Monday, October 1, 2012

Design thinking

Our systems are becoming ever increasingly complex. This complexity is everywhere around us: we can feel it (the public urgency for growth, speed, for more, for faster), we can see it (more and more technology everywhere, road systems, energy grids, etc.), we can experience it (diversification of products, services, life styles, values and needs).

Innovation is inspired possibility as a solution provider for all of the challenges that appear along the way. Yet, innovation within the complex systems, that addresses the core challenges that are a result of such complexities, does not lead to a thrivable Planet. I would argue even further, that such innovation is leading us towards delayed destruction. Life is becoming more and more resorceful, yet, more expensive and eventually unaffordable. In order to use innovation in a constructive way when addressing the challenges of complex systems, we need to get engaged in innovating into the foundations of any system.

We need to focus upon the fundamentals that will eliminate problems, and redirect our activities towards different perceptions. For example, care-homes for retired people are growing in number and occupancy; and with the rate that the retired sector of the population is increasing, needs will be accelerating, growing beyond manageable proportion. Let us search for a different approach, for example, new dynamic ways of re-integrating healthier older people into society as an active force based on their experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and willingness to act and also with consideration for their physical capabilities.

In order to generate solutions beyond the known and comfortable zone, we need a new type of thinking. The good news is that there already exist several different approaches. We know how to do it, but, do we use this new, creative ways of thinking also in the work environment? Do we create a (corporate/administrative) culture where unconventional thinking is perceived as something good, and it results in the increased number of new, innovative, bold ideas? This is where Oliver Kempkens's story comes in. A story of design thinking (DT). As one of those possible approaches that can make such a shift in perception. I hope the provocation reaches you, too, that he inspires you and that you will be confident to engage; yourself and colleagues.

V: Who is Oliver Kempkens?
Oliver Kempkens: Oliver Kempkens, 28, studied Law, Business, Psychology, and Mediation, certified Business Mediator, founder of several start-ups and author on innovation and Eastern European business topics. Alumni of the School of Design Thinking (Potsdam and Stanford), Business and Organizational Developer at the world's biggest ERP provider, SAP AG, in the Office of the CTO in Palo Alto. Oliver likes to read (trash literature + Dostojevski) and to consume soccer.

V: How would you describe DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
DT is a process to create anchors into the dark blue ocean to tap into the field systematically, by thinking out of the box. It is a collaborative and rational problem solving process.
Thomas Edison's approach was an early example of what is now called "design thinking" - a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives, and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.
Design thinking is a lineal descendant of that tradition. Put simply, it is a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What were your first experiences with DT?
Oliver Kempkens:
It is not enough to experience once what DT probably is; no. If you want to execute the process in its most effective way it is absolutely mandatory to have an emotional connection to what it is. That means truly and deeply understand the values!
Source: Oliver's personal archive

V: Could you share an example of DT that inspires you most?
Oliver Kempkens:
The most convincing DT project that is coming to my mind is a project of the D.School in Stanford. They had the challenge to address the high child mortality rate in South East Asia. They found that the problem is keeping children warm. Obviously there was the incubator, but it was too inflexible, too expensive and so on. Finally they developed a moveable low cost incubator for everybody; amazing: Stanford magazine: Baby, It's Cold Outside!

V: Which are the most important elements of design thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
Abilities to research! Whether it is observation or interviewing; the most important part of DT is the research phase, when you try to understand the behaviour of people.

Source: 12 manage, description Design Thinking

V: Where/In what kind of organization/environment is DT most successful?
Oliver Kempkens:
Probably, in every; the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change. If a company or an organisation can come to this point, everything is possible.
…the most important thing is the cognition that you need to change… 
V: Does DT require any specific form of organization?
Oliver Kempkens:
An open, willing to change organisation where it is possible to think outside the existing corporate policies or constraints.
Rok Stritar, M.Sc.(Teaching Assistant at the Faculty of Economics, UL) about DT:
In my understanding DT is a transfer of solving problems, as used by designers, in the business world. The point is that extensive analyses and studies, as we are accustomed to in the business world, are replaced with deep empathy, customer-orientation and rapid prototyping. DT encourages interdisciplinary integration and development of "out of the box" solutions.We use DT at the Faculty of Economics at different courses related to business and entrepreneurship, because the design way of thinking is in many cases, very suitable for business, as it allows finding solutions to unstructured problems for which conventional analytical approaches often fail. We also encourage students to rapidly develop prototypes and test solutions on the market. Consequently, during the course students come to more iterations of solution.
V: Does design thinking require any specific type of people?
Oliver Kempkens:
Ideally people are open-minded (haha ;-)). If we think in corporate structures, everybody is good to be part in a DT project, mainly divided in multidisciplinary teams and inspired with enough personal freedom.

V: What are the differences (and similarities) between design thinking and systemic thinking? How would you describe systemic thinking?
Oliver Kempkens:
To simplify: Systemic Thinking is for me the ability to overlook "all" interactions in a dedicated system, understanding that there is more than cause and effect, but a specific own dynamic, which is caused by a various number of variables, visible and invisible.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.

DT has occasionally the problem to create user-centered solutions (so finally, what the user's like, but not what they should like: for example...Burgers vs. health food). The systemic thinking approach in DT is called "human-centered" thinking. If you want, I am a Human Thinker, not a user-centered thinker.
Along with business and technology considerations, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences. Human-centered design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation -will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.
Source: Tim Brown, HBR, June 2008

V: What about the impact of DT on business and the society in the future? How strong will it be?
Oliver Kempkens:
From my point of view, the values of DT are not exposed enough in the business. Even at SAP: We are talking a lot about DT but in practical terms there is enough space to improve tremendously. I think, that we have to understand that DT is not solely a very convenient way how to understand the user, and how to create a nice scenario (marketing ready), but, how we can gain empathy for specific individuals, understanding that we are all humans, for a very limited time on earth; How can we sustain our life more effectively.

Thank you Oliver,

Kaja and Violeta

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