Having only been trained in one 3-day d.camp, Bill Roske didn’t think his first teaching session would be leading 400 students and faculty through a 2-day DT workshop during the snowy season in Denver, Colorado. Much to his surprise, however, he would be put up for the job.

Bill’s design journey began when he was introduced to Design Thinking during his research to find an approach to help his banking customers solve problems. As a Consulting Manager for SAP, Bill had limited direct customer interaction in his role, and he was searching for ways to add value for his customers. He heard about the Design Thinking approach and decided to enroll in a d.camp to learn the methodology and how to apply it in real-world scenarios.

Bill attended his first d.camp in 2016 with little knowledge of what Design Thinking was at the time. For those unfamiliar with what a d.camp is, it is a 3-day hands-on workshop that introduces participants to Design Thinking basics and methods and gives them an understanding of how to apply Design Thinking in application innovations and continuous improvements. After the end of the third day, participants are able to walk away with a set of techniques on how to apply design thinking into their work, which is what Bill did.

After his first d.camp, his confidence with helping customers solve problems at his profession increased. Dialogue to guide customers became more familiar so it was easy to empathize and find the best solutions to their problems. He even applied his newfound skills to his local YMCA and worked through a design challenge.

Though he was only involved in one 3-day d.camp, Bill felt confident enough to lead a workshop conference session for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance at the Alliance Management Institute. Originally, he was invited to Denver, Colorado to lead 2 sessions on the topic of “Solving BHAP’s (Big Hairy Audacious Problems) Using Design Thinking,” plus facilitate a group of ten students through a “Case Study”. The two sessions were broken up for students and faculty, each with about 25–100 participants and would be split up into two days.

The student session was fairly easily to facilitate as he utilized a pre-designed activity called DP0 Gift Giving Experience. This was created by the Stanford d.school and gave him 80% of what he needed to expose students to Design Thinking quickly in an extremely hands-on fashion. The engagement between students lasted throughout all steps of the activity which eventually led them to create some creative and useful prototypes.

Bill’s second session was to advise undergraduate university-level faculty and nonprofit professionals in a Design Thinking workshop. Their agenda was focused on how they could implement Design Thinking back into their workplace. Bill had to pull information from several existing slide presentations, plus add some unique insights to directly apply to this audience. Bill was proud to see the entire group of 50 university faculty and nonprofit executives fully engaged in the topic and asked insightful questions related to Bill’s expertise in Design Thinking.

Group of students during Design Thinking workshop. Photo by Bill Roske

For the Case Study, initially Bill created an agenda for a group of 10 students to solve real problems for a Denver nonprofit agency. The intent was to visit the nonprofit in person and work directly with their stakeholders to solve their design challenge. Much to everyone’s surprise, however, there was a heavy snow storm that week in Colorado which caused a “snow day” for participants.

This changed the agenda tremendously. All 400 students were stuck inside the large ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel. Instead of Bill only working with 10 participants, Bill was would be leading all 400 through a Design Thinking workshop.

With only little time to tweak his plan, Bill found himself on the stage under the bright lights presenting his newly devised agenda to all 400 students. Each group of 10 students were already assigned to one of the 40 local nonprofit agencies and had a unique problem statement to solve for their agency. Even though they couldn’t leave the hotel due to terrible weather conditions, Bill provided a common structure that guided the groups through each Design Thinking phase. Over the next six hours, Bill allowed the groups to diverge, then brought them back together in the Grand Ballroom to guide them how to converge. In the end, each group presented their agency with five, ten, or more solution ideas. Feedback from students was positive; many appreciated the Ideation process using post-it notes and some even said this remotely-guided approach was better than in previous years as it allowed them to spend more time discussing solutions.

Snow piled on the Sheraton hotel sign in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Bill Roske

From stepping through a 3-day Design Thinking camp to going off and teaching the world about the topic, Bill’s experience is unlike any other student who was able to apply their learnings in a real-world scenario. Now, Bill is striving to help others who are looking for solutions through Design Thinking.

“I thoroughly enjoyed applying my new Design Thinking skills to help people who are attacking some of our world’s biggest problems. Presenting to both college students and university faculty was a challenge but also fulfilling.” — Bill Roske

Design Thinking is like any other method, it must be learned and practiced so it becomes familiar in such a way that it becomes secondhand nature. Bill is an inspirational example of what taking one d.camp can prepare you for.

Bill Roske (right) with Dr. Robert Ashcraft of Arizona State University. Photo by Bill Roske


Background on Bill: Bill has been with SAP for over 11 years. Before that, he started his career at Accenture, was part of an early cloud startup, and worked in the nonprofit industry for ten years. His claim-to-fame at SAP is his work in 3 key board areas: Support, Product & Innovation, and Services, but always helping customers setup and/or use software. He continues in his current role managing the NA Financial Services Consulting practice, but is looking for more ways to apply his Design Thinking skills.
If you are interesting in contacting Bill about any Design Thinking matters, you can contact him at bill.roske@sap.com.

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