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Design Thinking: Mad Fad or Cool Tool ?


Tools of the Design Thinking Facilitator, SAP UK April 2015

If you’ve talked about innovation with your software partner in the last 12 months, chances are the words Design Thinking aren’t new to you. Is it just overused business jargon, or should you take a serious look into Design Thinking as an Ideas tool?

Let’s start with the Why?

It’s different. A different approach may inject a lifeline into the timeless love-hate relationship between the IT & Business sides of the organization.

The abundance of Cloud solutions in the market have captured many a CIO imagination due to their potential to:

  • Respond to specific business needs
  • Meet Line of Business (LoB) priorities
  • Reduce the IT cost to serve the business

These promises could mean that the challenge of establishing and maintaining a good, fluent, value-based collaboration between IT & Business in a large enterprise should begin to fade. It becomes possible to build a healthy dialogue between the 2 parts: IT brings to the table their experience of solution implementation & management; Business or LoBs contribute with their hands-on needs and agility requirements.

So, has the challenge faded?

“Not so!” is what we hear from the IT leadership teams with which we engage

Today it seems the challenge has evolved rather than been resolved.

Given the opportunity, specialist teams such as Finance or HR use their own budget and agenda to pick niche solutions and address their own priorities.

Does this mean the CIO is exempt of responsibility here? Of course not! With so many dedicated solutions, the need for integration is greater than ever. Who will be called upon if a major incident arises? Who will be held accountable? The answers all lead back to IT!

With more flexible, vibrant and quick-to-deploy solutions, there are many more options to choose from. The need for collaboration and dialogue is reinforced not alleviated– this is where Design Thinking comes in.


Design Thinking Empowerment at SAP UK with Global Service & Support

So what is Design Thinking?


It is essentially a discipline that enables innovation and problem solving by focussing on matching the needs & wants of the end-user population. Following a prescriptive sequence of steps and working with groups of mixed backgrounds, it is ideal for combining different strengths and angles. 

For our challenge of bringing different expertise together, it can be the answer. Think about it:

The Design Thinking process brings people together in the same environment. A good facilitator will establish a common language and a set of common rules. As a result, everyone’s voice will be heard. Above all, a good DT session will provide a simple, fun, relaxed and colourful environment essential to ideas and collaboration.

As you work through the definition of the challenge at hand, you can integrate various priorities and parameters. Working groups share their ideas, abilities, experiences and expectations with their fellow thinkers.

Participants then work through options: reasonable ones, innovative ones, crazy ones – hopefully. The prototyping phase helps everyone confirm their objectives for the solution, in comparison to the feasibility of the idea. It is being Together, in a different work environment, and following a process (new to many of us) that enables the collaboration and the dialogue.

At SAP, Design Thinking is a strategic priority. It is used both internally to lead innovation, and to help our customers achieve business outcomes by re-framing their problems.


Why does it work?

For the same reason that Kindergarten children are best and quickest at working through the Marshmallow challenge – because a well-run Design Thinking process keeps the door open to all possibilities, until they are proven to be impossibilities – like the child who systematically tries out all options available to them without prejudice and with no other agenda then the willingness to make it work.

My verdict: Cool Tool!

Learn more about Design Thinking at SAP

Stephanie Bethgnies, Engineering Architect at SAP.

Follow me on Twitter: @SBethgnies


Marshmallow Challenge with Global Service & Support, SAP UK April 2015

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