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Author's profile photo Maurizio Cattaneo

Design Thinking for Utilities – A mini trial at the 2013 International Utilities Conference

David Moyer (Global Service Portfolio lead for Industries) and Maurizio Cattaneo (Global Energy & Natural Resource Hub Lead for Utilities) conducted a very successful mini-Design Thinking session at the International Utilities Conference in Copenaghen on April 17th

This mini workshop lasted only four hours, instead of the normal 2-3 days,  with the intent to provide attendees with a taste of how to use Design Thinking concepts at their companies once they return back to base.

A team of 13 people from Customes, Partners and SAP engaged in very fast moving stages, simulating a formal Design Thinking workshop, going through:


We identified several possible challenges ahead of the workshop and the group selected: “What would be the best way to educate customers (Residential) on reducing daily utilities?”

We then asked them to do a brain dump on all aspects of this challenge.

·     360 Research

We skipped this step as there was no time to do in depth, but David spent about 15 minutes explaining various aspects of what is involved in this step, how to do it and who should be involved and how critical is to develop a real, workable, solution to the challenge and how it often can take more time than the other sections of the workshop.

·     Synthesis

Having skipped the 360 Research step due to time, we had the participants group the brain dumps from the Scoping section. We also had them create personas to show them how to direct any ideas they might come up with to a specific person.

·      Ideation

During this portion we kept to brainstorming and “How might we…” questions.  We also let the participants create a Journey Map as a way to show how these steps can work together. 

·      Prototyping

The teams produced (very) low-fidelity prototypes given the amount of time again.  David did stress that this step can take a very long time based on those in the workshop, the challenge, skills of attendees and potential results, with potentially several iterations and rework.  All of the prototypes were flip-chart based drawings of web-based solutions that they were quite proud of!

·       Validation

Each team presented their prototype to the other two teams in roughly five minutes.

·       Implementation

We did not do any implementation for obvious reasons but several mentioned that the ideas presented could be done relatively easily once they were vetted internally. 

The participants thought the workshop was a well worthy exercise, scoring it very high (12 “Excellent”, 1 “Very Good).

Even in the short time available, they were able to at least see the steps and realize that input from many different sources helped develop a more robust solution:

“I have learned a lot from it (DT workshop);  it is a new approach for us in dealing with multidimensional problems in a very disciplined and spear headed manner.”

“…the more varied backgrounds and experiences team members have, the more complete solutions could be developed”

Design Thinking is a method that allows companies to move through specific steps in an effort to gain deeper insight to issues they are currently facing.  Through integrating staff from different backgrounds and experiences, they see further into each issue to with a more comprehensive view resulting in a validated solution prior to incurring costs of implementation. 

Design Thinking can be used to improve processes, products, services, markets, and more as they method provides a framework within which to build a solution. 

SAP now provides Design Thinking workshops business areas for their customers to help them develop more complete solutions.

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      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      thanks for sharing your experience Maurizio Cattaneo . In particular i like the participants quotes that emphasizes the power of having different perspectives and experiences and respectively leverarging those. DT provides us a framework to do such.

      I am curious to learn how you will proceed after this workshop.

      Please also post in the DT community 🙂