Tekijä: <span>Michelle Sahal Estime</span>


Who knew that studying can be this exciting? Learnings…

I had the greatest pleasure of being a member of the amazing tutor team in the 2021 Digital Wellbeing Sprint. I was tutoring and facilitating the process for the Emooter team. This was my first time to get to know the five day Design Sprint created by Jake Knapp. I was very impressed of how smartly the process has been put together, combining series of co-creation methods, team work as well as individual thinking time. In this blog, I reflect and share some of my key learnings from this trip. 

Originally, the Design Sprint is planned to last five days, from 10 am to 5 pm and from Monday to Friday. In the Digital Wellbeing Sprint we have extended this by two days and had a bit of extra time in the beginning for the challenge introductions and team building and had a pitch day at the end of the week. Besides that, we followed the Design Sprint process quite closely. The process starts by defining the challenge, the long term goal and the specific sprint questions. After setting the target, ideation begins, continues with sketching towards making a decision of what to prototype and test. And final pitches – quite straight forward and well instructed in the Sprint book (Jake Knapp: Sprint – How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days) and yet full of learning moments in all levels!

1. Trust the Process

First of all, this was a great opportunity to learn the Design Sprint process itself. As Service Designers tend to say, learn by doing. By attending the event, you learn a variety of methods, how to combine them and how to make it a coherent and logical process. We arranged this online, so it gave also the opportunity to do it all remotely and on the Miro board. If you’re not familiar with the agile ways of working, this is one way to learn some examples of how it can be done in agile software development also in the real world in IT companies. 

The process guides you to do this one step at a time. It may feel confusing and big in the beginning, but trust the process, it works (it has been tested so many times). At times I felt that it’s going so quickly and I always feel that some good ideas are not thought of because there isn’t enough time. Then I realized that the process supports the ideas to evolve and develop, so just trust the process.

2. Teamwork is the key 

Secondly, as a facilitator of the process, this was the front seat to follow teamwork. How the team forms from a group of individuals into a team which has a goal, is motivated and committed to succeed and perform, in a very short time. And to be honest, having a team, is what makes this process work. The week is busy and it is very important that the team members are committed to the process and everybody does their part. I can guarantee that the final prototype does not get built by just one person and one idea, it is built by the team and it has the fingerprint from everyone of the team. The process also supports this in a very clever way of having stages in which everybody works on their own and presents their findings or sketches to others and then they are developed further as a team.

The process is also so quick and tightly scheduled that you also have to take a leap of faith and trust your team members. There is no time to go over everything all the time with everybody, you just have to share the tasks and believe that there will be something to test on the final day. Just remember to communicate and agree who is doing what. So basic, but in practice often forgotten or assumed that the others know, they don’t. (I often wonder this – why is it that we think that the others know what I’m thinking? Because we think that the others think like I do, well they don’t.) And this is what makes teamwork so great. A team always makes so much more than each individual on their own. 

3. Facilitation in Zoom 

This was an excellent teacher for facilitation skills, too. The process is quite well constructed and in that way easy to follow. You don’t need to search for appropriate methods. We added our own energizers for the mornings and sometimes in the afternoons to keep everybody focused, but otherwise followed the methods suggested in the book. 

As mentioned, we did this all remotely and it was my first time to do a longer process like this as a facilitator. The Miro board definitely helped and it would have been difficult to facilitate without it. Facilitating remotely is very efficient, because you don’t need to wait for everybody to come back to the main room, you just close the break-out room and that’s it.  

I’m more experienced in face to face coaching and facilitating and I noticed that it was really difficult to follow that everyone is onboard. At some stages (especially in the beginning) it’s important to be quick and vocal which is difficult for some (myself included). Some, but definitely not all thinking and processing can be observed the same way remotely than it is face to face.   

4. Keep focused  

Lastly, the most important lesson from this (and in life in general), is to keep focused. Having a clear target is so important when time is scarce. And time always is. We are challenged by so many interruptions nowadays that you need to be very determined to keep yourself focused on the target. It’s so easy to get distracted. But first you need to set the goal. 

The author of the Sprint book, Knapp, talks about this in the video. The idea of the 5 day Sprint has started with the thought of how to be productive and more efficient, so that you also have time to do other important stuff in life.  

And what is important? Wellbeing, which brings me to my very last point: 

5. The Emooter 

Graphical user interface

Description automatically generated

I have to say that our team was working on an a very important and interesting challenge from Emooter . The challenge was to ideate how Emooter can combine physical wellbeing data from personal devices with self-reported mental wellbeing data within the Emooter app in a way that is interesting and motivating for the users. I was personally very excited about the challenge and as a facilitator it was sometimes difficult to keep my own ideas on the side. Emooter is on a very important mission, so if you’re reading this, please take a look. I wish all the best to Emooter, I hope they become a success!  

I am very grateful that I took part in this. Thank you to the whole tutor crew, the most positive and encouraging, Michelle, our Project Manager, the teachers Jarmo, Päivi and Merja. And to all teams – I hope you found the experience exciting and educational, you all did a great job! In just 7 days you built a start for something new and amazing (and even if you didn’t, you just failed fast and didn’t waste too much time on it.) But this was no waste of time, either way it’s time well spent! 

About the author:

Jaana Marin is a Service Design Master student at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. Jaana is an experienced team manager with coaching skills and business background. She is passionate about creating working life that is based on trust, learning and well-being. Currently, she is working as a People Lead in the IT field. 



How to create a fruitful design sprint? Insights from…

In a design sprint, a team with different skills and personalities go through certain steps, creating a tested prototype in only five days. During Digital Wellbeing Sprint in May 2021, our student teams did the same in a slightly modified process. Instead of five days, we had seven. And more importantly, because of the covid-19 situation, we had to do this all in a virtual environment. What are the key elements for a facilitator to consider in a design sprint? In this blog post, I want to give some insights for creating a successful design sprint from a facilitator’s perspective.  

