Design Thinking – a way to get better results or just another way to do things?

Design thinkingIt was about 8 months ago when I attended a design thinking workshop while visiting SAP headquarters. That workshop was just a short trip to get used to a new way for idea creation and evaluation but made me think about how could I use the technic in my projects. Actually it wasn't me who decided that we could use this approach in one our projects but I was happy to hear this is coming soon. I thought I should be more prepared and get some more information of the methodology.

I started my journey into design thinking by reading an article ”Design Thinking – An Interview with Roger Martin”. This article is a discussion between Roger Martin (a career as a dean of the Rotman School of Management and a director of Monitor Company) and Jim Euchner (career as a vice president of innovation at Goodyear and an editor-in-chief of Research-Technology Management). The main points in this article are that design thinking should be implemented inside a company and everyday life in it and also that this new methodology challenges traditional way of doing business and analytical, quantitive studies made before decisions. In the center of design thinking is understanding of customers, needs and solutions after ideation phase. Design thinking doesn't mean that you have to forget the analytical part of historical data but you must also challenge the data and make a combination of this and new findings during the phase of ideation. Why design thinking is seen so difficult? This is mainly because we learnt at school that we have to read a lot and remember the written truth – we were not asked to think ourselves a lot instead we should believe what is written by old masters. At school we easily forgive us for making our own conclusions or don't pay a lot attention on evaluating different possibilities.

I went a little bit further with my readings and found a book by Tim Brown ”Change by design – How design thinking transforms organization and inspires innovation”. This is a great book: it has the baseline of what is it to work with this approach and it also has a lot of examples. I don't reference to the examples in this article but make some statements after my readings and tell you what I learnt while reading.

After Tim Brown design thinking consists of 3 phases: 1. inspiration or finding a problem or opportunity that motivates you, 2. ideation or a process to generalizing, developing and testing ideas and 3. implementation or a path that leads from a project room to a market. This process of all 3 parts may go between phase, looping back and forward. Successful ideas and developing criteria must be as feasibility (is it functionally possible with foreseeable future), reliability (what is likely to be a part of a sustainable business model) and desirability (does it make sense to and for people). Design thinkers must think about projects, not problems and trough this they may see a starting point, realization and an end point. To my mind it's often difficult to let your ideas flow but you can learn it, you can make more ideas if you don't think too much. There can be a lot of silly ideas, sometimes they become diamonds later.

A very important part of design thinking is to learn from people: what people do and do not and what people say and not say. This is an intensive period of observation. I'm keen to watch people play: I like to know more about their working and how they make statements. A design thinker then translates an observation into insights and insights into products and services. During a ideation phase you have to analyze your ideas, synthetize and make groups of ideas and empthatize with others because trough this an idea of one person gets more value when someone else adds an extra part into it. The ideation phase may be seen as a diverge phase where choices are created and a converge phase where choices are made. It's true that you can also go back to another during your ideation.

An organization which uses design thinking must allow failure but it has to catch failures in an early phase. Some sort of freedom must be allowed and this means that an old way of management isn't an option. It's also important that innovative places exist where a project team may go to create ideas. It has been seen that if this is only a short part of a project team's life and they go back to a less innovative or inspiring surroundings, people may go back to old days. Sometimes people get frustrated and leave a company; they are insisted to get an inspiration but then they are forced to go back to old without it. In my opinion we might have too much to do in our working place and we don't have enough time to get inspired. But is this the problem of ourselves or the companies? To my mind maybe both, but if we want we should take our time to change our surroundings and let ideas flow.

Another important thing is to make prototypes in an early phase. This makes an idea tangible and easier to discuss, question and analyze choices. It is also possible to evaluate prototypes between others and make improvements. Do you remember when you was a child and liked to play and build things. Design thinking lets you go back to your childhood and build new space shuttles or something less.

Design thinking is human-centered: we use our emphaty and understanding of people to design experiences that create opportunities for active engagement and participation. Tim Brown wrote also a story of Bill Moggridge who told him when he was a freshman that ”Designing is verbs, not nouns”. To my mind this tells it all: a good designer thinks more about doing solutions than concentreting on just products and conclusions. Desirability – Feasibility – Viability triad or approach is after all a consumer-centered perspective. Old, established companies have a large customer base and it means that by learning from customers straight on, new ideas and products are easier to bring to market to the old ones.

Two of the workers in IDEO (the company Tim Brown works for) are Diego Rodriguez and Ryan Jacoby, both having an MBA. They have made categories of different ways to innovate. If you make improvements for existing users and existing offerings it means changes (incremental), if you make new offerings to existing users you make extensions (evolutionary). If the target is new users and only changes to existing offerings you make adaptions (evolutionary) and if you make new offerings for them you create something new (revolutionary). I found it rewarding to hear that innovation can be small steps and sometimes changing the whole game. This comes by examples (read from book).

