Tag Archive | human centered design

Should design thinking really be human-centred?

While reading Tim Brown’s “Change by Design”, I was touched by the story of the ORAL B toothbrush found among the rubbish deposited on the beach. Through this story Tim Brown asked himself and us about the responsibility of designers and design thinkers when designing. That resonates with me. We’re responsible for creating sustainable, eco-friendly change in the world either as creators or facilitators. But how to remember this and most importantly how to implement it? Does education, existing methods and tools give us any hints here? It seems that they concentrate mostly on human needs.

 

 

In early design thinking literature such as “Change by Design” or Tim’s article in the Harvard Business Review ”Design Thinking”, the subject of ecological responsibility wasn’t elaborated and included in the design thinking process. Although Roger Martin (in “The design of business”) listed social responsibility as part of Design Thinking, what about ecological responsibility? We missed placing it explicitly within existing DT models such as the IDEO one: Inspiration-Ideation-Implementation or Jeane Liedtke’s and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth approach or Katja Tschimmel’s Evolution 6² model. I browsed a few books collecting design thinking tools and couldn’t find any tools including ecological responsibility.

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Tim Brown seemed to answer this need in 2017, a year when IDEO in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation created “The circular design guide”. Check this website https://www.circulardesignguide.com . You will find ready-to-use tools: workshops scripts, modified templates to use in the process of designing for the sake of the circular economy.

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Were we at our happiest 15 million years ago, and what’s happened to the lingo of design?

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On the morning of 20 March, Reaktor Design Breakfast event took place in Helsinki. Evolved from a small, mostly local and IT focused company to an international one of strategy, design and engineering, Reaktor is perhaps one of the hottest companies in Finland. Known for its flat hierarchy and multiple prizes won for best place to work, Reaktor also hosts an array of tech and design events for the public.

The main speaker of the event was Katri Saarikivi, a cognitive neuroscientist from Helsinki University and one of the leading researchers and speakers on empathy particularly in digital environments. As always, her presentation was delightful: nicely flowing from empathy as a survival skill for humans 15 million years ago to empathy online and in modern day work organisations. Starting from such ancient setting was not only interesting in order to learn about empathy and its implications for humans throughout our history but, as it was noted, some researchers think 15 million years ago was when us humans were at our most happiest: living in forests and focusing on survival, way before invention of the first tools. Makes one think how much we really have evolved and to what direction…

From there we moved on to the concept of work that Saarikivi describes as “solving the problems of other human beings“, responding to others’ needs besides one’s own. Hence, according to Saarikivi, the need for work done by humans continues to be constant, despite any and all changes that might be coming due to advances in technology such as AI and machine learning.

“Empathy might be at the very core of our best problem-solving ability”

A part of the presentation was around human-centric work and human-centric design: highlighting the role of empathy in understanding the differences between people and thus working better together as well as better responding to others’ needs. The importance of collective intelligence was highlighted: “Best thinking, best work is more often than not a shared activity.” And one of the factors greatly affecting it was non-surprisingly empathy.

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Based on studies, Saarikivi also argued that humans are naturally selfless, empathic, and look after one another. However according to research, being in a position of power can reduce your empathy; and the higher your economic status, the lower your empathy skills. The research showed that brains of people in a position of power did not respond as much to other people’s pain as others’ did. Hence one could claim that having artificial positions of power – such as hierarchy in a work place – is not the way to increase empathy in an organisation.

 

IMG_0884As an example of an organisation not at all encouraging empathy or collective intelligence Saarikivi humorously (or, sadly?) showed us a photo of the main hall of the Finnish Parliament: a setting that encourages competition, highlights monologue, and gives no equal opportunity to all to speak nor respond. Saarikivi continued that disregard of emotions can lead to detrimental effects on work, collaboration, and information quality. This is something to consider especially in digital (work) environments, as the digital tools we still have largely transmit emotions rather poorly.

