Nokia Wins Design & Innovation Global Award @ Design Thinking 2021


Design Thinking 2021 is the first industry event that I have attended on location since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. I vividly recall participating in The Economist’s Innovation Summit in Chicago and gearing up to showcase our team’s game changing work on digital operations at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress early in 2019, which was cancelled given the epidemic’s global impact.

In the meantime, ingenuity came to the rescue. That has led to a wide spectrum of interactive online initiatives, such as the Design Thinking’s Virtual Experience and the Digital Summit, as well as Nokia’s own Enterprise Analytics Forum, just to name a few examples of professional conferences in my line of work, which I had the opportunity to present and host sessions at in 2019-20. In parallel, fast evolving social and collaboration tools have risen to the occasion.


Echoing that digital transformation has grown exponentially just happens to re-state the obvious. However, it pays to highlight the fact that the technologies behind pervasive cloud and networks services deserve a fair share of the credit. Software as a Service (SaaS) is the leading exponent since it unequivocally demands human centered design, so that we all can best experience self-service by taking down former barriers and frictions, democratizing innovative solutions in the process.

Software’s shortcomings only worsen when exposed ‘as a Service’ for everyone to see anytime and anywhere in today’s hyperconnected world. Innovativeness is shifting R&D focus from simply addressing what it takes to leverage efficient cloud environments to growing painstaking attention to human centered ‘service design.’ This means addressing users’ experiences for consumer, business and the public sector; all coupled with the back stage’s enterprise systems that support those services, which also involves excelling at designing for the employee experience.

Basically, the greater the degree of automation, the more opportunities for self-service offerings and, therefore, the larger the number of humans interacting with advanced digital technologies. Obviously, automation does not remove the human factor, but it puts more pressure on innovations that address it as the experience economy is taking hold. Great design leads to scalable solutions since more users leverage them. Great design crosses the chasm between the technically savvy early adopter and a mass market in need for the technology to become invisible. The MAYA design principle comes immediately to mind: let’s design the Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable.

Digital operations across business and technology functions have also encountered the very same paradigm shift. All industries are looking at empowering nimbler teams to perform at greater speed, scope and scale than ever before. Human centered innovation prioritizes solutions that equip enterprise users for success, technological prowess alone does not. This is equally true for people leveraging enterprise systems as part of their jobs across business functions and those strictly involved in IT. Service oriented solutions account for efficiencies in lifecycle management, which leads to self-serviceability, which is best served by human centered design because the opposite has left systems at the mercy of dysfunctional procedures and costly obscure maintenance.


At its best, Design not only innovates on the basis of (a) creating distinctive value that users can experience and, therefore, value, but also (b) closes the gap between what customers need, businesses enable and engineering is capable of delivering. We ‘left-shift’ with Design Thinking at the front end so that innovative solutions surface with creative confidence. We ‘right-shift’ with the automation that DevOps can inject, so that development and delivery can be accelerated. Design Thinking optimizes for ‘doing the right thing’ while Agile Development involves ‘doing it right.’ Both, Design Thinking and Agile Development come together to ‘right-size’ what needs to be done by when.

I am honored and deeply humbled about being this year’s winner of the Design & Innovation Global Award. While it credits individual career achievements, I do happen to believe that anyone’s entrepreneurial spirit should make a difference, but it takes teamwork to succeed. I am very grateful to my teammates who I happen to learn from everyday. Working at Nokia delivers plenty of opportunities to work with some of the best in industry, which includes customers and peers at partner companies. I am also grateful to the team behind Design Thinking 2021 and the awards program.

Last but not least, it is worth highlighting that Nokia VDS, Venture Design Studio, was shortlisted among the top-3 finalists in the Digital Transformation category. That credits groundbreaking product design work that all of the Studio’s cohorts have done since its inception over the past years.

This post’s start sets the context in the global pandemic and the challenges that we all endure. This last paragraph celebrates the resilience, mental toughness and conditional optimism that moves things forward in an environment where human centered solutions have become critical for what’s next.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.