Modern world possesses bigger challenges and more complex problems with people in the centre. To tackle these and come up with a creative solution, we need to use an explorative approach such as Design Thinking to innovate and solve these problems.
I was familiarized to Design Thinking when I attended a course led by Katja Tschimmel, the founder of Mindshake. Katja introduced us to the Design Thinking process and mindset by leading up through the Innovation and Design Thinking model called Evolution 6² (E.6²). The E.6² model includes steps with questions and tools that help design thinker or innovator to find out what the problem is, who is the solution intended for, what is the best solution, and how to implement it.
According to Katja the principles of Design Thinking are 1) Human-centered approach: Products and services should be experienced from the user’s perspective. 2) Collaboration: As many stakeholders as possible should be included throughout the phases of the process. 3) Experimentation: Playful thinking, making mistakes and learning by doing are an important part of every creative process. 4) Visualization: Quick prototyping helps the learning process and improves the initial ideas by visualization. 5) Holistic perspective: The big picture (environment and context) behind the product or service that is being developed needs to be understood (Tschimmel 2019, p.10).
After the contact lessons in Practical Design Thinking I started to wonder the rules in innovating. Maybe this was because I was a bit surprised about the fact, how much rules there are in design thinking and innovating. When thinking of innovating, you don’t first think, that it is something that is done with strict rules. You may be thinking of Gyro Gearloose, who is always coming up with new ideas from zero and brings them to life in no time. Or as Tim Brown (2008, 88) says: “We believe that great ideas pop fully formed out of brilliant minds.”
signal about these rules was, when our teacher Katja Tschimmel in the Practical
Design Thinking contact lesson, asked me why I wanted to use red post-its when
others were using blue. Well, I liked that there are more colors on the board.
How wrong could I go! Katja pointed out, that it is important, that the colors have
meanings, if you use them. Also, there is a difference when to use a black
marker and when to go with different colors.
minor rules but as we continued, I realized there are also bigger rules when
innovating. At the end of our contact lesson, Katja highlighted that innovation
comes when you are in a closed room in a closed time and you don’t have too
much time before the deadline. Tim Brown (2009, 21) confirms the idea, saying
that clarity, direction, and limits are vital to sustaining a high level of
I was a bit
scared. I am terrible at following strict rules and processes. I was relieved
from this by Katja Tschimmel. As strict as they say that design thinking
project should be, Katja pointed out, that it is very important that you use
the design models in innovative way. If you stuck on doing things with the way
that your model presents, you could go wrong. You need to be innovative when
using your design model.
After this, questions
aroused in my mind. For example, how do you know when to be bold and innovative
and not follow the rules and models? And when to stay in strict command? I got
help from Tim Brown (2008, 88-89). He outlines that the design process is best
described as a system of spaces rather than a predefined series of orderly
steps. And the project passes through three spaces; inspiration, ideation and
At the end I realized that everything depends on the project. You need to go with the flow of the project. See what the points are, where to amend your model and when to stay at course. I have a feeling that this comes when you are really listening and noticing how people are going forward with the project and what kind of questions are coming along the way that needs to be answered.
Design thinking as a discipline is here, because otherwise we would just be bouncing here and there with our ideas and innovations. And at the end would not get anything done. With rules and models, we can achieve something, that would otherwise be unreachable and unidentified. Also design thinking is here to help everyone be part of the innovation process. It is not just something for the Gyro Gearlooses.
Choose your model. Be bold, be flexible and innovative. But use the right colors!
2009. Change by Design. How design thinking transforms organizations and
inspires innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Brown, T. 2008.
Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review. June 2008. Brighton: Harvard Business
Publishing. 84 – 92.
“Innovation and design thinking are considered as the principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage in the business world today. Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and even strategy” – Tim Brown (2008).
Ironically, I never considered myself an innovative or creative person. Instead, my organized and systematic way of working sometimes seems to be even conflicting with the idea of being innovative. However, I like challenging myself. That’s why I enrolled to the “Service Innovation and Design” program at Laurea University of Applied Sciences, to build my confidence and skills towards being a more innovative person.
