A back to school, digital innovation design deep dive

A group of people sitting at a campfire listening to stories
A group of people sitting at a campfire listening to stories
Campfire — Photo by Mike Erskine on Unsplash

Why? Why a separate section dedicated to storytelling and argumentation? W-H-Y? Those three letters hold the answer. Everyone wants and needs to know why. Why is one thing better than the other? Why should I work with you instead of someone else? Why did you do something that way and not the other way round?

Use structure to your advantage

The first aspect of convincing someone to agree with your point of view is your argumentation. The second aspect is how you deliver your arguments, how you tell your story, which is at least as important as the argumentation. Little did I understand about these topics back in school. In Latin, I simply tried to remember by hard how to spot an alliteration, chiasmus, or oxymoron. Those stylistic devices honored good speakers in ancient Rome, I thought. In German studies, I learned something Greek. Every story has an introduction, a main part, and ending. …

A back to school, digital innovation design deep dive

Working remote

This deep dive is all about the remote. I guess most of you have been confronted with remote working and maybe even remote education in the last weeks, too. I will try not to bore you and refrain from general guidance on the issue and focus on my setup and what worked for me.

Again, as mentioned above, I wanted to ensure:

  1. Everyone contributes and we make use of everyone’s knowledge
  2. We collaboratively design a digital innovation
  3. Empathy, Facilitation, and Storytelling skills get developed

Setup and helpers

Improvised remote setup, desk with hardware
Improvised remote setup, desk with hardware
Remote setup

The first thing I had to realize was that I left something important in the office. My second display. It was always there. I used it to share presentations, videos, or application screens. I always had a regular display to see the faces of other participants and see their reactions to what I am saying or doing. I always had it to quickly google something or ask some else a question via a backchannel. I always used it for my notes. I never thought I would miss it like hell. My solution: Present via mobile phone with Keynote, resize lots of application windows and introduce a co-host to manage questions. The co-host proved to be one of the best decisions: students took turns and took the responsibility to ensure the progress of our sessions. …

5 Whys method represented by a sketch note
5 Whys method represented by a sketch note
Method: 5 Whys

For designers and consultants who do not have time or project budget to experiment with unknown methods or approaches, I will share the insights of my course with you.

The process

I needed a process that helped me to reach my goals:

  • Have everyone contribute and make use of everyone’s knowledge
  • Design a digital innovation
  • Provide space for skills I consider essential:
    Empathy, Facilitation, and Storytelling

Over the course of the semester, I had 7 sessions of 4 hours to work together with the whole group of 11 students. Plus an additional session reserved for the students pitching their innovations which made up one part of their final grade. …

Teaching - Digital Innovation Design - is better than studying

In the following article, I will share with you my experience and learnings from teaching a bunch of students. As I was hosting a course in digital innovation design, most parts are probably more relevant for designers than for anyone else. Anyhow, I think at least one of the three deep dives might be interesting for everyone. Moreover, I would be extremely happy if I can help you with anything I mention in the future or simply a coffee break talking about methods, remote, or storytelling.

I was in the right place at the right time before the right people.

I gave a talk on Empathic Listening at the world usability conference midway through the semester in front of an audience featuring professors of the user experience degree at the TH Ingolstadt. I was asked if I wanted to give a course, wrote the syllabus for digital innovation design, and said yes. If you want to host a course but do not have a talk or conference coming up, I recommend simply reach out to a faculty member with a syllabus suggestion. …

Establish a daily connection to your peers.

a puppy wearing a blanket
a puppy wearing a blanket
Learn which peer this puppy resembles — Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

The headline says it all. I felt disconnected from my team and I wanted to change something about that. But first of all give me the chance to describe my situation, see if you can relate and afterwards I’ll tell you what to do about it. It will not take long and I will even skip images from now on, I promise.

I feel disconnected

With everyone being in homeoffice, I have the feeling that I am actually talking more with everyone than I ever did before. We even have a daily meeting in the morning without working in scrum — yes, it is possible to be agile without scrum. Still, I feel like I lost some connections. But why? I talked to my coach and we realised what has been missing. I was not able to tell how my opposite was feeling. I only always see everyone sitting in front of their laptop cameras. In the same room. With the same shirt. …

Empathic listening as a design superpower.

A superhero group representing different superpowers
A superhero group representing different superpowers
Photo by Craig McLachlan on Unsplash

Have you ever dreamt of being a superhero? Or at least of having a superpower? What about shapeshifting, having superhuman strength or traveling through time? I guess we all were at the point when we were capable of superhuman things and rescued the world. Or at least made the world a little bit more bearable for ourself.

But as this article will be about design, the question is not which superpower you would choose.

Which superpower would a designer choose?

The answer is pretty simple and straightforward: Read minds in order to truly understand people and design for their unsatisfied needs. …

All the others are the same anyway

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

UX-, UI-, Product-, Interaction-, Motion-, Service-, Brand- and Innovation-Designers, listen up, it is that time of year again. I am not talking about Christmas or New Year’s Eve. I am talking about trends for the next year. For the next decade. For the future.

Are you bored at work or at home?

If you are bored and do not know how to use your time, you might read all reports all across the internet. Else you might:

  • Finally finish your portfolio
  • Build lego houses with your children, nephew or niece, …
  • Exercise, do yoga or meditate

If you are not bored and would rather spend your time with something else, I will summarise all the trends — read: things that agencies want to sell or companies want to buy — for you and deduct the top three trend categories. …

It is the same old story as with beer.

Ever had that one annoying colleague, who is nagging all the time, with questions, that have super obvious answers? That colleague, who is questioning everything?

What is the difference between Design Thinking and Service Design and a Design Sprint and Lean UX and …?

I have not. I was, and probably still am, that particular person. I just could not see a difference. It was all centred around a user and everything sounded the same to me.

First I was excited about the theory

Read here, why it turned into disappointment

I started, where any great work starts: Google. I looked at charts and read articles. Everything mixed with everything. That meant, I had no choice and needed to do something, that I avoided, whenever possible, while studying. I searched for and read all the original books and papers. …


Maximilian Schmidt

Innovation consultant with a passion for experience and strategy.

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