The design sprint is probably most often used when new digital services are created. However, this doesn’t need to be the case. A sprint can be used in various industries when new solutions are needed. What does a sprint mean, concretely? Typically, a sprint means an accelerated phase of development. It is both a methodology and a state of mind. A sprint is effective, when the participating team is committed and distribute their work accordingly in order to achieve a common goal. To get to this, the team needs a superb facilitator to help them keep on track. Could that be you? 

My advice for a facilitator is following: 

🗝 Keep all materials in one place 

🗝 Build cohesion in your team 

🗝 Trust the people 

🗝 Give just enough time 

🗝 No for too detailed instructions 

🗝 Trust the process 

I’ll cover all of these in more detail in the following paragraphs. Most of the facilitation tips are valid in both live and virtual events. I put extra effort on guidance in virtual venue, so that you can avoid some fatal mistakes if you’re planning a remote design sprint! 

Keep all materials in one place 

When realizing a virtual sprint, you need to be extra careful to keep people on board. Literally. We used a platform for virtual whiteboard to create a common space for sprint teams. We customized the template for Official 5-Day Design Sprint in Miro to meet our needs. Other (and in my opinion the only) relevant option for a co-creation platform would be Mural. In Miro, you can do almost everything sprint related, even host the meeting. If you need to share files (consider if that’s really necessary), you have to have another platform or tool as well. 

By using a single source for creating and ideating, people can take much in by just a glance. A virtual whiteboard is an essential tool to so that people can remind themselves with what you have created, accomplished and agreed on previous stages. Isn’t it annoying to open and close files so that you can find what you are looking for? Using a virtual whiteboard in sprint tackles this. 

Build cohesion in your team 

A solid cohesion and open atmosphere are a must in a design sprint. In a design process, we often talk about divergence and convergence. This means that you need to move between ideation and decision-making phases, one after another. In a divergent phase, more ideas or opportunities are sought. This is followed by convergent phase, in which the pieces come together, and you seek for a clear decision. Without an atmosphere where all thoughts and ideas from all participants are welcome, trust and psychological safety are at risk. This can lead to lack of innovation and thus failing to accomplish initial goals. 

You can build cohesion and group spirit with various means. Remember to take enough breaks, and try to encourage discussion. The list of warm-ups and energizers is endless. Google will take you far with finding best energizers for virtual or live events. My favourite listings can be found from SkyboundImpact by Design, and Hyperisland’s Toolbox. With your facilitation style, it is possible to reinforce trust, empathy, and creativity in your team. 

Trust the people 

In a virtual sprint, it is difficult or even impossible to have total control of the team as a facilitator. But don’t you worry even though you’re not in charge. It can be difficult to cope with the uncertainty the physical distance brings but the sprint is not about you. As a facilitator, you’re there only to make things easier.  

Most likely, you’re facilitating the work of capable and skilled professionals. They are adults, and you can’t control what they actually do or don’t do. Based on that, the only thing you can do is to trust that everyone does their part. In the beginning of the sprint, perhaps more instructions and guidance are needed, but as the days go on, the team will start to work more or less autonomously. Their challenge drives and motivates them, and you can stay in the back unless the team needs you. 

Give just enough time 

Planning the schedule for your sprint is one of the most crucial preparation tasks. Your role as a facilitator is to take care that the schedule is being followed. Not respecting your carefully planned schedule is as useful as stealing money from yourself. By lagging, you snitch time from all the tasks you need to complete later. 

At times, the sprint might feel chaotic and hectic. It’s easy to get stuck on details and prolong conversations. However, hurrying up at some phases during the sprint won’t hurt, as long as you complete all tasks. As a facilitator, your role is to remind the team about the big picture: the sprint is all about innovative ideas and testing them. What you’re developing during the sprint doesn’t have to be flawless. You’re risking your team’s wellbeing and sprint goals if you keep stretching the schedule. 

No for too detailed instructions 

When you’re running a design sprint for the first time, it’s easy to babble endlessly about what to do next. You can be even a little confused yourself because you don’t know what to expect. But you know what? The same goes for your team. They’re just as eager, anxious, excited, and confused as you are. They don’t remember half of what you just explained. Rather than telling people what to do, show them, and then let them do it themselves.  

In a design process in general, concrete doing beats theoretical planning. You’ll achieve a lot more, when you just start doing instead of trying to find consensus of how to proceed. If people are not familiar with the programs or platforms you use, they won’t learn them by you teaching them. They’ll learn by doing. In addition, a design sprint is the perfect place to try new, crazy things in a structured way. Don’t stifle your team’s creativity and ideas by too detailed instructions, they’ll only get confused and restricted.  

Trust the process 

In the beginning, it might feel a little overwhelming that you should have a working prototype after only a few short days. In Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021, we had six student teams with different challenges and partner companies. All of them completed the sprint with a tested prototype and a spectrum of insights for the client. 

Simply, the design sprint methodology works. Just trust the process. 

Photo by Terotemedia

Text by Johanna Hentunen, a master student of service design in Laurea UAS. Johanna has a long experience in facilitating workshops, interviews, and events. This was her first take on design sprint, but definitely not the last. Currently, Johanna works at Business Jyväskylä, enhancing ecosystem networking among different stakeholders to create growth and boost innovation. Let’s connect on LinkedIn! 


Seven intense days in the virtual Design Sprint: lots…

Exchanging ideas and designing solutions as a team works fine remotely, too

I had the joy and privilege to participate in the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021 as a facilitator. This was the second time this event was arranged as a remote course. It would have been wonderful to meet everyone face to face, but it was not possible yet and actually co-working virtually has become new normal during the pandemic. Fortunately, most of us have got used to virtual meetings along the covid time and therefore I’m sure this year’s gathering in Zoom was in many ways easier than last year’s. I also believe we are going to work in this way more and more in the future. I assume remote teamwork with professionals living in different parts of the world and country is going to increase.

So, this was a chance for all of us to learn more about co-working virtually in innovative and creative way, too.

There were also other benefits in arranging a remote Sprint. Attending to meet the teams was easier to the company representatives and interviewees. And students could use more time to work with the challenges since they didn’t need to travel to school.

