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Design-Led Innovation Workshops

SAP developed from January - June 2006​

The Summary:

The Design Services Team at SAP was created under the Office of the CEO to lead fundamental changes to the DNA of the company through design innovation. As such, we were given the tools to succeed in translating for software design IDEO’s famous design thinking approach to product design.


The intent was to use this coaching and training workshop both to give product teams a tangible and relatable experience with the process and to garner support from product leaders and embedded user experience resources. All this in the name of innovation for enterprise products.


The Issues:

Essentially our team was in new territory attempting to teach Design Thinking as a new way to approach the software design process.  The heart of the effort was to give product teams a compelling way to place the user at the front of their process. Deductive reasoning had a bad habit of stifling their creative thinking early on -- technical constraints the oft-used scapegoat. 

Our challenge was to use what had already been developed by IDEO for product design, translate it for use in the context of software development, refine it, and then train teams successfully within the company at-large. The course needed to be scalable across the geographies where SAP employs product teams (e.g. Bangalore, Shanghai, Walldorf, Palo Alto). 

Methods Applied:


IDEO Collaboration

Workshop Piloting and Rollout

Primary Roles:



Curriculum Developer and Facilitator

Research Coach


  • Project/Design Director

  • Coaching/Training Specialist

  • Content Specialists (IDEO)

  • Audio/Video Production Specialist

  • Design Strategists

  • UI Designers/Prototypers

  • Stanford Graduate Students



Delivered a detailed Workshop Guide for company-wide use. 

Successfully trained >500 Product Managers, Directors, and SAP Top Talent in 2006.

Continued use of the training globally within SAP.

Training framework adopted at the Stanford 

Workshop Details

IDEO assisted us with modifications to the course curriculum so that the exercises would be meaningful and enjoyable as a training framework in the context of software development. An additional goal was to complete the training in 1 full day. Several pilot workshops were held in order to adjust content, timing, and various smaller details.

The new process, coined Design-Led Innovation, became a core training offering over which the Design Services Team took ownership. Given the team's collaborative relationship with the Stanford, this process was shared with them and adopted by them in various iterations. 

My team was fortunate enough to receive some media attention from the Wall Street Journal around our training course. 

Wall Street Journal article published about my team and the DLI process

Video Production for the Stanford

We also produced a video in the course of building out this training in Design Thinking. As content for one of the courses, faculty asked us to moderate and record a mock site visit interview. We chose to visit an administrative office for the City of Palo Alto to study their water billing process and the software tools the employees used there. 


The video was played in class for students as an exercise in note-taking and observation skills as well as a segue into a redesign exercise. 

Mock site visit interview for Stanford

© 2017 by Peter Roessler.

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