What do companies need to not only survive, but thrive in the digital age? This was the main question addressed at the event “Vorsprung durch Querdenken” organized by the IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce) Rhein-Neckar. It was all about gaining competitive advantage through breaking with conventions.
The venue the IHK chose for this event couldn’t have been better: inno.space at the Hochschule Mannheim is a place that lives and breathes innovation culture. It is also a place where a new generation of students is equipped to shape Germany’s future in a radically changing environment. In cooperation with corporate partners, the digital natives work on real-life projects that teach them hands-on problem-solving skills and other competencies they could never acquire in a traditional classroom setup.
All speakers at the event agreed that innovation requires disruptive thinking. Incremental product development needs to be replaced by disruptive approaches. Silo mentality must give way to a culture of co-creation and empathy. But are German companies ready to compete in this new environment?
Innovation culture brought to life
For Andreas Hauser, Global Head of SAP AppHaus and renowned advocate of innovation culture, the human factor is at the core of the digital transformation. Under the headline “The fast fish eats the slow fish”, Hauser explained that companies need to adopt a mindset that embraces change and fosters agility and creativity. Technology is no longer at the core of innovation, it is only an enabler. Products and services can only be successful if you identify what the real needs and wishes of your customers are and consider them in everything you work on.
“To build a culture of innovation, you have to do one important thing: You need to get innovation into the hands of end users and make it real.”
Andreas Hauser, SVP, SAP AppHaus Network
This type of human-centered innovation is exactly what Prof. Kirstin Kohler and her students are practicing at inno.space. Kohler, Design Thinking expert and coordinator of the inno.space, believes that the complexity we are dealing with today can only be tackled by multidisciplinary teams that are encouraged to think out of the box. Applying Design Thinking, her students come up with solutions by building rapid prototypes, testing them, and discarding them again until they get it right.
SAP AppHaus handed over a Scenes toolkit to the inno.space team
To support this iterative human-centered innovation process, SAP has recently engaged in the creation of different tools and methods. One of them, called “Scenes”, is used to visualize scenarios of new product or service ideas very early in the design process. Without the need of drawing skills, a project team can prototype a business challenge in the form of compelling storyboards that are easy to understand and remember. After his talk, Andreas Hauser took the opportunity to hand over a “Scenes” box to the inno.space team.
“The Scenes box completes our prototyping tool set at inno.space. Prototyping plays a central role in our innovation process, because it makes ideas tangible. Whereas card board, 3D printing and laser cutter focus more on prototyping smart objects or products, Scenes supports us in service design. Especially at the early phases, when the team explores the problem space, Scenes allows to picture and discuss the entire user journey and therefore supports ideation as well as early concept evaluation.
Prof. Kirstin Kohler, Hochschule Mannheim
Innovative business models require creativity and a willingness to change. If companies manage to leverage their creative potential and new generations of students enter the business world with human-centered problem-solving skills, we are one step closer to creating sustainable business value in the future.
If you want to get creative and start building storyboards yourself, you can download Scenes for free from the SAP AppHaus page.
Prototypes for need finding and problem exploration in digital innovation projects by Prof. Kirstin Kohler