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My Design Thinking experience

The idea of this blog is to reproduce an article that I wrote last year for the SAP Mentors Quarterly – Q2 2012 and add some information about other DT experiences I had after the Mentors Quarterly was posted. After exchanging some ideas with my mentor Otto Gold, who made a fantastic job with the edition of the SAP Mentors Quarterly, I decided to post the article here in the Design Thinking with SAP place, to which, we both agree, it belongs.


I participated in a workshop about Design Thinking during SAP TechEd 2011 in Madrid. It was part of the event “Embracing Inclusion with Design Thinking – Driving Innovation” sponsored by Women in Technology @SAP. My experience in that event was amazing, first because I had a chance to be on the panel discussing Inclusion and Women in Technology, a very rich and interesting discussion, with many participants sharing their opinions and personal stories, but also because of the Design Thinking workshop (presented by SAP Design Consultant and Service Innovation Program Manager: Heike van Geel) and all I could share and learn with my exceptional group (our experience was described by Otto Gold’s blog series). I feel that this event (not only in Madrid but also in Vegas) was a great inspiration for many people who today share experiences here in SCN and practice DT at Innojam, SAP Inside Tracks and in their own work space or private life all around the world.

Before leaving Madrid I had a quick and inspiring chat with Heike. That was a very nice conversation. I came back home very interested on learning more about DT, and how it could be used in my daily life. I don’t build products, I mostly work with Services, and many of the blogs and videos I found about DT were more related to Product Design. How could I use DT to offer better services to my customers? After talking to my husband, he said that by coincidence he has been in a session about this topic during HSM ExpoManagement in Sao Paulo, which took place at the same time as TechEd Madrid. He said that the session “Design Thinking & Innovation” was presented by a Brazilian Design Thinker who teaches at a School of Advertising and Marketing in Brazil. Unfortunately he works and lives in Rio de Janeiro, and I am in Sao Paulo, but then I found out that there would be a training at the same School, but in SP, starting in Feb 2012, and I quickly registered for it. It was after this training that I realized how much my husband, who is also an IT person graduated in Computer Science just like me, but with his heart on Social and Human Sciences, Philosophy, etc., was teaching me DT during our conversations without being aware of it.

The training “Innovation & Design Thinking” was focused on Service Design, which was great for me. But I could feel that most of the students were there to learn more on Product Design and were a little bit frustrated. But for me, the only IT person in that classroom, it was interesting. The funny thing, and another coincidence, was that one of the 2 teachers has worked as an SAP project manager some time ago, is married to an SAP consultant and have been visiting the D.School, Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. We exchanged some information about Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) and he said that he was surprised when I mentioned it because many SAP consultants have never heard about it. (That was in the beginning of 2012). So, if you are still not aware of it, and want to know more, please visit the HPI website. Here you have the link with the founder information:

Many coincidences have been happening to me regarding Design Thinking. It started with the opportunity given by Marilyn Pratt. She invited me to the TechEd event after talking to one of the Brazilian mentors, who I met during SAP Forum Brazil 2011 in the SCN session and is very close to Marilyn. Then comes the fact that my husband was in a DT event almost at the same time as me, in another part of the world. I have exchanged some e-mails with Heike since the event, and every time I received a message from her I was writing to her at the same time or studying DT or watching a TED video about it. I mentioned that to her once and she said: “coincidence or chance. “Chance favours the connected mind(s)” – Steven Johnson”. Steve Johnson is the author of “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation”

Now talking a little bit about DT, here I point some of the things I learned during my training and readings.

Design Thinking is not a methodology, it’s a way of doing things focused on people in order to change the world. It’s a multidisciplinary approach to innovation, problem-solving oriented and supported by the HCR, Human Centric Research. It’s a group of concepts and skills of a process driven innovation strategies. It integrates new processes of creativity and innovation. Design does not only mean “doing things beautifully” but doing things that work wonderfully better. “Do the right things” and not “Do the things right” as says Daniel Rosenberg, SAP SVP for User Experience, in article Design as Intuitive as the iPhone


Design Thinking has focus on the users, on the usability and not only on the functionalities.