How to start implementing design thinking in your organization? It's usually better to start with your own employees and maybe get an outside facilitator after Tim Brown. Usually this means that you have one demo project where you can count qualitative and quantitive measures. It worths while to let people know about this: the viral channels are incredible way to let people know. You must also think the whole system, it means bigger opportunities. Don't think too big, start with small steps.

Also in this book it was a finding that our education system doesn't encourage to design thinking. But we should change our way of doing business. The big benefits are that this approach is close to customers where the ideas actually come from, it encourages to fail early and fail often (prototype quickly to see if there's a business case) and you can use it to learn more of your extreme users (they're a creative asset for you). It's also important to mix groups (inspirations from others) and mix innovations (incremental, revolutionary and evolutionary innovations work all in different situations). A good thing is to give budget to ideas or projects that challenge the old ways. To start inside the company, let the buzz come and people talk openly on their findings and ideas. This will change the company. And don't forget to give honor to great thinkers, even if they come outside the company.

Keep an eye on team work

Team workHave you ever thought what makes one team a dream team or what kind of persons should a great team have? I have. I was exploring at the library a couple of weeks ago and found Susan A. Wheelan's book named Creating Effective Teams. The lady has worked with both public and private teams, studied their dynamics and found a few characteristics which make a difference. From my point of view I usually work with a couple of mates or a team with different organization's participants, very rarely only alone. I have asked myself a lot of questions: what can I do to support other people to give their thoughts during a meeting, what happens to us if someone gets a promotion and no longer work with us or how are we doing right now (I feel it used to be better).

Susan A. Wheelan thinks that a high performance team should at first point have a mission, strictly defined goals and autonomy. For me it was also surprising that she wrote that one shouldn't help a team too much. I think that the help from outsiders doesn't make sense if the team already knows what to do but nobody takes his/her responsibility to lead the team to the right direction. A team's dependency should not be expected. A group has to be linked to a bigger organization, too. A group maybe reports to an upper level management or share ideas with other groups. If an outside intervention is needed, one should ask how this helps a group to perform better, how it's linked to tasks and goals and what kind of evidence is provided for the results (for example studies, methods used or other sources like recommendations).

In a team or a group development there are four phases according to Wheelan: 1) dependency and inclusion, 2) counter-depence and fight, 3) trust and structure and 4) work and productivity. Usually it takes 6-7 month to get into phase four but it's also possible to go back to earlier phases. During different phases a leader's role and opinions are different, tasks and goals are seen differently and structures, conflict management and work-orientation are different. During phase one it's important that a main goal is agreed, accepted and meaningful. On the second phase roles and tasks are important: clear definitions, abilities and skills are valuated and people feel good on their roles. Leadership has to be changed time to time, at first phase security and acceptance by other members is needed and leader has to encourage people to work together. One should also keep an eye on communication and feedback, it's usually helpful if after a meeting feedback is collected and before starting a next meeting the feedback is communicated. A successful team has to discuss openly, have a structured way to handle conflicts and has to implement norms, structures etc. but after the implementation usually change those sometimes.

An effective leader understands the group's goals and tasks, adjusts his/her style by a group's needs (which phase is on). During the first phase goals, safety, structures and acceptance of others is important. On the second phase the culture is a key word but also some extent issues/problems will exist and conflict management has to be implemented. Wheelan thinks that conflicts are needed to go further with a team. How a team finds a right path to go forward may be after a conflict. During the third phase roles, organization, negotiations and positive atmosphere should be on. On the fourth phase working meanse efficiency and productivity.

I learned an easy trick from Susan A. Wheelan: a process check. This means that during a meeting if you think that something is wrong and the focus is away, you can say ”Let's do a process check”. Whilst in place, you check the agenda if it contains enough time to go it trough and get tasks shared or done, ask people if they are heard enough or if anything needs a more clarifications and discussion with others. When a process check takes place you can also evaluate the whole meeting process and improve it straight.

Even a high performance team can loose its egde: this usually happens between 18 to 24 moths' timeline. What you can do to avoid it? You may add additional goals and tasks, switch roles, take your time to teach others to do a peer work, rotate members off and add new people, change the way meetings are arranged or change the time or simply focus on something else, creative things.

In my opinion this book covers a lot of aspects of team working. I especially liked the true life examples it contained and also how it was written containing a problem definition and after that a solution. Very valuable reading for any teamworker or teamleader.