But there were also side effects. Working in Zoom and Miro is much more loading than face to face, all the team members sitting around the same table. It is more difficult to create team spirit remotely, too. People tend to get energy from each other and talk more about their private lives when they sit face to face by a cup of coffee in the canteen. Instead, co-operating virtually is energy-intensive and tends to be more focused to working. Breaks are needed more often even in a tight scheduled Sprint.

We tried to help students to stay focused and arranged collective refreshing moments and pause exercises during the week. – They were all popular and welcomed. – We also had a nice getting to know each other conversation in the beginning of the Sprint, in teams’ own break-out rooms. Students told a bit of themselves and about their superpower. It was a nice way to start co-operation and share your knowledge before getting to work.

Design Sprint is intensive time, with many kinds of brainwaves and feelings

The idea behind the Design Sprint methodology is based on collaboration, co-ideation and solving problems together. We humans are social heard animals and often find the best solutions when working together. No matter which are the (virtual) tools.

Even though initially Design Sprint was designed to be carried out with people being in the same room, we make it happen remotely, too. And even remotely it is full of emotions. It is said that Design Sprint can be an emotional ride and I agree. It can be something from confusion and tiredness to excitement and laughter. The prototyping day is claimed to be especially full of different kinds of emotions. As a refreshing start for the day, we asked the students to forecast the day’s mental climate.

Students’ playful weather forecast for the prototyping day

Design Sprint is made of shared and recombined understanding

Members of the teams managed to get acquainted with each other despite the remote teamwork and not meeting each other ever before. When we asked in the end of the Sprint “What was the Sprint like, what did you learn?”, in the answers it is the team and teamwork that arises in the word cloud. Having a common challenge and time pressure tends to encourage individuals to unite their knowledge and strengths. As one of the facilitators I also hope we facilitators were able to help our teams in both understanding the Sprint process and in team formulation. All in all, I’m sure we students (team members and facilitators) all learned a lot: about the Sprint process but also from other students with different kinds of backgrounds and skills.

Students answers to “What kind of experience was the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021? What did you learn??

Trust the process and miracles happen

For many of us Design Sprint can be a truly revolutionary way to innovate, if you are used to long, detailed, and slow working practices. Here the idea is to design, prototype and test your concept, develop an action plan, or solve a tricky problem in just 5 days. – Or in our case in 6 days. – You just have to trust the process and work intensively. There were moments of distrust along the way, but the process really worked. We were all impressed about the results when all the teams had their pitches on the 7th day. In students’ comments the process was described for example as a miracle or magic. No wonder it is used by the most innovative companies in the world. I strongly recommend participating when you get the chance to experience a Design Sprint and learn the method!

About the writer of the blog

Kirsi Raitanen studies Service Design at Laurea UAS. Her previous professional background is in the marketing business as a Graphic Designer. She is also a Social Psychologist (M.Soc.Sc.). Creativity, teamwork, and developing are special interests of hers. She thinks Design Sprints fascinates her partly because of her background in creative teamwork, partly because of her drive to find new solutions in an agile way.


What I learned during the Sprint

[At the time of writing] It has been almost a week since the last day of the Digital Wellbeing Sprint (DWS). The Sprint seems almost like a far away memory, but still I can´t really wrap my head around it and understand what really happened.  This blogpost will serve as a reflection on my learnings and hopefully inspire you dear reader to perhaps participate in a DWS yourself.

The sprint was very intense. It would have been very difficult to attend this sprint if I had had a fulltime job. I started my Master’s studies in August 2020, so this course took place at the end of my first year. I’m sure this has been the best course I have attended this far. I learned so much! It really combined the wellbeing aspect, service design, the digital world and remote working tools and methods.

My role was to be a tutor. I didn’t have much previous experience as a facilitator. I would have been so lost without a course I took which just ended a week before the Sprint started. The course was all about enhancing your coaching and facilitation skills. I got to rehearse my learnings in real life, and it was perfect! (By the way, I warmly recommend attending that course as well).

So, here is a few things I can say I learned. I learned that groupwork can be challenging but rewarding. The teams excellence is so much more than only one individuals talent. Our tutor team for example had much talent from different fields and we were able to divide tasks accordingly. But there was still always room for practicing and learning new things. The whole team was also committed to the process and always ready to support each other and we had the best project manager ever! She really knew what she was doing, at least it felt that way. She kept the atmosphere positive the whole time, she didn’t tell us what to do, she just asked very good questions that guided us to the right direction. The best part was, that she had also attended as a tutor at the previous year’s Sprint, so she remembered the stress of her own and was able to reassure us, that everything will work out just fine. It was great to see how she facilitated us tutors and by doing that she also gave us a very good example on how to work with our own teams during the sprint.

The planning for the Sprint started already many months before the Sprint took place. To plan the sprint is a totally different thing than running the sprint. But of course, planning is necessary, but it is impossible to plan every detail in advance. I´m sure I would know better on the second round. One of the best phrases: “Trust the process” was almost a joke already, but it is so true!! All kinds of emotions run through your head during the Sprint process, and it is totally normal. I must confess, that there were a few times during the sprint that I almost questioned that trust. But I kept telling myself: trust the process.

I felt that one of the hardest things for me was to stay as an outsider when my team was talking about the challenge assigned to them. I would have liked to take apart in the conversation and add my own eyesight, but it wasn’t my role to guide them in any specific direction or affect in their decision making in any way. I needed to stay neutral, do my part and cheer the team and keep the ball rolling. It was so amazing to see the team working and solving the “puzzle” and really see how the methods worked in real life. There are many methods that I can see using in the future to enhance and speed up decision making and making sure that everyone’s opinion is heard. I truly am amazed about the outcome of this course. Every team really made amazing prototypes and brought value with their work to the partner organizations. Win, win, win in every aspect. Great concept!

I hadn’t had any previous experience in service design either. I was actually thinking of taking a course at it..but you know what? I don’t think I need to do that anymore. I have lived it, done it, so there is no need to “go back” and learn the theory anymore. I learn best by doing and I’m pretty sure it works best for most people.

