Studying development skills, practices, and mindsets

Design Factory brings together researchers from different disciplines together to explore design, development, and innovation from a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives and with diverse methodological approaches. Inside ADF you can find both in-house researchers supporting the development of the ADF platform, and other design and development interested researchers from Aalto University. The research community is an ever-changing and developing group of enthusiasts from different fields who have a passion for development, working in close collaboration with students, teachers, industry and the public sector.

The in-house researchers at Aalto University Design Factory represent a variety of fields: Tua is from cognitive and work psychology, Maria from educational sciences, Miko from mechanical engineering, Senni from industrial design… We combine these perspectives in attempt to better understand development efforts and how to support them. Our research efforts build a basis for long term development. All of us work also in developing the ADF platform and its practices further in order to both effectively translate research results into practice and ensure the relevance of theoretical endeavours.

Come meet us at the 2nd floor of ADF, and read about our work in our publications


Few of the latest posts

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    4 different forms of bringing design thinking to giants

    Greetings from the d.confestival and d.safari, a mix of a design thinking conference and festival celebrating the 10th birthday of the Hasso Plattner Insitute in Potsdam, Germany. This has gathered design thinking academics and practitioners around the globe together to discuss everything from design thinking and neuroscience to social innovations. I would like to share some of the experiences of trying design thinking relayed from the very largest companies, exceeding most Finnish cities in size.

    Container muse as a first step at Daimler (284 000+ employees): To help turn both management and employees to fans of design thinking, Daniel Biederman describes bringing in a design thinking container and first batch of design thinking coaches in the middle of a plant to give first-hand experiences in design thinking. A bit over a year into the process, they’ve package design thinking into a step-wise process to help employees have faith that a result will wait at the end.

    Moving on to consulting internal teams at Phillips (114 000+ employees): Maarten Rincker shared moving on from design thinking training to a dedicated unit helping internal projects in human-centered innovation. Design thinking skills have thus needed to be coupled with consulting and project management expertise to be able to create successful end-results, not just good ideas.

    Bringing design thinking to the customers at SAP (84 000+ employees): Similarly Andreas Hauser reports that while SAP has trained thousands of employees in design thinking, he’s more excited about the 600+ customer design engagement that have been completed after SAP began offering design thinking to its clients and partners. They use design thinking to make sure their doing the right thing, and agile to effectively deliver it.

    Employees self-organizing at Bosch (390 000+ employees): Uwe Raschke shared the journey of the Home and Garden business unit giving organizational design to the collective hands of the employees last year. As a result, different departments relocated to a shared building, organizing cross-functionally around application areas, eliminating two out of six hierarchical levels, and incentives were transformed from the individual to team-level performance. They are now experimenting with increasing transparency by opening up high-level meetings so that any employee can tune in.


    One underlying theme: communication

    The importance of communication was highlighted in all of the different forms of efforts. Daimler and Phillips, just some years into bringing design thinking to the organization, emphasized the need to get showcases to concretize the added value design thinking can bring. Looking back at already a decade of efforts, Sam Yen from SAP and Angela Haas from Swisscom/Creaholic both described scaling design thinking in their organizations as a bumpy ride with ups and downs. Success stories can again help here in recovering from the speed bumps. Andreas Hauser from SAP highlighted tailoring the message to each audience – convincing sales with client deal values, consultants with adoption rates, developers with product improvements, and so on.

    In addition to sharing success stories, many highlighted that design thinking needs to be experienced rather than just told of. Both Frederick Pferdt from Google and Uwe Raschke from Bosch highlighted opening up the company’s decision making to everyone in it and the transparency of the top management. So let’s share our development ideas and build on top of them!

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    Tua Björklund4 different forms of bringing design thinking to giants
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    Refresh your thinking on innovation

    In Finland, much of the nation halts to a stand-still in July. This can offer a perfect time to refresh and get some new inspiration for your work. Read on for a few questions you may want to ask yourself, and some easy reads to provoke more thinking on the topics.

