September with Gijs Van Wulfen and Katja Tschimmel learning about Design Thinking and how to solve problems and contextualize ideas. After the sessions, I can honestly say that innovating is not easy and there is no easy formula for it. However, Katja and Gijs took us through several tools to help with the mysterious innovation process. We spent a good amount of time getting to know the FORTH method that Gijs had developed. On top of that, to get a better grasp on the methods available, we studied some of the tools essential to design thinking and with the help of Katja’s paper “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation” I feel quite comfortable to start my journey. Both Katja and Gijs help me realize the change in the state of mind that is needed to think in a “design way”. By this I mean that when starting to learn to think the design way, it changes the way you see and think about things. And that is a good thing!

Tools for innovation

WP_20130914_002Katja gave us good overview on design thinking tools that can be used in the innovation process and in her paper you can find several tools that are useful. In the observation stage there are tools such as shadowing, self-documentation by photos, mind mapping, storytelling and the use of personas. For Idea generation there are tools like brainwriting, brainsketching and Visual and semantic confrontations. In testing ideas phase tools such as, prototyping, three-dimensional designs, detailed sketching and practical descriptions. In the homecoming phase the most important tool is the business model canvas to clearly show the benefits of the solution in business terms. To present the idea however there are as many ways and tools as there are presenters. The importance is in the clarity of the message.

Four things to remember about FORTH!

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“Doing things differently” or “Doing different things”.

Innovation can either be doing things differently, or doing different things. Within the field of innovation people are now doing a lot of different things, but I would say its only done a little differently when speaking about areas such as “Employee driven innovation, “Service innovation”, “Sustainable innovation”, “Social innovation” and so on. This can be a bit of confusing, but Gijs van Wulfen founder and author of FORTH Innovation method has done a lot of great work on this area, and is telling us both when you should NOT innovate, and how you can use his 5 steps (shown on picture) to create attractive innovative products and services within a multidisciplinary team. On the very first contact session, starting my MBA in Service Innovation Design we did exactly that. Our multidisciplinary class formed teams of 4/5 people, using the FORTH innovation method on the following case: “Create new products or services for your university campus to make it a better place to be, learn and live”. Being an international exchange student, ideas easily popped up in my head!


Together with Gjis, Katja Tschimmel Researcher and Consultant in Creativity led us through the Design Thinking course. Katjas creative approach and her long experience and contribution within the field show clearly. Gjis and Katja met at a creative conference where they decided to team up. Gjis tells that he has a more “innovation and structure” focus, while Katja delivers the design thinking tools. “The best way to learn is not to listen, but to do it” (Gjis). Throughout the Design Thinking Course we did exactly that, we got the perfect combination of theoretically and practical work.

 “Highlights and eyeopeners”



Since this course took place over two days, I will not go in detail of every exercise, but highlight the ones that were new to me or made me think differently – “an eye opener”. We were a few exchange students in my group and therefore focused on “short-term housing options for exchange students”.

Based on working in teams within my previous Social entrepreneurship studies at University of Oslo, and working as a team on a start up I have really seen the importance of creating “good” collaborating teams that communicate well and know each other to a certain degree before starting a collaborating process. I therefore enjoyed Katjas exercises that introduced our multidisciplinary group. The picture to the left shows one of the exercises:

“Who are we”: I had to draw a team member, while another member wrote down interest and information on post-its as she was explaining them. All of these posters are still hanging in our classroom so we can look back at them to refresh our thoughts since we only see each other once a month!

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First step: backwards

It was the morning of our second school day at Laurea, and the coffee line was long. We sat in the cafe with a classmate and watched the line getting longer and longer. In a few minutes, we had come up with a solution to improve the situation. Or so we thought.

When our first Design Thinking class started and we got our assignment, we were thrilled. We were supposed to think how to make Laurea a better place to study, which meant we would have the chance to put our coffee line solution into practice on the spot.

We started mindmapping and deepening the idea and were pretty far with our improved spatial design when our teacher Gijs van Wulfen came to interrupt us. “Take a step back. You are already finding a solution and you haven’t even defined what the campus actually consists of.”

Oh. Right. A step back.

When we finalized our task the next day, the coffee line problem was solved. But so were many, many other things that actually affect the atmosphere on the campus even more. To me, the most valuable lesson of the Design Thinking course was just that: take a step back, look at the big picture first. That’s how you can innovate something, not just improve existing solutions.

And innovation is what Design Thinking is all about. Our workshop facilitator and the author of the article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation Katja Tschimmel describes Design Thinking as an abductive thinking, which is “thinking in new and different perspectives and about future possibilities, which do not fit into existing models”. This requires some perceptive cognition. In other words, taking a step back.

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