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Author's profile photo Former Member

How a Slice of Pizza can teach you Design Thinking Principles

A true story…


The Situation:
A while ago I was part of a implementation project as a consultant in Great Britain. For lunch we were only able to buy hot potato and sandwiches so after a few weeks we started to order food from the outside.

I like pizza so I ordered one for lunch. Somehow the pizza in Great Britain is about double the size compared to the ones in Germany. As a matter of fact I managed to eat half of it for lunch.

The Challenge:

But what to do with the other half? I ended up bringing the pizza box to my hotel room. And at about 9pm I got hungry again. I must say I’m a little high maintenance when it comes to food, basically I don’t like cold pizza. Hence I asked the chef of the hotel but they were not allowed to heat up non-hotel food. So I went back to my room.

I started to investigate my environment. How to heat up that pizza? Basically without knowing I kind of used a method called “multiplication” where you combine things and then think about whether the combination could make any sense or not. So I looked at the heating system of the room, not hot enough. Then I checked the hairdryer but I was scared by the amount of germs that might come out with the air and end up on my toppings.

Then I’ve found something, basically the consultants best friend…

The Solution:

An iron made my day! Actually it did it many times during my 9 months stay.

Normally I use it to iron my business shirts (what surprise). In this case I put the iron upside down and the pizza on top into the shelf as you can see on the picture above. I watched carefully and it worked just fine. The pizza got hot and the cardboard didn’t start to burn. (don’t try this at home!).

But how does all this relate to Design Thinking?

Here’s what the pizza taught me:

  • Every user might have different needs. A colleague of mine asked “why didn’t you just eat the cold pizza?”. Well I had a different need and insights. Basically my brain tells me “Pizza cold –> old”, “Pizza hot –> fresh”.
  • The environment defines a crucial part of the context of a challenge. Understanding the environment of users is key to be able to come up with ideas.
  • A rational brain would say: “No oven, no hot pizza”, by using ideation techniques you can solve problems in non-classical ways.
  • Design Thinking is not a+b=c. A creative process needs room for exploration, experiments and techniques that help brains to make new connections for new ideas and solutions.
  • End-users will find their workarround to reach their goal, even if no solution is provided by the vendor (Thank you for your comment Heike van Geel)
  • And yes indeed, this first prototype might need another iteration as it doesn’t fulfill any safety regulation or whatsoever 🙂


Looking forward to your comments, maybe you also have a real life DT story to share?

If you wish, also look at my other blogs about “DT for Senior Management Workshops”.–part-i

All the best!



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      Author's profile photo Heike van Geel
      Heike van Geel

      such a cute story. If i may add one more thing:

      - end-user will find their workarround to reach their goal, even if no solution is provided by the vendor

      in your case the goal was to eat *warm* pizza.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Heike,

      oh yes that is so true! And thinking about your comment sth. comes to my mind regarding change resistance...

      Even if the chef would have offered me a week later to heat up my pizza, I'd have probably still gone with the Iron option, just because it felt more convenient to heat up the pizza without leaving my room 🙂


      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member


      I suppose I am going to show my age, but reheating food with an iron is an old trick we did at college way back in the day before microwaves. It is a serviceable way to make a grilled cheese sandwich, too. In any case, your design thinking explanation was instructive. Thank you for it as well as the trip down "Memory Lane."



      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Gretchen,

      oh that is lovely to hear 🙂

      In the context of these situations I believe that the young generation gets less creative (or educated?) and more often think "I don't have the right device (or app?), I can't do it" whereas my mother and even more my grandmother told me some tricks from the early days that blew my mind.

      Lately I showed my sister (she's 11) a music cassette and a pencil and asked her if she can think about any kind or relation between these two things. Her questioning look at me was really funny.

      Thanks for your comment, all the best,


      Author's profile photo Sylvia Santelli
      Sylvia Santelli

      When I saw the iron was the solutoin, my job dropped a little bit, all I was ever told about irons are the dangers of using it. I consider my thinking box larger then most, but would have never considered that. But next time I will. Desperate times call for despserate measures, and I is one of them.  🙂

      Author's profile photo Pablo Paez
      Pablo Paez

      True story - I was there to witness the moment the re-heating of pizza was single-handedly transformed from a chore to an art form by a renegade fellow consultant.

      My life was never the same afterwards.


      Author's profile photo Jens Obermann
      Jens Obermann

      Thanks for more insight to this story! The story is a really good conversation starter at workshops!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      Thank you Jens for your comment, glad to hear it translates into sth. meaningful for your customer conversations!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      It's always good to have strong justification for requesting an iron when it's not already in the room ...

      "I need to iron my shirt, re-heat my pizza and practice more iron-related design thinking."

      Nice story Marc. Perhaps I'll hear a few more like that at the GBTM fortnight in Potsdam this month.

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      haha 😆 I need to try that one out!

      Thanks for your comment and enjoy the event!

      Author's profile photo Tim Teinzer
      Tim Teinzer

      Marc, Great to read this story after hearing it several times, still an excellent example.

      Reading the comments about irons and microwaves reminds me of a consultant who handwashed his business shirt in a hotel during our project assignment in Paris and then tried to dry it in the microwave unattended... unfortunately this ended up in the category "Learn from failure" with a burned shirt, lots of smoke and a hotel room almost on fire... and a shopping trip to downtown Paris to buy a new shirt 😉

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member
      Blog Post Author

      oh wow! Good I didn't get that creative 😆

      And not only consultants get that creative... Last weekend we were at a wedding in Berlin and our neighbours next room tried to flatten some of their suits by creating hot steam in the bathroom (lights off of course so the ventilation system doesn't start). This ended up in a hotelwide fire alarm with firemen coming in full oxygen dresses. There were three wedding groups sleeping at that hotel, you can't imagine the hectic that occured when this happened 11:00 pm 🙂

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Great story. Cooking and recipes evolved based on DT principles all over the

      World without formalizing them under DT. Necessity, preservation, limited means

      spurred creativity.  Some sustained, some got improved, some became outdated. Facts of DT and life!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      This pic should end up at SAP image library one day! I have seen it over the past years in so many different backgrounds, even in customer presentations! For example within the context of "re-warming" the SOA story - now it is used to explain the DT approach. Nice 😀

      Same hotel, same project, I resolved the food issue by bringing my own cooker to the UK. Although illegal in the hotel I could satisfy my need to have real fresh (non-british) food. Yeah!

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      good conclusion with a small story....

      ..being a process owner instead of keep on demanding, we have to look for the better utilization of the available resources with us.