General Assembly hosted a weeklong event called “break into tech” from 16th to 22nd of February 2021. One of the events that caught my attention was “Innovation through Human-Centered Design Thinking”.
The host was Steph Mellor, a coach and consult in human-centred design, ethnography, leadership and change. She’s also a Principal at DigIO, Design and UX instructor at General Assembly.
This was a truly insightful and useful event to follow. Steph answered the most common questions that might come to mind when thinking about design-thinking: what it is, when should we use it, why we need it, how to begin the process, what do we need, and how to utilise Design councils double-diamond framework, so it provides value and right solutions.
What it is
To summarise what the double-diamond framework is all about, here’s a short list:
It can be applied to any design, service, product, UX etc.
It is a creative problem-solving approach where innovation is the result
Emphasis is on understanding the problem thoroughly before attempting a solution
Explorative, iterative and collaborative
Honours human experience and responds to human behaviour and intuition
Design the right thing, then design the thing right
Spending equal time on each part of the diamond.
Steph pointed out that when people learn about design thinking – they try design thinking on everything. Innovations don’t always come from design thinking – or we could say you cannot force innovations through design thinking.
When should we use it
Design thinking should be applied when problems are complex and there are people involved. For instance, we don’t need to design-think our way through how to get fuel into our car since it is a straightforward problem with a relatively straight forward solution (simple)
But when adding humans, the situation is always at least complex.
In the end, the process will get you somewhere useful, even though the beginning might feel difficult and frustrating.
Why we need it
First of all, the design thinking process and results should not shift the original problem somewhere else. The idea is to solve the problem. It also provides us with a better understanding of how people behave, and we must design according to their behaviour – not how we wish for them to behave.
How to begin with the design thinking process
We will go through the double-diamond process in this section. Starting with the discover and define phase.
The design thinking process begins with a designerly mindset. You need to be empathetic, human-centred, inclusive, collaborative and ego-less with an agile and iterative mindset. You also need to be ready to observe and learn during the process and give away your “power”.
You also need to conduct design research. Design research is
Not academic or scientific research
Not statistical research
Not investigative journalism
But common research techniques are, for example, contextual inquiry, observation or shadowing, surveys and questionnaires, usability or interactivity tests, facilitated workshops, journey or relationship mapping, etc. It’s about asking the right questions and having good listening skills (don’t respond or correct).
Also, since we’re trying to learn and uncover the needs, preferences and expectations, we can conduct experiments and scenarios, ideal futures or simple likes and dislikes.
The key to starting the design process is to begin with the question: what do we want to know, and then we ask: who might have the answers. Quite often, people fail into the trap of starting from the second question – and end up with the wrong type of solution. But when you have successfully collected the data, it’s time to put it all together and define the problem. The end result is that you have found the answer to your question, which addresses the people for whom you’re designing.
The last diamond in the double-diamond process concentrates on the develop and deliver phase.
During the developing phase, you need to be inclusive, collaborative, and creative. Focusing on the “what” and not on the “how”. The goal is to come up with as many ideas as possible. The ideas need to be desirable, viable and feasible. Additionally, innovations come from creative problem solving, and this is how design thinking breaks through. When you’ve gathered all your ideas, you can process them similarly like you’ve processes your research data. Just be careful of your biases.
Finally, we get into the last phase: deliver. The key to this phase is to do fast and cheap prototypes, which allow you to fail early. That’s why it’s a prototype, so you have room for improvements and adjustments. When people are trying the solution, your task is not to sell, persuade, or convince people. You need to listen to their feedback, and it’s better to ask questions rather than giving them answers. If the tester asks: “what does this button do?” you don’t give the answer. You ask: “what do you expect it to do?”. Learn and don’t correct.
Not all innovations are glamorous, and most of them are small and quiet. They don’t need to be revolutionary since the idea is to provide value and help people.
Post by: Tereza Dickson Current Topics in Service Design.
During the Service Design Global Conference (SDGC) arranged in October, a workshop was held around facilitating future visions in large organizations. One of the goals was to learn how to support company empowerment involving leadership in the design process. A secondary task was to demonstrate suitable tools for aligning discussion and to synthesize focus areas.
