Design thinking: innovation is not a coincidence

Creative and innovative tool for interdisciplinary teams

As a tool for creativity and innovation, design thinking is based on interdisciplinary teams, flexible-to-use space and a clear process of generating ideas. As such, it is perceived as a driver of innovation.

Work spaces that are free of hierarchies, light and empty rooms with standing desks and whiteboards, post-it notes and building blocks in order to visualise ideas - design thinking turns the traditional concept of generating ideas upside down and thus gives rise to ideas and solutions that go beyond conventional thinking.

The design thinking process shows how methodology, didactics and meeting design can shape innovation processes and how the combination of creative as well as analytical approaches results in exciting and productive workshops. As a process, it makes use of a comprehensive set of methods. All of them, however, are based on three clearly defined components:

1. Interdisciplinary teams

Team up people from different disciplines and various hierarchical positions in order to be able to look at the topic or issue in question in a varied and open-minded way: "Mixed" groups are powerful precisely for that reason; they bring different points of view to the table as well as every member's experience.

2. Flexible spaces

How the interdisciplinary team communicates and how creative it can be largely depends on the space it interacts in. Flexible furniture and a lot of wall space are therefore part and parcel of the process as are the necessary tools and materials needed to visualise ideas.

3. Defined process steps

The design thinking method is characterised by a clearly structured process. In the course of iterative cycles, ideas and prototypes are looked at in detail, again and again, and subjected to a reality check. The design thinking process consists of six steps which you have to go through in iteration:

Understand: To start with, the topic in question needs to be understood in order to come up with an appropriate question that represents the requirements and challenges of the project.

Observe: A user-centred approach requires a sharp focus on the target group and so-called personas. This step is primarily about understanding people and getting to know their needs.

Define: After having understood the motives, views and wishes of the target group, all information is shared among the team and the different bits and pieces of information are connected with each other in order to develop one common view on a typical member of the target group.

Ideate: Ideating is a core component of design thinking. It's all about developing as many ideas as possible through the use of different creative methods such as brainstorming.

Clearly defined characteristics of brainstorming are:

- working visually- only one person is talking

- whimsical ideas are being encouraged

- criticism is put aside- quantity is important

- sticking with the topic- building on other ideas

Prototype: In order to visualise ideas and finetune them, first and very rough prototypes are created that are tested with members of the target group in a next step.

Test: Insights gained via testing are the basis for improving the idea and finetuning it until an optimal, user-focused product has been created.

User Interface Design GmbH (UID)

User Interface Design GmbH (UID) makes tomorrow's world easier and more aesthetically pleasing. The company operates in the automotive, consumer, enterprise, industry as well as medical and pharma sector with a team of 100 experts for usability, design and software. As creative user interface architects they support clients, from generating ideas to the final implementation, and develop integrated solutions that engage users and bring the user experience to live.

Kerstin Dyck works as Team Manager User Experience at Interface Design GmbH. She graduated in psychology and develops integrated, user-centred solutions by identifying even the most subtle user requirements on which basis she then creates intuitive and attractive products.

Sigrid Ackermann is a Senior User Experience Designer for interfaces, products and services at Interface Design GmbH. As an expert for co-creation, she also plans and facilitates workshops on ideation and innovation. Sigrid studied product design in Stuttgart, Sydney and Hanover and has a Master's degree in design (interdisciplinary course of study).

Three questions for…

Kerstin Dyck, Team Manager User Experience & Sigrid Ackermann, Senior User Experience Designer, at Interface Design GmbH

How can event organisers and location operators benefit from design thinking?

Design thinking is a creative process that focuses on the user, i.e. products and services are being developed from the point of view of users. This process can also be applied when planning events and helps create positive experiences for visitors.

From your point of view, what are the biggest advantages of design thinking when applied to event planning?

That depends on the occasion: Do I want to create a special experience that visitors associate with my event in the long term? In this case, design thinking helps to develop ideas to that end and to set oneself apart from other event formats such as talks or exhibition stands. Often, little things that usually go without saying for visitors decide if an event is successful or not. This could be directions how to get to an event, for example. In this context, design thinking helps organisers to think of getting feedback prior to the event from potential visitors to test their reactions.

What are the most common pitfalls and how can they be avoided?

A widely spread misconception is that one design thinking workshop can solve every problem or produce the proverbial ingenious idea. However, design thinking is not a miracle cure: It is important that everyone involved pulls together throughout the entire project without ever losing sight of user interests. In order to be able to do that, people need to learn how to rethink, something that doesn't happen in a day but develops during the course of the project and needs some time to take hold.