Empathy: Understand, Act, and Experience

During her presentation Saarikivi also discussed what can be seen as the three sides to empathy: understanding, acting, and experiencing. All three parts are needed for empathy; any one of them missing would not result in the real thing. Empathy skills, however, can be improved by practice. Your imagination is an important empathy skill, Saarikivi reminded, and reading fiction has indeed been scientifically proven to enhance our imagination and empathy skills.

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She walked us through each of the three aspects of empathy, and also continued on the interesting themes while responding to some participant questions. She pointed out that empathy is not an inherently a positive personality trait but a cognitive skill or mechanism. When asked about any negative aspects of said mechanism, Saarikivi mentioned narcissists. This turn tied it nicely back to the earlier discussion on benefits of flat organisations, narcissist not being interested in applying for positions in flat organisations as they don’t want to be equal wanting to rather rise higher than others. The whole presentation and discussion it encouraged was an interesting dive into empathy – a skill often mentioned as one of the most important tools of a Service Designer.

“Design’s focus has shifted from user needs to business needs”

After Katri Saarikivi’s presentation it was time for Reaktor’s own speakers: Hannu Oksa, Vesa Metsätähti, and Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen. Out of those presentations, Reaktor’s Creative Director Hannu Oksa’s resonated with me the most. He discussed the evolving role and ways of design, recently seemingly moving away from designing with and for the user towards focusing on the business needs. He also gave some chilling examples on the rise of fake news and purposely addictive design, stating this has made him deeply consider whether he is part of the problem and making it worse for others. Responsible design in the field of tech is not a topic I’ve often heard about – especially introduced by someone whose career is in the field. IMG_0889

Oksa also discussed the trend of worshipping data without criticism, despite all data being based on history: after all, historical data is exclusive, divisive, and by definition looks back rather than in the future. This hit very close to home, as in many situations and settings even fairly clever people have loudly expressed wanting to e.g. base their entire product or service development on data gathered digitally about their users (or potential users). That can perhaps be all good and well when trying to understand the past situations and coldly follow one’s users’ steps on some platform etc. with for example the help of A/B testing, however how would that give you actual information on WHY they have been doing what they have been doing on a deeper level? Would that tell you what they are like or what they will do in the future? And will that tell you if that is what they actually need or want, or is it simply a representation of the current (well, past) offering – not necessarily having anything to do with the user’s ideal scenario or solution? This kind of worshipping of (past!) data always gives me the chills and certainly wakes up the human-centric designer in me. Often, unfortunately, it’s not a battle worth fighting.

Another thought-provoking, perhaps accidental point was made by Vesa Metsätähti right at the start of his presentation, when he introduced his presentation topic radiot.fi by describing it being “an old service, at least 3-4 years old now.” Indeed, what is the life expectation of a service nowadays, and how long do we consider a service new?

The last presentation by Aapo Kojo and Vesa-Matti Mäkinen was “From Design Vision to Reality”. They introduced a project done for Finnair with a mix of physical and digital services. This gave some practical examples on how to work on a multi-platform project with focus on the customer experience in both the physical and digital parts of the same service.

The breakfast event was definitely worth attending, and hopefully there will be equally interesting ones organised in the near future!

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Design Kit: The Course for Human-Centered Design, by IDEO.org and +Acumen

Late last year I felt I could use a little recap on some of the things learned on the very first courses of the Service Design Masters degree. At the same time I was longing for some fresh thoughts and a push to jump start my thesis – a way to get creative and actually do some design stuff instead of just planning it. The free Human-Centered Design course by IDEO.org and +Acumen, mixing online and in-person teamwork, seemed like a good way to do that.

Described as an “intensive, hands-on learning experience“, the course description promised the participants would “leave this experience equipped and energized to apply the human-centered design process to challenges across industries, sectors, and geographies to generate breakthrough ideas.” Well, that sounds great, but would someone with quite some earlier knowledge and experience in Service Design and in general human-centered design projects get something out of it too, besides a repetition of things already known? I was also wondering how the theme and topics would feel, as the focus seemed largely to be in humanitarian and social welfare – a hugely important topic, however sadly not my forte previously.

Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation

IDEO mini challenge 1The course started in January and, thanks to all sorts of online groups and forums, it was fairly easy to find a team to do the meet-ups with. We ended up being 5 in our group, all previously unknown to each other. The course platform provided us with instructions on the different phases, “classes”, we were to go through to complete the course. The first meet-up went in a bit of a haze, getting to know each other while trying to follow the guidelines from the somewhat confusing set of material piles (for each “class” there being 2 separate packs of materials). Lucky we had a group leader of sorts in our group, making sure we had agreed on specific days for our future meetings so we could keep up with the course deadlines.

The course followed a set structure and timeline, with the design process following the steps Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. The second group meeting was missed by a couple of us, but the ones attending divided the research between us all and we all managed to do our parts before the following meeting. And on the third meeting we finally got to a classic – you guessed it – post-it party!

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Latest at this stage it was fairly clear the methods and principles of the course were very familiar to a Service Design student, but doing research and ideating was in any case tons of fun and not at all that easy. It was great to work together with a group of people not previously familiar with each other, building on each other’s ideas and hearing about new ways to look at the same things.

 

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In the following meeting we moved on to How Might We questions – this brought us another interesting conversation, as some in the group had somewhat unknowingly used a similar approach to problem-solving. After that it was time for creating a story board and moving on to prototyping.

The course finished with an energising afternoon over brunch, making a pitch for our solution, followed by reflection and discussion on our learning.

 

To summarise the experience, here’s a little list based purely on my personal thoughts:

+ Nice and easy way to recap a human-centric design process

+ Practical and structured guidelines and tasks

+ Basic background info and examples on methods and process

+ Great to work in a new team and learn from others!

– 2 separate material packs for each class didn’t feel like the best way to go

– No new methods or insights for someone already familiar with Service Design

– End result and experience would depend a lot on the team: in my case it was wonderful but it could have been totally different if e.g. there was someone really bossy or other characters that can make ideation etc. difficult.

All in all, I was very happy with my experience. And the team proved to be so good that some of us have already met at a couple of other Service Design events, and we plan to meet with the whole group again soon!

 

The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.

Next era of well-being

Since it was founded 50 years ago, Sitra has been a futures house and they have just updated their megatrends report from a Nordic viewpoint. As Finland’s celebrating its 100 year anniversary Sitra wanted to highlight the megatrends affecting work, democracy and inclusion, and growth and progress that are relevant to the Nordic model as all of these  themes are specifically at the core of the Nordic model’s future. Elina Kiiski-Kataja from Sitra presented these for the Futures Specialist Helsinki group on 4th of December. Here’s my recap of the event – thank you Minna Koskelo & Futures Specialist Helsinki for making this possible and Elina for having us and offering an insightful morning.

What’s the new normal for work?

The first inspected megatrend was about the future of work – what’s the new normal? What’s the role of technology and humans versus robots? Most people are still working in steady paid jobs at this moment but what about in 2040? Sitra states in their updated megatrend report that there are 2 possible scenarios:

  1. Work changes but there is plenty for all
  2. Only a few people have work and even fewer benefit from the results

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The change forces behind this scenario are described in the above slide on the left hand side – automation, robotisation, artificial intelligence and digital platforms are changing all areas of work.

So what can we do? We need new models for life long learning to keep people from dropping off from the work force. Our old model getting educated while you’re in your twenties will not work anymore. And on income distribution – do we aim for more or less equality in our society? The basic income model is just being tested in Finland. The Institute of the Future in California is researching  a universal livelihood model and sees this from the viewpoint of capital and assets, not just work income. Should there be passports to school, healthcare etc. ? If we do not find models to help in this change the price to pay is increasing unrest and upheaveals in our society.

