Design Thinking in Lima Peru

by Scott Underwood

Editor’s note: Tom Kelley, General Manager, IDEO wrote this about Scott: “In 20 years at IDEO, I never met anyone with a broader range of knowledge or a deeper sense of curiosity than Scott. Those skills make him valuable in an era when storytelling has become a key success factor for all organizations who want to make their mark on the world.”

Innovationship recently spent six days in Lima, Peru, a place of friendly people, vibrant neighborhoods, and delicious food, all set against an ocean backdrop. I recommend it highly, and not just as a quick stop on the way to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. And bonus for us: we got to spend three days leading an open-invitation workshop in design thinking.

UTEC (the University of Engineering and Technology) a four-year-old engineering and technology-focused university, asked us to lead an extended introductory workshop to allow participants to experience the process more deeply than they could in a brief exposure. This attracted a wide range of participants from Lima and other parts of Peru, almost thirty in all, from local CEOs wanting inspiration to students looking to increase their innovation skills.

Design Thinking in Lima Peru - Innovation Excellence

In Innovationship’s three-day active learning format, we spent Day One providing a “tasting menu” overview of the entire design thinking process, from choosing a design challenge through to final presentation. After breaking the group up into teams of five to six, we combined brief instructive talks with immersive exercises in observation, synthesis, brainstorming, and prototyping. We stop between each phase to discuss what we’d just done and answer questions.

For this group, we chose as our Day One design challenge How might we design a new personal bag? We discussed backpacks, purses, suitcases, messenger bags, laptop bags, and anything else that came near that description — golf bags, astronauts’ kits, tool belts, fishing vests, and more. Each team determined whom they would design for — police officer? office worker on a bike? emergency responder? — and  then worked all day to create a physical prototype and share the story of their work. Before departing, we held a group reflection. Many expressed surprise at how teams of strangers were able to complete a project in a single day, and how the process led them to find interesting opportunities and solutions.

Then, because every new skill needs practice, we began the process all over again.

Day Two started with a new challenge: How might we improve a person’s experience of Lima? After each team decided who they were designing for — tourist, visiting business leader, student, new mother — we got the learners out of our workspace and into the nearby neighborhoods to do field observations.

Small teams walked the city to look at the way people interact with their environment and vice-versa. They went everywhere, from the upscale shopping district of Miraflores to the Larcomar shopping center set on a cliff, to the emergent streets and parks of Barranco. They talked with strangers, such as tourists and police officers, and took notes and photos, closely observing the activity and structure of the city before returning to UTEC.

The teams spent the rest of Day Two and all of Day Three taking the insights from that exercise to find opportunities for and solutions to their design challenge. They drew storyboards and assembled prototypes from craft materials. Their ideas included a smartphone app to help navigate Lima’s notorious bus system and a game-like service to get people to have a better first visit to the sprawling city.

At the end of the three days, while reflecting on the skills they’d gained and the insights, ideas, and prototypes they’d created together, the learners provided a lot of thoughtful feedback. One, a longtime restaurateur, said he was able to look at his own city in an entirely new way.  Another said she was looking forward to taking new skills back to her own company. Many mentioned how energizing and fun the collaborative process turned out, and how there were moments of confusion and doubt followed by a triumph in which the team discovered a new idea to keep the process moving forward.

UTEC is set in the Barranco district of Lima, and offers an array of engineering degrees, as well as entrepreneurship, incubator and accelerator programs for Lima’s new generation of thinkers and doers. They’ve become a great partner, we will be delivering more design thinking workshops with them in late 2015 and into 2016 and we hope they will continue to serve as a hub for innovative thinking in South America.

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:


Design Thinking in Lima, Peru - Innovation ExcellenceScott Underwood is Partner and Cofounder of Innovationship. He has helped thousands of people around the world learn design thinking. Scott spent over two decades at IDEO in corporate storytelling, marketing communication, business development, employee experience, and more. As a writer and editor, he has also contributed to several books, including The Ten Faces of Innovation and The Art of Innovation, both by Tom Kelley, and Change By Design by Tim Brown. Follow Scott @1innovationship

One comment

Leave a Reply