Design thinking in project management and turnaround project

Design thinking can be used to solve problems and create new solutions through focus on putting the humans in the centre of the solution. It is a human-oriented way of working with innovation and development. One links an analytical approach with intuition and creativity. It has been proven that this way of thinking and working can bring great benefits. Design thinking is based on the designer’s toolbox. The result is solutions that combine the user’s needs, exploit technological capabilities and are profitable.

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Design thinking can serve as a collective term for methods and processes that make it possible to create something new together.

The characteristics of the approach can be summarized in some points:

• Building on deep understanding of user needs

• Continuously refines the solution through user testing, adjustment, and improvement

• Challenges thinking by interdisciplinary teams linking technology and business understanding with the designer’s way of thinking and working

Design thinking is about solving real problems for real users and place users and their needs at the centre of all innovation. It includes method and thinking that together contribute to innovative solutions that meet user needs, are technologically feasible and commercially viable. This is done by involving users in the change management process, for example through interviews, observations, tests and co-creation. It is important to understand the users’ context, continue to engage users throughout the process, and make sure that our own preconceived notions do not get in the way of real insight. By centre the turnaround for the digitalization process around the user we manged to digitalize it with a huge success. Empathy is the ability to sit in another’s place or walk in another’s shoes. You show empathy by understanding the users’ motives and needs and bringing them into the design process.


In the project lead of the turnaorund process of the National School Fruit, we used the user-centred design thinking approach to build learning and added value in four different “time thieves” – for the teachers, parents and suppliers of fruits and vegetables for primary school. Finally, in the administration of the national school fruit scheme. By letting the user’s vote be the key to the new administration and ordering system for fruits and vegetables for the country’s primary schools. Which helped save the public elementary school for more than 120,000 hours pr half school years. One of the biggest challenges in the national school fruit scheme was all the practical and manual follow-up work for the school, principal, and class promoters. Each principal received information letters about the upcoming school fruit scheme every six months. This had then to be redistribute and each class administrator had to copy this information to each class. This had to be sent back with each student back in the backpack. Some students lose the information on the road, forgot to give the letter of information to parents, etc. In other words, previous operation of school fruit was a lot of practical and manual work, which meant that several schools, principals’ class-administrator was not keen to start the school fruit scheme. The national school fruit scheme had a negative trend and development three on a row. I was brought in to run a turnaround project of the National School Fruit Scheme. Through design thinking we designs a totally new administration system , that also became my dissertation diploma in supply chain management at the Norwegian school of management in 2004.

By design thinking one was able to standardize the work process on how the National School Fruit organization was run, one managed to drive through organizational change in the organization. The new work process was first established, then one developed the new technology platform that supported the new work processes. 

What can design thinking be used for?

One of the strengths is the methodological approach to the cultural, social, emotional, and sensual. Such human factors usually receive too little attention in development processes. The best solutions are obtained through continuous user testing, adjustment, and improvement. With repeated improvements, we create the best solutions. Design thinking involves working in stages to test ideas or suggestions for solutions. This means that we get regular feedback from the people we design for. After each stage we can evaluate and learn so that we become more precise for each round.

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Being curious and asking questions stimulates learning, getting out of the office and talking to the users where they are located is crucial to understanding what needs they are trying to solve. Work with insight and testing should be viewed as two sides of the same issue. Testing is therefore an integral part of the insight work. By asking, observing, and improving we will get more ideas, try different approaches, stimulate creativity and come up with good solutions faster. Failing is a powerful tool for learning. Experimentation and testing are the core of design. Not every attempt will work or succeed. When we try to solve big problems, we must at the same time accept to fail along the way. The cost of changes early in the process is low, while changes later have a higher cost. Launching a preliminary solution and then using it to keep learning, keep asking and keep testing is important in design thinking.

Design thinking challenges thinking

To solve complicated tasks, different approaches and different skills are required. Design thinking depends on teamwork across disciplines and experience. Design thinking challenges the thinking of thinking by interdisciplinary teams linking technology and business understanding with the designer’s way of thinking and working. With different backgrounds, different perspectives emerge. Diversity in the project helps to see the problem from several sides. Through education and work experience, we often acquire a certain way of thinking. By combining different subjects and perspectives, accustomed angles can be challenged and improved. By working closely with designers outside the company, you add an outside and inside perspective that will be useful when implementing new solutions and new ways of working. Teams with different personalities, skills and experience explore the task from different perspectives and find better solutions together.

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Working in this way is more effective when it:

• Quicker showing and testing real suggestions for solutions for users

• Increases the likelihood that the solutions we develop are based on real user needs

• Increases accuracy and minimizes the risk of failure, as the solution is adjusted along the way.

• Reduces costs because the changes are made earlier in the development work

• Increases flexibility in development work

Several different design disciplines

There are various design disciplines with their own toolboxes and methods. Design thinking can often use methods and processes from several of the disciplines, such as interaction design, business design, graphic design and service design. Design-driven innovation is about the approach designers have to problem solving, regardless of design discipline. Examples of design disciplines are interaction design, product design, graphic design and service design.

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The approach designers have to problem solving, innovation and change has value for companies that have traditionally not worked design oriented. The approach has developed and spread rapidly beyond what is traditionally regarded as the design industry, and today is central to many organizations.

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