The workshop was facilitated by two experienced service designers, Marcela Machuca (Nordea, Denmark) and Aleksandra Kozawska (BBVA, Spain), but also involved 30 participants from companies in different industries, countries and cultures. These experts, with a various spread of competences, actively contributed through co-creation and discussion. As an introduction, the facilitators thoroughly explained main concepts and rules of the session to handle expectations. They clearly stated that this would be a co-working session rather than a lecture.
As the conference was arranged entirely online, Miro had been selected as a platform for collaboration. To get familiar with other participants and Miro as a tool, a simple first task was to show personal superpowers (traits) in a visualization, including texts around our interests and competences.
After the introduction, two key tools were introduced; Strategic GPS and Future Scenarios.
Strategic GPS was explained as a tool to navigate and understand strategies (goals) of a company and to compare contrasts. By comparing radical opposites, the tool gives views on how a firm can develop its services and prepare for potential market (and industry) changes. In other words, it may help companies review and align its vision in a specific direction.
Future scenarios on the other hand, was defined as a tool that helps synthesize and bring transparency to how a business landscape currently looks like, and how it may look in the future. Additionally, it can provoke stakeholder thinking and stimulate minds towards challenging current views of a business landscape.
To further explain these concepts, workshop participants were divided in groups to work on a case introduced by the facilitators. Both methods above, that can be applied to any business, were utilized and put to action in two assignments. For example, was our group working on a concept around supermarkets, discussing and reflecting potential opportunities and outcomes through the future scenarios tool.
Through a divergent approach, plenty of ideas were brainstormed around this assigned topic and discussed within the group. When numerous thoughts had been considered, all ideas were converged towards three main themes that were prioritized, summarized and communicated to the rest of the participants.
Overall, the workshop session was eye-opening. Even though involved participants had no prior working experience with supermarkets, many insightful areas were touched upon. By utilizing a global network of experts and understanding emerging trends, these convenient, yet practical, tools increased our knowledge on how co-working functions in practice to develop innovations.
Written by Thomas Djupsjö MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences
The international community, Service Design Network (SDN), founded in 2004, arranged an online conference focusing on service design in October of 2020. The conference was planned to be held physically in Copenhagen, but due to the global pandemic, all keynotes, workshops, and other events were held online utilizing convenient tools for collaboration.
This year’s theme was embracing change, a topic strongly reflected in all presentations. Keynote speakers this year were employees of big corporations and experts in service design from different cultures, countries and time zones.
In this blog post I summarize two intriguing presentations and ponder service design trends and opportunities for value creation in companies.
Embracing change and service design today
Birgit Mager, one of the founders of the SDN community and the first Professor in Service Design globally, has attended every SDGC conference since the beginning. In a short introductory presentation, Status of Service Design Today, Mager explains current transformation in operations of companies and how the roles of service designers have changed over time. Although service designers by default are optimistic, the “new normal” (due to Covid) has largely impacted ways of work, she says.
Mager emphasizes that the important of technology substantially has grown, but the future lies in utilizing both new technology and data to create services. Currently, we already are using a lot of technology and conduct research online, but a change has happened in agencies, where e.g. data scientists are involved as new roles in service design, Mager explains.
In addition to these, ethics has been put as a focus when creating services. Other equally relevant areas are sustainability, accessibility, and participation, Mager mentions.
Designing aviation future through design
The Dutch aviation company, KLM, founded over a hundred years ago, has recently been facing challenges due to the global pandemic and how it has changed the aviation industry. The complex industry is naturally very regulated and evolves rapidly as consumers are becoming extensively environmentally aware.
In a jointed keynote, Ryanne Van De Streek, project manager at KLM, and Anouk Randag, service design consultant at Livework, presented a sample of methods through which KLM has introduced new ways to innovate and develop services.
As a company, KLM has already for some time put efforts on design and has also started design initiatives that currently are in use. KLM, however, wanted to continue developing these new methods with a goal to activate ~1500 employees, to develop competences and to involve innovation in a system by the end of 2023.
According to Randag, high impact can be created by utilizing, developing and scaling current initiatives. In her presentation and new model was presented that had been co-created iteratively within KLM as an organization.
Although KLM drastically have had to cut budgets due to Covid, Van De Streek explains that certain areas still are being put in action. For example, are their new service design principles and process (”KLM X way of working”) shared with new employees to foster agility, as this continuously is needed in their industry.