With Design Thinking you organize your creative thoughts with empathy, communication, optimism, experimentation and collaboration. You put the persons and all their needs in the centre when analysing a problem and looking for a solution. You have a challenge, and this challenge is based on 3 things: people, technology and business. You need to be careful and look for results that can be meaningful for the people, technically feasible and economically viable.

fig dt.jpg

The concept of innovation was widely discussed. What is innovation? Innovation according to them is something that causes impact and transforms people’s lives. Innovation can be Breakthrough (Radical) or Incremental. Incremental Innovation means doing more of the same things you have been doing with somewhat better results, while Breakthrough or Radical innovation changes the fundamentals of the business, creating a new industry and new avenues for extensive wealth creation. For instance, as I understood, Invention is an example of Breakthrough Innovation. I read an article on website Intense Minimalism, from Davide Casali, also known as Folletto Malefico, an hybrid interaction designer from Italy, as he calls himself, that explains these types of innovation with metaphors: “incremental innovation is like being on a mountain and trying to reach the top of it. Radical innovation instead is like jumping to a new mountain with the hope that it’s higher than the one you are on.” (

If it’s Radical or Incremental is not important during the design thinking processes, while you are creating a product or a service. You will find out if it was innovation and which kind after it’s done, listening to the users, checking the impacts it caused on the market and on the people who use it.

There are three big phases of Design Thinking processes:

1. Scoping: the insights phase

  • Finding out everything about your challenge and users
  • Going deeper into people’s lives
  • Desk research (look for as much information as possible on internet, books, etc)
  • In-depth Interviews
  • Practicing empathy, observe people, talk to them

2. Ideation: Use all the info you’ve got during scoping and involve people on the creation of relevant solutions, having lots of ideas

  • Storytelling to exchange information between the group
  • Brainstorming
  • Co-creation
  • Collaboration

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”
Linus Pauling, Nobel Prize winning chemist

When I was studying this phase, I realized how much we already use Design Thinking in SCN. SCN is a collaborative network, where we can co-create, discuss, share. And we also have an Idea Place. It seems so obvious after we see it. We are already doing some Design Thinking and we didn’t know it.

3. Prototyping and Realization: Visualize, improve and communicate the ideas to the group and at the end, to all.

  • Early and Late Prototype
  • Experience
  • Test solution
  • Define metrics for validation
  • Validation
  • Present solution

“What I hear I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand!” – Lao Tse – Chinese philosopher

If your solution will be innovative or not, you won’t know before people use it. It will depend on the market, on the impact on people’s lives, on how much they were transformed and loved the solution.

During the training we worked in groups, tested some of the different tools that can be used in each phase, such as storytelling, in-depth interviews, brainstorming and prototyping. We used lots of post-its and pictures. The prototyping phase was particularly nice and funny, with lots of LEGOs



At the end of the training my group presented our project acting as the “personas”, and not just talking and showing power points. We played our users role using the service that we created (our goal was to create a new service to solve a traffic jam problem during big events such as concerts). That was a very interesting way to present our solution.


Our group preparing the presentation of our project


All groups in action

I tried to summarize the concepts of Design Thinking that I could learn during my training. I am still studying it and have a lot to learn and practice.

—— end of article ——

In 2012 I had again the opportunity to learn during TechEds. In Vegas we had an evening event called Role of Empathy in Design Thinking where I could meet Hester Hilbrecht and Slim for the first time. In this event I was invited to be one of the three volunteers to speak, and one of the goals was to describe a moment in life when we felt Empathy was missing. Thanks again to Marilyn. I am very shy but she always makes me feel comfortable and it’s impossible not to accept her invitations. After the speakers finished, all the participants, divided in small groups, had to share their own stories. It was a different experience for many people as we had to open ourselves to people we were just meeting for the first time. A very special moment. And Slim’s presentation was fantastic, people were not even blinking while he was speaking. I missed Heike, she could not be there for the evening event, but she was present during Innojam.

In Madrid we could not have the same event with Slim because of the Strike that happened during TechEd. But the topic was live even though we didn’t have the evening event with Slim thanks to Marilyn and Hester. They spoke in an Expert Networking Session about Empathy in DT and many people joined them. Marilyn also made an informal evening event happen: a Design Thinking dinner where we could discuss the Role of Empathy in DT and know each other a little bit more. We also had the opportunity to meet Julia Dorbic from D-Labs in Postdam. Tom described very well his thoughts and feelings about the evening event and about TechEd Madrid 2012 here: As Tom said in his blog: “When Marilyn Pratt hosts a session, you don’t want to miss out.”

Heike and Slim were missed, I wish they could be there.

TechEd Bangalore 2012 also had an event about Empathy, described by Kumud in her fantastic blog:

Since then I have been in touch sometimes with Slim, which is a pleasure, and have been trying to follow the DT place in SCN and other sources to keep myself updated. I planted the seed in someone’s mind and now a friend of mine is sharing the passion. She found out that a free course called “Human-Centered Design for Social Innovation” offered by Acumen with partnership of ( was going to happen in July and immediately invited me. “It is a five-week course that will introduce you to the concepts of human-centered design and help you use the design process to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change”. We will participate in a group of 4. Let’s see what we can develop during this course.

