Experience Report – With Design Thinking to New Ideas

Four students of Kiel University of Applied Sciences learned about methods of design thinking in a one-week course in Finland from 22th September – 28th September 2019. In multicultural teams they developed solutions for challenges of the local tourism sector. They were attended by Prof. Dr. Marco Hardiman and Prof. Dr. Manuel Stegemann. In the following article the German students Tilman Ahrens, Sarah Groß, Hannah Jacob and Tobias Petersen share their learning experiences at the Intensive Study Program (ISP) on Nauvo.

As part of the ‘Design Thinking’ module, four students from our faculty were allowed to take part in a one-week course in Finland. There we had the opportunity to learn and apply Design Thinking in real cases. Based on a motivation letter in English, we were selected to represent the Kiel University of Applied Sciences on the island of Nauvo. The trip was financially supported by Erasmus+.

The journey to Nauvo was long and adventurous. The course started on the day of arrival, where we got to know the other students from Scotland, Sweden, Croatia and Finland. On this day, the students were divided into groups consisting of one member of each nationality and we also got a first insight into the technique of Design Thinking.

Each team was assigned to a local client, for whom new service ideas should be developed within a week. The focus was on the small number of tourists in off-seasons and the associated financial difficulties. The students of different nationalities came from different areas of studies. Thus, everyone had a different perspective on the problem, which is an important element of the design thinking process. The basis of this method is a systematic approach and not the development of direct solutions. Solutions are created in various steps. The days were divided into presentations of theoretical knowledge by teachers and subsequent deepening of knowledge through group work.

The topics of these lectures were structured according to the phases of Design Thinking: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.

The principle here is: ‘fail early, fail often’ in order to eliminate as many sources of error as possible and to provide a concrete path for finding ideas. A major aspect of working with this method is to determine the customer’s preferences and needs. These are then transferred to the specific conditions of the different cases. The creation of prototypes was very time-consuming but eventually tested through on-site surveys, locals and tourists. The results were then presented to the clients by group presentations on the last day of the excursion. Since the cooperation with the clients will continue on for some years, the results were summarized in a portfolio.

In conclusion, we can say that through the multicultural cooperation we have further developed our personalities and our Design Thinking methods. The week has tested our power and our limits, which we think is very important for our future professional life and for the further time at the university. The teams were very harmonious in their collaboration and we all felt like we were part of something big. The multicultural atmosphere reinforced this feeling even more. Another aspect was that despite the week being labour-intensive, there was a family bond between the students. This was a really formative and very positive experience of the week. Thus, we can recommend this offer to anyone who is interested in new creative methods of brainstorming and is not afraid to speak English.

Many thanks to the initiators of the ISP Nauvo and to the Kiel University of Applied Sciences, who made this experience possible for us.

Written by Tilman Ahrens, Sarah Groß, Hannah Jacob and Tobias Petersen