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Weeknote 225

Mystery shopping, state of education and boom!

by Teppo Kotirinta Principal Designer

Categories Weeknotes

Helping Future Designers

Last week I was in the Metropolia Polytechnic to spar students of an innovation course. Another person with me from the “real life entrepeneur / business side” was Perttu Tolvanen, an independent CMS expert and consultant, and of Vierityspalkki.fi fame.

We were both amazed and surprised by the general quality of the students’ work. The best of the projects were really close to professional level in their thinking and implementation. This was probably because these were third year students, with only the last year of studies left, and many of them already worked in various companies. “Innovation” was taken as a loose term, as it should, and solutions included an actually produced full-on premium magazine, a mobile based hookup/party/friend application (think Foursquare API+X), simple & user friendly Google Calendar add-on, student information & memory sharing website, an iPhone game with 8bit Nintendo graphics, and others.

Later on we discussed with the teacher Eeva Meltio over lunch. She told us about what teaching is like nowadays. For example, there’s four (!) different teachers on this course. They all bring in their own special skills, like interaction or graphic design, and teach and spar the students in that field. They also all hangaround all day in specific student groups in Facebook and exchange information and ideas constantly with the students. Eeva told that this kind of shared teaching responsibility is still actually surprisingly harder, not easier, for the teachers, because there’s so much cooperation, shared decisions and communication to do. But apparently the students are happy and get flooded with good mix of influences from various fields at the same time. The students also do real project work for companies and public sector during the courses.

All this might require a lot from the teachers, yes, but somehow to me it sounded like we are potentially witnessing the next breakthrough in Finnish education somehow. Mixing various things in one go can potentionally give the students more realistic view of how (design) work is done in the real world. It’s never just plain graphic design you can concentrate on for example. In real world everything depends on everything else and it’s a sort of balancing act to constantly produce something really good on time and on budget. Honing good skills in your own strong field is important too, but more often than not real (design) work is about understanding other fields too and moving fluently between them when your team needs you to.

What coders and users have been up to

Sauli worked with pitches for clients in the insurance and beverage sector. He also participated in a session where it was the developers’ time to show us how well they have implemented our interaction and layout designs and what is the overall status of the web service project that is due to be launched during the spring. This project is kind of heavy on the implementation side and there is two tech houses responsible for it. Apparently things are progressing well here.

Tia, Johanna, Sauli and Panu went to another city in Finland to observe and analyze how people move and behave while spending time in our client’s premises, and how are they using the available services. Of course they couldn’t just stand there looking, instead they had a little fun for themselves too. You could also call this Mystery Shopping.

The team will soon present their findings and new concepts to the client. They’ll describe how to improve the existing space and its services so that the whole experience would be better for the users and how our client’s business would improve as a result.

We have committed to collaborate with this client for a long time and that’s a good thing because there is a lot of work to be done. If only for the fact that the client has several similar spots all around Finland. It would be good to observe all or at least several of them. Not to mention that they have a huge web service that we are just waiting to get our hands on.

Boom!

Boom boom baby boom. Production of next generation of Nordkappers is again on the way. There’s three (!) new babies expected to arrive this year. One of us will be a second-rounder and then there’s two newcomers to the parenthood business. All the best, congratulations and good luck to all of them! Let’s get back to this topic at later date.

Until next time.

2 Comments

  1. Wouldn’t it be odd if the third year students’ work were far from professionals’ work – after all they are expected to be professionals (be it with limited experience) when finishing the studies…

    On the other hand, it also proves that innovation and design is no rocket science that requires tens of years of studying complex theories before implementation. Just do it!

    Which then again brings up the question that being so easy why isn’t it an organic part of every organization.

    Laura Tiilikainen
  2. Good points Laura.

    It really would be odd if they weren’t good at their stuff by the third year. I was hinting more in the direction that we were actually expecting them to be good, but some of the cases succeeded even over that expectation.

    Innovation is not necessarily that difficult, yes. But there’s sadly many examples, from Finland and international, where organizations get locked in their past and “cannot” innovate anymore. A recent example being Kodak – one of the original inventors of digital photography – that got stuck in the market place, even though they could have ruled the digital transformation.

    It seems the difficult part in innovation is actually having the guts to do it. But if you do, the sky is the limit.

    More: Eastman Kodak files for bankruptcy protection

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