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    • Thank you very much Slim! You are a source of inspiration, our conversations always open my mind. You know you can count on me whenever you need.

      Best regards,


  • Hi Raquel

    Thanks for sharing. Great blog post with a lot of valuable information.

    The course you mention in the end looks very interesting. I’ll have a look at their curriculum in general as it sparks my interest.

    I’ll be in a Design Thinking workshop next week at SAP Walldorf around SAP Education 🙂 . I’m really looking forward to that. I hope I can share some thoughts afterwards.

    Thx for the mention!

    Best regards


    • Hi Tom,

      Please share your thoughts about this workshop. It’s seems very interesting, and it’s in Walldorf! 🙂 Enjoy!

      Thanks for your comments. How could you not be mentioned? That SAP TechEd was really #likeneverbefore and you described it very well.

      Best regards,


  • Hi Raquel,

    Some time back ago I came across “Design Thinking”, which was, as in now entirely new to me. But I have been trying to absorb it over time, but today after this very nice blog of your’s I have got the sense and purpose of doing it more.

    I relate myself with, that I am also

    an IT person who graduated in Computer Science just like you, but with my heart on Social and Human Sciences, Philosophy, etc.

    I also checked the IntenseMinimalism, it looks pretty cool. The intersection of design, technology & businesses/societies is more I would like to learn about.

    Thanks for writing this right on, actually quite lately I have been overwhelmed with a lot of good content at SCN and I do not want to miss on DT, could you please share me some additional info/blogs/tips on how to go about it in progressive sequence to bring in DT in my work and life.



    • Hi Akshay,

      It took me sometime to reply to you because I was preparing for it 🙂

      Your comments made me very happy. As you have your heart in Human Sciences as you said, you probably already practice some of the concepts of Design Thinking and you were not aware of that. When you think on the user first, on the usability, rather than on the layout, and try to feel what the user would feel when using it (a product or a service) you are practicing DT (IMHO).

      If you follow this DT place in SCN you will find in blogs and comments different references that you can use for learning more. We have many people writing and commenting here, I suggest you to follow them. I mentioned some examples in my blog: Hester Hilbrecht, Julia Dorbic, Heike van Geel, Seung Chan Lim (Slim), Marilyn Pratt,

      Tom Cenens, Otto Gold, but there are also others that are interested on subjects related to Innovation and Design Thinking such as Matthias Steiner, Rui Nogueira, Thorsten Franz, Fred Verheul and Kumud Singh.

      I remember Slim telling me: “Realizing empathy is very difficult”. In one of his videos, he talks about “situations that make us change our understanding of what it means to understand”. He also mentions something that I think I faced many times: “trying to fit an old idea into a new context, and it does not work”.

      Here you have the link of the video.

      I also do some researches on internet to find different perspectives, out of IT and out of SAP too, and talk to friends who are not from IT but are interested in this subject. Sources we have a lot. It’s a matter of putting all this info together and try to use it in our daily life. It’s not very easy, and depending on the situation we can’t use what we learned the way we want. For example, I have some short contracts with short schedules where I have to try to use a little bit of what I learned but not enough as I would like to because the development phase is also too short. But there is always something we can do.

      You can also find some slides about DT here: and here and jump to a lot of others from these links. I like this one:

      Best regards and good luck on your journey.


      • Hi Raquel,

        First of all, My apologies for such a delayed response

        I was on a vacation, though I had read your reply on jive app, I wanted to reply my fullest to the efforts you have taken to reply to me, so here I am 🙂 .


        Thanks a lot for taking the time out and preparing to such great length to make me a part of this. I am Vow’d! 🙂

        Yes, I think I have/do some design thinking when it comes about the user perspective. I mean, I am more of a basis/administration guy so there is not much to what I can think of applying as in like, if an SAP application has to be up and running because the Business runs on it, so I can relate that ok, that is the business reason, but beyond that I think I do understand what it means and feels like on Human level about the unavailability. If I am supposed/expecting to do some task/process on a system and that is not possible at that time, then it leads to a disruption in the state of mind of what I was supposed to do. Morever, if the task/action I was supposed to do is not mission critical, but if there is some sort of empathy with the process/action as in like if the next action is dependent on the previous action. Then there is a disruption in the thought process, however the action is not mission critical and can be done later. I think, though not sure, that what I have been doing here is Design Thinking! 😏

