Application Development Blog Posts
Learn and share on deeper, cross technology development topics such as integration and connectivity, automation, cloud extensibility, developing at scale, and security.
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Active Contributor


As I've mentioned before on #SCN, we had started this grass roots initiative to get a 4-day long designthinking workshop going in the Netherlands, and now that it's over I can proudly say: we pulled it off (obviously) and it was a great workshop!

We had 12 participants for the 'Awareness Workshop' on the first day, and 7 of them continuing for 3 more days with a more coaching focused workshop. The workshop leader was julia.dorbic2 from D-Labs (watch out for more contributions from her in this space) and she was supported by her colleague and UX researcher Christina Karsten. The first day we also had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of D-Labs, Jörn Hartwig.

Fig 1. (from left to right): Christina, Jörn and Julia from D-Labs

First day & tips

As mentioned above, on Tue August 6th we kicked off with an Awareness Workshop in which we went through the whole design thinking cycle once, comparable with the design thinking part of sapinnojam. The 12 participants were divided into 3 groups (of 4):

Fig 2. (from left to right): tom.vandoorslaer , Matthijs Wardenier, koen.labie2 and Margreet Klerkx

Fig 3. (from left to right): hans.gmeligmeyling , pascal.decock , schippersa and twan.vandenbroek

Fig 4. (from left to right): robin.vanhethof , verreydths , Vincent Staal and myself

We started out with the formation of the teams and doing a warming up exercise in which we did peer interviews (one on one) and tried to frame the essence of Design Thinking in our own words. A little bit of team building and getting to know each other.

This was the first thing to remember and apply in my future workshops, or TIP NR 1. It worked great. It's probably not a coincidence that it's also mentioned as a best practice by heike.vangeel in her excellent blog post with tips for facilitators which I hadn't yet read :smile: . Well, after we'd shared the peer-interviews with the whole group we were ready to start with the real content of the workshop.

To be able to work on something we had to define a challenge. Julia had collected some articles about general themes that had been in the news, and were somehow related to IT. I won't disclose the other 2 challenges (we might want to reuse them some other time), but in the end we almost unanimously decided on the "Youth Unemployment in the EU, and the role of IT" challenge. Kudos to Julia for letting us choose from 3 possible challenges! Which leads to:

TIP NR 2: when you're facilitating a designthinking workshop with the purpose of teaching Design Thinking itself, choose a challenge that has nothing to do with the participants' daily jobs. Otherwise 'expert knowledge' might take over from learning Design Thinking, and the whole experience will be less fruitful :smile: . It's a tip I think I've read somewhere on #SCN before, and a good one!

As I already noticed we used the rest of the day to basically walk through a complete iteration of the designthinking 'process' as shown in the well-known picture below:

Fig 5. Design Thinking process steps

I won't go into the details of what the different teams came up with as far as solutions and prototypes are concerned. For me, the goal of this blog post is to highlight the coaching aspect and to share some tips that I took away from this workshop.

Next days: another iteration

The second and third day we did another cycle of our challenge, this time elaborating more on the different process steps. We took a deep dive into how to create an interview guideand we did a 20 minute videotaped interview, instead of going out onto the street and asking random people about youth unemployment (like we did on Tuesday and which had its own charm).

Since there were now 'only' seven of us, here are the 2 teams from the last 3 days:

Fig 6. The first team, consisting of schippersa , twan.vandenbroek and pascal.decock

Fig 7. The other team, consisting of Matthijs Wardenier, myself, robin.vanhethof and Margreet Klerkx and supported by Christina Karsten

Coach the coaches

On the third and fourth day we also got individual assignments (in between the process steps): we all had to prepare a short explanation of some design thinking method and then present that method to the rest of the group as if we were the coach in a Design Thinking workshop. Of course the preferred way to do this was without the slides and to visualize it as much as possible using the flip charts or the brown paper. Using equipment like a computer or other device was totally out of the question :smile: .