How is democracy doing?

We are no longer members of political parties, just 3% of us belong to a party. There has been a significant change is the culture of communication and discussion – the development of tech and globalization can have a major disruptive influence on the democratic system says Sitra. Everything is connected – well-being, education, trust, economy.

Increase in participation to general discussion can provide a counter power to globalization. Power is in the hands of few people but we can all have an effect on the quality of democracy. In the light of research the people who are participating (voting and getting their voice heard) are more well off than the ones not participating. But even in the US half of the people didn’t vote in the presidential elections – is democracy getting broken? Sanna Aaltonen from the Youth Research Foundation says that social infrastructure has not been built as the focus has been on technology. She also asks where will the trust in future encounters be built. Everything is connected – well-being, education, trust, economy.

The two scenarios for democracy (see slide below) are:

  1. Transparency, innovativeness and inclusion will flourish in democracies
  2. Power concentrates in the hands of the few and exclusion and disruption will increase

A strong local democracy and global decision-making are needed for scenario 1 to happen – to build a common, not divided, future. We need people who want to save the world and combine scientists and decision-makers to find solutions to the wicked problems. As well as lovable technology that understands humans and our behavior and leaves space for humans.  We need to go where people are, not just build new channels. And note the importance of communication and data as in spring 2018 the new data law will widen the gap between US and EU. In SDN conference in Madrid in 2017 it was discussed that service design is one of the enablers for building a bridge between senior citizens, refugees and tech.

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What are we aiming for – economic growth or well-being?

Economic growth based on overconsumption of natural resources is not sustainable. The economy is at crossroads and the two scenarios offered on this are:

  1. Will we seek growth by using all the means available and risk ruining our planet  and wither away OR
  2. Aim for well-being and manage to decouple economic growth and overuse of natural resources resulting in growing well-being even faster than economy

What makes you feel better, what increases your well-being? And can you and I change our values and get from talk to walk as the world changes?

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“Renewal starts with us, people. Even though the megatrends shaping the world extend all the way to Finland, the future is still largely in our own hands – if that is what we decide,” says Mikko Kosonen, head of Sitra. Trends offer a road to development and renewal as Minna Koskelo commented.

The future of the Nordic model is dependent on our reaction to the above presented 3 megatrends.

Link to Sitra’s presentation can be found here Sitra megatrends 2017

Design for Life

12 hours of innovative groupwork, inspirational talks, delicious brainfood and of course: competition. What more could a future service designer ask for on an average tuesday?

USCO (Using Digital Co-Creation for Business Development) is a project managed by Laurea University of Applied Sciences and the University of Tampere. The project involves eight organizations that represent both private and public services.

10.10. 2017 a hackathon of services was arranged at Laurea Leppävaara. The hackathon was based on the human-centered perspectives of design. The aim of the hackathon was to rearrange the services as we know them and to create new human-centered services for the 100 year old Finland. 18 multidisciplinary teams participated in the event and by the end of the day 18 brilliant ideas packed in one minute videos were presented to other teams and the jury consisting of experts. The winners were announced and rewarded in a gala filled with bubbles and balloons.

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Our team had the privilege to create a service for a fictional persona Matti, a 60 year old chairman of his condominium. The premise of the design process was to create a human-centered service, a design for life.  As a result of an iterative and sometimes frustrating process we came up with a brilliant idea that would fulfill Matti’s needs as an enthusiastic chairman devoted to the community: a digital service that connects Matti to the other residents and the other condominiums in the area. Our service Fiksu Naapuri (Smart Neighbour) enables all the residents and condominiums to participate and communicate on different levels.

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Design Thinking big bang!