So..If you want to feel alive (feel the stress and achievement), you NEED to attend a Sprint!

Sincerely, Tanja


Making the best out of a virtual Design Sprint.…

This blog post is a reflection on the learnings gathered as a tutor in the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021 (DWS) that brought together a very diverse group of students both Bachelor and Master levels from the 3UAS ( Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia) and 6 partner organisations.

The Digital Wellbeing Sprint is a seven days event that follows closely the Google Ventures Design Sprint Methodology created by Jake Knapp and used to validate ideas through design, prototyping, user testing and collaboration. The Sprint methodology is one of the fastest and cheapest way to validate a business strategy or product idea with real users.  (Knapp et al. 2016)

Design sprints can be intense, but they’re also fun, and very insightful as long as the sprint process goes smoothly. In order for this to happen, some planning was required.

Before I continue I must admit I was getting some cold feet right before the Digital Wellbeing Sprint started. Months of preparation, reading through the material, and creating the schedule and when the Sprint was about to begin I started to question if I am ready for this. As it turns out I was ready, I just needed to pass that single moment of discomfort and trust that it will be great. And it was really amazing!

A successful virtual Digital Wellbeing Sprint

As this was the second time that the DWS was organised virtually, I believe that was one of the reasons the process went very smooth and according to the plan, the main reason was most likely a good project manager and a great team of tutors and teachers.

My role as a tutor

As a tutor I was having an active role both in the preparation of the sprint, communications as well as facilitating one group of students through the process for the duration of the Sprint. It’s true the students did most of the work, but the facilitator has an important task of ensuring the process goes smooth and everyone knows what to do. The time really flies during the sprint and every second counts, so it’s very important how the students use their time. Having someone to answer their questions, keep track of their progress and making sure they are on target is vital.

Biggest challenge during the sprint

Team dynamics is challenging in virtual settings however my observation is that after more than one year of working partially or completely remotely, people are used to virtual meetings and style of working. To be fair, I don’t have the experience of a face to face sprint, but I feel the process was very smooth and overall everyone progressed nicely and enjoyed the experience.

The biggest challenge for me was keeping the team of students within the schedule. The time goes fast and as we move from one task to the other staying in schedule is essential. Another difficult task for the facilitator is not to interfere too much and bring your own opinion about the challenge. We need to ask many question and enable the students to figure out things by themselves, but knowing when to be silent and when to add a useful comment is not an easy task.

Learnings and outcomes

The seven days of the sprint were packed with motivational speakers, tasks and great collaboration but at the end of the week we all felt a great sense of accomplishment going through the agile way of working and reaching the other side a bit wiser and a bit more inspired. 

My favourite part of the sprint was learning how the sprint methodology works in practice. Reading about it and actually doing it, or better yet, having to explain it to others is probably the absolute best way to learn something.

Being a part of the DWS organising team has been an excellent learning experience for me. As a bonus I got to develop hands on service design skills and facilitation skills as well as created great bond with a wonderful team of tutors. I also got to do an interview with one of the partner companies, write blog posts, help design the sprint, listened to some really inspiring motivational speeches during the sprint and had a great time doing it.

This blog was written by Elena Howlader, facilitator in Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021. Elena is currently studying Service Innovation and Design Masters degree in Laurea University of Applied Science and has a background in visual design.


How to organize a design sprint using Design Sprint…

Have you heard of Google Ventures’ Design Sprint and are eager to get involved? Maybe you are keen on facilitating one but don’t know where to start? Then you are at the right place! This blog post aims to describe the process of organizing a design sprint within the Design Sprint process. Talk about eating our own dog food, right?

The original Design Sprint by Jake Knapp looks like the following:

It takes only 5 days from a challenge to learning, there is also a modification by A&J Smart which takes only 4 days (pro tip: don’t miss out on their videos when organizing your sprint), and finally, there is the 3UAS design sprint which takes 7 days with additional introduction and team building at the beginning of the sprint and pitching session in the end. In your (future) career you will also discover all kinds of sprints, don’t be surprised by those modifications: usually people have tried it before, they learnt that it doesn’t work in this form and then improved it accordingly. The point of the sprint is to learn, thus as long as you don’t skip any steps, you are a winner!

  • Challenge: It is important to pick the right challenge and the right team for a sprint. Guess what? In Digital Wellbeing Sprint, there are 6-8 challenges provided by companies operating in different sectors of health and wellbeing. Check out these blogs to learn more about some of the challenges that students are solving. Students participating in the sprint are then divided into teams in accordance with their interests. Because companies and students don’t know each other, it makes sense to spend some time for a proper introduction, that’s why we spend an extra day for mapping and choosing the target.
  • Map the whole sprint together. It’s crucial for the team to be aligned on what is happening, how, and when. Have a “map” (a document, a board, an excel, whatever works for you) with all the details to be filled out later. Everyone should be able to consult the map when lost.
  • Sketch your sprint by creating a Miro/Mural (some other digital tool) board. The template is already available for you! Even if your team is fortunate to organize an on-site design sprint, these digital tools developed during the remote sprint experience will help you to divide tasks during each sprint day and be a star facilitator of your team! ⭐
  • Decide who is doing what (in other words divide and conquer). There are plenty of things to do before, during, and after every sprint day, it can quickly become overwhelming to try to remember all of the exercises, tasks, partners, etc. Share the responsibilities among the team and rock (don’t forget to update your map though).
  • Design Sprint prototyping is all about a ”fake it till you make it” philosophy, sometimes things are hard to grasp, but trust the process, everyone will contribute their part into the sprint, things will work out because you are all in this together and you can do it!
  • Test with each other, and later with the participants (=real clients)! Did you come up with an interesting energizer? Try it with the team and friends. Is someone having trouble staying on time? (Spoiler: me) Ask a teammate to time your performance and give feedback. Check each other’s parts to spot some minor inconsistencies, it helps everyone.
  • Everyone is here to learn. If something worked or it didn’t – everything is a learning experience for you to take into the next sprint 😉This is a perfect opportunity to learn hands-on on what is design thinking, what is design sprint, how to facilitate anything, when to seek customers’ input and why is it so important, the list goes on…
  • Showtime! This is an additional day in Digital Wellbeing Sprint, when all teams are pitching their solution to the partner companies and other students, in the case of this blog, this is an actual sprint week when it’s your time to shine and facilitate the super talented teams of students. The weeks of preparations are now over, and the only thing left to do is to enjoy the ride 🎉
  • Bonus step: Enjoy, have fun, and don’t forget to celebrate once you wrap up your sprint! Organizing a design sprint is not an easy task to do, it requires a can-do attitude and a great team to work along, once you wrap up your pitching day, invite everyone to share a treat together (it can be a little chocolate treat, or a glass of sparkling, everyone is free to choose their own). You all earned to have a party 🎂