        One more thing that I usually do is like when I am documenting something/ delivering something to someone/ writitng a mail to someone as to introducing the other person to something new. This is the way I go about it, I frame the content, then I look for the order, then some additional pieces/links to get more clarity so much so, that to someone else it may look like my obsession, but my point here is that I would like to control the user experience here. When the other person gets introduced to the object I am introducing, it should not be that he picked up initially but then he chose to draw the implications on his own imaginations and therefore a slighly deviated conclusion. My obsession would be to introduce something with the details (precise), support it with artefacts which are the results of one’s imaginations and then try to create a storyline about how the end-user will experience it and try to put up everything in that order, so that the user’s experience is locked to what I intended to present and there are no loose-ends to the satisfaction of everyone. This I would call my obsession, but if it’s Design thinking I am so glad to say forth, that this isn’t obsession. 😉

        And there are so many of community members engaging in Design Thinking here on SCN, thanks for introducing them to me. I will catch up and try to engage with others and DT on SCN.

        Thank you so much for mentioning such valuable resources, enthusiastic people, videos, presentations about DT, I am greatly overwhelmed. Better late than never!


        And the Steve Job’s slide is wonderful.

        I have always found him and his work very influencing.

        Thanks a ton for sharing your wonderful insight and experience. 🙂

        I am on my way.


        Will keep in touch!


        Best Regards,


  • Hola Raquel!

    It is SO good to READ you! I really like your blog post, and absolutely agree it belongs here!! Thanks for taking the time for putting together all these details, adding your passion for what you experienced and topping it with the kind of spirit that makes this community so lively! It was a great pleasure reading your post! Tom also really grasped the atmosphere we all experienced together last year in Madrid, keep it up guys, I am working on an entry myself to follow your great example!

    Greetings from Shanghai and 36°C 😏 ! -Julia

    • Hi Julia,

      It’s so nice to hear these kind words from you. You are the expert, we have a lot to learn with you. We had such a nice time together in Madrid, it was a pleasure to have you joining us not only during the DT event but in the whole TechEd.

      Hope to see you again this year.

      Cheers from Brazil (not so warm as Shanghai today, only 24°C. It’s winter 🙂 )

      • Dear Raquel- too bad that you are so far away, it would be great to have you join our Design Thinking Training in Eindhoven in August with Fred, Twan, Tom and other brilliant minds who met at Marilyn’s sontaneous empathy session in Madrid last November. Looking forward to seeing you maybe this year at one of the SAP TechEds. Best regards from China, Julia

  • This is great !

    Thank you very much for sharing, it is very useful !

    I just started my adventure with design thinking, It’s hard to belive what impact it has on people who participated in courses so far, and the joy from creating something new and innovative is incredible !

    Could you please share with us, what is your favourite source of information about DT and it’s techniques ? I’d love to learn more about it,

    In the future I would also like to contribute to SCN with my DT experience.

    With regards


    • Hi Krzysztof,

      thank you for your comments.

      As I said to Akshay, SCN has been one of my favourite sources since this Place has been created, but I also do researches on internet, don’t have one favourite. There are also interesting books and videos, and also trainings. At the moment I am participating in a free training from +Acumen and, so you could look for those kinds of training in case you don’t find any on site training in your city. In this training we receive materials every week and send feedbacks and results of our activities.



  • Hi Raquel,

    First of all let me congratulate you on showing front page of SCN. It has huge amount of information (blog inside blog 😉 ). Incidentally and luckily, last week they have showed my blog on the front of page of SCN. 🙂

    How to transform yourself from a fresher to an expert SAP Consultant?

    What a fantastic quote you mentioned:

    “What I hear I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand!” – Lao Tse – Chinese philosopher

    Good to know great people like you. 🙂

    All the best.

    Kind Regards,


    • Hi Ravi,

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I felt very honoured to be mentioned on front page of SCN. It was a great surprise. And congratulations to you too, your blog is excellent. We can see how much people liked it by the amazing number of rates and likes, including mine 🙂

      It’s awesome!

      Best regards and thanks for your comments.


      • Hi Raquel,

        Yes it always a special feeling, even it was a surprise for me when my colleague told me.

        I took a screen of the same, added in my Linkedin 😉 as they are quickly changing with new stuff. 😛

        Thanks once again for your comments.

        Kind Regards,


  • Hi Raquel,

    Thanks for sharing your  Tech ed experience on DT. Great Explanation..!!!

    Itz Really help us to grow knowledge on Design and Thinking.


    Shashi Kanth.