Design Thinking for Business Innovation

Come with A Problem – Leave with A Solution

Do customer understanding and insight steer the development actions in your organization? Are you maximizing the value creation of your business models? Do you know how to incorporate a customer-centric approach into your innovation practices and business model development?

Design Thinking is a human-centric approach to innovation driven by deep user understanding, early prototyping, and iterative testing and validation of the potential solutions. It is a practical methodology and process that guides the development of new, innovative products and services, processes, business models, and strategies.

In the program, you will take a deep dive into this practical and actionable methodology and learn how to make it work in your organization. With the help of a unique workbook, you will learn the concepts and methods of Design Thinking and business modeling. You will practice first-hand through a real innovation challenge that you bring with you from your organization. The innovation or development challenge can address, for example, topics such as service development and creating new offerings, improving user experience, how to interact and build a relationship with the customer, changing the organizational culture and employee experience, process redesign, and designing sales support.

By the end of the program, you will be able to identify opportunities for innovation through user research, and develop innovative ideas, turn them into early prototypes, and test them with user for feedback. Finally, you will know how to apply Design Thinking practically to business models and implement it in your organization. You will be able to employ the structured process and tools routinely in your daily work.

The unique program is held in a partnership with Esade Executive Education. It offers you new approaches to innovation that provide novel solutions to the challenges facing businesses today.

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Reframe your company’s challenges and transform them into business opportunities through design research


Create and capture value through inventive business model design


Link innovation to growth through agile strategies


In the times of affluence and complex challenges, a solely analytical approach to innovating can no longer bring competitive advantage. The Design Thinking process, which is also the methodology behind Service Design (Palvelumuotoilu in Finnish), combines and mixes analytical and creative phases for solving business challenges in a practical way. It helps you to enhance creativity and your organization´s capability to innovate. Design Thinking combined with business innovation methodology forms a powerful and actionable approach to innovation.

It is vital to leverage deep customer understanding to be able to cater to the ever-growing, varying demands of customers and users.  Design Thinking methods guide toward rethinking and reframing the challenges and acquiring new insights for idea development. The new concepts are prototyped and get validated by your customer. The Design Thinking / Service Design process and methodology can be applied to developing new, innovative products and services, processes, business models, and strategies.



By the end of the program, you will be able to routinely employ the structured process and tools of Design Thinking and business modeling in your daily work. With these new skills, you will be ready to drive innovation and create value for your business and customers.

Find opportunities for innovation through user research
Develop ideas, create concepts, and prototype and validate them with users
Quantify value propositions and increase the effectiveness of your sales pitches
Drive business model design and maximize value creation and value capture
Conceive and execute agile strategies that link innovation to growth
Generate and implement cross-company innovation – at all levels


This program is for executives and managers who want to integrate cutting-edge creative practices into their business processes and corporate structures by bringing the customer to the forefront.

Previous participants came from 34 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. They were responsible, for example, for general management, innovation and R&D, business development, marketing and sales, and HR and employee experience.

You can study Design Thinking also online. Check the online course.

Contents and Schedule

The design Thinking for Business Innovation program will be run in Helsinki, Finland and Barcelona, Spain, during an intensive study period on June 1–8, 2022.

An online module will kick off the program with a 1.5-hour webinar on May 24, 2022. After this, asynchronous introductory online material will get you started with the program content. You will choose the project assignment you will be working on during the program. The online module is an integral part of the program and will require about four hours of work.

The six program days in Helsinki and Barcelona include different kinds of sessions and activities such as

  • Interactive lectures and discussions with experienced faculty members who are top experts in their specific fields
  • learning by doing: applying the design-driven innovation methods step-by-step to a real life business challenge that you bring from your organization
  • learning from others: experienced business practitioners from different industries will present how design thinking is used in their organizations


Key Instructors

Mikko Koria

Mikko Koria is Professor of Design Innovation and Director of the Institute for Design Innovation in Loughborough University London, and Visiting Professor at Aalto University.

Dr. Koria has a career that spans over twenty-five years of professional management, practice and research in the private, public and the third sectors. In the last years, Mikko has directed his efforts to the field of innovation and related capability management, design and management research and international development projects. He has done research, lectured and taught widely in the fields of design, culture and business studies at various universities and faculties in Finland, China, Japan, Brazil and the UK.

Luis Vives

Luis Vives is the Associate Dean of the Esade MBA, Director of the Multinational MBA and Associate Professor of Strategy and General Management at Esade Business School.

His research focuses on the creation and development of innovative business models.

Tua Björklund

Tua Björklund is an Assistant Professor and one of the founders of Aalto Design Factory, a multidisciplinary experimentation platform at Aalto University and 29 institutions abroad.

Her research focuses on design expertise and advancing new ideas in organizations, building on her experience at Aalto University and the Center for Design Research at Stanford University.

Tua Björklund has a comprehensive, human-centered view of what innovation efforts actually need to succeed in organizations. She teaches design thinking and innovation practices in three schools of Aalto University, as well as at, e.g., Aalto EE and Stanford Executive Education. Currently, she leads the development of research activities in the Design Factory Global Network and manages several research projects investigating design thinking in Finland and Silicon Valley. She is experienced in supervising design thinking development initiatives for companies in practice.

Tua Björklund holds a DSc degree in industrial engineering and management from Aalto University and an MA in cognitive science from the University of Helsinki.

Núria Solsona

Nuria Solsona is the Academic Director of the Program Design Thinking for Business Innovation at Esade in Barcelona. In addition to that, she is an Adjunct Professor in Service Design at Aalto University.

She has 6,5 years of experience designing services and developing businesses at the world-famous design consultancy Livework. As a project lead, she was responsible for managing international projects for leading public and private organizations in a wide range of sectors including clients from BBC, Telefonica, Orange, Barclays, London Underground, or the Thailand government.

Solsona has experienced different levels of service consultancy, from customer strategy, service vision, service proposition, and service implementation as well as defining digital strategies and adoption of new online and mobile services such as mobile payments applications.

She combines a creative perspective with a management approach garnered by studying for an MA in Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins in London, UK, which built on her background in design. She brings a deep understanding of user needs by applying service design methods and customer-oriented frameworks allowing clients and customers to co-create services both from the perspective of the corporation and from the user value perspective.

Solsona has also participated in a variety of projects embedding the service design approach. Her ability to understand organizations' challenges has empowered internal teams to improve their services every day. She is currently based in Barcelona, working as an independent service design consultant.

Floris van der Marel

Floris van der Marel is Researcher at the Aalto Design Factory, a multidisciplinary experimentation platform in Aalto University and 29 institutions abroad.

His research focuses on unheard voices in design initiatives. He is interested in how certain perspectives are included, heard, respected, and equally responded to, whereas others are more ignored, or forgotten.

Passionate about exploring tensions between bringing people with different ways of thinking and doing together, he has amassed considerable practical experience in designing, facilitating and researching Participatory Design practice in several contexts, e.g. for the European Union in Vietnam, for MIT’s International Design Centre in Singapore, for Future Design Factory in the Netherlands and for Aalto University Design Factory in Finland.

Floris van der Marel holds a MSc in Design Research for Interaction from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Middle East Technical University in Turkey with a project studying the sociological impact of a small wood stove in a tribal area in India. Currently he is doing his double degree doctoral studies at Aalto and Design Factory Melbourne combining Participatory Design and research practices to amplify unheard voices and challenging power imbalances in a hospital context in rural Victoria, Australia.

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