Design Thinking Labs – Europe’s Millennials’ Alternative Workspace?

Berlin Youths Spearheads a New Work Order.
A Special Europe Feature on Social Innovation – Interviews with Sascha Wolff from Dark Horse and Anna Ostwald from INNOKI

I’ve heard about Design Thinking in Singapore for a few years – be it projects like the Employment Pass Services Centre from the Ministry of Manpower, or from the National Design Centre and Secondary Schools. I was curious about the process. Was it a buzzword? The steps looked simple and were almost too easy. What was it that was different?

Before heading up to Berlin, I chanced upon a meeting with a local practitioner, Trechelle. She shared that if you want to learn design thinking, it would be Stanford’s in the U.S.. Otherwise, it would be the Hasso Plattner Institute School of Design Thinking in Berlin where she went.

She linked me up with her classmate, Anna Ostwald, a budding design thinker from INNOKI. I googled around and found Sascha Wolff, a seasoned design thinker, from Dark Horse, whose clients include Audi, Bayer, DHL, Luthansa and Mercedes Benz. From my interviews with them, I started to realised that Design Thinking is more of a mindset, than a process. Perhaps, this mindset can enable these youths to change Europe in fresh ways, for the better.

Sascha Wolff - Dark Horse

Anna Ostwald - INNOKI

Halogen360 (H360): What is so unique about Design Thinking?

Anna Ostwald (AO): It is a practice that allows you to re-discover the abilities and talents you had, when you were young. You use your curiosity, grow your empathy for people and their problems then you try to find the wildest ideas on how to solve them in order to really come up with innovative solutions.

Design Thinking allows you to think with your hands as you prototype concepts and products. It also encourages you to fail early and thus learn from your mistakes quickly.

The German education system places much emphasis on rote learning and the ‘one right answer’. In a typical classroom in school, you mainly sit and listen. With Design Thinking, you’re searching for a solution through doing and failing, it is thinking by doing.

Design Thinking is also a mindset and a culture where the participants are all equal. The team gains ‘informed intuition’ – where you distill insights and a point of view from both qualitative human conversations combined with data and research. From there you brainstorm for solutions, create prototypes quickly and find something that works.

(H360): How big is your team and what do they do?

Sascha Wolff (SW): We have 30 co-founders from 25 different disciplines. In design thinking practice, it is important to bring multi-disciplinary people together as that is where you get fresh perspectives and prevent groupthink. Personally, I studied political science, environment education and philosophy and graduated from the HPI School of Design Thinking.

(AO): We are 20 equal co-founders of different academic and professional backgrounds. In our team, we have actors, engineers, neurobiologists and business owners. We use our interdisciplinary points of views to create innovative products and services. We also support other organisations in their change management journey and share our experiences through Design Thinking in Workshops for our clients. All of us studied at the HPI School of Design Thinking.

H360 Online Jan 2016 - Design Thinking Labs – Europe’s Millennials’ Alternative Workspace (Sascha Wolff & Anna Streiter) Images 03

(H360): What is the structure of your team and how do you all operate?

(SW): There are no hierarchies and all 30 of us have voting and veto rights. Yes we have ‘CEO’s by law and need functional roles but by and large we’ve created a company with a structure that is pretty uncommon. We are focused on building a community, serving each other.

We create tools of trust, not tools of control. One of them include the biggest failure award – it is self-nominated and the person shares with others what they done and what they’ve learnt from that. For that, he/she gets a ‘s