ITC Bootcamp 555


In a world, more volatile and complex than ever, a lot of companies struggle with the implementation of innovation. It cannot just come from linear thinking and incremental changes. For developing new ideas into real projects or rethinking and refining existing projects/tools/services, the combination of internal know-how with an exploratory innovation approach is required. Aware of this, the Innovation Lab of the International Trade Centre (ITC), which supports the internationalization of small and medium-sized enterprises, decided to introduce its employees to the agile method of Human-Centered Design through the ‘Bootcamp555’ initiative. A five-day Sprint with five teams, working after this week further on their project for five months. In this context, Spark Works facilitated the kick-off workshop of the program, purposively designed to run participants through the four phases of the Design Thinking process.

With the help of a short deep-dive exercise into the methodology, participants activated their mindsets and got ready to immerse themselves in their topics. The selected projects were at very different development stages – some of them only at the first idea validation stage whereas others focused on existing projects of ITC. Also, the scope was very broad: they covered topics from training and coaching service for IT start-ups in Senegal, to the digitalisation of trade certificates, to the creation of incentives for refugees to return to their home countries. Equipped with guidelines on how to conducting qualitative user interviews and a stakeholder map that visualized the main actors related to their project, the teams were prepared to go out and learn more about their end-users and stakeholders by directly interacting with them.

„I never thought I would be able to collect so many valuable insights by just going outside on the street and interviewing people.“

After the field research and analysis of the gathered information, the teams were able to further develop their problem, so that it best reflected the most pressing needs and pain points of their user. Based on the refined problem, they generated new ideas by applying different brainstorming techniques to acquire new perspectives on their solutions. Interdisciplinary work with the other teams boosted the creativity of the individual participants and gave them inputs from different points of views. By working on another team’s problem, they were able to challenge their own assumptions and deep-rooted thinking about their own project.

„The interactive brainstorming methods created a fun and vibrant work mode and enabled us to really think outside the box.“

With lots of filled post-its that reflected a broad spectrum of ideas, they started to cluster, evaluate and select the most promising concepts to bring forward to the next prototyping phase. Each team fleshed out one or two ideas in details to present afterwards to the whole group. By hanging up the concepts in the room, they created an open exhibition situation in which everyone could give feedback, ask questions and ‘invest’ paper-dollars in the concept in which they saw the most potential.

Thursday was prototyping day. All teams built a physical prototype to test in the field with end-users. During the process, they explored various ways to visualise and test their solutions and were coached to conduct user testing and collect feedback.

One of the last steps of the week included the integration of the collected qualitative feedback into a refined concept that reflected the most insightful learning from the field. Finally, each team created a roadmap with goals and milestones for pushing their project forward for the following five months. Empowered to apply Design Thinking mindset and tools, they will further iterate such approach to fulfilling the users need and progressively validate their findings.

„The DT process forced us to take a step back and think about the problem we are looking to solve more than just the solution.“ 

„SparkWorks has been a great partner for ITC's Innovation Bootcamps. Our facilitators, were knowledgeable, resourceful, and flexible, accommodating to our needs without compromising on the quality of the workshops. They created an environment that allowed participants to embrace innovation in their project ideas.”

by Lilian Hörler, Design Associate


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