What's Googley in your business?

WWGDI have thought many times what new economy means and how it changes the way of life and business. I read a Jeff Jarvis book What Would Google Do? because I've been long interested in mobile apps and internet companies. This book really had an impact on my thinking.

Basicly the book is about internet economy, advertising, customer relationships and business models. It gives also advice for you if you're not so related to social networks and other internet stuff. These days companies may decide in the beginning to do business in a new way straight forward, for example Google and Facebook have changed the world in their business logics. Usually this means a new logic in pricing and services. It took a while for Facebook to realize how it can cash its users but now it offers a good possibilities for advertisers to use already available data. For its users this is no longer a good thing from all aspects but they're quite locked because of their way of life with FB or other services in social media scene.

This new economy has also other sides: business may fall rapidly if users are unhappy or a better competitor evolves. Google makes it differently from other ways, too. They have fund new energy technologies because their data centers need a lot more power when they grow, they may also fund innovations evolved in a company employees – either add these new innovations to their own business or enrich their ecosystem. On my point of view Android is valuable because I can get many nice apps into my tablet for free and for Google (even it's free) because it may be the king when it comes to advertising.

Jarvis' presents certain rules which companies have to think if they decide to do business in new ways. They have to be more open (customers appreciate it) but they have to manage special cases efficiently to keep customers happy and this means sometimes a lot of effort from their employees to correct problems. This may also mean that some customers are nothing but costs to the company. If you do your business in this new way, a good reputance keeps getting better by the user base (a good word keeps going, also the bad reputance might go faster than ever). Jarvis shows this in his own life experiences, he tells in a blog when something goes wrong and doesn't forget to tell also good work.

Some of the book's ideas sound a bit too weird for me. I wouldn't recommend anybody to share their health data without making it anonymous or I wouldn't like to order a dish in a restaurant same way as 1000's of others did. I'm an explorer and interested in new findings (sometimes I get totally weird stuff to my plate).

To my mind this book may be a good starting point for anyone but the one should keep calm in changes the working part of their business and maybe add only some of the spices into real world. The company shoulds know its pure business logic, realize new possibilities and also know the risks. This goes back to my opinion on good word, bad word situations.

All in all, what would be the business I would like to be changed? Real estate, definetely. I've been silently looking for a nice apartment at least 2 years now. In my opinion this process could be changed totally and the agents might be left outside or at least they could step a few steps back. I would suggest that buyers could go online: tell what are their needs, in which area they're interested in and how much they are ready to pay. By making this in a database a house or an apartment sellers could look for a customer without real estate agents and make an offer. This might also go further with the data, users could give details of their bargains for a house and the prices could be more open. At this time the prices in Finland are most likely higher than the real value and this is basicly because of the market power is on real estate agents. One company tried to change this setting but unfortunately it didn't work for longer time. It might lay on trust which private sellers may have but this could be fixed if health checks for houses are made by professionals, some help is added by professional legal advisors etc. Maybe the time is right now if anyone gives it a try. What would Google do?

How SAP Solution manager helps you in application maintenance

I read SAP Press Solution manager book by Marc Schäfer and Matthias Melich during my Eastern holiday. This book is about using the new SAP Solution manager 7.1 to accelerate your implementation processes, enhance your change management and service desk but also link these functions to complete an end-to-end process in better application lifecycle management. The book is quite huge which means that it goes rather deep in these topics. The one thing I especially liked were customer examples which revealed also how SAP development works with customers and partners.


I have had an opportunity to work with SAP specialists who have helped us in system upgrades, go-lives and root cause analysis education work shops. I’m not a deep techie but these work shops have been helpful for me and my colleagues working with current issues and implementations. Of course you should not miss the valuable tips and tricks if you want to make the most of your investment. In my opinion SAP Solution manager is something I could expect from any software provider. The Solution manager contains a lot of data of your system, its usage and also if you implement service and change request management in it you have a wide view of your system situation. This also means that your master data and documentation should be in a good shape. This needs a lot of effort if you consider these changes without any pre-work.


To my mind the best advantage you get in change management with SAP Solution manager is the controlling aspect. You have straight track records of your changes and if the documentation has been done into it in a good manner, it gives your organization great advantages. I also liked the feature that when you consider a change in your system, it is possible that SAP goes trough the available SAP notes concerning your change and can suggest you a standard solution in stead of customization.


This book contains valuable tips how you can check the system state. It also presents some tools that are helpful in system upgrades, customizing checks (especially to check which custom codes are used) and landscape management. It is advantageous if you find your time to read the whole book trough and go back later in your current issues. I warmly recommend!