To summarize, we can conclude that although service design is quite a broad principle, it can work as a great way to develop internal working methods and sustainable business in organizations. By being open to new ideas, utilizing current competences and starting initiatives, with a focus on building custom ways to work, organizations can achieve innovation and test new business models.
Written by Thomas Djupsjö MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences
In recent years, remote working has become a hot topic as organizations are developing new working processes and modern collaborative platforms and technology emerge. At the same time, firms are moving towards human-centric approachesand working in multidisciplinary teams to stay competitive. Due to these rapid changes in several industries, recruitment, finding right competences and retaining well-performing employees has become crucial.
With this in context, two Service Design students, Nora Ryti and Jenny Kurjenniemi at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences, arranged two online workshops. Their intention was to research how employee experience can be improved to retain talent. They we’re looking to include findings from this workshop (combined with e.g. qualitative data from interviews) in their Master’s Theses, that focuses on the following topics:
What are the characteristics and trends in knowledge work?
What skills, practices and tools are needed in remote knowledge work?
What are the needs of a knowledge worker?
What is the role of employee experience in employer branding?
I attended one of the workshops and explain how it proceeded in this blog post. This workshop, arranged mainly on two platforms, Microsoft Teams for communication and Miro as a visual collaborative tool, was completely online. To ensure that all involved participants had equal opportunities to join, technical aspects were considered and all participants were sent guidelines on how to set up necessary tools prior to joining the session.
The selected group of participants, consisting of ~10 individuals, was diverse, involving knowledge workers of different ages, locations and industries. Most cameras were turned on and it felt inspiring meeting strangers, knowing that you’d soon know much more about them and their views.
To complete tasks in co-creation, Microsoft Teams worked as a channel for communication. Both chat and audio were activated all time, and groups were set into separate calls to deepen discussion in certain assignments.
Miro was used as a collaborative tool, where most tasks were completed on a digital whiteboard. Access was granted through a shared link and no signup was required.
The workshop had a well-outlined agenda including breaks and different tasks (explained in detail below). In the beginning of the session, thorough information was shared on what to expect and strictly stating that no data was going to be shared outside of the research, thus leaving participants anonymous.
Below the assignments chronological order:
Introduction round (warmup exercise)
To get to know all participants, participants answered a few simple questions: Who are you, what do you do, how has your day been and what animal would you be?
Task 1: Express your feeling towards remote working with one emoji
This resulted in a visualized canvas with various emoticons in different sizes and shapes. This task was a suitable introduction to Miro and activated all participants.
Task 2: Insert an image explaining what you miss during remote work
A set of images were copied from the internet and explained what attendees miss the most in remote work. The canvas resembled a mood board.
Divergence Through a canvas produced by the facilitators (based on a previous workshop), discussions were held in different areas related to remote working such as leadership, tools, ergonomics and collaboration.
Task 3: Add sticky notes with ideas/concepts that constitute to a good remote working experience
Participants were given the task to add as many ideas as possible, by placing one idea per sticky note grouped on the whiteboard.
Task 4: Produce more ideas!
After a small break and individual analysis of what was on the board, more ideas were produced.
Convergence To combine, structure and analyze all produced ideas, participants were divided into two groups for further discussion.
Task 5: Discuss, document and prioritize three main areas (per category)
Separate Microsoft Teams channels were created to give focus in group discussions. In the end of this session, ideas were condensed into three main topics that were explained briefly to the rest of the group including comments.
Although a three-hour workshop was quite intensive after a long day of work, there were many positive aspects. Firstly, Miro as a collaborative tool seemed useful, easy to grasp and I might utilize a similar tool in future workshops myself.
Participants were open for discussion and I believe everyone got their say. In online environments, it’s crucial that the one in a facilitator role ensure that all attendees are active. It is, although, also important to give room for silence – especially as you do not see what participants are thinking. A few second of silence can potentially constitute to great reflection and new ideas.
Overall, when arranging digital workshops, a culture of openness, respect and honesty needs to be embraced to fully utilize its’ potential and to get things done.
Written by Thomas Djupsjö MBA Student at Laurea, University of Applied Sciences
Brown, T., 2008, “Design Thinking”. Harvard Business Review, p. 84-92
Djupsjö, T., 2019, “Key issues and strategies for implementing the Lean Methodology in organizations “, Arcada, University of Applied Sciences
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.
