Tag Archive | innovation

Design thinking tools to make meaning from the mess

More and more non-designers know at least some design thinking tools when different organizations commonly use them. Design thinking helps make sense of complex problems, and what is most important, it helps people create new ideas that fit better consumer needs and desires. (Kolko, 2015)

Design thinking is not an exceptional talent or a skill that only designers have, but design thinking practitioners see it as a mindset.

We can use the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and a viable business strategy.  While every designer is a design thinker (Tschimmel, 2022), design thinking tools can make anyone a designer.

Our studies at SID began with a two-day intensive course on Design Thinking. We got the task to investigate and push forward the issue of workplace inclusivity. For this purpose, we utilized the Evolution 6 model (E.6² for short) by Tschimmel and employed various Design Thinking tools along the way to the final presentation of a single refined prototype.

The E.6² model consists of six phases, each with three divergent and three convergent phases called moments. While working on this course, we were encouraged to retrace our steps, review our progress with a critical eye, and make adjustments accordingly.

Our experiences fit in with the notion that the design process encompasses different tools and methods that drive innovation. As Brown (2008) puts it, we executed multiple related activities to foster and engage in Design Thinking to come to innovative solutions. Well-prepared templates and a broad license to utilize, e.g., image material found online, helped our endeavors. 

Design thinking is cross-disciplinary teamwork that brings the user to the center of the problem statement.

Kolko, 2015

During the process, we leveraged the strengths of multi-disciplinary teams. We sought common ground amongst ourselves to further our understanding of the problem and offer solutions in rapid prototypes.

Kolko (2015) defines design artifacts as physical models used to explore, express, and communicate. In the digital context of our lecture weekend, we used online media in picture form to develop our ideas and convey them visually to our group members and classmates, especially during the prototyping and final presentation phases.

Prototypes should command only as much time, effort, and investment as are needed to generate useful feedback and evolve an idea.

Brown, 2008

In the space of this one weekend, we were able to design novel solutions to tackle a complex issue and present those solutions in a coherent and visually striking manner while working with the constraint of not interacting with each other face-to-face.

It is good to remember that while design thinking helps solve complex problems and innovate future solutions, it does not fit all situations or solve all problems. It requires strict expectation management with realistic timelines that fit each organization and its culture.  

While design thinking methods can help to create innovative products, they can still fail to sell. Brown (2008) talks about a project between US-based innovation and design firm IDEO and Japanese cycling manufacturer Shimano. They used design thinking tools to create a new innovative concept of Coasting bikes, which offered a carefree biking experience for the masses.  Several other biking manufacturers incorporated Shimano’s innovative components after their Coasting bikes launch in 2007, and the project won some design awards. But for some reason, the bikes were not selling, and a few years later, they disappeared from the market. (Yannigroth, 2009) Maybe they did not test the idea properly with target users after all?

Written by: Viljami Osada & Saija Lehto SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences.

References:

  • Brown, Tim (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.
  • Kolko, David J. (2015) Design thinking comes of age. The approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture. Harvard Business Review September 2015, 66-71.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation.” DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79879-6.
  • Roth, Yannig (2010). What caused Shimano’s Coasting-program to fail? Blog post. https://yannigroth.com/2010/05/12/what-caused-shimanos-coasting-program-fail/ 

Photos: Pexels.com

Design Thinking For Management Education

“What’s in for me?”, the manager asks.

“Anything”, we answered. “It depends on how we find it”.

Figure 1: Photo by Gabriel Sollmann / Unsplash

In terms of developing or dealing with the new in increasingly complex interdependencies and the capability to integrate various perspectives in the decision-making process, Design Thinking (DT) implies the potential to become a great asset for any organization. With its universal usability, DT has the power to become a key innovation driver. Katja Tschimmel (2021) concludes “that organizations should concentrate their innovation strategies and practices on creativity and design-based methods and their mindset.”

Changing awareness

However, this requires a mindset accordingly to resonate within the yet established traditional business development concepts, which are, according to Tschimmel (2021), based on rational problem-solving techniques. Not only that thinking besides the beaten path is simply difficult for anyone, Mauro Porcini in Kelley & Kelly (2013) goes even further and defines the very beginning of the journey as “pure denial”, culminating in the proposition that “we’re not creative”.

Relocating mindset

To push this thinking laterally, as De Bono (1994) describes it 30 years ago, a new way of management education is being in the need. Educators within this field, like Martin Parker (2018) question the traditional business education agenda and demand a critical view on how the ethos is being conveyed. Referring to his thoughts, educational research projects like the D-think project of Tschimmel & Santos (2018) can be observed already. It is on the design thinking approaches to relocate positions on how management could act alternatively in order to conduct change.