My Service Innovation and Design journey started with the course of “Design Thinking” from Katja Tschimmel in September. Katja herself is a Professor, Researcher and Consultant with the strong focus on creative thinking and design. The 2-days intensive course emphasised the fact that “design thinking (aka. Design doing) is a systematic approach to problem solving.”
By deep dive into the Figure 1 – Evolution 62(E6) model, we can see it has been divided into 6 phases, which starts with Emergence – identification of an opportunity in the centre. Then under each phase, there are various tools as recommendations or proposals to choose from. However, due the iterative nature of design thinking, tools can be freely selected based on the needs and context.
From the well instructed group exercises, we were able to familiarize ourselves with different design thinking tools. Also, from Katja’s concrete consulting case example, we were able hear how design thinking applied into real-life examples and best practices.
To enhance the design thinking understanding, I further on read the Harvard Business Review article by Tim Brown called Design Thinking (2008). In the article, Tim stressed that for any design projects, Design thinking ultimately goes through 3 stages: 1) Inspiration, 2) ideation, and 3) Implementation.
In more details (Brown, 2008, P88-P89): – inspiration is about understanding current circumstances and using the findings to search identify problems or opportunities. – ideation is about generating, developing and testing ideas that may lead to solutions. – implementation is about charting a path to market
In the end, Tim highlighted that innovation is the result of hard work, which starts with an idea that based on deep understanding of consumers’ live, then followed by iterative cycles of design thinking practices, such as porotypes, testing and refinement, to innovate and build value (2008, P90).
Similarly, in the book of “Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers”, Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011) introduced the design model with 4 basic questions (Figure 2). The “what is” stage explores current reality. “What if” envisions a new future. “What wows” makes some choices, and “what works” takes us to the marketplace (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P36).
By comparing 3 different design thinking models mentioned above, we can quickly come to the realization that, despite all the differences, all design thinking starts with the current reality and circumstance understanding. You might be wondering, isn’t design thinking is about creating something new for the future, but why starts with now?
The answer is simply. Because successful innovation always goes back to the basics of “what is the job to be done” and how can we improve it? To answer that question, we need to pay close attention to what is going on today to identify the real problem or opportunity that we want to tackle.
Without an accurate reality assessment, the innovation outcome loses the meaning and values. Also, in most cases, we tend to find innovation clues right lies in the dissatisfaction of the presence. By taking a closer look at users’ frustrations today, we will be able identify opportunities for improvements. Therefore, we can all agree that reality assessment is the foundation of innovation, and starting point of any design thinking process. (Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011, P38-P39)
So now you might be thinking that “Okay, now I get the point, but how to conduct the reality assessment in practice, and which tools I should be using?” There are many available tools to choose from based on the needs and situation. However, here are a few that I personally find useful to try (Tschimmel, 2018; Liedtka & Ogilvie, 2011).
Media, Market and Customer Analysis to obtain the understanding of what is happening or emerging currently to produce Trend Matrix. Intent Statement to collaboratively define “what do we want to innovate”? Stakeholder Map to identify various individuals or groups involved in the project, foresee possibility challenges, and develop strategies to engage them. Persona to define who are the users in the project. Customer Journey Mapping to provide a visual representation of the touchpoints where users interact with company services or solutions. Value Chain Analysis to study an organization’s interaction with partners to produce, market, distribute and support its offering. It is the business-side equivalent of customer journey mapping, to highlight pain points and opportunities when working with partners. Mind Mapping to extract meaning from vast amount of collected information to look for patterns and identify innovation opportunities.
Have fun with trying different design thinking tools! Enjoy!
Written by Xiaoying Wang on 22nd September 2019. Service Innovation and Design student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences
Tschimmel, K. (2018). Evolution 62: An E-handbook for Practial Design Thinking for Innovation. MindShake. Brown, T (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review P85-P95. Liedtka, J & Ogilvie, T. (2011). Designing for Growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers. Columbia University Press.