Now that you have some understanding of the why, you can start expanding your personal tool kit with new, collaborative tools.
Written by: Elina
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.
I participated on 10.9.2020 in an online event hosted by Design Club, a business community within Design Museum Helsinki, and Aalto University. The topic of the event was “System Innovations for Business Sustainability” and featured a presentation by Dr. Idil Gaziulusoy, an Assistant Professor in Aalto University and a panel discussion with Dr. Heli Antila, the Vice President of Biobased solutions in Fortum.
The event tackled interesting, necessary topics regarding sustainability challenges and the need for large transformations in the field of innovation and business. The urgency of the changes cannot be overstated as we are already very late in the game. Businesses need to be on the forefront of the change and be able to radically adapt their views and ways.
Gaziulusoy discussed the three transformation zones that we need to understand and explore in order to fully embrace sustainability innovation.
The inner circle is the practical zone that consists of mostly technical solutions and the usual product innovation. Gaziulusoy stated that in this area most focus is put today but the innovation process needs to be extended further.
The second layer shows organisational aspects such as systems and structures and while it gives more depth than the practical sphere, it is not enough for an overall, radical change.
The last layer is the socio-cultural level which includes beliefs, values and existing worldview of all societal factors. According to Gaziulusoy, this level has the least attention from businesses and policy makers. She called this area the “zone of difficult questions” due to the importance of challenging existing, deep-seated views and beliefs.
From operational to visionary
As the old saying goes: “easier said than done”, so how do we actually start the change? How can companies realistically transform their “business as usual” without compromising their position? The question is not simple nor is there an easy answer, but there are methods available.
Gaziulusoy suggested that companies implement a shadow-track strategy, a transition strategy where they simultaneously operate in their usual area of business but also invest time and money for new innovation areas. Gaziulusoy urged companies to boldly step away from their reactive role and reach for a more profound transformation.
Panelists were asked for examples of companies that were engaging in truly sustainable innovation. In general, micro-enterprises were mentioned to be the leaders in the field as they have the ability to find their niche and ask the question: “How can we do business differently“. A local Helsinki zero-waste-restaurant Nolla, was mentioned as an example of this.
Needless to say, more established companies have a different strategy than micro-enterprises. Antila mentioned that the burden of old traditions might be a reason for older, more established companies to be held back. Change is happening, but still slowly.
Collaboration is key
Gaziulusoy encouraged companies to push the boundaries of doing business by engaging policy makers and collaborating with researchers, stakeholders and even competitors.
Antila emphasized the role of universities in making change happen as they commonly have the resources for basic research in different topics and by working together with companies, they could reach even more concrete ideas.
The key is the change in mindset and values, and the overall signal to the public should be “We don’t cater to mindless consumption”. Showing that more determined businesses are ready for the challenge, is both a competitive advantage but also the only way forward.
For more inspiration:
Story of Nolla, a Helsinki-based zero waste restaurant
I participated on 20.8.2020 in an online event focusing on design research. The event was hosted by Reach Network‘s Bas Raijmakers and featured a panel discussion with two experienced service design professionals Geke van Dijk from STBY and Babitha George from Quicksand, both part of the Reach Network organization.
Both Van Dijk and George discussed their projects, the craft of design research and what it takes to succeed in their field, with an active participation from other participants.
Iterative process instead linear
The design research process of Reach Network is described as more iterative than linear. New ideas often come up during fieldwork, so quick adaptation is key. The process starts with immersion phase where they usually study people in their own environments. Afterwards in insight creation the design researchers identify problem spots and opportunity areas. Last phase of idea generation includes workshops, brainstorming and modeling of strongest ideas.
George started the discussion by explaining a project she had been working with which dealt with public healthcare in India. She discussed the difficulties of when dealing with an intimate, hard topic and how to overcome these obstacles. She mentioned that the ability to adapt your methods and getting people comfortable were vital, for instance using hypothetical scenarios instead of asking direct, intimate questions for a softer approach. She listed building trust and offering a judgement-free-zone as key to the success in her project.
Both George and van Dijk discussed the importance of design research. They were asked during the panel discussion on how to get clients to understand the importance of design research and pay for design research. They emphasized that when design research is done right, it is very informative and helps with implementation longevity. Engaging with stakeholders and having a thorough, mutual understanding and clear communication is vital.