To wrap up, they say that a picture is worth a thousand words and one prototype worth a thousand pictures. My two cents are a sprint is worth a thousand prototypes 😜 The best way to find out if organizing the sprint is for you – is to try it for yourself, if you made it this far in this blog, perhaps the next step for you is to apply to become a tutor!

I am very grateful I got a chance to facilitate Digital Wellbeing Sprint together with such talents as Johanna, Elena, Jaana, Kirsi & Tanja, Michelle – our wonderful (and “super glue”) project manager, special thanks to the organizing team of teachers who supported us throughout the journey – Merja Lahdenperä, Päivi Mantere & Jarmo Sarkkinen, and finally all the students who participated the sprint! <3

About the author:

I’m Galina, I’m studying for an MBA in Service Innovation and Design at Laurea University of Applied Sciences. I was honoured to facilitate Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021; my background is in tech start-ups and event management. Happy to connect on LinkedIn!


What to know when starting a health-tech company –…

In this blog post we sat down with a CTO and co-founder of Disior Sakari Soini to talk about everything health-tech start-up related. Are you interested in joining a health-tech start-up or creating your own? Have you heard about death valley? Will someone steal your idea? Are there opportunities for students in health-tech? If any of these questions got your attention – keep reading!

Disior is a Helsinki-based healthtech start-up, it develops a 3D analytics software solution for clinicians, it’s mission to provide medical professionals with the diagnostic information they need to deliver perfectly-tailored treatments to every patient.

Today Disior is a team of 20 motivated professionals, and recently the company closed a €3M capital investment round, which surely means that the team has ambitions plans for further development. But let’s find out about everything from our guest first-hand!

Galina: Sakari, could you tell us about Disior story? Why did you choose healthtech?

Sakari: I was leading all the simulation in Nokia (and at Microsoft department for a couple of years after the acquisition), our team created these simulations from scratch. Anna-Maria Henell (co-founder of Disior) was also a key person in Nokia simulation system. So, we created the whole simulation system and took it into use. These were special years, in Nokia we used simulations a lot, we created systems for the reliability, turmoil, antennas, acoustics, electromagnetic and more, in fact, this was a base for founding Disior. We learnt a lot about how simulations are used back then. And then after this, Microsoft bought Nokia Mobile Phones division, they decided to end all that stuff. At this point, me and Anna Maria were thinking about what to do next. And in fact, if someone is looking for ideas, we have collected a lot! We still have 50 ideas in our PowerPoint list, and they are all from different areas. One of those ideas was to utilize what we have learned in some other discipline area. We visited quite many different places, there was a lot of exciting possibilities, but then we ended up in health tech because one of my neighbours hurt his leg.

we ended up in health tech because one of my neighbours hurt his leg

I looked at how it was treated: medical staff takes one image, they put an orthopaedic cast on the leg, and say to please be more careful. And then I thought that if that would be an engineering problem, the process would iterative, and we would use simulations there. So, we thought that maybe we can make use of simulation and analysis what we have done in medical field.

We didn’t know anybody from health tech and/or the medical area, so we just called some of the leading physicists in HUS (Helsinki University Hospital) area and say, “Hey, it’s Sakari and Anna-Maria, is it possible to have a chat?”, and then we would meet these people, we didn’t know anything about medical area, but we had a lot of very fine knowledge from the mobile phone analysis and this was very fancy technology back then in the field. We have been meeting with experts for several months, we met Risto Kontio and Gonçalo Barreto.

Gonçalo knows a lot about bone structure and bones as material, he has a PhD in orthopaedics and traumatology, and does research in joint osteoarthritis; Risto is a Chief Physician and a maxillofacial surgeon, he knows what the doctors need. And Anna-Maria and me, we know how to build those analysis systems, so together we make a team of 4 co-founders.

During the testing phase and interviews with clinical professionals, we went through many, many, many different areas, but ended up here [orthopaedics and bone structure], as this was an interesting area. We didn’t end up continuing working on the mobile phones which we have done for two decades, but still, we can utilize our knowledge quite well. We identified that there is a need for this kind of solutions and proceeded to test the markets, that was the starting point.

Galina: What was the first big challenge for you back then?

Sakari: In the very beginning when we were new in entrepreneurial scene, the first challenge was to get funding. And that is a big, big question there, because you have to find somebody who will put his or her own money in that project. And that is a big step. Many of our colleagues from Nokia and Microsoft were also setting up companies, but many didn’t get any funding, and didn’t continue this entrepreneurial journey.

The funding rounds are, in fact, always difficult. But still especially you need to do a lot in very early stages, which for us ended up in sleepless nights and questions like “how this will end? how I will go on?” because there was no going back in any way, this was our only option, and so we worked very hard to get it done.

there was no going back in any way, this was our only option, and so we worked very hard to get it done

Galina: How about the product? How long does it take to develop? Do you remember your first customer?

Sakari: It is quite difficult to say as our product have evolved during the whole time, in the very beginning, when we were testing our idea and we were doing the research projects, our first customer was Helsinki University Hospital (HUS). In the medical field you are not able to sell the actual product for clinical use until your product is regulated, you need to receive a CE mark and/or FDA clearance, which takes minimum 2-3 years. That is a difficult process for medical device start-ups, which is missing from the normal start-up journey, and that’s why not too many are in healthtech field.

