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Author's profile photo Leonie Fremgen

The CEO of the Future Knows Design Thinking

Europe’s largest competition to find the leaders of tomorrow is a joint initiative of Bertelsmann, E.ON, McKinsey & Company, Porsche, and SAP as well as manager magazin, n-tv, Spiegel Online and the career network as media partners. This year’s finalists have acquired an essential skill for their future positions: Design Thinking. And SAP has showcased to be an appealing, innovative and creative employer.

2200 participants applied for the competition “CEO of the Future”. They had to write three short essays on topics such as ‘Silicon Valley as role model’, ‘green genetic engineering’ and ‘digitalization trends in the executive board’. The best essayists of whom all met the standard criteria of top consulting firms, such as brilliant grades, above-average commitment, and excellent English were invited to the selection days where they could qualify for the subsequent seminar phase. Each partner company organized weekend seminars during which the 20 finalists worked in small groups to develop solutions for current management problems. En route to the grand finale they presented innovative and forward-looking concepts to the jurors. The winners were awarded prize money as well as valuable career coaching from a personal mentor.


Which skills should the CEO of the future possess? The Design & Co-Innovation Center puts a focus

During the course of the SAP weekend seminar, the Design & Co-Innovation Center (DCC) organized a half-day Design Thinking workshop at the SAP Innovation Center Potsdam to present SAP’s creative working methods. The DCC workshop aimed to trigger team working abilities, problem solving competence, presentation skills, empathy, and innovative capacity. To detect these strengths, the DCC formulated several Design Thinking challenges for the candidates around Generation Y topics. How to motivate and inspire employees to innovate continuously and sustainably? How to find the perfect job with the desired impact? How to achieve high personal satisfaction with respect to a hectic working life? How is it possible to combine the ideal job, family and friendship?

The DCC received outstanding feedback from participants about the Design Thinking workshop which went first in the evaluation of all weekend seminars thanks to great teamwork, the format of the workshop, the inspiring seminar contents, and the usefulness of Design Thinking for their future professional development.

The workshop has helped to position SAP as an innovative and creative company with a design focus. The medial support of the competition and the related multiplier effect has further boosted this perception. The reactions also imply that the participants will benefit from the Design Thinking methodology – a skill that CEOs of the future should not lack.


Stay tuned about the application process and requirements for the CEO of the Future 2016.

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