Qualitative research vs. design research
The panelists briefly talked about differences of qualitative research and design research. With design research, you have creativity included and you’re always looking for opportunities. It’s rich in storytelling and bringing a design aspect via persona posters and images from field, for example.
A participant in the event asked for tips on how to transfer complex data to a more understandable, audience friendly format. George and van Dijk mentioned that having key insights, summaries and lots of illustrations is a good starting point. They emphasized finding a balance with complexity and clear storytelling because you also don’t want to lose the richness of your findings.
The art of the craft
The panelists discussed the craft of design research and what it takes to succeed in their field. Design research is about constantly reiterating and customizing your methods. It requires a lot of experience and openness to learn new. It’s about learning of complexities but also keeping things simple. “It’s about constantly zooming in and out”, one panelist explained.
The needed skills include observation, conversation, creative listening, ability to adapt, motivation to always learn new things, but also being reflective and self critical of own biases. It’s not just about learning tricks of different tools but learning the craft and adapting those tools to own projects.
During the panel discussion, it was mentioned that design research is much like the Netflix documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”, which featured Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master in Tokyo and his relentless pursuit of perfection, who even after three Michelin stars was always striving to be better.
In a way, a design researcher is never finished with learning their craft but instead always reiterating and customizing their approach.
The global pandemic outbreak in spring 2020 is continuing to disrupt markets, organizations and even our behaviours. As changes, new needs, expectations and innovations are emerging, it is important to proactively make sense of this new context.
The era of disruption tends to provide a valuable moment to experiment with new business ideas and even launch businesses. In fact, as Trend Hunter highlights, a large number of companies has been established during a recession, including Adobe, Apple, CNN, Disney, Hyatt, IBM, Instagram, Microsoft, Pinterest and WhatsApp.
As an innovation designer and change facilitator, I have helped both small and large businesses to build an understanding on the importance of trend spotting and scanning. In this article, I will cover the current context and challenges for innovation, the benefits of trend spotting and scanning, 3 insightful sources for trends and one practical framework to get started.
Many brands are highly valuing the innovations. If we take Peter Drucker’s definition for the term innovation (in Harvard Business Review 2002), i.e. “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential”, it should indeed be high on every brand’s agendas.
Interestingly, according to Salesforce research released in May 2020, marketers’ current top priority is innovating, while simultaneously it is also one of their top challenges. This example demonstrates the dilemma people tend to have for activities related to innovations.
Based on various research conducted, a majority of people state they simply don’t have time to work on ideas, although many acknowledge its importance. As Jeremy Gutsche, CEO of Trend Hunter, emphasized in his keynote speech “How to Make Innovation & Change Happen”, there are a plenty of other distractors we all have, which are preventing us to focus on innovating. These can be categorized under six themes, as shown here.
Having said that, sometimes there’s no other choice than removing distractors. The research by Small Business Roundtable and Facebook, published in May 2020, confirmed how small and medium-sized businesses are facing immediate cash flow issues, lack of demand and an uncertain future.
Yet, despite of this rather gloomy context, entrepreneurial spirit and optimism are also present among businesses. Since small and medium-sized businesses are vital e.g. for local communities, finding new and creative ways to reach and serve customers is thus highly encouraged.
Benefits of Trend Analysis
Asemphasized by J. Peter Scoblic in the article “Learning from the Future”, published on Harvard Business Review in July-August 2020, the practice of strategic foresight provides capabilities to sense, shape, and adapt to change as it happens. As such, there are multiple frameworks and tools to anticipate possible futures.
One practical way going forward is to spot systematically evolving trends and new innovations and, consequently, analyze what these could mean for your brand, customers and the industry as a whole. Before moving on, it is meaningful to clarify how the term “trend” can be understood. A trend is a new manifestation among people, related to behaviour, attitude or expectation, of a fundamental human need, want or desire (Mason et al. 2015, 46). Trend analysis, on the other hand, is about considering the potential influence of patterns of change that are already visible (J. Peter Scoblic 2020, 44).
All trends, in the end, can offer valuable innovation opportunities. The key is to unlock these prospects by adapting them for your context. The focus should be how a trend is relevant, rather than whether it is relevant (Mason et al. 2015, 145).
This fact alone highlights the advantage of the trend analysis. Moreover, it can bring in multiple other benefits along the journey from fueling your creativity to meeting, or even exceeding, your customer expectations, as I have summarized in the illustration inspired by the Double Diamond model of the British Design Council.