I'll label this as TIP NR 3: Try to let the participants 'make' the workshop and do the presenting. As a participant you are much more active and engaged, and you'll also get to learn more about the subject when you have to explain it to others compared to when you can just sit back and listen to the coach/facilitator.

Another benefit for us was that we gained more experience presenting stuff (something a coach must be able to do of course), and to add to that, these mini-presentations were videotaped (which I'll label TIP NR 4), which allowed for direct and very good feedback about our presentation skills (or lack thereof).

This way we learned way more than 'only' Design Thinking theory, though it was of course a major part of the workshop. Thanks to the coaching angle we were also forced to think about:

  • What activities need to be done before the workshop starts?
  • What activities need to be done during the workshop?
  • What activities need to be done afterwards?
  • What are the different skills and responsibilities of a coach/facilitator?
  • How do you make an agenda for a workshop
  • How do you kick off a workshop as a coach/facilitator?
  • Etc...

Since we didn't have enough time to finish all of this during the workshop, we even got a homework assignment, to be completed at home after the workshop. This involved creating a detailed agenda for a 2-day Design Thinking Awareness Workshop and inventing a list of post-workshop coach activities. Mind you, the agenda building was something we'd already practiced in the workshop itself, but repetition is good, especially as it's an important aspect and responsibility of the coach/facilitator to get right. Not to forget being flexible about it!

Some more pictures (Design Thinking = visualisation)

The Space

As noted in this very recent blog post by peter.mittemeyer having the right Space is important for a Design Thinking workshop! Well, thanks to twan.vandenbroek offering us to use the company skybox at the PSV-stadium (his company Ciber apparently is a sponsor) we really had nothing to complain about. Of course we had to improvise a bit, but as far as I know that is standard procedure in a workshop :smile: .

Fig 8. View on the field from the balcony

Fig 9. External view of the stadium

Fig 10. Panoramic view of the Ciber skybox (photo courtesy of robin.vanhethof )

Artifacts created or used

In the prototyping phase(s) we had to be creative and build/make things from the materials we had at our disposal. Here are some pics of the artifacts created during the workshop. The idea in general is to use as many natural materials as possible and not resort to e.g. powerpoint. To be honest, I'm still not sure what exactly the theoretical idea behind this is (feel free to explain it to me in the comments), but it definitely makes for more creativity and a more immersive experience (no distractions like SCN , twitter, etc).

Fig 11. Day 3: a computer screen :wink:

Fig 12. Day 1: 'persona' Paul, a Spanish school kid (the ball on the left) and some more artifacts

I also have to include one picture which emphasizes the importance of post its. We used a lot of them, and this workshop made me really value these simple pieces of colored paper. This leads me to TIP NR 5: make sure you always have enough post its! I didn't bring enough post its on day 1 and had to go back to the shop on Wednesday morning to get us some extra supply. Did I already mention it was a grass roots initiative? :smile:

This picture should also make clear that, although it was hard work, we also had a lot of fun during these 4 days.

Fig 13. Post its galore!

Next steps

With the 7 of us being "Design Thinking junior coach" the sky is the limit of course :cool: . But seriously, as Julia had told us upfront: there's only so much you can learn via theory or in a workshop like this. The next steps have to be: practice, practice, practice.

With that in mind I think it's very cool that Julia, Margreet and myself have been accepted as Design Thinking coaches at sap_innojam Amsterdam, right before SAPTechEd.

Next to that Julia and myself also plan to do a short awareness workshop on the Monday of Innojam (Nov 4th), just before TechEd starts. If you're coming to TechEd Amsterdam, don't want to spend half of your weekend on sap_innojam and still want to experience what Design Thinking is all about, ping me or Julia! Details will be announced shortly via the usual channels.

So to wrap up: I want to thank all my fellow participants and the coaches for their input, dedication and positive spirit during these 4 days. Together we made this a wonderful experience!

Last but not least: all photos except the one of the Ciber skybox are courtesy of julia.dorbic2, made with her new camera! Thank you Julia :cool: .

Labels in this area