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International Design Congress 2015: Design-Thinking-Psychology

I gave a super compressed 2-day psychology-integrated design thinking workshop at the International Design Congress at Kwangju. Super compressed means in two 3h-sessions, I condensed a 6-week design-thinking-forward workshop I had just completed at Hongik and Sangmyung University in Seoul. But it worked!

Here’s how:

1. Socializing in every exercise

With an audience that is diverse in age, country and educational background, it is essential that all members feel like a group for feeling free in the subsequent creative exercises. So in every exercise, I included one or two aspects of socializing, like learning a new name, or asking about a personal preference.

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2. Make every exercise fun

Design thinking is fun for many but not all people, and not all the time. So when the energy level drops, it is essential to integrate fun elements into the exercises. To accomplish the socializing goal at the same time, the exercises should always aim for coordination between people. The secret of creating a fun exercise is to remove the intellectuality.

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3. Channel fun into productivity

In order to create a super-quick prototype in only 10 minutes, I prep the people with an energy exercise appropriate to the group. This group at IDC2015 was hyperactive, so I taught them a basic hiphop move to groove:

Right after this hiphop exercise, people put their groove experience into their prototyping work, and five groups finished a completely different prototype in only 10 minutes.

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Conclusion: Create a socializing-fun-productivity experience of your workshop!

Seeing their prototype come alive in this short time created a sense of accomplishment – in essence building up creative confidence as suggested by Tim Brown. This was all the more the case as participants experienced themselves integrating a lot of psychological knowledge learned in this workshop. Look at the energy level after the last three super intensive hours of the workshop:


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Design Thinking Forward – Session 5: Test

Testing is one of the most critical parts in design thinking. A major reason is that we must demonstrate an experience even though we don’t have a fully functioning product but only a prototype. So presentation is the key – it must focus on the user experience.

To challenge the students in this session, I gave them only 10 minutes for creating a prototype to the point-of-view:

“How can we help Lucy Loose to feel confident and get creative in a situation where she feels too much pressure to get a job?”

After completing this super-quick prototyping exercise, I encouraged the students that it is ok to have a prototype far from perfection – it is called a “shitty first draft”. The value of a shitty first draft is that it is good enough for demonstrating how our persona (a design student with low self-esteem) can fulfill her needs with the prototype as an experience – a complete contrast to a feature presentation of the prototype.

After just a few minutes more, the students did an excellent job for the user experience demonstration.

One group demonstrated various user scenarios with a digital multi-service app with a cardboard container:

Full-service App

Other groups groups showed the instant relaxing feature of their prototype, or the coaching experience to build up the persona’s self-esteem.

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The overall students’ feedback reflected their surprise how effectively they could build a shitty-first-draft prototype in only 10 minutes. Personally, I was very happy because one of my design thinking principles is “start with doing – not discussing”.

The whole group gave feedback about each prototype on the feedback grid I like-I wish-New Idea-Open Question, just like in conventional design thinking.

After that, I taught one essential step from psychological methodology how to improve the subsequent feedback integration:

The team processes the negative feedback (derived from “I wish”/”Open Question”) and “New Ideas” into hypotheses. Hypothesis testing in psychology is statistically founded and I love it so much – but it has no relevance in the design thinking context, so I left it out painfully. Instead, I taught how you formulate hypotheses inspired by three psychological models (simple linear regression, multiple linear regression, moderator test). According to these models, everybody formulated his/her hypotheses and thus generated the input for the subsequent design thinking cycle. And that was it!


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Design Thinking Forward – Session 4: Prototype

This session focused on providing the students an extended understanding of prototyping. For building an effective prototype, it is not enough to conceive some functionality. We must take into account that before using our prototype, the user must learn how to use it. Therefore, a human-centered focus of prototyping is to make it easy for the user to learn the usage. In other words, we must consider various modes of human learning.

I started with classical conditioning, and the students were amazed how often they encounter this learning mode in everyday life – from famous actresses in commercials, a threatening melody in an action movie, or the colors of food.

Next learning mode was operant conditioning. Everybody was clear on the basic modes of reward and punishment, i.e. positive reinforcement and positive punishment. In contrast, it was difficult for all to understand the substractive nature of removing a stimulus, i.e. negative reinforcement and negative punishment. Yet, I really believe that understanding these modes can be key to open up a whole new realm of dealing with reward and punishment.

Last but not least, observational learning from Bandura’s famous social-cognitive theory. It seemed the most intuitive learning mode to most students. Most of them really liked my life example of teaching them a breakdance move, and thereby demonstrating the acqusition phase (attention, retention) and performance phase (motor reproduction, reinforcement) of operant conditioning…

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Design Thinking Forward – Session 3: Define