The Course in Practical Design Thinking at Laurea was definitely a wow-moment. After two days of practicing design thinking we left inspired and empowered to take a new look of our life and work challenges. It f I would to choose the most powerful powerful tool I learned during this course it would be rapid prototyping.
What Fast Prototyping really is ?
Fast prototyping is a method often used by designers in Elaboration Phase (Tschimmel, K. 2012) or in Ideation Phase (Brown, T., 2008)
Tim Brown calls rapid prototyping ‚Building to Think’ (Brown, T., 2009) . According to Brown, prototypes are ‚quick and dirty’ way to generate understanding and access idea feasibility faster. Prototypes should consume only as much time and effort and investment as it is necessary to obtain the valuable feedback.
How to Prototype?
Both mentioned authors give examples of different technologies/solutions for rapid prototyping. From Lego, paper, to 3D digital visualisation and mobile app mockup software. Some of these technologies are especially useful when designing services. Prototyping allows to act out the end-to-end service in order to make sure that designers will be able unlock the additional insights by transitioning back and forth in between theoretical and physical models.
High-Fidelity and Low-Fidelity Prototyping
In the literature we can find an ongoing debate on high vs low fidelity prototyping. The authors argue how much the prototype should resemble the final product (Walker et al 2002).
„Low-fidelity prototypes are often paper-based and do not allow user interactions. They range from a series of hand-drawn mock-ups to printouts. In theory, low-fidelity sketches are quicker to create. Low-fidelity prototypes are helpful in enabling early visualisation of alternative design solutions, which helps provoke innovation and improvement. An additional advantage to this approach is that when using rough sketches, users may feel more comfortable suggesting changes.
High-fidelity prototypes are computer-based, and usually allow realistic (mouse-keyboard) user interactions. High-fidelity prototypes take you as close as possible to a true representation of the user interface. High-fidelity prototypes are assumed to be much more effective in collecting true human performance data (e.g., time to complete a task), and in demonstrating actual products to clients, management, and others.”
A good balance of low cost and representation is a essential if we want to fully benefit from the power of prototyping.
10 prototyping Principles
Prototyping might seem simple, however to make it useful it’s good to know the basic rules. Alex Osterwalder his book „Value Proposition Design” (2014) gives us 10 principles of prototyping.
Make it visual and tangible – moving from conceptual to physical in at the very essence of prototyping
Embrace beginners Mind – don’t let existing knowledge to limit you.
Don’t fall in love with the first ideas, create alternatives instead
Feel comfortable in liquid state
Start with lo fidelity and refine – avoid refined prototypes as they are difficult to throw away
Expose work early – seek criticism. Don’t take negative feedback personally, embrace it as valuable information to improve the model.
Learn faster by failing early often and cheaply. Avoid fear of fear of failure as it is holding you from exploring new territories.
Use creativity techniques to break out of how things are usually done in your company
Create „Shrek Models” – extreme prototypes not for building, buy igniting discussion
Track learnings, insights and progress. You might use them later in the process.
Prototyping in practice
The course allowed us to unveil the power of prototyping ourselves by puting theory into practice. While designing a new learning experience at Laurea that would transform a school into world-renowned institution we found the fast prototyping with Lego extremely useful. Our low fidelity model represented a new Laurea education experience. We tried not to hold back to current physical structural limitations of campus and be comfortable with a liquid state of gradually refining the model. Exposing the work to our fellow students was especially revealing. It was hard not to discuss the feedback but to take it and use for model improvement. Rapid prototyping once again proved itself to be a powerful way to transform ideas and deliver solutions.
Osterwalder, A. et all (2014) Value Proposition Design, Wiley
Brown, T. and Kātz, B. (2009). Change by design. New York: Harper Business.
Walker, M. Takayama, L., & Landay, J. A. (2002). Low- or high-fidelity, paper or computer? Choosing attributes when testing web prototypes. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society: HFES 2002, USA, 661-665.
Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
Brown, T. 2008. “Design Thinking.” Harvard Business Review. June, pp. 84-92
Simply put, Design Thinking is a process for creative problem-solving.
