Group shot of Klitschko Ventures and SAP curriculum participants

Klitschko Ventures and SAP Combine Design Thinking and Willpower

Klitschko Ventures and SAP share a long-term development of methodological skills on how to tackle challenges and innovate as a team.

Following its principle of “pooling strengths, creating synergies, and benefiting from each other,” Klitschko Ventures began working with SAP AppHaus — part of the SAP Customer Innovation organization — in 2019. A joint curriculum combines the SAP Design Thinking approach and Dr. Wladimir Klitschko’s method of “F.A.C.E. the Challenge” to train innovation leaders of the future.

Design thinking is a human-centered, iterative methodology to create breakthrough innovations. For more than a decade, it has been applied both internally at SAP and in numerous customer innovation projects. As part of SAP’s human-centered approach to innovation, it has been shown to be the right methodology to transform organizations, lead innovation, and prepare for the future.

Leading innovation also needs individuals who are equipped with the right willpower to face challenges. This is where Dr. Wladimir Klitschko and his “F.A.C.E. the Challenge” method come into play.

F.A.C.E., which stands for focus, agility, coordination, and endurance, is a four-step approach based on the duality of brain and power. It combines a physical workout with mental exercises, and it aims to uncover, integrate, and strengthen participants’ personal willpower.

True to the principle “human first,” personal willpower is the key factor for overcoming challenges when making innovation real in an organizational context. The jointly created curriculum equips its attendees with the skills that are needed to become a real innovation leader within their companies.

“With the new curriculum, Klitschko Ventures and SAP offer a holistic approach,” said Anja Schneider, senior vice president and head of SAP Customer Innovation. “On the one hand, it promotes the right soft skills and methodologies to tackle corporate innovation challenges. On the other hand, it offers the right technological framework to drive innovation with SAP’s Business Technology Platform, a portfolio of integrated solutions that enables continued business innovation across the entire enterprise with intelligence embedded in every interaction.”

Leading Innovation Curriculum 2019/2020

To both be the industry high-performer and to drive digital transformation successfully are wishes shared by many managers today. Inflexibility and resistance toward change often hinder companies from innovating.

With a firm resolution to navigate such innovation roadblocks, seven managers took part in all three modules of the 10-day pilot curriculum, which was launched in December 2019 and completed in March 2020. The participants were from diverse companies, operating in different industries including aircraft, insurance, and defense. What they all share is a strong passion for innovation.

Attendee Jürgen Hönle is an IT project manager at HiPP, a traditional manufacturer of baby food and products. His dedication was reinforced by the leading innovation curriculum and has already borne fruit in his organization. While there is a focus on Hönle’s personal journey, impressions from all participants are summarized in this additional video.

Module 1 – Me: Human First

For the attendees, Module 1 of the curriculum was all about self-perception and getting to know themselves while being away from their daily lives and free from distractions. The three-day workshop’s daily agendas from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. were packed with mindfulness and mental exercises, as well as sports activities facilitated by personal coaching.

Attendees went through the modules aligned with the F.A.C.E. method: focus, agility, coordination, and endurance. Every step was executed with discipline: punctuality, healthy nutrition, and balanced sleep. The attendees discovered their personal comfort zones and learned how to step out of it to be open for their own upcoming innovation challenges. Module 1 laid the foundation for the personal journeys of becoming innovation leaders within their own corporate context.

According to Hönle, “Despite a very packed agenda with every training day requiring a high level of attention, our curriculum team was able to deliver top performance while showing self-confidence and willpower to initiate our own innovation projects.”

Module 2 – My Project: Experience and Coach Design Thinking

With a sharpened self-image, the attendees were prepared for Module 2, which took place at the SAP AppHaus in Heidelberg. This module focused on learning how to apply design thinking to foster innovation as a team.

The participants not only experienced design thinking from the perspective of a workshop participant, but also slipped into the roles of design thinking coaches — perceiving team dynamics, stimulating members, identifying their potential, and responding appropriately. While learning how to guide a team from scoping to validation of prototypes, the focus was to uncover innovation potential as a result of team synergies.

“Design thinking coaching has not only strengthened my methodological skills but has also shown how important it is to involve and activate every single member in a multidisciplinary team,” Hönle shared. “It was amazing to see what central role this powerful method can play when applied in a creative space such as SAP AppHaus.”

Module 3 – My Organization: From Method Expert to Innovation Leader

To complete the picture, Module 3 emphasized participants’ roles as innovation leaders and initiators of cultural transformation in their own companies. They examined their cultural profile and the potential for scaling innovation across their organizations.

Prior to a final celebration round, the attendees reflected on their personal development and gave a presentation about their experience and the approach to leverage their innovation project. At the end of the curriculum, participants received a certificate and an invitation to the “F.A.C.E the Challenge” alumni network to stay in touch.

Time to Innovate: “No Is Not an Option”

Even though transformation starts with personal willpower, change in culture requires a team that is open to innovation and a flat hierarchy that allows these changes to happen.

The jointly created program aims to support managers like Hönle in driving sustainable innovation in their enterprise. Success could be achieved by conveying the right soft skills and willpower transported through the combination of Klitschko Ventures’ F.A.C.E the Challenge method and design thinking as part of SAP’s human-centered approach to innovation.

“No is not an option! The curriculum made me bolder to enter unchartered territory and question existing methods, processes, and solutions,” Hönle said. “At HiPP, we continue creating a work environment where my colleagues develop new ideas and implement them.”

During the three modules spread over a period of four months, attendees developed strong bonds. This diverse network now allows them to function as a cross-company team even beyond the curriculum. They can rely on each other, as well as on the ongoing support SAP offers as innovation partner of choice. The curriculum alumni are equipped with the right skills to fulfill their visions and drive their respective initiatives in their organizations to make innovation real.

To get ready for the new challenges we face due to COVID-19, the collaboration team has adapted and virtualized the content and format of the curriculum.

Updates on upcoming activities and contact details can be found on the Leading Innovation website.