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Let me just continue when Embracing Inclusion with Design Thinking event story. Second part of this “Embracing Inclusion with Design Thinking – Driving Innovation” event was about Design thinking.

We had no idea what to expect but we had expected something like a methodology how to be opened, stay opened and through the openness create cool things. We all got a schema of a “Design thinking” process, a set of instructions and hints and examples how to approach the problem we face and last but not least: THE problem.

In our case the problem – the question we were supposed to answer was: “How might we carry tonight ideas to our daily lives”. We were supposed to create something (we were asked for a prototype, so something what one really builds) that would answer that question.

We were seven of us, from different countries, different companies, at different age and we never saw each other before. I personally had no idea how to follow a completely strange methodology and create something what was supposed to be personal, based on consensus and trust, with the strangers. From the very beginning it was obvious that it is a heroic task, that we faced. We understood the question we were supposed to answer differently.  Then we started arguing about what the ideas mentioned in the questions are. Whether that`s something about the “men/ women equality” which we discussed in detail during the evening before or it is supposed to be about the “diversity” or “inclusion”. We even started arguing about the wording. I saw no way how to build something, not even thinking about finishing that in the given time frame.

What are we supposed to deliver?

One of the doubts I had was: “what are we supposed to deliver?”. I am very much task oriented, because I know that nobody is going to do my work for me. But this time the short lecture we got about the design thinking was very vague, more or less about “being open”, “being emphatic”, looking for a compromise etc.

I knew that it is not always the most important thing – to deliver. I learnt my lesson years ago while giving the educational sessions for children. A team of people was supposed to teach the children over the weekend and help them use what we were teaching them to create something as an example and a memory at the same time. Having the deadline in mind, I was pushing those children to work harder to create something they could take home. If you have an artifact, you can recall the lectures and the process more easily I though. But then one of my colleagues, very smart and very nice lady taught me the lesson: “You cannot push those children too hard. They`re not adults, so do not try to treat them like that.” And then the important part came: “This time try to be more process oriented and less task oriented. Make the thing fun for them. A challenge, a game, but do not push them”.

So I knew that sometimes delivering is not the most important part. But this situation does not occur often, so I started complaining I don`t understand the “spec”. Later I learnt this lesson again. Yes, delivering is not always the most important thing… but let`s say artifact still makes the time and effort look more meaningful.

We started arguing…

We started working on the task. We were trying to suggest possible approaches. We were suggesting answers for that question from the very beginning. We were arguing about what the ideas were. And the, instead of saying things like “I think…”, “I cannot agree with you…”, “I would rather see this…” we started sharing stories.

When somebody wanted to justify his opinion he used personal example or a personal story to point out the important part. The goal was to help others feel little empathy with his/ her opinion. We were hoping that the approach will help us find a consensus. Something that would answer our question. Something that we can show the others at the end and say: “ok, this is 42, the answer to the ultimate question of our lives”. But as the time flied we were focusing less and less on the outcome, taking notes or finding compromise. Rather we enjoyed the stories and jokes and were getting to know each other.

…but we had a nice time and somehow “changed”

We had a nice time, we really had. But then somebody said: “Ok, folks, ten minutes, we all do final presentations of what we have in ten minutes”. Then we realized that we have nothing. We didn’t have a presentation, a speech, a PowerPoint, an artifact, nothing that would justify the time we spent working on “the problem”. We started panicking trying to quickly agree on what we say when others ask us what we have.

…and the inspiration really came to us. One of the things that were common in many of the stories was how somebody influenced us, did something nice for us what pushed us forward, gave us an impulse to change something, improve something, do something nice. Stories very on various topics: how I started blogging on SCN, how I realized that I must not forget to tell my parents that I love them, how important thing it is to feel that my work makes a difference, that it gives me a personal purpose. Stories were about strangers, as well as about our children, partners, parents, friends. Everything was very personal and all those stories were somehow touching one thing: “How somebody did something nice for us asking nothing in return”.

We delivered after all

The original question was how to “implement” (what a geeky word for such an event) something from the event, from the ideas and discussions into the real life. It is not really possible to create something that will change or at least influence people in two hours. If that would be possible, somebody would do that before us or would be doing that every day. There was another constraint in my opinion. You cannot tell other people what to do, this is not how it works. Why would people listen to you, why would they follow the order and why would they do it for a long time so it makes sense, so it makes a difference. So we had to come up with something that would not give people the order to do something, but rather a different informal push they can act upon if they want.