3 Insightful and Inspiring Sources for Trends
How to spot trends easily? There are numerous organizations that are focusing on collecting, synthesizing and publishing insightful trend reports on a regular basis. These reports can be considered as valuable starting points to gain an overview on what’s trending. Especially acknowledging the issue with time most of us seem to have, it is easier to take advantage of curated and regularly updated trend reports by the trend agencies and the foresight specialists. My 3 favorite sources right now are the following.
Trendhunter.com is said to be the world’s largest trend community with 20 million monthly views and a database of over 400,000 ideas and innovations. The insightful content also includes inspiring trend reports, articles, newsletters, talks, tools and books.
Think with Google
Think with Google provides regular reports on signals, trends and insights based on Google data, research and analysis conducted by Google teams. Their newsletter is packed with interesting point of views and special collection pages on emerging trends with multiple data points, illustrated in graphs and other visual formats, are to the point.
TrendWatching, a company specialized in consumer trend and innovations scanning, has both free and premium content available, but to start with, you can find a number of articles, reports, keynote talks and more. In 2020, TrendWatching has launched two new initiatives. Firstly, COVID Innovations site has a curated collection of over 1000 inspiring and recent innovations captured around the world, and secondly, Business of Purpose site proposes a community to exchange insights and share opportunities, and a plenty of curated resources, including statistics and insights. Moreover, TrendWatching delivers to its subscribers the “Innovation of the Day” content by email on a daily basis.
Trend Insights in Action: 1 Practical and Tested Framework
But what to do with all this future-oriented content? In the end, it is equally important to utilize these insights in ways that will be beneficial for you and your brand, while being able to grasp opportunities in a timely manner.
Innovation requires knowledge, ingenuity, and, above all else, focus.
– Peter F. Drucker, Harvard Business Review, 2002
To give focus and methodology, let me introduce one concrete framework, which I have found specifically useful to conduct trend analysis.
According to this methodology, to be able to address the sweet spot, brands should track three key trend elements:
1. basic human needs,
2. drivers of change and
Let’s explore these elements.
We humans all have basic needs, wants and desires, which remain the same, despite the changes happening around us. All trends are, after all, rooted in these basic needs. Authenticity, honesty, freedom and transparency can be considered as our fundamental needs.
What comes to changes, we know the change is constant, accelerated and happening everywhere. To understand the drivers of change, brands should look at shifts, i.e. the long-term macro changes and triggers.
The examples of shifts are climate change, urbanization and aging population. Triggers, on the other hand, are more immediate changes, such as political events, environmental incidents, and new technologies. What is trending in social networks or new products can give hints on social change. Frameworks such as PESTLE and STEEPLED provide support to analyze further these changes.
Thirdly, innovations are important since they inform on how the market is changing, what are the new entrants, new services, or experiences. Thus, spotting business innovations can help to assess what consumers will want next. In the end, innovations will create new expectations, which is why the terms such as “Expectation Economy”, “Experience Economy” and “Liquid Expectations” have been discussed in the recent years.
However, main emphasis should not be on these individual elements, but rather on the sweet spot, or tension, between basic needs, drivers of changes and innovations. This tension can be further evaluated by building an understanding on customer expectations and gaps between what is currently being offered (Mason et al. 2015, 48).
Transforming Current Trends to Innovative Ideas
The trend spotting encourages to act on the opportunities and identifying points of tension. How can you transform current trends to innovative ideas, which will be beneficial for your brand and your customers? Here’s a quick guide of main steps to take using the Trend Driven Innovation Methodology.
In practice, you can kick off your analysis by taking any of these starting points:
1. a new innovation and build an understanding what drivers of change and basic needs this innovation is addressing or
2. a new driver of change and spot innovations that are tackling this change or
3. a basic need by asking do I want to address it with my business, how I might satisfy this need, and consequently, what drivers of change are relevant for me that I can leverage.
Once you have decided your starting point, you can use the Consumer Trend Canvas to help you to structure and break down your analysis and ideation.
If you are short in time, you may try to get this filled in within a few hours. This approach, however, requires ideally some pre-work such as gathering trend inspiration in advance and securing a participation of multi-disciplinary team of at least 4 people, and a facilitator, for more creative results. On the contrary, you can also take your time and do some proper research for both parts of the canvas. If you are working alone, it would be beneficial to get some peer review and iterate the outputs accordingly.
