In early June, we, a small delegation from SAP Transportation Management (SAP TM) in Walldorf, boarded an airplane to Brazil where we were to conduct research for a Design Thinking project with a large multinational company. Our focus was on analytics and KPIs in the context of transportation and logistics. The main points on the agenda were interviews with transportation managers from that company in São Paulo and a countryside city nearby. Since some of the interviews were to be in Portuguese, we – i.e. Hans-Jörg Kersten (product owner), Sylvia Reimann (development architect), Ayla Asan (UX advocate), and Design Thinking coach, that’s me, Christian Knirsch – were supported by Denise Pilar and Deyse Daneze, two user researchers from SAP Brazil. On the first day in the Brazilian headquarters of the company, all the interviews went relatively smoothly. Because the interviewees had so much to tell, they took a bit longer than expected so that the storytelling after the interviews had to be done back in the hotel. If you think this is a little weird, there’s more to come! 


On the second day of interviews, our host joined us in a shuttle bus to the aforementioned small town about 2 hours north of São Paulo. On our way there, we had an unpleasant encounter with the local police authorities who argued that the license plates of our shuttle were only allowed within the City of São Paulo and that we were not to cross the city border. After about one hour of negotiations, we were allowed to drive on. The one-hour delay meant that we drove through our destination city in rush hour so that we arrived at the customer site more than one hour late. We did not want to lose time for the interviews, but – again – there was no time left to do the storytelling on-site! Since Denise had to catch a flight later that evening, doing it back in the hotel again was not an option either – but doing it without Denise’s contribution would have meant a significant loss of input since all the interviews that day had been in Portuguese. Well, we did not have too many options, did we? At first when I suggested we do the storytelling in the shuttle, they looked at me a little puzzled, smiled and dismissed the idea. When they realized I was serious, they threw up their hands and we gave it a try! The ride was a little bumpy at times, but somehow we managed to muddle through.  

Since the interviews that day had all been very fruitful, we all had huge piles of post-its on our laps – and they all needed to be clustered. It was not very hard to realize that even the windows in our shuttle did not leave us enough space for all the clusters we would have to create. That is why we had to ask our driver if we could stop at the next parking area and cluster our post-its on the outside of his shuttle. This time, it was the shuttle driver’s turn to look at me in disbelief – but, again, there was no doubt that I was serious.

Just before the sun set, we had our stories on the board – sorry, the bus – which allowed us to return to Germany with the full picture in mind – against all odds…



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