This means solving any kind of problem, from how to secure clean water supply in developing countries, to how to create the kind of service that people will be interested in and gain financial value for the innovation.
It’s good to understand from the beginning that there is no design thinking without design doing. Super artistic skills are not required but sketching, visualizing, and prototyping are an integral part of it. We all need creative problem-solving and yes – we can all do the creative hands on part with some practice.
I will take you through the design thinking process and the text is divided into four chapters.
As part of Helsinki Design Week this year, Nokia spoke about the role innovation plays in Nokia’s present and future. It was exciting to learn how Design Thinking can have a big impact on the whole organisation. In this blog post, I share my favourite takeaways from the talk.
A small design team can make a difference
Would you believe it if I told you that Nokia currently sports a team of 19 in-house designers? At Nokia’s peak, they had over 600. I thought 19 sounded a pretty small number seeing the size of the company, but it goes to show that you don’t necessarily need a huge design team to innovate as long as you’re organised correctly (see my next point about multidisciplinary teams)
Innovate in multidisciplinary teams
With over 110,000 employees globally, innovation could get lost in the organisational structures. However, Nokia have really made an effort to ensure there are no such barriers to innovation. In every innovation project, a multi-disciplinary team is formed from the Design team, Business and Engineers.
The design process starts with a collaboration between the different teams from day one. The Product Development Lifecycle is followed and every stage needs to be agreed by all 3 groups to move forward. As all decisions are discussed within the multidisciplinary group meaning there is not only internal buy-in, but the maximum value from the different skill sets available in the group (think designers meet engineers etc.)
What do you get when you put together a group of Laurea MBA in Service Innovation and Design students and Mindshake’s Katja Tschimmel and task the group to innovate a service for international students as part of the Design Thinking course? A crazy lot of innovation, creativity, collaboration, and learnings. In this blog post, I will go through how one group utilised Design Thinking to create a service offering a full in-class VR experience to anyone not physically present.
Everyone has creativity in them – uncovering our creative confidence
First, we learned the theory and about the toolkit for practical Design Thinking, including opportunity mind mapping, intent statement and insight and stakeholder maps.
As innovation starts with idea generation, these tools were great for uncovering creativity and helped narrow down our focus. IDEO’s Tom and David Kelley discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all (Crown Publishing Group, 2013) how everyone has creativity in them and these tools are a testament to that. For our team, the creative confidence was really built up by brainwriting which brought us the collective brainchild of creating a VR in-class experience from anywhere.
Fluency and flexibility demonstrated during the brainwriting exercise which finally lead us to cluster the ideas that had to do with VR
Presenting the prototype
Then it was the time to create a prototype to visually present the concept. This concept test gave us invaluable feedback from the other team which we then incorporated in the service (it was great that we had to listen to the feedback in silence as there was only the feedback, no defending of what we thought – making us concentrate on just what people want and need in their lives, also highlighted of importance by IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown in HBR back in 2008).
A prototype of the VR in-class experience
The real test and the permission to fail
Then we moved on to the service blueprint which proved to be a bit more difficult than our team had thought. Now was the time we actually had to answer some tough questions and we realised that we may not have actually gathered all the information we thought we did.
In real life, we would have taken a few steps back and interviewed international students (and other stakeholders), and possibly decided that this service was not viable. Failure was an option, but for the sake of the learning experience, we decided to come up with some of the answers. Tom and David Kelley also discuss in their book Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all about the “permission to fail” which essentially means that you have to learn to embrace failure to come up with better innovations. For us, the service blueprint demonstrated well that failure is part of the innovation process and not something to be afraid of.
Pitch perfect innovation and collaboration
We were then ready to pitch our innovation using storytelling. Overall, the tools really gave the framework for innovation, directing us to the goal of being able to pitch a concept.
What was also remarkable was how well we collaborated, even though we barely knew each other. Tim Brown also states in his HBR article from 2008 that the best Design Thinkers are not just experts in their own discipline but have experience from others. After working in a truly multidisciplinary team, I can fully see how much innovation benefits.
What do you think, how has your experience with practical Design Thinking been?