A two-day course in design thinking taught me that a team is more than a group of people and that in our aim to reach our goals, failure can be a positive thing.
“Empathy is the mental habit that moves us beyond thinking of people as laboratory rats or standard deviations.” (Change by design, p49, Tim Brown, 2009)
With these strong words Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO probably the world’s best known design company emphasises the importance of empathy in design. The distinction Brown believes is the is the difference between academic thinking and design thinking.
As we started our path as SID students the first and introduction to a process of design thinking and tools for innovation was the Evolution 6² model. A toolkit that identified 6 key stages of the design thinking process: Emergence, Empathy, Experimentation, Elaboration, Exposition, Extension. The model can be found here.
The tools such as shadowing, moodboards, interviews and empathy maps to name a few in the empathy stage are the very ingredients that create insight into design briefs that a the “fix the problem” approach seldom sees.
It could be called research, discovery or many other things, but to me that it is labeled as empathy is a major distinction as to not the process, but the outcome of the stage. That we have real human-centered empathy for the user and the stakeholders. Standing in the shoes or lying in the gurneys of others as Brown puts it. Borrowing the lives of others we can generate new ideas and insight – even problems that we can address in further stages of the process.
It is the very nature of the of the engineer mindset to locate problems and fix them. A skill we need to have as well, but it is the process of understanding needs and dreams to be design thinkers as Tschimmel points out. A design thinking manager creates better results by being empathetic and human-driven. With empathy we can unlock the very core of the experience, not only the problem. It is not just a bandage on cut, it’s better healthcare. It’s not the next best mouse trap, it is the mousetrap we’d love to have. And it could be that we don’t even want the mouse to be trapped at all. (5, Tschimmel, K 2010)
Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design is a pointless task as Brown says in his blog post about the how only empathy can solve complex and large scale problems. A video from his blog post illustrates this well.
As a designer we are many times full of ideas and a urgency of need to help people solve problems and create new ideas.
But maybe we should first realize that maybe we are not prefect for the job. We need to start with empathy first. That as a 34 year old designer with a love for food and wine, It maybe makes me ill prepared to design a much needed kitchen gadget for a grandmother with arthritis as Brown puts it. That we as designers need to boot up and suit up to immerse ourselves to find new creative solutions to other people’s challenges. With empathy we can.
Blog post: A lesson in empathy, Tim Brown, http://designthinking.ideo.com/?p=1008
Evolution 6² model, Katja Tschimmel, https://www.behance.net/gallery/7955999/Evolution-6-Design-Thinking-Model
Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, Katja 2012. Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.
”Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer´s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”
– Tim Brown –
We kicked-off our Service innovation and design 2015 program with an inspiring Design Thinking course taught by Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valença.
We first went through the evolution of Design Thinking. and the different design thinking process models like Double Diamond (2005) model, 3 I Model (IDEO, 2008) and Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford model (2010). The advantage of using a step-wise model is that the Design Thinking process is more accessible, explicit, easily understandable and applicable in organisations and business. Criteria used to choose the appropriate model depends on the innovation task, its context, the number and composition of the team and its dynamics, ant the available time for the innovation process.
Innovative thinking to me is really about perspective – to be able to have a different perspective to issues. Diverge thinking enables us to explore new alternatives, new solutions and new ideas that have not existed before. Building in order to think instead of thinking of building. Learning by making. Start asking the right questions.
We received a task to create new ideas and business model to topic “Studying in Laurea”. It was interesting to find out that “Studying in Laurea” lead to several different approaches to the same topic. We followed the Design Thinking process on Evolution 62 (Mindshake, 2014) model step-by-step.
….Emergence ~ identification of an opportunity
….Empathy ~ knowing better the context
….Experimentation ~ generating ideas and developing concepts
….Elaboration ~ working on material and semantic solutions
….Exposition ~ communicating the new concept and solution
….Extension ~ implementing, observing, improving and growing
Most intriguing moment during the process for me was when we did the desktop walkthrough in the Experimentation phase and presented our solution using role play in the Elaboration phase. We had literally NO clue what we were doing at the time. There was an empty canvas awaiting for our ingenious solution and a box full of Lego´s and other materials to play with. In order to deliver the solution in time we divided into individual working groups with still not a clue of what to do. The clock was ticking. Somehow (don´t ask me how) we managed to pull through to what I think was the most beautiful Lego master piece (proof below) in due time and even had a logical storyboard for the role play.
