Before going to the Design Thinking workshop organized by Career Services as part of the MBA Career Development Programme, we had little idea what it was all about. The one thing we knew was that it was useful, and it had something to do with thinking. I daresay it was pretty chaotic in the beginning, as everyone had different expectations of the workshop. But like a lot of things in life, if you hold on till the end, the experience might actually be very rewarding, the workshop too turned out to be an invaluable experience.
At the beginning of the workshop the trainer and facilitator Sven Brandelik divided us into three groups and each group was given a persona – MBA students with different professional backgrounds, characteristics and career goals. We were then asked to analyse and work out the challenges the persona might face in pursuing their career goals. Our tasks thus revolved around how a fictitious character could overcome obstacles and land a job in Germany. Each group was guided by one table coach through each of the design thinking stages. As coaches for creative thinking, they inspired us a lot on how to take the first step and reach our goal in the end – it could be described as a “from 0 to 1” experience.
In the first step we were asked to read a lot of background information which at first seemed to be unrelated to ourselves. After that we did a lot of brainstorming activities and given our very different backgrounds (the participants were a group of Full-Time MBA students from different nationalities, such as China, USA, Ukraine, Brazil and Colombia amongst others) the ideas we had were very diverse.
As we tried to put ourselves in the personas’ shoes while relating to our past experiences, we were able to come up with very creative ideas. To me that was the best part of team work: to have different voices within the team, challenge each other by being critical, yet keep an open mind, build upon each other’s ideas, put the ideas together into something concrete, and finally reach our common goal together. In the end, we were surprised by how far we developed the idea, given the short period of time. The coaches were really good listeners and they were also critical about our ideas, but along with their guidance, we learnt that we could always solve one problem at a time. Nothing was impossible.
After almost two days of brainstorming, discussing, thinking, struggling and having fun at the same time, all three groups managed to develop great initiatives of how to help FS Students to have better access to the German labor market, by using the tools of Design Thinking. The workshop encouraged us to see things from a different perspective by using a creative process.
©Sven Brandelik, 2017
It was interesting to see, when presenting to our peers, how we contributed to each other’s projects giving additional thoughts and ideas to the different groups. In the last part of the workshop, we had guest judges from Career Services to whom we presented the three initiatives. Each group made its best effort and, in the end, it was very satisfying to see that all of these ideas may be considered for future implementation. The most interesting part about the workshop is that even though each group focused on their own project, we managed to work as a big team helping each other to make our results better. It was a contribution environment based on team work.
In conclusion, we can say that the key takeaways of this workshop were: Brainstorming is the main step towards developing new ideas through immersion and interaction, generating conversation spaces, developing understanding about stakeholders’ expectations and aspirations, and last but not least, two or more heads think better than one.