Have you ever wondered why most companies fail and only very few succeed on their mission? To really understand how companies make the world better every day, I decided to join a small number of diverse students from all over the world on an intense ride to learn how to build human-centric services that create benefit and are loved by their users. The kicker: I got to do so together with Daimler Fleetboard GmbH and an awesome Team!
Real Companies. Real Projects. Real Designs… this is the first thing you will read when you inform yourself about the “ME310 course” at Stanford University. ME310 and the associated SUGAR organization are a global network featuring a multitude of universities and companies in order to teach students Design Thinking. This is a human-centric approach to create innovative products and services together with a partner company that fulfil a real need.
It is also the reason a bunch of students from all over the world gathered in Silicon Valley earlier this year for a special event. The best of it: Me and my team from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Trinity College Dublin were right in the middle of it as our universities are part of the SUGAR network! With Daimler Fleetboard GmbH as our corporate partner, it was our chance to use this event to further tackle our challenge: Envision how the future of logistics might look like.
Fleetboard is an ideal partner: Fleetboard services were introduced to the market in 2000 before Daimler Fleetboard GmbH was established in 2003. The company combines many years of extensive experience in the logistics industry with information technology know-how. Its core business is telematics for commercial vehicles and digital solutions for the logistics industry.
A tribute to the underdogs
Don’t we all root for the underdog sometimes? The one that nobody expects to even have the slightest chance in a race? The one that would upset everybody by winning? In Design Thinking, such an underdog is also called a dark horse. Originally used by horse race gamblers, we use it to describe an over-the-top idea that is very unlikely to be the final idea just on its own. This was also the objective of our special event. Every team was supposed to build as many dark horse prototypes as possible and pick one particularly cool prototype to pitch on the last day.
When the whole world is crazy, it doesn’t pay to be sane
Curious what we came up with? Well, we went completely nuts! Just to give you an impression, one prototype revolved around the idea of sending goods into low earth orbit. There they would float around the earth with tremendous speed. At some point an impulse would send the ordered goods back towards earth and they would arrive in a matter of minutes. Even though this is just sliiiiiiiightly unrealistic, it can serve as a good basis for more down-to-earth (pun intended) ideas like advanced drone delivery later on.
Apart from coming up with crazy ideas, we were also fortunate enough to listen to some inspiring talks from industry veterans like Dr. Frederik Pferdt, the Chief Innovation Evangelist from Google, who gave an amazing talk about how to think big and be innovative.
One issue he identified is that people will often only look at the negative aspects of an idea. His solution: The “Yes, and…” approach. Try it out for yourself: Listen carefully to the idea of your co-worker or friend and instead of discouraging her, answer with “Yes, and you could make it even bigger by adding [your secret sauce] to it!”. It works, guaranteed!
Swim with the sharks
You might know the famous “Shark Tank” show. The basic idea is that entrepreneurs are pitching their business in front of a group of investors, the sharks. Such a shark tank was set up for the grand final of the event. A number of randomly drawn teams were able to pitch in front of a selected group of vice presidents, advisors, and venture capitalists. And guess what, we were one of the lucky few! Having selected our favorite prototype, we got some great feedback from the sharks and had an amazing time pitching in front of the audience.
The road ahead
This felt like the shortest week of my life. Talking to some of the brightest people I’ve ever met and soaking in the just-do-it spirit that permeates the valley like an ether my team and me gained a lot of new insights. The week was also a very valuable step on my way to understand how to build services and eventually companies that matter to people. We are really looking forward to the coming months where we will further narrow down our ideas and, together with Fleetboard, hopefully create a part of the future of logistics and present our results. Who knows, maybe one of our prototypes will at some point in the future help to transport freight from A to B?