A Design Thinking Workshop at the Festival der Ideen - How to tackle challenging questions regarding the future of network(s), communication, and knowledge sharing

From September 10th to the 13th, the Festival der Ideen was held at Washingtonplatz in Berlin. The event was organised by Land Der Ideen - a joint effort by the German government and industry. The festival celebrated the 10th anniversary of “Ausgezeichnete Orte im Land der Ideen”, an initiative which recognizes extraordinary ideas in Germany. Under the motto “Mitdenken, Mitmachen, Miterleben”, Land der Ideen transformed the Washington Platz in front of the main station into an innovative thinking hub. Guests enjoyed the diverse program offered throughout the four day celebration, which included public talks and art, idea slams, and workshops. In cooperation with HPI School of Design Thinking INNOKI was there as well and took part in the fun! Professor Ulrich Weinberg, head of the HPI D-School, gave an introduction on the topic, whilst our co-founders Julia, Cecilia, Anna and Anita coached the participants in Design Thinking methods. We worked in multidisciplinary teams and spent three intense hours tackling important questions of how networks, communication, and knowledge sharing could potentially evolve in the future.

First of All - What is Design Thinking? A Brief Introduction

Design Thinking is an innovation method that uses a human-centered approach to solve complex problems. The core pillars of the method are; an interdisciplinary team, variable space, and the iterative six-step process. Each phase of the process aims at specific goals, outlined below.

Understand: getting all members of the team on the same page

Empathy: getting to know the user, their need(s) and interest(s) and gaining empathy for them

Synthesis: bundling the most important insights and knowledge about the user together

Ideation: going wild by letting the creativity flow and creating many new ideas

Prototype: thinking with the hands and giving the selected idea shape

Test: going out (back to the users), and testing the prototype by seeking feedback

There is another distinguishable factor that differentiates Design Thinking from other working styles. For example, we work with ‘Time-Timers’ that limit the duration spent one each task or topic. This helps us avoid lengthy discussions and tiring meetings. Thus, strict time-boxing can prove to be quite strenuous at times. At INNOKI, we see the benefit again and again when we limit time for specific tasks, letting teams explore the solution space with a different type of creative flow. And it was no different this time. Our conclusion: time-boxing team tasks unleashes new creative potential and increases team efficiency.

Challenges and Participants

The journey of any given Design Thinking process begins with a complex challenge. A complex challenge can be defined as a task or a question that isn’t easily solvable. Likely, it’ll take multiple expertise lenses and perspectives to grasp a holistic picture of the problem to begin with. This is why in Design Thinking, we work in multidisciplinary teams. A mechanical engineer has been trained with a different line of thinking and has been given other problem-solving tools than say, for example, a physicist, social scientist, engineer or banker. In the next step, the team defines their own focus and narrow the area of the challenge they find most interesting to work on. Our learning: Once team members identify with a particular part of the challenge and choose a focus together, they become intrinsically motivated to solve the need(s) for the specific user(group) they are designing for. Our teams did a fantastic job identifying their niche, albeit only having a short time span to do so.

Here were the two main challenges: “Design a point of contact, where people and institutions can share interests and discover hidden potentials” or “Design the ideal knowledge sharing and idea exchange between institutions“.

We divided up the teams and mixed up diverse backgrounds. Luckily, we had a good representation of industries present at the workshop; publishing, medicine, software, communication, art, banking, government, product innovation, and food. Two teams picked the first challenge, the other two the second. Each team defined their own focus according to the bigger themes of networks and knowledge sharing by going out into the field and talking to real users about their individual needs and problems they encounter in daily life. Here is an overview of the foci the teams chose: integration of refugees, knowledge sharing in a company, returning to a once familiar place and network which have undergone changes since, and a welcoming culture showing the personal potential of the own network in daily working life.

The Ideas

We had some neat prototypes at the end of the workshop. These were not derived from metrics, analytics, or fancy looking pie charts. Our teams went out on Washingtonplatz, talked to real people and listened to their stories. Using an “empathy map”, which is one of the many toolsets our coaches gained during their training at the HPI D.school, the teams synthesized their findings into insights and followed through with an ideation session. The ideas developed were not products or services based on sheer analytics and facts. Rather, they zoned in on specific needs of the user(group) they were designing for. Our learning: The Design Thinking phases “Empathy” and “Synthesis” require empathy-driven methodology and a deep comprehension of human-to-human interaction in order to solve for the often latent but important needs.

Team A worked on the challenge of how to better integrate refugees, the main issue being the unknown others who they saw but couldn’t identify with. The idea they came up with was a festival, with various workshops, sport activities, and even included a stage for personal story sharing.

Team B worked on a solution that dealt with the question of how to preserve knowledge of different generations of employees within a company. Their idea: The positive knowledge generator.

Team C took on the challenge of returning into a once well known place and network, which has naturally undergone significant changes during the absence. The idea was a welcoming centre which would update on relevant topics and changes since. Furthermore, it offers buddy-pairing possibilities to connect and catch-up with others.

Team D tackled the problem of long term employees who don’t see a personal benefit in their daily working network. The idea was that these people could take part in a funded exchange program to get to know the working environment of other network members and profit from vivid exchange.

Our coaches had a great time at the event and look forward to sharing Design Thinking with more of you in the near future!

INNOKI Coaches: Cecilia Hilmer, Anita Sehagic, Julia Primavera and Anna Kleibl

Photo credits: Pictures by Daniel Grimm and Bernd Brundert/Land der Ideen