By using a real business challenge as the vehicle for experiencing design-led innovation, SAP’s design thinking coaches at AppHaus Palo Alto helped the provider recognize the value of innovation culture, before initiating a journey to achieve it.
Problem finding before problem solving
Adopting a design thinking mindset is vital for organizations to change their workplace cultures. To demonstrate this, AppHaus Palo Alto’s design thinking coaches guided the HR provider’s employees through experiential exercises, which were curated to tackle one of their business challenges:
to more effectively translate insights from clients into better on-boarding experiences.
Creating personas and journey maps for customers provided a hands-on framework that allowed employees to think deeply about clients, understand their needs, and prototype potential solutions by devising real ideas and strategies.
“For us to start thinking about approaching problems in a different way, starting with empathy and eventually to prototyping... Really, if we could start applying that consistently we could do some pretty amazing things.”–
By practicing design thinking, the provider’s team discovered that they were capable of being creative. Learning to collaborate was especially essential, as employees of large companies don’t necessarily support one another in a way that benefits the entire organization. The design thinking workshop created a safe environment for employees to experience this.
“Having a facilitator there to be that independent, objective person to both guide the group and point out certain behaviors, or things that we’re not aware of- that’s valuable, because, however we act through these exercises is also probably how we tackle problems outside the environment.”–
Day one focused on problem finding, by revealing how the company’s workplace culture could improve. Day two was for problem solving- figuring out what their journey would entail.
Putting Innovation Readiness to the Test
During day two’s opening exercise, a race to build the highest tower, the HR provider’s employees were so focused on results, that the hierarchical nature of the company became a barrier. Further dialogue revealed that the company embraced fostering a more innovative culture- they simply needed to do it.
These findings were reflected in their Innovation Readiness Survey results, taken in preparation for the workshop. It was clear that the assessment accurately reflected the company’s stage of innovation in terms of all three pillars: people, process, and place. To make these insights actionable, the team voted on the top three barriers to address, and created a new workstream for each one.
The design team’s role was to bring together executives, management, and employees to facilitate an honest conversation about the survey results, and give everyone a platform to share their unspoken concerns. SAP’s coaches also pulled leadership aside to address specific management issues, and to discuss how they might better empower employees.
Ultimately, the coaches gave employees space to collectively develop ideas that both, employees and management, could commit to.
Fostering Innovation Culture
After only a day and a half with SAP’s design thinking coaches, the company presented their findings to management, who added the workstreams to performance goals. Moving forward, management will support and track their commitment. What’s more, the workstreams now meet weekly, and the company hired a designer to re-envision their workspace.
“It has fundamentally changed the attitude of our organization towards design and innovation. The advantage of the workshop was, it identified our challenges in a clear, concrete manner. And, more importantly, it identified solutions we can use to address these challenges in a very clear manner. The workshop was really powerful as a catalyst to get us to jump forward quickly.”–
Ultimately, the HR provider didn’t just walk away with ideas. Each employee, including members of leadership, walked away with a commitment to fostering innovation culture. Employees collectively dedicated themselves to workstreams that would benefit the entire organization and used the workshop with SAP to transform their workplace culture for a more innovative future.