A growing number of organizations are trying to learn and scale creativity through the application of design thinking. This is especially true in our industry, information technology.

Innovation and the creation of delightful products and experiences used to be a nice-to-have in IT. Today, it’s table stakes. If you think your
organization can survive without it, you’re wrong.

Still, the IT industry is lacking in its ability to bring human-centered innovation approaches to bear. Why? Because IT has, for years, been overwhelmingly
technical. That has changed over the past two years, as more industries look for ways to bring a human-centered approach into their organizations.

The transition within the industry may have happened over the last couple of years, but SAP has been on the journey of applying design thinking to foster creative confidence and disruptive innovation for the past decade. We’re eager to spread what we have learned throughout the industry, and we’re pretty far
along.


It hasn’t always been easy, though.

It used to be that organizations worked on their own to create alliances with one another, creating small, secretive cohorts. That is changing as more organizations come together, in both the public and the private sector, to create broader alliances around ways to become more innovative.

SAP is leading this charge. We have created a network – a diverse community – around the learning and application of design thinking. We recently took a major step in growing that community with the creation of d.forum

We launched d.forum in November, during a 3-day workshop at Stanford University, bringing together more than 16 individuals from around the world,
including South Korea, Germany, New Zealand and the United States. They came from a variety of industries, including oil and gas, health care and technology. Some were from government and academia. But each person was handpicked by one of their organization’s senior leaders, identifying that participant as someone who has shown himself or herself capable of leading the change needed within their organization.

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Despite the organizations’ differences, there were some common threads, including customers, constituencies, business models and, most importantly, an
understanding that solving for users’ needs is critical to an organization’s overall success. These similarities allowed for the creation of one
of the most valuable components within the community: trust.

The workshop at Stanford ran participants through a design thinking intensive. Participants, during the event, settled on the name “d.forum” for the
community and “d.forum disruptors” for themselves. Once it ended, the d.forum disruptors went back to their home organizations and selected five people to join them for a coach’s camp.

In the coach’s camp, d.forum disruptors take on a leadership role. They teach design thinking to diverse teams made up of the new additions they selected. This process is already underway with a gatherings having taken place in Palo Alto, Calif. and Heidelberg, Germany.

Two more three-day workshops to grow the first-wave of d.forum disruptors have taken place in Cape Town, South Africa and Seoul, Korea with citizens and public officials participating. We maintain regular contact with the d.forum disruptors through monthly calls with d.forum members as well as other, more
casual, points of contact.

The community has surprised me in a few ways. I was surprised by how many ah-ha moments happened within the d.forum community and how close-knit the community became real over such a short period of time. We, as organizers, worked to engineer that, but the d.forum disruptors became a tribe much more quickly than I anticipated. They now have nicknames and funny stories to tell one another. Seeing that camaraderie take hold among industry competitors has been more than a little surprising.

This community is not for and about the organizations represented. It’s about the people, their interactions and the lessons they learn. During their workshop at Stanford, the d.forum disruptors described themselves as lone soldiers, struggling to carry the flag of design thinking within their organizations. The d.forum community now gives them access to a diverse group of like-minded individuals who can support their journey, both outside and inside of their organizations.

I am continuing to work and keep the community active, with the goal of it being self-sustaining after my fellowship at the d.school ends in June. Right now, SAP is driving this effort, providing a number of insights and lessons we have learned from our experience. But, as the community grows, we expect our contributions to be on par with those from other organizations as they learn more and scale their innovation capacity.

We created the d.forum to show that, when it comes to scaling innovation, you don’t have to be alone in the journey. Through collaboration, organizations can find a way to scale design thinking and thus disruption.

Learn more about the d.forum program.

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