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Dear Thesis… (Part 2: The Study)

… I just finished an interview I was really looking forward to, as you can probably read from my face :)

To gather information about the value of the speculative design approach in organizations, I interviewed practitioners that had used the approach, or something similar, hands-on in their work. From books, journals and articles, I had learned about the use of the approach for strategic decision-making in organizations, and with the interviews I wanted to get data from real life experiences on the benefits they had experienced. I interviewed four practitioners from four different organizations and with different roles as design managers, strategists and communications specialists. The interviewees came from Google (US), IKEA (Sweden), VTT (Finland) and Neeley Worldwide/The School of Critical Design (UK).

My approach for the research was qualitative and open-ended, so I was able to formulate results based on what emerged from the data. In the beginning I had no idea in which format the results would end up. I came with the idea of building value propositions once I saw that there were many different aspects of value that emerged from the data. Altogether ten value propositions were formulated. During the analysis, I also realized that there were five departments, organizational functions, where value was experienced. The five functions were research, innovation and product development, strategy, management and marketing and communications. The approach can create value in, and more so in-between, these five functions.

The idea for the final outcome of my work was to put the information into a format that designers, futurists and basically anyone interested in the approach could read and make use of . My aim was to contribute to the knowledge about the value of the approach for the practitioners to communicate it better and for organizations to understand the value better. And ultimately, for organizations at large to start adopting the approach more generously.

… a looot of post-its

After analyzing the value experiences and building the value propositions, I still had a lot of data about the more practical side of using the approach. Which was no accident, since I had wanted to understand the use cases for applying the approach in organizations. One conclusion that could be made from them, was that there were three different ways to use the approach according to three different audiences. First, there was the immediate team level, then the internal organization level with different departments and then there was the public audience as the third level. And all of these require a bit of different ways and tools of implementing the approach. These results, including the value propositions, the functions, the different audiences and the broader themes in which ways the approach creates value are illustrated in image 2.

Image 2. Value of speculative design in organizations 4: why, how, where and what for? by Emilia Kiialainen

I was also interested in the process of applying the approach and for this all the interviewees had different views. For some, it was very similar to ‘regular’ design work (which can be described with the Double Diamond design process model). However the School of Critical Design has developed a process especially for organizations, which is introduced step by step in my work. It can be used as a starting point to test and apply the approach. One of my research questions was also about the competences that are needed from designers to implement the approach and for this I was able to identify four competences. Additionally, I came up with some general guidelines for organizations to consider when they start to implement the approach, which were based on pitfalls and failures from the practitioners’ experiences. With these results I wanted to support the reader with some practical examples and principles of applying and modifying the approach for different needs. If you are interested in the details of the study or in the results, the thesis is public here: (to be continued…) Author: Emilia Kiialainen


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