There are certain ways how you have to operate in this field, so that you get over the quite long death valley, as they say. In the medical area that time when you don’t have product that you can sell, and you don’t have good funding is a long period of time. It is crucial for early-stage medical companies to think about this period, break it into smaller chunks and get the product eventually out.

We have been a bit lucky with this, as we are cooperating very closely with the Finnish company called Planmed (part of Planmeca Group). We created our first ankle product together with them. From our point of view, it has been very fruitful for the development because Planmed has a long history in the medical device business, they have CBCT equipment, and they know better than we do about the regulations. It’s wise to co-operate with this kind of people who are on the market for a longer period of time. They have the knowledge.

In the medical area that time when you don’t have product that you can sell, and you don’t have good funding is a long period of time. It is crucial for early-stage medical companies to think about this period, break it into smaller chunks and get the product eventually out.

Galina: You mentioned that you are working together with doctors and clinicians, as well as you have partners in medical devices industry. How important is it to get customers into the product development?

Sakari: It’s very important to us. In our case the skills which are needed to use the product are very unique as well as they are completely different from the skills needed to create this product. Doctors are using it, and we are building solutions for them, so it is absolutely crucial to cooperate all the time. Currently, we have weekly workshops with different doctors: they are looking at what we are doing and are giving us feedback, and we are fine tuning our features accordingly as well as we are constantly asking our customers what they need and what can be improved.

Doctors are using it, and we are building solutions for them, so it is absolutely crucial to cooperate all the time.

Galina: How about other companies? Often young entrepreneurs are afraid to show their ideas to the public because it might get copied. What do you think about this?

Sakari: As a co-founder myself I understand that it is really difficult to go out, and you always think that everybody will steal your idea. I think it is good, when you are afraid about ideas, because it shows that it is valuable for you, it’s your money and work and you don’t want to give it out to just anybody, you keep it close. That is good, because it means your mindset is correct. BUT you have to as soon as possible share it with as many people or instances as you can. You may want to meet venture capitalists, doctors, others, and you have to have to show what you got to them. And in reality, nobody will steal your ideas, but they will help you to go forward. Some people think that they can only be successful if they are working in stealth mode, in the dark side there without telling anybody, and that is totally wrong. I wouldn’t recommend doing that to anybody, maybe only in some very special cases, because it is vital to get the feedback.

Galina: To wrap up the interview I would like to talk about Disior collaboration with students and Digital Wellbeing Sprint! I know that Disior works very closely with universities. Could you tell us more about these collaborations and why are they important?

Sakari: We love cooperating with students and taking parts in events like Digital Wellbeing Sprint, because every now and then we learn something new! That is difficult not only for the young companies. You have to open up, prepare and go outside the office, otherwise you only develop your product by yourself. It is really fruitful to see how others are trying to solve the challenge that you have been digging by yourself, it opens up new perspectives and generates plenty of new ideas.

We love cooperating with students and taking parts in events like Digital Wellbeing Sprint, because every now and then we learn something new!

Galina: In 2019, Disior participated in Digital Wellbeing Sprint as a partner company, could you tell us about this experience?

Sakari: Yes, we have been there, and we liked it, we got ideas and we got a new fresh look for the challenge that we were solving. The challenge was a marketing type of planning, which we thought about ourselves and opened it up for the DWS. We were able to get valuable input there. It helped us a lot, and it is not only that you get new ideas, but your own solutions will be reviewed by the eyes of somebody else, which in turn will prevent you from making mistakes, and that’s why it’s very important, I think and that is why we are always interested in this kind of stuff.

Galina: Any advice for the companies and students participating this year Digital Wellbeing Sprint?

Sakari: In these kinds of events and actually just in general, it is important to open the mind, take the lead by yourself and bring your ideas to life or make that happen. Don’t wait for someone to give you all the answers and all the information, make it your own way. It’s critical to adopt this mindset of ”hey, let’s make this happen!” and “let’s create this!”

Galina: What a great statement to wrap up! Thank you for the interview, Sakari and let’s make it happen!

Sakari’s session took place this morning, on Wednesday, 26th of May at Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021!

Digital Wellbeing Sprint started today Yleinen

The second virtual Digital Wellbeing Sprint started today!

Every year Digital Wellbeing Sprint (DWS) brings together students from different disciplines and partner organizations from the health and wellbeing sectors to solve challenges. The teams approach these challenges through design, prototyping and testing their ideas with potential users. This is the second time that the sprint is organized virtually.

– This year we have a really diverse group of students, partners and inspirational speakers, says Michelle Sahal Estimé, DWS Project Manager. We have 45 student participants from both Bachelor and Master levels and six partners ranging from startups to an international company and civil society, Michelle adds.

The virtual sprint started with getting to know each other, the inspirational keynote speech by Minna Hendolin, Leading Specialist, Health data 2030 at Sitra followed by developing a deeper understanding of the challenges. The keynote focused on the future of healthcare through the lenses of strategic foresight and megatrends. Minna introduced new and developing technologies used in the healthcare field and also told us how changed business models and ecosystems are changing the healthcare field. The field has also seen some rapid changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Minna shed some light on these during her speech.

Other inspirational speakers during the sprint include Sakari Soini, CTO and Co-Founder of Disior, who will share Disior’s success story on Wednesday and Lauri Kuronen, Senior Business Advisor from Health Capital Helsinki, who will teach students to prepare a winning pitch on Friday.

The seven day long sprint will continue until 28th of May when the student teams will pitch their final creations to the partners and the other teams.

– The pitches will be live-streamed on Facebook, so mark your calendars and join us on the 28th to cheer for the student teams and get inspired – Michelle concludes.

More information:

Michelle Sahal Estimé, Project Manager michelle.sahalestime(at)laurea.fi

Digital Wellbeing Sprint is a seven-day intensive course organized by 3AMK Universities of Applied Sciences – Haaga-Helia, Laurea and Metropolia. This year’s sprint partners are AddSecure, Emooter, Hivpoint, Hublet, Seniors in Shape and ViaEsca.


