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Large enterprises are facing a faster changing business environment: innovation cycles are getting shorter, markets are being disrupted through digitization, new business models evolve, the “new generation” wants to be led differently, and working models are being revolutionized. A people-centric approach is a key differentiator for companies that want to be and stay relevant in the fast-changing business world.

To accelerate the learning process and scale a people-centric approach across large companies from various countries and industries, Tobias Haug, Head of SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center EMEA, initiated Design at Business in 2010: “Within SAP we were in the middle of a radical change bringing design thinking into our company and I knew we were not alone on this.” He aimed to explore, master, and grow design thinking and encourage passionate people to stick to the topic.

After 5 years of regular in-person meetups the community took a huge step forward in 2016 and grew to more than 150 companies from around the world.

At the Design at Business conference in Berlin on 1 and 2 November, 110 design-minded change makers from 57 companies met for the first time at a larger scale to come together and drive the next generation of design thinking on a global level. SAP initiated this conference together with Microsoft, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, German Design Council, Philips, Swisscom, Tesla, and Volkswagen and got recognised as thought leader in design. The conference facilitated exchange on a global level around the topics of

  • digital transformation,
  • design,
  • innovation culture,
  • and new work.

What’s the benefit of Design at Business? 

Design at Business is not about showcasing shiny results on the surface, but about openly addressing and discussing shared challenges, co-creating new approaches, finding inspiration, and connecting with like-minded people.

“The benefit of the Design at Business community is that companies and people who have a similar challenge come together and exchange learnings and ideas. Changing a culture is not really easy and there is not only one way. It depends a lot on the company, the set-up, and culture you currently have, and it’s great and important for us to have a platform where we can bring people together to learn from each other”, says Andreas Hauser, SVP SAP Design & Co-Innovation Center.

Sam Yen, Chief Design Officer, SAP, adds: “There’s a lot of lessons learned at SAP, a lot of things that we would do differently, and we feel that in sharing our experiences we can uplift the entire industry.”

To fulfil this mission, the conference program featured keynotes and talks from thought leaders and experts as well as interactive sessions and hands-on workshops at creative spaces hosted by Microsoft, Daimler, Volkswagen, Deutsche Bank, and SAP.

This format has been carefully crafted and was well received:

It’s been an amazing day filled with stories from folks in the field that have been living on this journey of trying to embed design thinking in highly structured organizations. The afternoon workshop was super enlightening because we were able to understand the one thing that was resoundingly clear: no matter what structure, what organization, how big or small: we are all facing the same challenges”, recalls Jennifer Hirsch, Director Strategy & Innovation, Project Management Organization, Johnson & Johnson.

It has been amazing, refreshing, inspiring to be with so many design thinkers and people that are so passionate about driving change within large organizations. We’ve had great speakers and covered a number of topics that I think are relevant to all the participants and I definitely got a lot out of it”, states Kristen Bennie, Head of Open Experience, Royal Bank of Scotland.

The first Design at Business conference has been a huge success that has inspired the attendees and members of the community and provided them with concrete action items for their journey bringing design into large enterprises. It also raised and answered important questions regarding new work and leadership styles. We will continue working on our shared challenges and innovate on how to humanize the digital transformation.


Regret to have missed the conference? Check out the recordings of our livestreams, the speakers’ presentations and other assets on our Design at Business website.

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