Zukunftslotse Moritz Avenarius © Moritz Avenarius / Fotografin Benja Weller

Brainstorming no longer enough

Consultant Moritz Avenarius talks to Hamburg News about design thinking methods and workshops for executives

Innovative thinking is vital to global competition regardless of large company or start-up. In the 21st century, many firms are going to great efforts to come up with products and services that cater to their customers’ needs. Design thinking is one way of achieving these goals. Developed in the 1990s by IDEO, a global design and innovation company, the concept has met with interest in all kinds of sectors such as architecture, handwork, industry, public administration, according to the trainer and self-appointed “pilot to the future” Moritz Avenarius in an interview with Hamburg News. He explains the attraction and opportunities associated with this method.

Hamburg News: Mr. Avenarius, you hold workshops in companies and organisations about design thinking. What thought obstacles do participants have to overcome?

Moritz Avenarius: Design thinking presents two main challenges. On the one hand, a person and their needs must be the focus of the observation. Design thinking does not simply mean finding out what a customer wants. It means interpreting their needs and developing suitable products. This is illustrated by Henry Ford’s quote: “If I’d asked people what they want, they’d have said faster horses.” Users would not have thought that a car is a much more comfortable solution. Industry had to anticipate that. The second challenge is not to come up with a solution immediately. I call that delaying solutions competently. Today, the guiding principle of, “if you are going to do it, then do it properly,“ applies. Design thinking often rejects ideas and prototypes just as quickly as they were developed. The process of resolution consists of more and smaller steps.

Hamburg News: How does a design thinking process unfold?

Moritz Avenarius: The method is based on a six-point plant. Understanding comes first and consists of defining the target group. Formulated assumptions are verified in interviews with users and by observing them. The aim is not to produce representative studies, but rather find new impetus for the development process. The information gathered is condensed to sketch a comprehensive picture of the target group or so-called personas. At this point, the process links up to ideas using creative techniques such as brainstorming or role-play. To help participants visualise the ideas as prototypes, I bring Lego bricks or modelling clay to workshops. The prototypes developed are tested by the users and not seldom rejected. The aim of my workshops is to filter a clear, solution in which a concept can be phrased and implemented and is tailor-made to the target group, from a multitude of ideas.

Hamburg News: Where is design thinking used?

Moritz Avenarius: Apple products with their innovative shapes and handling are revolutionising the computer market and are a classic example of successful design thinking. Since their emergence in the mid 1990s, the method has taken hold mainly in architecture and industrial product development. As a result of digitalisation, design thinking is dominating the development of new services, for instance, apps. Keywords such Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 or 3D printing show clearly that customising products and services to individual users’ needs is spreading. At present, I am advising staff in Cologne City Council and Hamburg’s Department of the Economy where I already held a workshop. I will talk to craftsmen about design thinking in the Chamber of Crafts Luneburg soon. That will also be a new challenge for me.

Interview by Christin Apenbrink

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