Figure 2: Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

Within this context, project-based teaching & learning is the most effective pedagogical framework for both teachers and students to develop new perceptions and values in a collaborative approach in DT institutes (Tschimmel, Katja. (2011)).

Educating creative confidence

One such session was held online in DT course as part of Service Innovation & Design program at Laurea, where, lecturer Katja Tschimmel took us through the DT process with 7 key principles; a communal methodology involving many stakeholders (Collaboration), leading to build-up a user’s prospective (Human Centeredness/Empathy), which is iteratively investigated (Experimentation) to find out all possible outcomes (Divergence) and shaping to form/images  (Visualization/Prototyping) considering wider context and environment (Holistic Approach) in a creative process.  We were introduced with a practical exercise to the more elaborative Design Thinking model from Mindshake (as below).

Figure 3: E.62 Design Thinking Model by Mindshake

In search for answer that how design experts assist their students to evolve the capacity of design thinking, researchers discovered multiple levels of creative knowledge, which can be attained by design thinking education, evolving to a potential, termed as “Creative Confidence” (Rauth et al. 2010). Kelley & Kelley (2013) advocate to consider the social ecology in a group setting in reference to foster this creative confidence. Deferring judgement for example, among other guidelines, is vital.

Further thoughts

In summary and in reviewing the masterclass, the management education of future “innovation agents” (Tschimmel 2021) needs more than knowledge about the tools. By adding and exploring components of group psychology, facilitating dynamics or such, can leverage the full potential.

Figure 4: Photo by Stefan C. Asafti on Unsplash

Written by Ahmad Arslan & Manuel Schaumann, SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences

References

  • De Bono, E. (1994). De Bono’s Thinking Course
  • Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
  • Parker, M. (2018). Why we should bulldoze the business school. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/27/bulldoze-the-business-school [Accessed September 2021]
  • Rauth, I., Köppen, E., Jobst, B., Meinel, C. (2010). Design Thinking: An Educational Model towards Creative Confidence.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation.
  • Tschimmel, K., Santos, J. (2018). Design Thinking applied to the Redesign of Business Education. In Proceedings of the XXIX ISPIM Innovation Conference, The Name of the Game. Stockholm.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2011). Design as a Perception-in-Action Process. 10.1007/978-0-85729-224-7_29.

Diving Into the World of Design Thinking

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

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

Our Portraits Created by Our Teammates in Miro

What is Design Thinking?

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

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

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

Mindshake E6² Model in Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Key Points Learned of the DT Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Self-organizing organizations and well-being

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Tampere University and 
The Finnish Work environment fund
24.8.2021 

Innovation through human-centred design thinking

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)

Source: Drawing change

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.

Souce: Wikipedia

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
  • Not interrogation

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.

Aligning strategic foresight in large organizations – Workshop at SDGC

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.  

Strategic GPS used as a tool to navigate strategies of a company.
Strategic GPS can be used as a tool to navigate and understand strategies of a company.
Source: Online workshop at SDGC 2020 (Day 2)

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 

Embracing change at the Service Design Global Conference 2020

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 

Designing remote working practices to improve employee experience (EX) in organizations

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 approaches and 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.  

Miro was used as a tool for collaboration
Miro was used as a tool for collaboration. Screen capture from workshop.

Workshop agenda

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.

In the end of the session, ideas were converged into three main themes.
Screen capture from workshop.

Conclusions  

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 

Resources 

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 

Keller, S. & Meaney, M., 2017, “Attracting and retaining the right talent”, McKinsey & Company 
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/attracting-and-retaining-the-right-talent 

Küng, L., 2017, “Strategic Management in the Media – Theory to Practice”, 2nd Edition, SAGE Publications Ltd., London. 

Why every problem solver needs design thinking

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


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

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

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


The human-centric way to solve problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why haven’t all organisations embraced design thinking?
 

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

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


Where next? 

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


Written by: Elina

References: 

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

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

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

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

Pushing the boundaries of innovation

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.

Transformation zones

Gaziulusoy discussed the three transformation zones that we need to understand and explore in order to fully embrace sustainability innovation.

Dr. Idil Gaziulusoy’s presentation slide “Three Spheres of Transformations”

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.

Dr. Idil Gaziulusoy’s presentation slide “Strategic and Creative Foresight”

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
  • Design Club’s next event on 23.9.2020: Creative practices for transformational Futures
  • B-corps, list of businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance
  • Designs for a Cooler Planet Exhibition by Aalto University video: