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Creative Nest – the journey of a Design Thinking exercise to a solution to real problem

Trainings often have to sacrifice the exercise part for the sake of the whole training success. It could be that the exercise is just not enough (too much theory required), or it is very simple/complicated for the level of the training, or it is just some stupid meaningless exercise that has nothing to do with real world. How many trainings have you attended where you started working on an idea that you were willing to continue afterwards? How about the problem that looks unsolvable, what do you need to perceive it as a real problem to start working on?

It all started with a very high quality Design Thinking Rapid Coach Camp training conducted in Sofia and delivered by Sabrina Steinmetz and Oliver Kempkens. There we had to practice and enhance our DT coaching skills while seeking for innovative solutions to answer the question: “How can we improve the commute experience to work?”


    Was this question a prerequisite for really cool out-of-the-box findings? Definitely! The commuting issue is a big issue in our capital Sofia. A lot of people work on this and still compared to other European capitals Sofia has modest alternatives to offer. So for the training we split to two teams to start working on the next brilliant solution to a well-known pain point for a massive amount of the Bulgarian population.

    The lottery defined our team members – Angel Petrov, Jordan Dichev, Ivan V. Stoyanov and me (who is fortunate to write this post). Having just met or friends for years – that wouldn’t matter because we were all affected from the positive and not so positive experiences while commuting to work.

    As in most trainings, we were short on time so we had to be really disciplined and structured to be sure we have time to exercise every part of the design thinking process as coaches. Let’s see how exercising different phases led us to Creative Nest.


To understand the problem, we decomposed it to the key words and expressions in it: “commute experience”, “improve”, “to work”. After the brainstorming on what those would mean for us, we reached some interesting conclusions. One of them was that if experience is involved, it is always a matter of perception, not the reality itself. So means of transport are just one part that shapes the experience. Another helpful finding was that “to work” could mean the SAP office location, the way back home, but it also could reveal concepts like flexible working time and working out of the office.



For the observation phase we were lucky to have almost 700 colleagues from the office to ask for help. We invented the interview questionnaire and started browsing the office in search of volunteers to help for a better commuting experience. It wasn’t hard. Obviously it was and still is a pressing issue so people were more than willing to answer our questions and even propose solutions. The more colleagues we interviewed, the more unsolvable the problem looked. Here was when I felt for the first time we are actually pretty much committed to the issue, it wasn’t just a training exercise, it was a real problem we were solving.


Point of View

To define our persona, we took the interview results and filled the Good/Bad/Wish table.  It looked like what people valued most in their commuting experiences was the time and the comfort, but also being independent from public transportation and having some time to reflect, to listen to music and to talk to his co-commuting colleagues. The Bad paragraph looked very frustrating – bad drivers, high costs, traffic jams, pollution, bad infrastructure condition – all of them solid issues hard to address. Still the Wish part brought some insight – clean air, nice view, office location could be changed, social aspect.

This was how our persona – Mike was born.



We started with reverse brainstorming to gather ideas how to help Mike: “Mike needs good company while driving to work because he wants to arrive in a good mood on time to have an English breakfast with colleagues. ”. Using this technique some potential fun-stoppers emerged – Mike might not be an early riser or not have a fancy enough vehicle. While filling the feasibility/impact matrix we unleashed our wildest dreams about transportation – from teleportation to Ariel Atom to setting up the perfect work campus. And here we go – high impact, and easy to do – this was where we started imagining the perfect place to work, the solution of “to work” part of our problem. Our break through moment!  It is not about improving the commuting to work experience, it will about improving the workspace itself! It turned out we would focus on the destination, not on the journey.



Feeling so empowered, it didn’t take a lot to sketch the perfect work space. It had to stimulate collaboration, fun, different activities. There were many examples of open office collaboration work spaces you can rent per hour. Places you can choose whom to work with and when to work.  The space you can book on a project basis in order to achieve more creative results and to work and socialize with colleagues. The space to provide you with some comfort even outside your office comfort zone. And last but not least – the space to let you shape your own commuting experience once in a while.

Somewhere here we named our idea – Creative Nest. Creative because it will host the creative atmosphere, nest because it will bring people and ideas together. We wanted to enable SAP employees to request work at a Creative Nest as easy as possible and using existing tools. Our high level flow would look like this:

  1. Mike requests a home office day via the standard “home office tool” where he specifies he would like to use the day as a “Creative Nest day”.
  2. After approval from manager, Mike creates an open/closed Creative Nest event in the special JAM group, where Mike can specify what kind of skills/experiences he needs for his Creative Nest project or workshop or he can directly invite the colleagues he’d like to collaborate with. He can also provide agenda or any necessary information.
  3. Mike finds and suggests the Creative Nest venue – in the beginning he has to take care for reservations and facility. At a later stage locations could be picked up from a pool.
  4. The event is exported as an Outlook calendar event and every participant has it in their calendars.
  5. After the Creative Nest event has happened, all the participants are encouraged to leave feedback about the space itself as well as for the project/workshop. This will empower more people to take advantage of preferred list of spaces from the pool and to experiment with this new opportunity.



That final phase was where we received tons of valuable feedback. Most of our potential users were astonished how crazy we went solving their commuting to work problems. The idea was likable – not only exceeded the advantages the disadvantages, but also we were given some cool ideas for Creative Nest use cases. Once we answered some limitation questions – we would have hit the jackpot – the space to feel freedom, empowerment, increase productivity and reduce stress.


Follow up

Some time has passed and we want to propose this idea to higher management. But we definitely need more preparation – and we decided some more testing is the first step to start with.

So how about you? Would you take advantage of a Creative Nest? What would be most valuable for you? Where are the weaknesses of such a concept?

Creative Nest aims to facilitate an alternative for a work space, which every corporate employee could use for work every once in a while. The space will provide different atmosphere to foster creativity and collaboration between colleagues on project or workshop basis. Creative Nests could be different co-working spaces and event venues, hosts’ houses, even nice parks and open spaces.

Help us develop the idea further, make it meaningful!  Get in touch! Why not in a Creative Nest space? πŸ™‚

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