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    Tua BjörklundRefresh your thinking on innovation


Academic output

Conference Papers

  • Pink, S., Rieken, B., Björklund, T.A. & Sheppard, S. (2017). What makes an inquisitive engineer – An exploration of question-asking self-efficacy and outcome expectations among engineering students. American Society for Engineering Education, Annual conference, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Levine, A., Björklund, T.A., Gilmartin, S. & Sheppard, S. (2017). A preliminary exploration of the role of surveys in student reflection and behavior. American Society for Engineering Education, Annual conference, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Hölttä-Otto, K. & Raviselvam, S. (2016). Guidelines for finding lead user like behavior for latent need discovery, NordDesign 2016, August 10-12, Trondheim, Norway.
  • Kirjavainen, S., Björklund, T.A. & Laakso, M. (2016). Framing activities and the co-evolvement of products and operations in new ventures, NordDesign 2016, August 10-12, Trondheim, Norway.
  • Raviselvam, S., Tam, V., Hölttä-Otto, K. Wood, K. & Nagarajan, K. (2016). A Lead User Approach to Universal Design – Involving elderly in the design process, International Conference on Universal Design (UD2016), August 21-24, York, UK.
  • Raviselvam, S., & Hölttä-Otto, K. (2016). User extreme conditions to enhance designer creativity and empathy: Application using visual impairment, ASME IDETC International Conference on Design Education, Charlotte, NC, August 21-24. Paper number: IDETC2016-59602
  • Mattila, P. Mäkinen, S.. & Laakso, M. (2014). Facilitating collaboration between individual participants in a university-industry research and development project. Proceedings of the 10th NordDesign Conference.
  • Rekonen, S. & Björklund T. (2014). Managerial activities and challenges in the front-end phase of the innovation process. Proceedings of the PMI Research and Education Conference 2014, Portland.
  • Clavert, M. (2013). Academics’ conceptions of pedagogical change agency and the challenges of acting as a pedagogical change agent in the fields of science and technology. INTED 2013 (7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference), 4.–6.3.2013
  • Clavert, M. & Laakso, M. (2013). Implementing design-based learning in engineering education: Case Aalto University Design Factory. 41th annual SEFI Conference
  • Clavert, M., Nevgi, A. & Löfström, E. (2013). What is pedagogical change agency in higher education? 15th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction, “Responsible Teaching and Sustainable Learning”, 27.–31.8.2013, Munich, Germany
  • Leisti-Szymczak A., Liikkanen L., Laakso M. & Summanen I. (2013). Let me do my job – Designers’ experiences of collaborating with a client. In Proceedings of the Co-Create 2013 conference
  • Nikander, J., Liikkanen, L. & Laakso, M. (2013). Naturally emerging decision criteria in product concept evaluation. In Proceedings of the19th International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED13
  • Rekonen, S., Björklund, T.A., Laakso, M. & Likkanen, L.A. (2013). Evolvement of Managerial Activities and Leadership Style of New Product Development Project Managers. 11th IRNOP Conference, IRNOP 2013, Oslo, International Research Network on Organizing Projects.
  • Rekonen, S., Björklund, T.A. & Liikkanen, L.A. (2013). The influence of technical expertise on managerial activities throughout the innovation process. The International Conference on Engineering Design.
  • Summanen, I., Liikkanen L., Laakso M. and Leisti-Szymczak A. (2013). Co-developing a new technology for product concept testing with remote users. In Proceedings of the Co-Create 2013 conference
  • Taajamaa, V., Sjöman, H., Kirjavainen, S., Utriainen, T., Repokari, L., & Salakoski, T. (2013). Dancing with ambiguity design thinking in interdisciplinary engineering education. In Design Management Symposium (TIDMS), 2013 IEEE Tsinghua International (pp. 353-360). IEEE.
  • Clavert, M., Nevgi, A., Löfström, E. & Niemi, H. (2012). Defining pedagogical change agency in developing academic communities of practice in higher education. FERA Conference on Education, 22.–23.11.2012
