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A Sketch Tells A Thousand Words

Can you draw?  I suspect a vast majority of

you will immediately answer NO! /wp-content/uploads/2013/05/drawingkids_212134.jpg

Well don’t worry, you might not be able to draw, but anyone can sketch!!  Visualising ideas and insights through the use of sketching is a very powerful technique that helps support thinking and true understanding.  It’s a great and refreshing alternative to PowerPoint and I actively look to include sketching into my everyday work life.

I joined SAP in April 2012, and was very quickly introduced to “Design Thinking with SAP”.  In the simplest terms, it is a mindset or approach and a set of tools that seeks to solve problems using the combination of Design Thinking and Business Thinking to create value.  I will post more about Design Thinking and my experiences going forward, but if you want to find out more now this video is a good starting point:

Sketching is just one of the six core tools that we use for Design Thinking;

Six Tools For Design Thinking.jpg

Sketching is often known as the king of Design Thinking tools, because it is simple, portable, and can clarify meaning beyond words. We use this heavily to create artifacts that steer the direction of our interactions in a Design Thinking framework.

Why use sketching?
The great thing about sketching is that you can actually get new understanding and meaning emerging from the process itself (as opposed to ‘drawing’ or diagramming an existing thought).  It is utterly superior to PowerPoint  – because you can share back and forth on ideas very easily.  When you’re sketching, if helps you to focus on what’s important – you can’t sketch every detail – it forces you to be far more focused on what’s important to your customer / stakeholder and you’ll give them room to make the connection between your important points and their context.


It’s not about being Leonardo da Vinci!

It’s about creating quick, simple, accessible sketches that everyone can understand, leaving space for others to add their own sketches; see my two happy customers below, and also my 5 year old son Luke’s picture (He wanted to have a go after seeing me sketching on my iPad – I left space for him to add his own sketch!)

/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/manwoman_212170.jpglukes person.jpg


Prior to joining SAP I was working for DHL (The shipping / logistics company); working in the logistics industry pretty much demands the need for sketching and whiteboarding to convey complex models and support discussions with internal and external stakeholders at all levels. 

The example sketch below is showing a 4th party logistics (4PL) model – whereby a customer has outsourced their entire supply chain to Logistics Provider (e.g. DHL) who operates a control tower approach to provide central management of an end to end supply chain from raw material, ocean carrier, supplier, truck carrier, manufacturer, airline carrier, wholesaler, truck carrier, retailer, express parcel carrier to end customer.


My Sketching Inspiration: Lateral Thinking & Sketching

A couple of years ago I saw Edward de Bono present at a Gartner conference in London…….  He got up on stage and proceeded to turn on an Overhead Projector and got out a pile of transparencies… (transpararent sheets)  Initially I was a bit skeptical and thought this was a bit of an old fashioned approach…. However each of his transparencies were blank and he proceeded to draw a large number of simple sketches to support each of his points.  It turned out to be one of the most memorable , compelling and inspiring presentations I have ever seen!! Very interesting insights regarding the way we think and how our minds work! Below is a link to one of De Bono’s conference keynotes:


Give sketching a try today – you will be amazed by the impact it can have on your everyday work life! Most of all – Have Fun!!

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      Author's profile photo Marilyn Pratt
      Marilyn Pratt

      Welcome Matt!  This is great content and content sharing.  Nicolle Gurule Sternberger and Jeremy Thomas are working on curating Design Thinking content for SCN.  Bringing this to the attention of Brian Bernard as well.

      I think the Edward de Bono clip is excellent.  Had heard about him but not familiar with this video.  Great share. Love the way his talk is illustrated and framed.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!  I believe it was Thorsten Franz introduced me to De Bono's work on pattern recognition!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Marilyn!  Many thanks!!  🙂   Nicolle recently explain to me about the Design Thinking SCN space, and I have agreed for this blog post to be moved to that area once it is live.  If you like De Bono - then make sure you read his book on Lateral Thinking.

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      Hi Matt, it was obvious for me since your initial Blog It Forward - Matt Champion post that Design Thinking is your passion. Thanks for agreeing to move this post to the new Design Thinking topic space!

      I frequently use sketching in my workshops and team coaching sessions - the combined visual and mechanical approach really helps to convey concepts or even to get everyone aligned. (I love how your son signed his drawing. 🙂 )


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks Jason!! 😳   I am truly passionate about Design Thinking!  I am actively encouraging more of my colleagues to use sketching - it's such an effective way of communicating! 



      Author's profile photo Krysten Gentile
      Krysten Gentile

      Great post Matt! I am a Community Consultant for SCN and helped build the Design Thinking space.  Your post and use of visuals has given me a better understanding on how I can incorporate DT into my work!



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Krysten!  Well done on establishing the Design Thinking space - it's great to have a place to tell the world all about what we are doing here at SAP  🙂 .  Many thanks for the feedback! 



      Author's profile photo xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct)
      xMoshe Naveh (Old Acct)


      Thank you for this interesting post! I hope to see more of these on SCN

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Moshe - Many thanks!  Be sure to share your experiences with Design Thinking! 



      Author's profile photo Tom Cenens
      Tom Cenens

      Hi Matt

      Thank you for this blog post.

      Last year, we (Belgian SAP Mentors) organized a SAP Inside Track in Belgium and we had a "World Cafe" session around the question "Which issues have you seen on the people side of SAP?".

      A graphical artist was present to capture the conversations and conclusions. The sketch holds the conversations, the issues and possible ways to solve the issues.

      I found that the sketch was extremely powerful to capture the session and to go back to afterwards review what was said and which conclusions were drawn. There is a lot of detail present there.

      I have a more up close picture of the sketch but somehow, adding a picture in the comments here is disabled. Here is a picture of Frederic holding up the sketch and explaining it: Note the design thinking in the lower right corner 😉 .

      Best regards


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Tom,

      Yes Visual and graphical facilitation can be very powerful and leaves a nice and very memorable artefact post-event.  There are obviously times when it is appropriate to get a designer in to do this kind of thing, however lets all remembers - we can all do simple sketching as well 😆



      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      great post Matt Champion . Love the de Bono video, not only for that the his sketching allows the audiance to much better follow his talk but also for the point that the act of exploring different perspectives allows to get truly creative and find new solutions. 

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Heike!

      Many thanks for the feedback! If you like De Bono - then definintely read Lateral Thinking!  I was really inspired by his presentation - he made a very good point that in many school education systems children are not actually taught any "thinking" skills, it's a good point and there should definitely be more of this in education.

      Looking forward to seeing your future posts in this space 🙂