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There is nothing like “learning by doing” when it comes to experience what real design means. This is the promise the Design and Co-Innovation Center (DCC) team from the SAP AppHaus Heidelberg makes to students of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University Loerrach (DHBW).

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At the beginning of July, during four intense days, the students had the opportunity to immerse themselves into a balanced combination of theory and practice based on the Design thinking methodology starting with the key question: “What is design?” Daniel Markwig, Design Thinking coach at the DCC replied: “Design is not a moment of a brilliant idea, something coming from divine intervention; it’s a process, the process of shaping something to achieve a goal. As we cannot design the whole experience, we follow the process. User experience is about the whole interaction with the object, plus the psychological and emotional part”.

After this input the design challenge for the practical part was set: “Improve the process of settling in for expats. Make them feel at home within one week!”  The students had to conduct research and interview expats. “User research is key in the design thinking methodology. It’s very important to invest in the problem and to differentiate what one thinks people are doing (pre-knowledge) and what they really do. This will help to define the real needs of the persona “Expat” and finally to find a solution”, explained Daniel. With all the information from the research phase in hand, the students then moved to the prototyping phase: How to prototype and how to get good feedback from prototyping. Another key milestone of the journey until the presentation of the final prototype was the so-called “Design Clinic”, or as Daniel put it, “how to shape ideas and prototypes in order to be digestible”. With the notions of branding and communication explained, the students were able to present their final ideas in an alluring and catching way.

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At the end of workshop, the six groups presented their proposals to the challenge using different methods, such as a role play, a Lego prototype or digital format: Among those ideas you could find the “Night of the X” initiative, an initiative that looks for socializing between expats and non-expats while enjoying thematic dinners: trying to involve expats to join as guests, giving them the opportunity to get into contact with their new social environment and then actively help organizing expats other thematic dinners and help to integrate new expats during the semester. Another solution was the “expats app”, an app tailored to the specific tastes and needs of the expats, including events and places of interest. Besides, discounts in local shops could be offered.  One other idea to solve the challenge was to establish a meeting point offering different activities for socializing, building knowledge about the country, and promoting cultural exchange.

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There was a variety of interesting and different approaches to solve the challenge. It was interesting to see how the solutions have been influenced by the circumstances and contemporary day-to-day environment of the students as most of the solutions included the development and use of specific apps. Therefore, and to push creativity a step further, the trainers will challenge the students of the next workshop by asking them to find a solution not being based on an app. As creativity doesn’t know boundaries, students will continue to benefit from the Design Thinking methodology adopted in the workshop at the SAP AppHaus.

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