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DT Roundtables at SAP Labs China: Bringing Curious Minds Together!


This blog post is a small excerpt of my current project work in Shanghai, I thought it could be interesting for this community to see what is happening in Design Thinking across the world and how the approch brings different people coming from different backgrounds together. We are talking about SAP Labs China, where I am lucky to be part of a team of external consultants  supporting the adoption of Design Thinking and helping incorporate the methodology into the daily work life of more than 30 project teams at the moment in the Shanghai location.

I’d like to start by saying that Design Thinking, as a problem solving approach, is no rocket science. BUT it is a problem-solving approach which encourages a way of tackling problems from different angles, putting the end-user in the center, and using the brainpower of interdisciplinary teams in a creative space. Through the accelerated DT roll-out for the development organization from September 2012, development teams have been given the opportunity to be trained in this approach and apply it in projects. This has led to a growing interest in DT across SAP Labs China beyond dev teams.

Therefore we thought about a way to reach out to more people and encourage exchanging different work experiences, bringing all kinds of people together to one table, not only SAP internals, but also externals to increase diversity. This led us to organize the so-called “DT Roundtable”. What we intended to do was to offer a forum to discuss interesting topics related to DT with internal and external participants and speakers outside of the daily work context. Combined with some music, snacks, pizza (“food for thought” 😉 ), and drinks, the plan is to organize such an event once a month.

IMG_7613.jpgThe first two DT Roundtables that took place so far were a great success with over 40 participants each time! Our first guest speaker was a user researcher from Wal-Mart & the Chinese online supermarket, who gave a presentation about how to prepare and conduct an interview at customer site. It was very well received and especially interesting for the local SAP employees who are in the DT coaching program. The second DT Roundtable saw a User Experience Consultant from IBM conduct an interactive visual design session.

Both sessions have been supported by Nicolas Leclercq from the internal ‘Design Thinking@Development’ program with the help of one of the local DT coaches, who invited both external speakers to share their experience at the DT Roundtable.

We are looking forward to more of those fruitful, interactive sessions. I am glad that we are able to drive such events and be part of this great experience.

If you are in Shanghai, come visit! 🙂

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  • Hi Julia,

    It certainly looks like you’re doing some great work in Shanghai. Can’t wait to get a flavor of it myself next week 🙂 .

    Keep those blog posts coming!

    Cheers, Fred

  • Hi Julia

    It sounds really compelling & fun to do.

    Are those rooms designed for DT or were they like that? I’ve heard about glass windows being used very frequently when it comes to DT environments since it can serve well as a surface for stickies etc (ref pictures in the blog post).

    Looking forward to read more.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Best regards


    • Hey Tom! The pictures were taken in the so-called ‘Design Thinking Space’ at SAP Labs in Shanghai, which was officially inaugurated in March this year. It has tables and whiteboards on wheels, high chairs, a huge, moveable wall to split the space if necessary, big shelves with lots of storing space for prototyping material, large windows, glass walls…..all of this to create an environment that should enhance creativity and invite the local project teams to come and work on their daily work in the ‘design thinking-mode’, stepping out of their comfort zone (usually a cubicle) and working progressively together as a whole team. How was your experience at SAP in Walldorf?

      • Hi Julia

        SAP Walldorf also has rooms specifically for Design Thinking sessions which is great. The red sofa was there, lots of whiteboards, lots of material, lots of space, big windows to the outside world, high chairs so it sounds familiar 🙂 to what you describe.

        Experience wise, it was great, I loved it.

        Best regards


  • Thank you for sharing your project. It looks very interesting.

    I have the same doubt as Tom about the space. I remember the first reaction I had when I arrived at the DT training the first day and saw all those chairs placed as in a normal classroom, in lines, and did not like it. I was expecting to find a more informal, creative and comfortable environment for a DT training. Of course it changed a bit after the third lesson, when we started to work in groups, but I still thought it could be better. How do you prepare the space before starting a workshop or a Roundtable?



    • Hey Raquel! Sorry for the late reply~ unfortunately I didn’t see your comments before. Regarding the DT Space- these pictures were taken at the ‘Roundtable’ event, all the tables on wheels were put together to create a big roundtable and the chairs were placed around it. Usually the chairs won’t be placed in a ‘classroom-style’ atmosphere, the room is big enough for different project teams to work in their own ‘work-space’ separated through whiteboards. The environment is informal and rather comfortable, we usually also played soft music in the background, to make everyone feel like they are not in their daily work-environment. The glass walls also work for stickys and decoration, so the room wouldn’t be too sterile but rather flooded with light and good vibes. The huge advantage of a ‘mobile room concept’ is that, as the name already states, the room can be changed according to the needs. It can be split into two rooms, for trainings of smaller size, for bigger groups we left the wall open and usually had 5-6 people sit around one table. After the general introduction the participants are encouraged to use the whole space and whatever material they need to visualize their ideas.

      When we conduct workshops at e.g. customer site, we usually don’t have a dedicated space to conduct DT Trainings; but usually we could always arrange the tables and chairs that were available, also using windows as whiteboards, to create a ‘creative environment’ where teamwork was possible. Every single workshop is a new challenge -. fascinating 🙂

    • It’s never too late 😉 .. and we’ve already been thinking about it too! Could be great to have! I’ll PM you!