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Method development is key for us and we are constantly working on refining and developing new, innovative methods to solve society’s challenges. The goal is to generate creative group processes where people with a variety of talents, expertise and knowledge come together to come up with radical and innovative solutions. Simply put: 1+1=3.

For this work the visual language and creative expression processes are important in order to convey thoughts and ideas to communicate and develop new ways of thinking. The processes follow the basic principle of having the courage to Do first – Think – Do it again. Creativity is about being bold enough to act; allowing our spontaneous side to override our analytical instincts; not over-thinking things. But in order to solve society’s challenges, we obviously need more than creativity and spontaneity. It’s important to delve into the challenge, get inside the minds of those affected, thoroughly assess what is behind the problem and understand the context. Simply put, we need to conduct thorough research to understand behaviours or why the rules are what they are. It’s also important not to get into a “solution mindset” too quickly, which is one of the main challenges in generating new radical proposals. It’s important to simply sit with the uncertainty; experience the chaos for a moment.

Complex challenges are best addressed when different perspectives and areas of expertise meet and rub up against each other to generate innovative, transboundary proposals. This is the reason we always want the groups to consist of people from different disciplines and fields. A group’s IQ is increased by including different perspectives. Expressed differently: we focus on WEQ instead of IQ.

When trying to find a solution to a challenge, people often make the mistake of throwing themselves into a solution mindset, rather than pausing and pondering over the challenge itself. What are we supposed to be solving? Is the challenge based on a need or something else? Who needs to have a solution to the challenge? If we don’t ask enough questions along the way and adjust and test results, the solutions to the challenge often will not adequately meet the user’s needs. In other words, defining whose problem/needs the solution to the challenge is supposed to address is an important aspect of the process, as is working close to the user’s situation.

Part of our process of creating needs-based solution proposals involves applying Design Thinking.

OL-Scrum-DThinking

This process connects the user’s needs with what is technically possible within the framework of a strategy to implement the solution. The process follows a number of steps that interact with each other.

The goal is to find a solution for a future situation, rather than solve a specific, defined problem. The focus is on exploring many alternative solutions and on practicing developing the capacity to work with others to find new radical solutions. The method provides you with tools and support which you can use in your own organisation to develop new services and products. Below is a brief description of the various phases which do not necessarily follow each other.

Empathize
This phase involves gathering information to best understand the user’s needs, motivations and situation. Based on this information, we can start to understand the actual challenge and the people who are affected by it. It may be necessary to go back to this phase repeatedly during the process to dig deeper into insights that are relevant. Ethnographic methods are used in the form of fieldwork, observations, interviews and documenting user behaviour.

Define
Once all the information from the fieldwork is gathered, the next step involves applying various creative methods to analyse it. This phase involves defining the needs, emotions, thoughts and behaviours you encountered in contacts with the users and trying to understand them. The user is clearly defined in this phase, as are the insights that are important to take with you as you advance to the next stage in the process.

Ideate
Ideating involves generating ideas based on the knowledge and insights gained on the user’s needs. Various methods for brainstorming and developing ideas are used. It is also important to include the users in this phase and involve them in a co-creation process to ensure that the ideas generated meet their needs. This is a phase in which we need to be bold enough to come up with innovative and crazy ideas in order to find the ingenious but simple ideas we had not otherwise arrived at.

Prototyp
The prototype phase is when we take ideas from thoughts to clear and concrete concepts. Here we build up the environment the users are in and play out a scenario. Or we build simple prototypes of products that can later be tested through role play for example. The idea is to prototype the user’s experiences as well as the actual new product, service or activity. The prototypes may range from extremely simple products, to advanced models that resemble finished results.

Test
This is an important element because it involves going out and testing the actual concept on users. It’s not necessary to have a finished product or service. The idea is to allow the user to test a simple version of the concept and get direct feedback or be able to observe what needs to be further developed. Just as in all of the other phases, we can go back to a previous stage and then back to this phase again to see the users’ reactions to more well-developed models.

In combination with Design Thinking, Openlab uses “Scrum” as the engine for implementation. Scrum is a process framework where the goal is to enable people to handle complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering results of the highest possible value.

Scrum originated in the IT sector and is an agile project management method which reinforces presence, commitment and drive within a project team. By emphasising brief, effective team meetings, customer involvement in projects, short delivery times with visual results, team independence and individual responsibility in teamwork, it’s possible to deliver effective projects.