Once your ‘analyze’ part ready, you can jump into the ‘apply’ part. It will be fruitful to ideate how you can potentially apply this trend and emerging expectations in your particular case and who would actually benefit from it.
Spend some time to ideate possible innovations and what would be the innovation potential. To get more ideas, I would recommend additionally to use a structured brainstorming method such as Creative Matrix. When ideating, remember to go for quantity over quality and focus on opportunities on where the attention and expectations are. Out of this ideation method, you can bring the most interesting ideas back to the Consumer Trend Canvas.
At this stage, you may wonder what shall you do once you have your first canvas filled in.
Ideally, you are ready to take a step forward, and go deeper how would this innovation actually work. For that purpose, you can use, for instance, the Business Model Canvas by Strategyzer and further ideate how to experiment the innovation using the Experiment Canvas, created by Ash Maurya.
If you can imagine an improved future state, you can likely make it happen
To conclude, current challenging time calls for deeper reflections, creative ideas and experimentations.
Different types of organizations from the well-established brands to new solo entrepreneurs can benefit from systematic trend spotting and scanning activities. Trend analysis provides opportunities to rethink the strategies, ways of operating and the overall offerings. In the end, regardless of your motivation and interests, you can take a proactive role in sensemaking and ideating an inspiring future.
Nina Kostamo Deschamps, SID 2016
Innovation Designer & Change Facilitator at Accenture Interactive
I participated in a digital event on 13.5.2020 focusing on how gender equality and diversity can create better innovations. The online event was hosted by Stockholm-based innovation community Openlab. Together with five expert panel members from different fields of work, a panel moderator and a visual facilitator, the importance of gender equality and diversity in workplace was discussed in detail.
Five by five -method
An interesting detail about the event was the creativeness of the event itself. I’m sure we have all experienced the mundane way of online presentations during this pandemic, so it was a welcome surprise to see a different online presentation format ‘Five by five’. In ‘Five by five’ each presenter has precisely five minutes for their presentation with exactly five slides to show, while each slide is programmed to automatically change after 60 seconds. The added pressure of strict timetable keeps the discussions short, the topic focused and makes sure each presenter is thoroughly prepared.
Gender gaps in tech field
The discussion was kicked off by Elise Perrault from Future Place Leadership, a Nordic management consultancy company. Perrault together with her two colleagues wrote a report about women in tech and challenging existing biases. She highlighted gender equality problems especially in tech sector by talking about gender gaps and specifically women dropping out of the tech field. It gave a great premise to continue the topic and especially on how to overcome these challenges.
Perhaps the most interesting segment during the event came from the program director of Vinnova and the founder of W.Empowerment Annie Lindmark who talked about the I-methodology and how it limits innovation. I-methodology describes the tendency of designers to base their design choices on their own personal preferences and interests. In short, they design products for themselves, not for their customers.
An example of I-methodology is a well known facial recognition software that had problems recognizing minorities accurately due to the software being developed and tested by white males. Lindmark stated that it highlighted the basic idea why diverse groups are more innovative than others. Just as one size does not fit all, so is diversity needed in innovation.
What can I do?
A question asked the most during the panel discussion was what can I as an individual do for the matter.
Lindmark presented the following actions:
Acknowledge the existing biases your organization may have
Set up a plan for improvement
Follow up and measure it
Encourage diversity and inclusion in all projects
Start seeing it and using it as a competitive advantage
Other concrete ways mentioned during the panel were networking, training, raising awareness and Fika for change.
Fika for change
In Sweden ‘fika’ means much more than just having a coffee break. It’s about taking a moment to slow down and appreciate the good things in life, similar to Danish “hygge”. Mathilda Hult from Radicle, a Swedish innovation culture agency, talked about ‘Fika for change’ which she had created and how that could be used to strengthen a team. ‘Fika for change’ is a trust-building tool for organizations and different groups that helps create conversation beyond roles and hierarchies. It’s meant to be used in a relaxed, equal setting, such as a coffee break, hence the word ‘fika’ in its title. The goal of the tool is for the team to focus on trust, curiosity and learning, all of which can help build an innovative culture in a team.
