Design Thinking: Make Innovations Happen
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Design Thinking: Make Innovations Happen

Design thinking is a structured approach for making innovations happen. It is a way to get creative with a clear goal in mind, the user being the focus.

Design thinking makes quick development based on digital technologies like IoT, machine learning, blockchain, Big Data and Analytics in the course of a project with clearly defined extent and deadlines possible.

Business experts, IT specialists and users work together to analyse use cases, determine requirements, develop prototypes, and design and realize the project. Design thinking as a way of working is playing an important part in this process.

The Swedish company SKF is one of the leading providers of rolling bearings, seals, mechatronics and lubrication systems. It also offers the corresponding services for technical support, maintenance as well as technological advice and training.


“We want to complement our systems with a simple, intuitive solution which our teams can use without a lot of effort“, explains Mikael Bjoerk, Global Template Lead at SKF. “With design thinking, we can quickly determine tools which will help our teams to be more efficient.“

It is necessary to use knowledge of processes and use it together with the design thinking method to meet customer expectations and shorten the implementation time. Companies can profit from design thinking in many different aspects, ranging from brainstorming to concept development and analysis of added value.

The participants of a design thinking workshop are specifically chosen and work together in a creative environment. A so-called design thinking coach is guiding participants through a creative process and towards a solution.

Elements of design thinking

Interdisciplinary teams: Depending on the goal of the workshop, employees of the IT department and specialty departments of a company can be a part of the process. What is more, it is crucial to include the end users and to make them the focus. However, it is also important to consider the technological feasibility and the economic potential. To include the perspectives of users, developers and solution architects as well as clients, representatives of all of those groups have to be involved.

Creative spaces: When do you have your best ideas? During your day-to-day routine, working on your desk? Or while exercising, showering, gardening? From your own experiences, you can probably confirm that creating a different, more relaxed atmosphere can work wonders for creativity. Such an atmosphere can be created with the help of comfortable seats, plants, high ceilings, sculptures, and so on. There is only one strict rule to follow: The chosen room cannot be a typical conference room.

Structure: In many companies, brainstorming is used as a method. However, brainstorming is not encouraging ideas, or at least not the actual realization of them. Therefore, a structure is needed. Brainstorming without a goal is not substantial, and people usually quit after the first good idea. In design thinking workshops, the necessary structure is provided by a design thinking coach. This coach is acting as a moderator and ensures that the process always has a clearly defined goal.

Learning design thinking at HPI

Design thinking is a fundamental part of SAP Leonardo. This connection is not random: SAP co-founder and chairman of the board Hasso Plattner is one of the most generous sponsors worldwide of this creative approach. Design Thinking can therefore be learned at the HPI (Hasso Plattner Institute), which is part of the university in Potsdam, Germany.

The HPI School of Design Thinking is offering a postgraduate course for the user-centric innovation method design thinking. As exceptional as it might be in Europe, in the U.S. already exist two similar courses which served as an example for Hasso Plattner: of Stanford University and the design studio Ideo.

What is truly unique about the postgraduate course, however, is that the four to six students in a study group as well as their professors and lecturers come from completely different disciplines. Together as a group and sometimes with economic partners, they develop attempts at a solution with a clear focus on the human aspect.

The current students come from 15 nations, 65 universities and 70 disciplines. The 35 teachers are professors, doctors and lecturers from different industries.

Design thinking and SAP

Design thinking is practiced in many companies. What advantages can using design thinking together with SAP have?

As mentioned above, one of the three important factors of a successful design thinking process consists of the participating people. SAP is supporting numerous customers from various industries on their way to digital transformation, and therefore has many differently experienced employees.

Some important roles in a design thinking workshop are: design thinking coach, project manager for agile innovation projects, industry and cross-sector experts, process and technology experts, and specialists for new business models.

Finding the sweet spot

If the members of the interdisciplinary team in the design thinking workshop were chosen right, the sweet spot can be found, and the idea reaches its highest innovative potential. This sweet spot is the interface between user experience (people), the economic potential (business), and the feasibility (technology). The structure of a design thinking process is the result of different stages and methods.

The first stage consists of the iterative process, during which the product is constantly modified and improved.

The second stage consists mainly of preparatory work. An early version of the product is created.

Subsequently, this version is made and delivered, then the user can put it to the test, making it the third and last stage. These stages are repeated until the product is finished.

The design thinking process is not only important in the workshop, but is also an integral part of the entire development process, which can last for several months.

Curated by Peter Färbinger. With texts from SAP, HPI and SAP Press.

Source: 18Q4 (German)

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