Discussing the past and future with Hivpoint

In anticipation for the upcoming Digital Wellbeing Sprint, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sami Tuunainen from Hivpoint, The Finnish HIV Foundation.  Hivpoint is a non-profit organisation founded in 1986 that promotes health, wellbeing and equality for people affected by HIV. They focus on people living with HIV, their families and loved ones and any other people that are concerned or have questions about HIV. Hivpoint is joining Digital Wellbeing Sprint for the first time and we, the Sprint crew wanted to discuss their motivation for joining  and expectations as well as get to know more about the organisation. 

Sami’s story with Hivpoint started in the 90s when he started working as a volunteer, answering the helpline and opening the door for people who came for testing. He followed a different path after that but came back years later and now he has been serving as project coordinator within the organization since 2014. Under his coordination Hivpoint developed the HIV rapid testing, weekly HIV Testing Service, the mobile testing unit for different events, parks and most recently the full low threshold STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) testing for gay and bisexual men. They recently started a new project and hope the Sprint will help them find the best solutions for this challenge. 

HIV still carries stigma

According to Sami there is still lack of information about HIV, even after all these years since HIV was first diagnosed. The lack of information is probably related to the stigma surrounding HIV. Many people still don’t know that HIV is a chronic illness and when well treated, an HIV positive person can live a normal life without the worry of passing on the infection. Hivpoint is doing diligent work to raise awareness and they focus a lot on their target groups, the people who are the most vulnerable to contracting HIV. Sami believes there are still a lot of misconceptions and old information in peoples’ minds, even though many things have changed in the last decades.  

There is a lot of information available about HIV on how you can or cannot get it and what kind of illness it is, but still, there is a lot of misconceptions, even within the target groups. 

He also believes that the stigma is related to the fact that HIV is a sexually transmitted infection. It also contributes to the stigma that vulnerable groups include gay and bisexual men and that people don’t have the newest information about what kind of illness HIV is nowadays.

The history of HIV still affects perceptions today

It may be easy for some of us to remember how more than 20 years ago HIV was all over the headlines and the illness itself was like a big trauma. People were scared and the sick were heavily stigmatized because of the lack of information and misinformation. In recent years however the discussions about the virus have almost completely disappeared. Sami pointed out jokingly that probably one of the reasons why people don’t talk about the virus anymore is since HIV is probably not in fashion anymore”, but on a more serious note he stated that one of the reasons is that these days good treatment is available and it’s not such a big issue anymore. 

But when it comes to someone’s mind, they always remember what was happening and how the situation was 20 years ago. I think that still, the biggest misconceptions are related to what activities carry the  risk for HIV. Many people are still scared and wonder if they can be in the same room with an HIV positive person, if they can kiss? We are still getting questions from people if they can get it from the toilet seat or someone else’s toothbrush or even from mosquitoes, even though we’ve known from the beginning that none of these things have any risk for HIV. 

Major breakthroughs in HIV treatment in recent years, but no cure yet

One of the biggest changes came about 10 years ago when HIV treatment became so effective that an HIV positive person on proper treatment  could not pass on the virus to anyone else, even during unprotected sex. This was the biggest change in HIV history as Sami explained. 

“That basically meant that an HIV positive person who was on effective treatment didn’t have to be afraid of infecting anyone, not even their sex partners. However, most of the new infections in western countries, also in Finland come from people who don’t know that they have HIV. That is why it is very important to have these tests and adjusting services so that people who might be at risk for HIV can get tested easily.” 

Sami continues by explaining that the most effective way to prevent new infections is to be tested and diagnosed early on so you can get the treatment, in that way stopping the spread. “After the treatment starts to work, a person can’t infect anyone. And this is something that we still need to spread awareness about.“ 

Currently there is also preventive treatment called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), that is essentially a medicine that can be taken as an HIV prevention method prior to exposure to the virus. It is used by HIV negative people to prevent infection and is recommended for people with the highest HIV risk. Even though finding a cure might not be very close, according to Sami a new injectable treatment was recently made available. The treatment is injected once a month or every other month. People living with HIV will have this option for treatment, which is already a positive change compared to the treatment of taking a pill every day. 

Hivpoint’s rapid shift towards digitalization 

Our discussion shifted to the very current topic of digitalization and how Hivpoint has adjusted to the increasing demand for digitalization.  Sami explained that as for many other organizations, the shift happened very fast during the pandemic. Especially their online chat service on their webpage has started to be in big demand although it was introduced a few years earlier. As for their work practices, they are working from home but even the in-house meetings are now also on Teams even when they are at the office, so that they can keep the safe distance. Following the restrictions brought by the Covid pandemic they are also doing their trainings and webinars online, as well as training the volunteers for example. 

We discussed some positive aspects brought by the pandemic, and Sami believes that in some situations meetings and trainings have been more effective virtually, money can be saved as you don’t need to travel, pay for hotel rooms and especially you don’t have to use your time for travelling. “Basically, you can be more effective in your work and do lots of things” Sami says. However the cons are related especially to socializing and the ideation process, as Sami puts it “when you are socializing with people, I feel that there is some kind of brainstorming and it’s overall a better environment for new ideas.” Ideally, we should be able to do a hybrid option where you have the possibility to combine the two working practices, Sami concludes.  

Talking about the shift into providing digital services, Hivpoint is planning to develop a secure video conference or video counselling system and chat system. Following the drastic decrease of funding they have experienced in 2021, they had to close offices and sites and even though they have clients all over Finland, they currently only have an office in Helsinki. This is the biggest reason Sami thinks it’s important to offer secure online counselling, trainings, and meetings. 

Hivpoint’s challenge at the Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021

As the discussion turned toward Hivpoint’s challenge at the Digital Wellbeing Sprint, Sami explained that he is coordinating a new 3-year project to offer a new kind of service related to sexually transmitted infections. He hopes that the students will give eye opening suggestions and come up with out of the box ideas at the Sprint, especially because they might not be so familiar with the subject, and are more likely to come up with unbiased solutions.  