“Here was a curious thing. My friend’s instinct told him the North End was a good place, and his social statistics confirmed it. But everything he had learned as a physical planner about what is good for people and good for cities neighbourhoods, everything that made him an expert, told him the North End had to be a bad place.” Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Change by Design [1]

In the very first masterclasses about Design Thinking running by Katja Tschimmel and Marina Valenca we, toddlers in the field and students in Service Innovation and Design Programme, went into renaissance era of the design which now is perceived and used as a perfectly crafted methodology by a wider audience including business itself. Big Bang of Design Thinking which – as we were assured – Comes of Age! [2] As lectures went fast with a short history of design and presented different approaches to the design process to smoothly show us their own – well equipped with a whole range of precisely picked tools [3]; like many others, I was waiting for practical part of the meeting. For doing stuff not learning about it, to experience it, to feel it in my heart and to answer fundamental questions: what is, what if, what wows and what works [4]. After all, I took home some thoughts which I present below.

Omnipresent visualisation

If you were asked to describe DT you probably would start drawing something, using Post-its notes, prototyping anything but not words themselves. Visualisation played a priority during our jam session. There is no way to disagree with Liedtka & Ogilvie that “Visualisation make ideas tangible and concrete. […] make them human and real.” [4] It also allows us to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation. After that few hours together it is hard to polemise with Katja while saying that “designers analyse and understand problems of the artificial world.” in the meaning that every tangible aspect of the performance was before the creation of intangible thoughts, ideas, notions, and intuition. From this perspective visualisation lets us grab our unrevealed ideas, bring them to the surface and make them enough concrete to evaluate. It also put individual and collective intuition before learning and maybe this is what I the most love about it.

A stream of consciousness. 

If I were asked to show the greatest values of Design Thinking process, I would say that its collaborative, multidisciplinary and co – creative aspects are the most precious one. I enjoyed brain-writing part of our session vastly. But, we always put a human in the heart of all “doing”. In Virginia Woolf’s book the different aspects of Ms. Dalloway; her needs, feelings, context, and experiences are constantly subjected to individual and collective influence and turn from intentions into reality. In DT process it all above makes possible to arise great and innovative idea anchored in the essence of an end user of the service or offering.

Secret Ingredient

Nevertheless to make it happen, I learned that we need to listen to others with engagement on every possible step. In my opinion, like visualisation is the tool of understanding and expressing all ideas and thoughts as listening is the value without which no meaningful idea can authentically bloom. I like how about listening speaks Otto Scharmer and I leave you with his short video to contemplate where innovation and tipping point in any sector starts. Enjoy!

Marta Kuroszczyk

Sources:
1. “Change by design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.” Tim Brown

2. “Design Thinking Comes to Age”, Jan Kolko Harvard Bussiness Review, https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age

3. “Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation.”, Katja Tschimmel http://www.academia.edu/1906407/Design_Thinking_as_an_effective_Toolkit_for_Innovation

4. “Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers.”, Liedtka & Ogilvie

Transform Your Business Through Design Thinking

The postindustrial digital age and the emergence of the experience economy have fundamentally changed the requirements and the expectations how companies develop and deliver new services. Well-known brands like Airbnb, Mayo Clinic, Bank of America and HBO have all understood this shift and successfully utilized holistic design thinking approach to transform their business. They have created profitable business through sophisticated, emotionally satisfying and meaningful experiences to their customers.

Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking can be described as human-centered (designing “with” the users instead of “for” the users), exploratory and integrative innovation process that emphasizes observation, collaboration in interdisciplinary teams, fast learning, visualization of ideas, rapid prototyping, and concurrent business analysis. Design Thinking essentially is a way of thinking, applying designers’ sensibility and methods, leading to transformation, innovation of new products, services, business strategies and even new organizations.

The best part is that you don’t need to be a professional designer to master in Design Thinking. Nevertheless, the following key abilities are important for a Design Thinker:

  • visual and divergent thinking
  • empathy and cultural sensitivity
  • integrative and holistic thinking
  • the ability to think in analogies and metaphors

Models and Tools for Design Thinking

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