Stoicism vs. Design Thinking
Zeno stretched out his fingers, and showed the palm of his hand, – “Perception,” – he said, – “is a thing like this.”-
Afterwards, when he had completely closed his hand, and showed his fist, that, he said, was Comprehension.
But when he brought his left hand against his right, and with it took a firm and tight hold of his fist: – “Knowledge“
[Cicero, Academica, ii. 4] from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeno_of_Citium#cite_ref-33, Nov. 1, 2013.
While the Stoics, such as Zeno (one of the greatest known Greek philosophers), recognized the value of knowledge, the four stages to get to knowledge, and accepted their fate, we at SAP strive to proactively shape our destinies with our customers, leveraging knowledge with innovation. Applying design thinking principles to the path for our shared destiny drives significant success.
Think about where you are going – learnings from both Stoicism and Design Thinking
When you go on vacation, do you ever throw down your money without any view of where you are going or what you will be doing? Or, do you lay out at least a skeleton of a plan for your trip? Even if you want to travel “free and easy down the road”, you generally have a concept of the journey, the objectives and the desired goals. These core knowledge elements are critical to ensuring success. However, how much analysis needs to be done to ensure the positive outcome? How deep into knowledge do you need to dig?
Running a major transformation requires knowledge, which necessitates assigning and recognizing value appropriately. However, how does one recognize value in a world where so much uncertainty exists and the value of projects is often not recognized until post-go-live?
Managers and leaders have been taught to eschew risk – project risk is bad, right? Yes, but some of the more risky projects, when their asymmetric payoffs are considered, are very valuable to the enterprise. The asymmetric payoffs – dis-proportionately larger upside than downside – may make the difference between a good project outcome and a great one. Having knowledge of the baseline performance, defining the objectives for the journey, and building the map for the journey are critical learnings from Stoicism and Design Thinking.
Where Design Thinking Takes It Further than the Traditional Approaches
To build the customer journey, we applied design thinking to the roadmapping approach at a large customer who is undergoing a significant transformation with SAP as its platform to enable change.
We set up a Design Thinking workshop for the customer. We discussed specific issues the customer faced while rationalizing integrations and deployment sequences for the SAP solutions. We provided the environment to drive creativity to address the customer problems. We asked the question, “how to capture and reflect knowledge, intuition and subjective judgment without performing a discounted cash-flow analysis for each idea?” Our goal was to incorporate intuition and subjective judgments in a rapid fashion, enabling a creative outcome without significant analysis up-front.
The problem the customer faces is big – how to deploy integrated business solutions to enable a large, global company to run better. Deploying SAP might take many paths; by leveraging ideation, a fundamental element of design thinking, we were able to come up with roadmapping plans our team had not considered individually. Individuals were responsible for creating ideas for the best deployments, complete with sticky notes and markers, to generate this rapid decision making based on knowledge, intuition and judgment.
By taking the design thinking approach to roadmapping, and focusing on the big picture, we were able to get significant customer engagement to embed their unique ideas to create their journey successes. We did not limit ourselves by traditional project constraints; rather, we focused on identifying a journey to enable our customer achieve success.
We spent time upfront understanding customer challenges and determining SAP solutions to address the challenges. Then, in a workshop complete with lots of sticky notes, we facilitated a CREATIVE, INNOVATIVE approach to identifying the way our customer, partner and SAP joined together to create a roadmap knowing the final outcome but not the journey to get there.
We considered Quick Wins, and discussed if failures are to occur, they need to occur early so we can leverage the lessons prior to full solution go-live. Empathy for SAP users was considered – should they wait multiple years for a new solution, or what could we put in their hands more quickly. Our principles for roadmapping included leveraging solutions, EVEN IF THERE IS REWORK, to drive improvements sooner than originally considered.
Having discussions about the unique ideas, providing a forum for curiosity between all the stakeholders – business and IT leaders, executives, our partner for implementing, and SAP – and focusing on the user challenges enabled us to create a first draft of a roadmap bringing in the best of standard SAP as well as our innovative solutions. In life, we are constantly being presented with options. Being more creative with what options exist or could exist is valuable to driving innovation and successful transformation.
Design thinking allowed the customer to incorporate their intuition and subjective judgments to prioritize projects and solutions in a manner allowing them to plan utilizing asymmetric pay-offs. We did not go into deep analysis and lose the big picture feel. We made decisions based on this big picture, and created a draft roadmap we could take and conduct further analysis to be successful.
Applying Stoicism Principles to Design Thinking Outcomes.
The outcome of the Design Thinking Roadmap workshop is sound due to Stoicism Principles we applied.
Wisdom – wrapping in SAP and Partner experts to combine with the customer’s knowledge.
Control – setting the right boundaries and managing to them.
Logic, reflection and concentration – listening and considering ideas rather than discarding any outright.
Reasoning – understanding that events will happen, and one cannot prepare for all.
Cosmopolitanism – all of us coming together to drive to success – as one team.
Design Thinking is changing how we all think about business; applying good stoic principles is core to succeeding. The Stoics would be proud, by embracing real world risk, while positioning the enterprise to capitalize on uncertainty, one can accept the outcomes.
Applying design thinking for roadmapping makes sense – it is another tool in discovering, recognizing, and unleashing value. Similarly, it makes sense at a personal level. I would encourage you to try it out – identify real options – those with asymmetric pay-offs, and prudently take risks in your work.
Zeno would be proud.