Design Thinking Workshop with Kaiser Permanente's Innovation Center in California

Three researchers from CBI recently arranged a Design Thinking (DT) Workshop in the USA, together with Kaiser Permanente, where the most experienced companies in DT were invited. Lisa Carlgren from CBI, one of the researchers who organized the workshop, tells all in this interview.

You arranged a Design Thinking (DT) Workshop – what was it about? Who did you invite?
Ingo Rauth, Christi Zuber at Kaiser Permanente in the USA and me organized a two-day workshop in Oakland, USA. The aim was to bring leading researchers and practitioners of DT together in order for the field to be put forward by sharing experiences and challenges, and creating possibilities for future collaboration. We contacted the most experienced companies in DT, pioneers such as Procter & Gamble, SAP and Kaiser Permanente.

Design Thinking, what is it? And why is it interesting?
DT is a design inspired way to work with innovation and problem solving of growing interest for both companies and professionals, mainly because it is a relatively structured way to explore the unknown, that is to say, exactly what you do when you work with innovation. DT is most commonly considered as a method or process where you go through various stages to create a deep user understanding, explore problems instead of solutions, create creative solutions, and quickly test these with users by means of simple prototypes, sketches and mock-ups. In the process you work in cross-dimensional teams, with different tools that designers normally use, and you engage customers as often and as much as possible. It is a question of optimism, having fun, and daring to make mistakes as a way of learning. The central core values of DT describe the philosophy behind it quite well: empathy (user focus); problem exploring rather than problem solving; experimentation, working iteratively, visualisation; and diversity in perspective.

However, among the companies we have studied, DT has been so much more than just a process – depending on the context you more or less pick up different parts, do things differently and to differing degrees, and in some cases it is even about a change of culture in line with the core values of DT. 

Is this a new and functional approach in terms of research?
 The research about DT is extremely limited, especially the research at companies who use the method in different ways in their organisations. CBI is one of the world’s leading research teams in the field, and through our research project financed by VINNOVA we are in contact with some of the pioneering companies that have advanced the most in their use of DT. 

What about the companies, how are they working with DT? 
The companies that we have studied, primarily located abroad, and those who we contacted for this workshop use DT to varying degrees. Some companies mainstream DT and its philosophy into the entire organisation, while other companies use it as a defined way to work with innovation early on in the process.

Are there many companies that work with DT and how far have you gone in Sweden? 
DT started in Silicon Valley at the beginning of the 21st century and has primarily become widespread in the USA and Germany, although there is a growing interest in Sweden. For example, Ericsson AB and Billerud Korsnäs have started implementing DT. There were many reasons for organizing the workshop in the USA – since we wanted to reach those companies who were most experienced in using DT it was primarily about American companies, and many top researchers in DT are indeed American. One reason to be on the west coast is because we had the opportunity to use Kaiser Permanente’s innovation center – an all-inclusive hangar dedicated to creative work and the building/testing of prototypes where they have built entire operating rooms and hospital departments to be able to role-play their new way of working. And I must say their innovation center is an incredible place for innovation that many companies certainly could get inspired by!



Interviewed by: Sofia Börjesson
Translation: Louise Rönnestad
Photo: Maria Elmquist

Published: Tue 16 Jun 2015. Modified: Thu 03 Sep 2015