  • Laakso, M., & Liikkanen, L. (2012) Dubious role of formal creativity techniques in professional design. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Design Creativity ICDC2012
  • Liikkanen, L. & Laakso M. (2012) Concept design as knowledge construction – the Case of user-centered design. In Proceedings of the 12th International Design Conference DESIGN 2012
  • Björklund, T.A. & Laakso, M. (2011). Idea advancement in new product development – a grassroot perspective. 18th International Product Development Management Conference.
  • Björklund T.A., Luukkonen, S., Clavert, M., Kirjavainen, S., & Laakso, M. (2011). The role of experimentation in creating and sustaining motivation in design work. Roozenburg, N., Chen L. & Stappers, P. (Ed.) Diversity and unity. Proceedings of IASDR2011, the 4th World Conference on Design Research.
  • Hassi, L. & Laakso, M. (2011). Conceptions of design thinking in the management discourse. The 9th International European Academy of Design Conference.
  • Hassi, L. & Laakso, M. (2011) Conceptions of design thinking in the design and management discourses – Open questions and possible directions for research. Proceedings of IASDR2011, the 4th World Conference on Design Research
  • Hassi, L. & Laakso, M. (2011) Design thinking in the management discourse: Defining the elements of the concept. Proceedings of the 18th International Product Development Management Conference, IPDMC 2011
  • Kirjavainen, S. & Björklund, T.A. (2011). The central role of exploration in designing business concepts and strategy. The 18th International Conference on Engineering Design.
  • Kirjavainen, S. & Clavert, M. 2011. Manifestation of Design Thinking in Creating a Business Concept and Strategy. Paper presentation at IPDMC 2011 (18th International Product Development Management Conference), 5.-7.6.2011.
  • Liikkanen, L., Hämäläinen, M.M., Häggman, A., Björklund, T.A., Koskinen, M.P. (2011). Quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of idea generation in the wild. In M. Kurosu (Ed.): Human Centered Design, HCII 2011, LNCS 6776, pp. 120–129. Springer, Heidelberg.
  • Liikkanen, L., Laakso, M. & Björklund, T.A. (2011) Foundations for Studying Creative Design Practices. 2nd International Conference on Creativity and Innovation in Design, DESIRE’11.
  • Luukkonen, S. & Björklund, T.A. (2011). Leadership practice differences at the front end and development phases of innovation process. 27th EGOS Colloquium, July 6-9, 2011, Gothenburg.
  • Björklund, T.A., Laakso, M. & Eloranta, M.-M. (2010). Innovations and the ability to advance ideas: Antecedents and practices of advancement. 3rd Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies.
  • Kirjavainen, S., Björklund, T.A., Eloranta, M.-M. & Laakso, M. (2010). The impact of leadership, management and power in an international knowledge-intensive organization. 3rd Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies.
  • Laakso, M. & Björklund, T.A. (2010). Issues in the operations improvement of European-Latin American innovation projects. 3rd Latin American and European Meeting on Organization Studies.
  • Björklund, T. A. & Eloranta, M.-M. (2009). Adapting knowledge: Interaction between education and working life. In Proceedings of INTED2009 Conference, pp. 2138-2148. International Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED): Valencia, Spain. ISBN 978-84-612-7578-6.
  • Hämäläinen, M. M. & Laakso, M. (2009). Participative, employee-driven method for knowledge-harvesting in university-industry collaboration – A Case Example from Finnish Industry,” Proceedings of the INTED2009 Conference
  • Laakso, M., Hämäläinen, M.M. & Häggman, A. (2009). Improving Lead organization and supplier interaction – A case study” 2009 In Proceedings of the ICSB World Conference
  • Laakso M., Ukkonen, M., Forsblom, J., Häggman, A. & Hämäläinen, M.M. (2009). SME operations development – Empirical observations of allocating improvement activities on the basis of cost-effect estimations. 6th Annual International Conference on Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
  • Liikkanen, L.A., Björklund, T.A., Hämäläinen, M. & Koskinen, M. (2009). Time constraints in design idea generation. International Conference on Engineering Design 24-27 August 2009 / Stanford, USA. (9)81-89.

Other Publications


For research inquiries contact the people bellow