Now what just happened there? I have no idea, but somehow we went from Chaos to Creativity in due time, and we were proud of our Lego master piece afterwards. This more of philosophical approach will guide me through the rest of the program trying to find answers into what sparks creativity. So despite colliding different personalities, tight schedule and a topic with little background information (=Chaos) you might end-up with innovative and creative solution if you follow a structural Design Thinking model? I do not know but I will keep on searching for the answers as my journey with SID studies continue 🙂
More tools on Design Thinking can be found here: Toolkit
Please take a look at real-life customer case: How design thinking transformed Airbnb from failing startup to billion-dollar business (Video for 31 mins):
Written by Minna Puisto
Brown, T. (2009) Change by Design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Tschimmel, K. (2012) Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation.
Remember that feeling of inadequacy in art class at school for ‘not being creative enough’? I do. To this day I’ve thought that I’m simply not cut out for being creative. And then, about a month ago while attending Katja Tschimmel and Mariana Valenca’s course, I finally realised I too can be creative. That’s when I became properly acquainted with Design Thinking.
As Brown (2009), Tschimmel (2012) and Liedtka and Ogilvie (2011) have asserted, we all have creative capabilities. We just need to have the right tools to dig them out and open our minds to see the world differently.
Human in the centre of business innovation
Among being useful for many things, Design Thinking (DT) provides essential tools for businesses to ‘get ahead of the game’. By combining the creative approach of design disciplines with rational, analytic problem-solving, DT helps to think divergently and expand options, which is unarguably beneficial when trying to come up with new business innovation.
What DT draws from design disciplines in particular is the emphatic human-centric view which starts with observing people in their natural surroundings. Starting a business innovation process this way is very important because it helps to understand customers’ true needs and create business that taps into their existing behaviour. This way customers are much more likely to relate to the new business.
Visualisation and iteration lead to better results
The DT process has been explained and visualised with several different kind of models over the years. There are also hundreds of existing DT tools. Yet, regardless of the model and tools used, the DT process always includes certain common aspects.
To start with, customer observation helps to identify different patterns and insights, which highlight the problem at hand. As DT theory stresses, patterns and understanding are often best formed by visualising learnings. Visualisation makes problems literally visible and thereby tangible and concrete.
There are numerous visualisation methods, but one effective method that no DT process should disregard is prototyping. Building a prototype is relatively inexpensive and easy – any material will do. A prototype helps to highlight possible future pitfalls of an idea that can become costly if not dealt with early enough. It’s always easy to take one step back in the development phase and try to improve the idea but it can be difficult to fix once it’s moulded into its final form. According to DT theory, working this way – iteratively – often leads to better results.
Now, working hard on an idea is all very well but even a great idea can die if it can’t be communicated effectively. Hence, storytelling is also in the core of a DT process. Every design thinker should aim to be a master storyteller with an ability to engage their audience on an emotional level. This is particularly important in a business innovation process because success is often tied to the whole company being engaged with the process and truly understanding what is being done.
Practice makes (a group) perfect
Naturally no one is born perfect and truly mastering the DT approach takes practice. What is beautiful about DT, though, is that it’s always a group effort. A DT process involves interdisciplinary teams where each team member builds on each others’ ideas and brings their personal strengths to the group. Little by little and as a group, with the help of creative Design Thinking, a great many things can be achieved.
Written by Henrietta Hautala
Brown, T. (2009) Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Liedtka, J. & Ogilvie, T. (2011) Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers. New York: Columbia University Press.
Tschimmel, K. (2012) ‘Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation’ in Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation from Experience.
It was the morning of our second school day at Laurea, and the coffee line was long. We sat in the cafe with a classmate and watched the line getting longer and longer. In a few minutes, we had come up with a solution to improve the situation. Or so we thought.
When our first Design Thinking class started and we got our assignment, we were thrilled. We were supposed to think how to make Laurea a better place to study, which meant we would have the chance to put our coffee line solution into practice on the spot.
We started mindmapping and deepening the idea and were pretty far with our improved spatial design when our teacher Gijs van Wulfen came to interrupt us. “Take a step back. You are already finding a solution and you haven’t even defined what the campus actually consists of.”
Oh. Right. A step back.
When we finalized our task the next day, the coffee line problem was solved. But so were many, many other things that actually affect the atmosphere on the campus even more. To me, the most valuable lesson of the Design Thinking course was just that: take a step back, look at the big picture first. That’s how you can innovate something, not just improve existing solutions.
And innovation is what Design Thinking is all about. Our workshop facilitator and the author of the article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation Katja Tschimmel describes Design Thinking as an abductive thinking, which is “thinking in new and different perspectives and about future possibilities, which do not fit into existing models”. This requires some perceptive cognition. In other words, taking a step back.