In this session, I emphasized the interrelationship between psychology and design thinking, and how important this relationship especially in the first two phases of design thinking: Empathize+Define both distinguish Design Thinking clearly from other innovation methods (more than Ideate/Prototype/Test) – if practitioners don’t show any proof for doing this, they don’t do design thinking. #gallery-6 { margin: auto; } #gallery-6 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-6 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-6 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Define POV means finding the point-of-view for the problem – from the user’s perspective. We mainly use interviews to extract this user perspective – but we are generally not aware of how much we understand from the interviewee answers because our perception is subject to filters. In psychology, these filters are called cognitive biases. We are usually not aware of how much selective perception determines the degree of bias that can completely change the outcome of an interview. When I am looking for my opinion in the other’s answers, that’s the confirmation bias. When I’m asking somebody with high self-esteem in a doubtful way, I’m inducing the interviewee’s self-serving bias, resulting in self-enhancement. What we want instead is to dig down from the surface of wishes and problems to level of basic human needs. Human needs are heavily researched, but I feel most people are ignorant about the fact that Maslow’s hierarchy model is out-dated in psychology! So once we digged down enough until we can hear the interviewee talking about needs, we are ready to extract this information into an empathy map. The content should cater to needs, meaning what does the user do/think/feel about the personal situation of need fulfillment. Then, we can use this information to model a persona. Many people describe a persona far too detailed and just by imagination, not research – that’s why I tell my students, a good criterion for detail level is if you can derive the persona’s need from its description. From here, crafting a POV is easy – just insert the persona, need and constraints in the Stanford formula User+Need+Insight. Finally, each team could define a POV in the form “How might we help the <persona> to fulfill <identified need> in a world where <insight>”. Eh voilà!

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Design Thinking Forward – Session 2: Empathize

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This week, I realized the first session implementing my conceptualization of future design thinking (which I call “design thinking forward”): Psychology lecture preceding design thinking exercises.

The psychology topic was motivation and emotion. Preceding the emotion lecture, I made the students experience an exercise for emotional memory that is taught in acting schools.

After the lecture, the students had to switch gears from an intellectual & listening mode to a talkative & interactive mode. So I gave them a warmup activity they really liked: Looping around some else for three times – three rounds with three winners.

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After getting physically active (arousal was an important part of the emotion lecture), I did the whole interview training with students standing up. That allowed them to be more active (see top picture).

At the end, some students came to me saying they really learned a lot – emotion explained in “logical” terms, and interviewing with practical hints. So although most people felt exhausted, it was quite a new learning experience for them…

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Design Thinking Future started!

As I announced last week, I really finally started a new big thing: The future of design thinking. Even though it sounds pretentious at first sight, I truly believe it will really transform that what we today think of design thinking once we understand its current limitations.

I am lucky enough to share this new experience with two professors who really embrace the spirit of design thinking as you can see in the following picture: On the left, Prof. Jieun Kwon of Sangmyung University’s Emotion Engineering factulty, and on the right, Prof. Sven Schelwach from Hongik University’s International Design Institute (IDAS).

The students were quite quick to catch up the playful atmosphere – as you can see here… 


And this atmosphere took over in the design thinking exercises…

All in all, I am impressed how much the students love the design thinking spirit and playfulness! Looking forward to my next lectures…


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Brainwave detection by facial micro movements

Can you detect your heart rate, respiration rate, and your brainwaves just by analyzing your face? Yes you can!

Recent research has find high correlations between minimal movements in the face and certain physiological and brain behavior. As you can see in the picture, the left screen shows the eyes and mouth highlightened in my face – they are analyzed for micro movements. The right screen shows my heart rate and respiration rate, calculated from my micromovements. A quick verification – both correct!



On the next picture, you see how the brainwave information is visualized. Technically, the information was fed into a plugin of windows media player. The visualization is certainly neet, but doesn’t allow you to see any brain patterns intuitively. So personally, I was more impressed with the speed and accuracy of recognition.

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Brainwave detection of visual recognition (ERP)

Brainwaves can be detected when performing a complex cognitive task like visual recognition. In this moment, there is a change in brainwave signal known as Event-Related Potential (ERP). To detect these brainwaves, you don’t need your head connected full of electrodes any more like in the early days of EEG – it is sufficient to wear these light googles I am wearing above my glasses.

It The screen exhibits six animation characters, the last one is “the thief” which you must detect. Then you watch the screen for 20 seconds displaying the characters in quick random sequence. Every time you “the thief”, you need to count. You are then scored by the timely performance of recognition. As you can see, I made it with an excellent score of 97/100 – but to be honest, my first try was at 58!

In the last picture, right of my face, you see the inventor of this high-tech gadget, Jung-Nyun Lee. He does his Ph.D. at Emotion Engineering faculty of Sangmyung University, supervised by Prof. Jieun Kwon.


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Creative Open Campus (CoC): Korea goes creative

On 10 Sep, the Creative Open Campus (CoC) had an open day: Government officials, business people and the creator of the CoC initiative, Prof. Mincheol Hwang from Sangmyung University got together to announce this initiative to the public.

What is the Creative Open Campus?

The CoC goals are to bring creative minds together from three fields – engineering, humanities and design – to invent and implement new products in human-centered design. In essence, it is large-scale program for design thinking. That’s why I got interested

Two points of the CoC are remarkable and distinguish them from many other initiatives:

First, the Campus is open to everybody, independent from your academic status. In this regard, the CoC is also a social initiative on the grounds that everybody can be creative, therefore everbody should be supported.

Second, the Campus emphasizes the implementation of real products after ideation. So design thinking should not just lead to many new ideas but also to something technically working, at best integrating high-tech from the most recent research.

There was a show room exhibiting some of Prof. Whang’s work in his faculty of emotion engineering. I was thrilled by three applications that all emerged from his recent research, see below.

Show cases of research by Prof. Mincheol Whang and Prof. Jieun Kwon

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