Our challenge is about sexual health and how we can increase STI contact tracing. The main challenge is this: if someone gets an STI, they have to inform their partners that they need to get tested. The way it’s done currently is by phone call, text message or email and the doctor or nurse can do it from the place where you get treated or from where you got tested. But we know that there is also stigma and shame around STIs. So basically, we are looking for ideas on how to increase the contact tracing as an anonymous service. A digital service through which you can inform your partners to get tested anonymously – Sami explains.  

Critical aspects of the challenge include security, safety, reliability and that it can’t be abused in a sense of sending false information. Hivpoint has already conducted their own research but hope students will roll up their sleeves and find interesting solutions on how they can conquer this delicate challenge. One critical aspect about STIs is that they quite often do not have any symptoms, they’re asymptomatic. Basically, if you don’t get the information that you might have it, or that there has been a risk, you probably won’t get tested – making this challenge so important as a prevention of new infections.  

I would like to end by thanking Sami for the enthusiastic discussion and informative content I hope many will find useful. The Sprint crew and Hivpoint are excited to see the solutions proposed by the students at the Digital Wellbeing Sprint starting on 21st of May 2021.  

Hivpoint promotes health, wellbeing and equality for those most affected by HIV. They work tirelessly to raise awareness about prevention of HIV infections and offer testing services, counselling and other support services related to HIV and sexual health. If you want to support Hivpoint, you can reach out on their webpage and find out more about how you can help (https://hivpoint.fi). Both donations and volunteers are especially needed and would help the organization tremendously.  

This blog was written by Elena Howlader, facilitator in Digital Wellbeing Sprint 2021. Elena is currently studying Service Innovation and Design Masters degree in Laurea University of Applied Science and has a background in visual design.  

Data has a better idea DWS

Designing the future with digital data

Data-driven economy is one of the key trends of 2020s, and the digital world is redesigned by data. We see the results every day in social media and other websites with personalized content and ads. Considering the health and wellbeing business, data offers major opportunities to build personalized solutions that help people to stay healthier and happier. I sat down with our inspirational speaker Minna Hendolin from Sitra to discuss data and its possibilities in healthcare.

“There is a need to radically redesign how we deliver practice and think about health care”, she states and continues: “The changing demographics and demands challenge the health care sector from the reactive model that we’re actually still in. Unfortunately, health still lags behind other sectors in harnessing digital transformation, the potential of data and advanced technologies. This means missing the opportunity to save a significant number of lives and even billions of euros of business.”

This means missing the opportunity to save significant number of lives and even billions of euros of business.”

Minna Hendolin, Sitra

Even though digital health and data provide a world of opportunities, health data is considered sensitive. It can be associated with leaks and hacking. Individuals, organizations, and society must take data protection and privacy seriously in order to create successful and reliable systems.

“The term sensitive data, it’s not only about health. All data that you can link to a personal identity is sensitive. People have been quite open to give the data in social media or when they are buying things. As a user or customer you should be able to know, and hopefully be a co-architect in determining when it’s used”, Hendolin sums up. She calls for data literacy: “Every person should have an understanding of where my data is, how it is used, how can I manage my data. The ethical but is that not everybody has the capability or interest for that. What is the responsibility of organizations, and how much can be regulated and legislated by the society?”

Bring in the right partners

When creating new solutions in wellness and healthcare, the ideal is to involve the right people. This means both service providers and companies and their customers and users. A multidisciplinary approach is needed to be able to combine expertise in different areas. Ecosystems are an important phenomenon in health and wellbeing business, and one element that brings them together is sharing data.

“In an ecosystem there is a possibility for different parties to work together by co-creating and developing together. They share data and expertise, finding solutions for the unmet needs. Ecosystem is a catalyst for innovation and business growth”, Minna Hendolin explains. She mentions as an example the CleverHealth Network, an ecosystem in healthcare sector that brings together almost 20 partners from medical and tech companies to public institutions.

Ecosystem is a catalyst for innovation and business growth.”

Minna Hendolin, Sitra

Never forget the real people

When developing new digital solutions, it is important to keep in mind the real people. How do they benefit and what does our solution offer? In the end, the value to customers is the only thing that matters. The winning concept combines a human-centric approach, networks, and digitalization.

“If you think about digital platforms and data services solutions, the problem is that we have so many channels, making us totally confused. Winners are those, who can combine different channels or interfaces. How can I bring value to the customer, and where does that value come from?” Minna Hendolin contemplates. “Then, we come back to data ecosystems. Can I create better solutions by combining data from several sources and add value to all partners in my ecosystem by sharing data in a fair way?”

Hendolin also highlights the evolving altruism in society. “It means that you are ready to share your data, for instance. Without getting any reward, for good purposes. How is this really changing the way services and business models develop?”

Towards a healthier tomorrow

The world has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing people to stay home and avoid contact with people outside their family members. Digital solutions are needed everywhere. To this point, managing with the complex pandemic situation has required resilience on a personal stage. On the other hand, foresight and data-based management on a societal scale have been discussed maybe more than ever. Is it possible to build a better tomorrow with data?

“We are able to build a more resilient and sustainable society with data. We are more prepared when we understand things better”, Hendolin says. “By building society and healthcare with data, it is possible to create personalized services for people, that are time and location independent. Data enables better policies and better decisions. This helps allocating the limited resources where they are needed and to emphasise the prevention of problems.”

By building society and healthcare with data, it is possible to create personalized services for people, that are time and location independent.”

Minna Hendolin, Sitra

In both private and public sector, services are designed by people for people. In the era of data economy and rapid technological progress, it is easy to get confused. “Never forget the consumer, the people, the persons. You can make them involved”, Minna Hendolin advises. As Digital Wellbeing Sprint approaches, this message is important to keep in mind.

Text: Johanna Hentunen, Master Student in Service Design, Laurea UAS