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Yesterday I had the pleasure to do a Pecka Kucha session during the Entwicklertag Frankfurt. The session was in German and it was about 18 thoughts about design thinking corporate reality (from a personal point of view).

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Here is a summary:

1) The real challenge with design thinking for me is not the intellectual understanding of the concepts, tools and methods but in the consequent and sustainable integration and active usage during the daily job.

2) The creative, trustful, open and experimental team atmosphere, we would like to establish within a design thinking team, is nothing which will happen by its own but you have to invest into this by doing regular and moderated daily standups, team retrospectives and feedback cycles. Especially personal feedback between team members is helpful here, and in my experience it seems to be easier for most people to give only positive feedback. But constructive and if needed also critical feedback is also important to learn from each other and to grow both personally and as a team.

3) Very international teams are a great chance to bring in really different perspectives and opinions but as soon as the language barriers become too high a constructive team work becomes more or less impossible. If you work with international teams you should ensure beforehand that everybody is able to communicate in English.

4) Flexible space is one important ingredient in our design thinking soup. But putting everything on wheels is only one part of the game, you have to use these wheels also by adjusting the space based on the current requirements. If a multi-day workshop is done without changing the room setup something is going wrong from my point of view. The classical “Stuhlkreis” is for example the best setup for an feedback round – so use it and change the room accordingly.

5) Design thinking is no magic and you can not solve any issue in one hour. Real design thinking work takes time and therefore you should not always plan for these “let´s do one day design thinking” workshops, where run through the whole process.

6) Especially in the beginning of the introduction of design thinking within a company you should also invest significant time to communicate about your design thinking work. Report both successes and failures in an inspiring and informative way using all kind of media. In the reality the failures seems to be forgotten normally, which is for me an interesting point, as everybody always talk about the fact, that failure is important to learn and to be innovative. So, take yourself and your words serious and report also your failures.

7) One main benefit of design thinking is for sure a much better understanding of the needs and problems of your customers and users. Please be careful and ensure that you always talk to the right people. Your “customer” is not necessarily your “user”. For SAP the customer is often the IT manager but the users we typically need are the people sitting in from of the screen and working with your transactions.

8) Design thinking is a great way to build bridges between different teams and parts of the organization. As soon as people come together in one team to work on a design challenge they will learn from each other and begin to leave their silos.

9) The real power of design thinking for me is the fact, that we do not talk in theory about innovation or that we do not “teach” innovation on a pure intellectual level. Instead we “do” innovation and everybody can experience as part of a team that she or he is creative and can be an innovator.

10) Doing this of course could (and should?) also mean for most of the people to leave their comfort zone. Doing an interview on the street with a potential user or showing a rough paper prototype could be a real challenge for a lot of people, but with the right moderation and coaching such experiences are also fun and learningful and a great chance for everybody do grow also in a personal level.

11) Setting up a workshop should not only include the preparation of certain tools or methods. To get the “wow” in the end and to really create the needed energy and enthusiasm you have to take care of all “these details” like the catering, the music, the light, the room setup(s), the materials etc. pp. You should feel like a host for a big dinner at home and you as moderator are responsible to provide the perfect experience for your guests, i.e. the workshop participants.

12) So, preparation is as always key. And your guest i.e. workshop participants will recognize that you do not just run a standard workshop but a workshop, which really fits to their needs. And then of course the next challenge starts for you as facilitator because you should be open enough to completely change your plan during the workshop in case your recognize that your original plan is not working.

13) I am often asked “how to start” – there is a simple answer: just do it. Start now and small. Not with a multi-day workshop but with smaller sessions like a design thinking inspired team meeting or brainstorming session. And then learn, potential fail, reflect and do it again.

14) And what is important to become an experienced design thinking coach and facilitator: doing, doing and doing. And look for a mentor, who is more experienced than yourself and who can help you to reflect on your work. Supervision is a well-established format in any kind of coaching trainings and from my point of view we can learn a lot from this. So, look for your design thinking supervisor and learn while doing.

15) Prototypes are a very powerful tool to make ideas tangible and testable from the very beginning. Especially for software developers it could be hard to understand in the beginning, that this kind of prototype can not be built with software but with Lego, paper, tape and a lot of creativity.

16) After some iterations of your prototypes you are pretty sure, that your idea will work and that it is worth to develop a real product out of it. This could be a tricky situation as in this point in time the original design thinking project typically ends and a implementation project starts, which could increase for example the team size or which also brings in other people with additional skills and opinions. There is no “one golden rule” to overcome this situation but if you involved from the very beginning also all relevant people and teams into the design thinking project you will much easier transform this into an implementation project.

17) Within design thinking we always start with the desirability, the deep understanding of the needs of our users. But especially in case that we move towards a real implementation of a product idea the other aspects of innovation become more and more important. Check also the feasibility of your solution, build technical POCs and evaluate potential platforms and frameworks you could use. Ensure the viability and find out what your customers are willing to pay for your solution. Here tools around the business model canvas or the lean startup ideas are important and helpful and can enrich your tool set as design thinker in a really helpful way.

18) Doing the right things right. Or build the right software in a productive and effective way. For me there is never a guarantee to build in the end the “big software thing” but the right combination of design thinking, lean management, agile software development, business model canvas, lean startup and some more really increases the possibility to have success in the end. And to have fun doing it.

Done in 6:40 🙂

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