What do social entrepreneurs need to transform a good idea into a working business model and to start their own business in the end?
This question is the starting point for a project, I kicked-off this week together with a highly motivated project team consisting of colleagues with different background, different roles and from different areas within SAP. And thank god – we have our customer from the very beginning also on board and within the team as we run this project together with our external partner iq consult – one of the leading and most influencing player in the area of social entrepreneurship located in Berlin.
The goal of this project is for sure a working (software) solution for our users in the end. Besides that, it is also a great chance to give interested colleagues from the TIP Core organization and also other areas within SAP the possibility to work with new methodologies and technologies – not in a “pure training mode” but in “real-life”, with real users, real time and corporate constraints but also with the chance to build a real product.
And doing this there are some questions: What does is mean to integrate design thinking from the very beginning into the project? How can we create and ensure a trust-full, open and creative team culture? What´s about our working model – how do we do Scrum and agile software methodologies in an innovation project? What does it mean to “go out of the building” and to be prepared for a lot of interviews with our potential users? And what the hack are these “warmups” we have to do every morning?
Innovation for me always starts with the people – therefore we also started our kick-off week with – the team. Who are these guys in the team? Not only regarding their professional roles and experiences but also regarding their general interests and skills. As we would like to have T-shaped people (i.e. people with deep professional expertise but also wide general interests and skills) – we created our T-shapes and put them together on the wall. Interesting to see how different people we have – perfect precondition for creative teamwork later one from my point of view.
For our second day we planned a first design thinking iteration into our problem space. Although most of the team members never used design thinking before we did not talk a lot about this hot topic before, but directly started using it. And as re-inventing the wheel is normally just waste of time I used the very well documented and prepared wallet exercise from the design thinking gurus at Stanford. And it worked perfect from my point of view and the number of created ideas around the perfect wallet was surprising. In the afternoon we then jumped into our topic and worked on two more concrete questions in our problem space to get more familiar with the topic.
At the end of the day everybody was exhausted – yep, time pressure could also foster creativity – but also had a good first understanding about design thinking – just by doing it.
Innovation needs for sure a clear user-focus – therefore we used our third day for an in-depth preparation of our research week in Berlin where we will meet (almost) all relevant people in the area of social entrepreneurship who are located in Berlin. Who should we ask what? How to setup an interview? What do we have to keep in mind besides our questions? Why is it also important not only to listen but also to take care about emotions and any kind of observations we get during an interview? And last but not least: can we try it out?
Also good during this day: we met our project sponsor Björn Görke, who is the lead of the TIP Core organization. Good to know that he is very interested in the work we do and what he is expecting from us.
The forth day was then again focused on team topics and discussions about our preferred working mode and team rules. When and how will we do our daily standup? How do we handle conflicts within the team and what does it mean to follow commonly agreed team decisions? Do we need a scrum master and do we have some volunteer (yes, we had)?
Interesting for me was the discussions about our further project plan and the different opinions about the question when we should start building software? The range was from “after weeks of design thinking iterations” to “tomorrow” – and I loved these important discussions (which for sure will continue in the next weeks and months) as this is one of the most challenging decision in a innovative software project from my point of view.
And as we have to “be visual” – we again did not talk about it but just did it: Sketching, drawing, with hands, on paper and on the iPad. And the results were really impressive – although everybody of course complains about that “oh sorry, I can not do this”.
That was our first week – and now I am looking forward to our research week in Berlin starting next Monday. Keep you posted …
Last but not least: YES, we did it. Every day. Several times. YES, we did warmups. And it was fun. Pure fun. And we will continue to do it 😉