And then It became crystal clear! We can inspire other people. We can tell them what happened to us, what others did for us, maybe what we did for others and inspire them to do something like that for another stranger. Make him a day. Give him something he won`t ever forget and will make his live better.

We all shared the stories, because they meant so much to us and we agreed on one terrible thing: we won`t ever be able to repay to those people. But hey, do you remember the movie. The one that people often talk about? Paying it forward? I must admit I didn`t know what this motto (the name of the movie) meant. I was afraid it is just another empty phrase some people use to “be nice”. But this time I understood. I felt it. And I think other members of the team felt something similar. It felt nice, so I hope they felt the same.

The topic, the idea has been around for quite a while. So you can ask why I talk about that. Well, I really felt it this time and understood that. If we can help a single individual to understand that and feel it too, then it is worth a try right? So we wrote a blog, which you can read here, about what we felt together. It is not very coherent, each of us wrote a part, but it is a team work and a proof of what openness and sharing can do with a group of nice people, who don’t know each other from before.

Artifacts and memories

Embracing inclusion and design thinking team blog. I thank you all the ladies and gentlemen on my team (in order of seating clockwise): Tom Cenens, Raquel Cunha, Roel van der Berge, Jens Steckhan, Katharine Seiz, Florian Speth.

Somebody did a video about our final presentation of the ”results” too. When I find that one online I add it to the blog, or post a comment, because you have to see that to believe. I tried to represent the team, because I am the speaker in the video, but as I say in the beginning: My name is not important as I am just another member of the team. I thank them for the experience that deeply touched me and hope that I communicated our team effort so the others can understand what happened.

Anybody can create a magic. Do something nice and remember our message. Live a better live.

Further reading:

Embracing Inclusion with Design Thinking event story + Embracing inclusion and design thinking team blog

TechEd Las Vegas coverage on the same event

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  1. Susan Keohan
    I love ‘Pay it Forward’ – and I was so pleased that at SAPTechEdLV, Mark Yolton used it to introduce the SCN Moderators and SAP Mentors.
    I wish I could have been there to hear all those wonderful stories!
  2. Kumud Singh
    When I attended Design thinking at Bangalore,
    the topic chosen was Gender Diversity. Believe me,there were many occassions wherein we entered into sort of hot discussions and calmed down upon by event moderators saying that we might not reach to the solution right away but we can highlight the problems. However, at the end all of us in that team were on the same page and happily befriended each other.Best Part.
  3. Michelle Crapo

    Smile – you’re as bad as Kumud.  I’m an American and add a little “sugar” to my statements.  I’ve heard it’s because I’m an American. 

  4. Raquel Pereira da Cunha
    This blog describes most of my feelings and thoughts during the Design Thinking part of the event. It’s incredible how you could put in words the details of our experience as a group. I’m impressed. I was already impressed by the way we felt touched and comfortable together after only some hours..of course touched and comfortable in different levels, some of us more, and others less. Reading your 3 blogs made me want to have a chance to live that moment again, to meet the other 6 members of our group for some more hours.
    I remember very well how you made me start talking asking me personal and deep questions about myself. The way you asked made me feel umconfortable, more than the question itself. But somehow it triggered in me a desire to talk about my feelings and say what I really had in mind at that moment, regardless of if it would be nice to say those things in front of a group of people that I had never seen before. I just felt a need to answer immediately and be completely honest. And I think somehow it also made us all start to share our stories, feelings and experiences.

    I remember how hard it was to find out which idea we should use and how many pieces of paper we wrote with questions and answers, trying to agree with something, as we all had different points of view. But we finally felt very comfortable with each other sharing our stories, and we had a great time, so that pressure for delivering a result disappeared for a moment. The decision of writing a blog as a result was great, and after disagreeing on so many things we easily agreed on it. It was really funny that moment, we laughed a lot.

    I had a wonderful experience in that event, in both parts, and really want to see the photos and videos of our group and the others. Thank you so much for writing these 3 blogs (ok, 1 of them was our team’s blog, we all wrote a part, but you put the pieces together and published, so thank you!). I would not be able to describe our experience in a better way. 

    Best regards,


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