The power of visual facilitator
The event was a great success and gave a good understanding on the importance of diversity in innovation. It’s worth noting, that the event itself was highly innovative and a breath of fresh air. Not only was the selected ‘Five by five’ -method spot on but the true winner was their real time visual illustration of the key themes discussed at the event.
Last week the city of Rotterdam (NL) hosted the latest edition of the International Design in Government Conference.
Previously hosted in London (UK), Oakland (USA), and Edinburgh (Scotland), last week’s edition was already the third happening in 2019, suggesting that the interest in the topic is growing world-wide.
Hosted officially by Gebruiker Centraal (User Needs First), a Dutch knowledge community for professionals working on digital government services, the conference took place between November 18th and 20th and its participation was completely open to anyone.
The International Design in Government Conference aims at sharing best practices, takeaways and discussing common challenges so that they can be tackled through a collaborative approach. In facts, established by Government Digital Service in 2017 as an opportunity to bring together design-minded people that work in, for or with the government all over the world, in the last two years the international design in government community has grown to over 1500 members from 66 countries. In addition to participating to face-to-face meeting occasions such at the conference, community members engage every month in sharing knowledge through calls and other collaborative digital tools, contributing to keep the discussions alive and make some steps further.
I attended the conference on Tuesday, November 19th, where the morning was entirely dedicated to keynote speeches, whereas the afternoon had a more dynamic connotation as participants could choose to attend a wide range of talks, workshops and breakout sessions.
Below a summary of the morning keynote speeches and their related visual notes I made on the spot:
Measuring service quality – Willem Pieterson
Willem Pieterson is a researcher focusing on the intersection of data, technology and their orchestration with the aim of helping organisations become more innovative and data-driven. Presenting his work on how to better assess the quality of governmental services, he introduced a quality model based on 20 dimensions of quality, which helped defining a service evaluation model that suggests “satisfaction” as the biggest predictor of quality.
Designing digital to meet user needs – Francis Maude
Francis Maude is the former Minister for the UK Cabinet Office. He was responsible for the establishment of the Government Digital Service, with the aim of reinforcing internal IT and bringing all government services onto a single web hub: GOV.UK. By telling the story on how the UK moved from having its digital services spread across more than 2000 government websites to winning the award as “world leader for online and digital public services”, Maude suggested that leadership, capability, and mandate are the three elements to implement a functional reform. Additionally, the implementation of horizontal, cross-silo functions (by ensuring the commitment of several Departments to redesigning all existing Government services) as well as building a critical mass of technical capabilities were pointed out as the key to execution of such an ambitious strategy.
Maude’s office estimated that moving services from offline to digital channels could save approximately £1.8 billion a year.
Digital social innovation – Audrey Tang
Audrey Tang is listed number 3 in the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Digital Government in 2019. She took office in Taiwan as the “Digital Minister” on October 1, 2016, and was assigned the role of helping government agencies communicate policy goals and managing information published by the government, both via digital means.
Through her talk, Tang stressed the importance of implementing “radical transparency” in all governmental processes, and highlighted how Taiwan is promoting presidential hackathons as a means to co-create solutions around several topics related to the SDGs.
Although I could only attend one day, my brief participation to the International Design in Government was very interesting and it triggered a few considerations that I summarise below:
The understanding and recognition of (service) design is skyrocketing
If only five years ago it would have been unimaginable to have designers in a municipality, now designers working in Government are thousands and, based on the networking I did, most of attendees either knew what service design is or had service designers in their teams. In this landscape, the NL and UK are commonly acknowledged as the two countries in Europe who are the forefront of design and innovation in their governments.
Inclusion and diversity are not an optional in government services
Although public and private sectors are facing similar challenges (such as defeating a siloed mindset), the public sector must deserve some extra attention to designing for diversity and inclusion: in facts, governmental services need to be used by all citizens and therefore must be accessible to all kind of users. Of course, diversity and inclusion should not be considered as an optional in the private sector. However, they often are shadowed by other commercial priorities.
What is designed for some users might be very well received by other users
The story of Gemeente (Municipality) Rotterdam, who prototyped and tested visual letters for citizens with learning disabilities in the attempt of delivering a more engaging way for these users to read important communications, tells how this solution turned out to be a success for other citizens too. What we can learn from it is that at times what is designed for a specific target of users might very well apply to other kinds of users too.