Written by: Susanne Paulus
Photo Credits: Bas Griffioen

On April 15th the European Design at Business Community met the first time in 2016. Hosted by Philips in Eindhoven the Design Thinking experts took the chance of an exchange at eye level on “Prototyping new Realities”.

A sunny evening in Eindhoven. Over 30 members of the Design at Business Community made their way through the clinker streets of the Dutch city into Philips Museum, where Philips, the host company, had chosen to start the first of two Design at Business Meetups in 2016. What an appropriate place for welcoming the Design Thinking Experts, coming this time from 16 companies and 5 countries: the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and Portugal.

Entering the museum the members of the Community greeted one another heartily and welcomed the new faces, and then the delicious refreshments just kept coming, following which a museum expert quite literally took the group for an illuminative tour. He explained where light pioneer Gerald Philips had developed the first Philips incandescent lamp more than a century ago, and how relevant that was for the group he was speaking to! Just as Philips in the brick-lined workshop where he was speaking had developed his prototypes, so are the people in the Community trying to improve people’s standards of living with significant innovations, and just how they attempt to do this, was the focus of this event.

“Design at Business is a great opportunity to extend my professional Design Thinking Network. In every event I am able to gain new insights how other multinational corporations are setting up their design thinking activities and how are they dealing with various challenges to bring customer insights to business impact.”
Dr. Bettina Maisch, Project Portfolio Manager industrial Design Thinking, Siemens Corporate Technology

Before entering technical discussions – the next day was dedicated to that – the community took the opportunity to chat informally on diverse topics. Later on Maren Christin Müller, Design Network Manager at SAP, asked the group to stand up and announced: “Please take the puzzle piece each of you finds underneath your plate. Try to fit the pieces together and see what you get.” After running around a while in confusion, comparing the puzzle pieces, it all made sense: The result of the puzzle was the new logo of the Design at Business Network. After this stimulation Maren moved over to an exciting matter: The first Design at Business Conference 2016 in Berlin. What topics should be discussed on this occasion? How many participants should there be? How could panels and discussions be organized? Who knows of exciting speakers? The lively feedback showed the high degree of interest in the first conference.

Jochen Maren

We’re currently working on a balanced program of inspiring keynotes and hands-on workshops. Do you know good speakers, or want to offer a share & discuss session? Please contact Maren.

“I’m pretty excited that the entire Community is moving forward, everybody is participating and sees the value.” Tobias Haug, Head of Design- and Co-Innovation Center Europe, SAP

The next day everyone swarmed out of the city center to Eindhovens’ High Tech Campus, the site of large Philips units – and the Philips Cocreator Lab. The premises constitute an architectural home for the design, discussion and exploration of user needs and the work on prototypes – in real maker spaces equipped with work benches, 3D-Printers etc. Later the day Mirjam Wouters and Jelle Tuinhout revealed in a guided tour how exactly Philips learns about user needs. In so-called Experience Labs they are invited, for example, to test certain products or prototypes in an authentic setting, such as in a completely furnished apartment or in a hospital.

“I had the chance to visit another innovation lab in order to learn in depth from their experiences.” Johanna Joppien, Design and Orientation Management, Fraport AG

The day then was split up into three parts: a pitching and discussion session about “Prototyping new Realities” during which Community members shared their experience and learnings on this specific topic with each other. It was followed by breakouts in small groups about topics that had been handed in beforehand, and one hour about the future of Design at Business and feedback.

“The number of stories that they had to share and the openness was pretty impressive. In my eyes, it was one of the best Design at Business meet-ups in the last five years.” Tobias Haug, SAP

We took some notes during the company presentations – there follows a random selection of how members of global players use prototypes to make new solutions tangible.

