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Author's profile photo Raquel Pereira da Cunha

Design Thinking in Brazil – A weekend with students – Part I

Just one week before going to SAP Teched 2013 Amsterdam, I had the pleasure to be a Design Thinking junior coach in a workshop with students of the University of São Paulo, in São Carlos, Brazil.  In one of my two Expert Networking sessions in Amsterdam, I had the chance to talk about this experience. Everything started some months ago, when Heike van Geel shared with me this SCN link about a non-profit project that was supposed to take place in Brazil and that was looking for partners. When I saw the project description, I immediately contacted the group behind it in order to find out how I could help. And I did it for some reasons: first, because it came from Heike and she is my DT mentor. Everything that comes from her is great and changes my life. Second, the project was going to take place in the city and University where I graduated and where most of my current friends come from (including my husband). Many feelings and memories came back to me. I don’t go there very often as I used to do in the first years after I graduated, and I still have close friends living there, so it would be a great opportunity to meet them. As I know the city, the Campus and people living there, I thought I could for sure be of some help for them. Another reason was that I was going to help to show Design Thinking to high skilled students that may use it later in their daily lives, change their way of thinking before they get to the market and help them start their professional lives better prepared than I was when I left USP. That reason was really strong for me. And last but not least, I was going to learn how to be a Design Thinking coach after having one workshop with Heike and two Design Thinking trainings. A very special preparation for being one of the DT coaches at SAP InnoJam exactly in the week after.

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Well, so the first thing I’ve done was to open the website looking for more information. This link now shows the weekend workshop that I participated and will explain in this and the next blog, but at that time, the info of the web site was the same described in the SCN doc created by Heike: the idea of the project was six-weeks Design Thinking program for students from October 18th until November 30th.They needed partners (sponsors) to give the students real problems or challenges that they would develop during the 6 weeks. The partners would then receive in the end at least two innovative, creative and thoroughly developed solutions for the problem or challenge, as two groups would work for each partner challenge. More details can be found in the SCN link that I mentioned in the beginning.

The sponsorship was also important to bring experienced coaches from Germany to São Carlos. They needed help for the expenses, place to stay etc. So, after checking the web site, I then sent an e-mail to them asking how I could help and explaining my reasons, and I received a very kind and positive message back. They were very happy that I was interested in helping them, and after explaining some details I started to do my part. I sent e-mails to my customers and friends with the project folder and explaining the benefits to participate, and also asked for information about cheap hotels or apartments where the coaches could stay for 6 weeks. I received very positive feedbacks from all companies that I contacted, and also one of the companies very quickly wanted to know how to help, how much to pay etc, so I gave the contact of the project team. The big problem was that everything happened at a very short notice, and things in Brazil are a bit (hehe..a lot) bureaucratic. So, in the end, we had companies interested in participate but we didn’t have the time necessary to make things happen before the date when the workshop was supposed to happen. 

The project team took the decision to postpone the project, but one of the team members, Ljubow Chaikevitch, a certified Design Thinker from the HPI School of Design Thinking and the lovely girl that was in touch with me since the beginning said that she was going to come to Brazil anyway for vacation, and to visit her friends that live here, so it would be a great opportunity for her to know more about the country, about USP and to meet in person the possible partners. And to meet me 😎 . She really wanted to make something happen this year and be more prepared to make the big program next year.

And then she came to São Paulo. I liked her immediately. She is so positive, so nice and full of energy. I went out for lunch with her and we spent almost the whole afternoon talking and discussing how to make this project happen. She wanted to have at least a small workshop, something like 3 days, but she needed volunteers to help her as coaches. The day after we went together to a Design Thinking school to visit it (another coincidence, this school is 50m from my house. Only few steps). We had a nice chat with the owner, who was also an ex-student of HPI D-School. She also went to the Campus of USP in São Paulo and found out that Design Thinking is probably going to be taught there very soon. If I am not wrong, there has been a DT workshop there some days before.

After these 2 days together, she finally went to São Carlos. She spent 2 weeks there working at NUMA Lab – Nucleus of Advanced Manufacture, a very well recognized virtual organization, as they call themselves, which joins some research groups of the Industrial Engineering Department (SEP) of the Engineering School of São Carlos (EESC), University of São Paulo (USP). At NUMA is located the headquarter of Institute Factory of Millennium (IFM), a network of research institutes in Brazil. NUMA has been awarded with the Prize Academic Partnership from SAP Americas with the project “Integrate Production and Supply Chain Management” – IPROS. 27/01/2000.

Source about NUMA:

She worked so hard with the help of Professor Henrique Rozenfeld and some students who also wanted to make something happen, specially Victor Macul, that it finally happened. During these 2 weeks they found 2 volunteer coaches (I was one and the other was a German Design Thinker also certified by HPI who is living in Brazil), 2 sponsors for materials (3M do Brasil gave all the post-its and Faber-Castell gave the materials such as coloured pen and pencils, modelling clay, tapes, scissors etc.) and more than 40 students interested in participate. Note: it was going to happen in a weekend before a holiday, and most of the students usually travel back home when they have 3 days off like that, so more than 40 was a nice surprise. After some interviews (the students had to be fluent in English because the workshop was going to be held in English) they selected 15 split in 3 groups for the 3 coaches. In each group we had at least one person form another country (USP has many foreign students). The idea was to have 3 days of Design Thinking experience, one Friday evening for presentations and quick exercises, and 2 days for a workshop with a challenge.

So, with a group of students to participate, material, space, coaches and everyone very excited, we started the Design Thinking in Brazil project in São Carlos on Friday 25th of Oct. It was a lot of fun!

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In the next blogs (Part II and III) I will describe the 3-days activities.

The initial program of 6-weeks that could not happen this year is being planned now for next year. At the moment the project team is looking for partners, not only in Brazil but also in other countries, companies that might be interested in developing new products or services for the Brazilian market with a multicultural and multidisciplinary team of motivated students from the #1 university in Latin America.


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      Author's profile photo Jitendra Kansal
      Jitendra Kansal

      I enjoyed reading your experience and i must say you have done a great job. It always feels good when we meet our school friends and all memory come back. 🙂

      waiting for next part !!!

      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      nice blog Raquel Pereira da Cunha - i am looking forward to part II 🙂