Maarten speaking


Maarten Rincker, Program Lead Cocreation
Context: Philips works with a true ecosystem of protoyping.
Approach: Be it in the field of hardware, software, context or interaction, in every field Philips Design begins with low resolution prototypes and, after having them (re)tested by users, approaches the higher level of resolution. By gathering the insights out of all fields Philips Design aims to reach a holistic product development process.
Tips for successful prototyping:
– Fake it till you make it
– Design your prototype simply enough to minimize risk and effort, but real enough to be credible and stimulating
– Learn by improving the quality level of the demonstrations in iterations
– Keep the complete team involved



Dr. Bettina Maisch and Axel Platz, Principal User Experience Design, Siemens Corporate Technology
Context: Create innovative technology solutions based on uncovered customer needs and drive the innovation process from insight to impact in an agile/lean approach through prototype (build), test and learn (iterate). Siemens adapted the DT process by IDEO and Stanford to the requirements of Siemens and calls the program industrial Design Thinking (i.DT).
Prototyping approach: In i.DT prototyping is used for communication and fast learning instead of mere functional verification.
Tips for successful prototyping:
– Start with prototyping of critical functions and experiences in a low-resolution
– Generate as many prototypes as possible to broadly explore the solution space (diverge)
– Explore many directions, especially crazy ideas
– Explicit prototype stages helped to nicely force the teams to learn through building


“Prototyping for physical products is a totally different thing.” Jochen Gürtler, Design Thinker, Intrapreneur, Innovation Coach, SAP

„It was mentioned that own space is important, that different products and methodologies should be tested, that it’s a good idea to learn from external coaches in order to determine, which approach works best for the company.“ Johanna Joppien, Fraport



Andrea Anderson, Vice President Design Thinking and Jochen Gürtler
Context: Prototyping of online learning experiences
Approach: Even when you create online training formats for design thinking, you should start doing this by prototyping different elements. Storytelling is one key aspect, why we build prototypes besides aspects like early testing and validation.
Tips for successful prototyping:
– Use prototypes to tell stories from the user perspective
– Use tools like SAP SCENES to motivate participants to work visually
– Start with NON digital prototypes especially when you build digital products (i.e. software)

These presentations were followed by others from Barco, Bosch, Daimler, General Electric, Generali, IBM, Novabase, Swisscom and Volkswagen, all packed with prototyping experiences or challenges the Design teams face in their companies. In terms of prototyping tools Bram Hendriks and Mathias Zapke from Bosch presented an interesting example of the further development of an existing tool – in this case of SAP Scenes. The Bosch Design team had adapted the figures and settings of Scenes for their special business situations, which helped them to vitalise their service stories.

“The SAP Scenes tool and the animation of drawings with stop motion technique are things I took along from Eindhoven and want to apply soon.” Betty Hohmann, Design Thinking Program Manager & Foursight Certified Coach, GE Healthcare


Another case everyone curiously listened to was the Swisscom presentation from Angela Haas, Senior Human Centered Design Expert. Facing the urgency of speeding up innovation processes the Swisscom Design team came up with the tool „Looping: An online plattform where employees can give quick feedback on prototypes and where they can present their own ideas to the community. Furthermore, employees had been trained to recognize what Design Thinking is and how it can be applied. In this way Swisscom activated employees‘ creative potential, in order to make these ideas or prototypes visible on Looping and to get a motivated testing community – out of employees. That „saves us money and time“, Angela Haas summed up.

After the presentions there was time for an exchange of views and discussions in small groups. One of them for instance discussed the question of how other project management methods like „Agile“, „Lean“ or „Scrum“ and Design Thinking could be fruitfully combined. Other groups debated the success factors for anchoring Design Thinking in the corporate culture. Another team reconsidered the role Design Thinking could play in an organisational transformation.


All these insights and conversations between and during the well-thought-out agenda made the first Design at Business event 2016 in Eindhoven a valuable break-out from daily routines and allowed an exchange at eye level. In the end, everyone agreed that big enterprises all face the same issues when it comes to sustainably adopting design-led innovation, and that it makes much sense to join forces and build on the learnings of others.

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