Five Years of Joint Enterprise Design Thinking

The joint enterprise design thinking journey started in 2013, when Joern Bruecker, Product Group Manager, Innovation Methodology at Nestlé in Vevey, and Jochen Gürtler, Senior Design Strategist and Design Thinking Expert, met for the first time.

At this point of time Nestlé was about to reorganize one part of their IT organization. Given the long historic partnership between SAP und Nestle, Jochen and Joern teamed up to implement Design Thinking at Nestlé IT. It started with a joint design project and resulted in transformation project to foster innovation culture. Furthermore it lead to a change how Nestlé IT runs it’s projects, a change how people work together within the company, and a change in the perception of the whole IT organization. Today Joern’s team is recognized as an in-house transformation agency to support Nestlé’s IT innovation mission.

Read the full story on how Nestlé and SAP evolved the innovation concept, and how the human factor grew it further.

Based in Switzerland since 1866, Nestlé is a global company today, with six business lines, 2.000+ brands and 308.000 employees. Looking at these dimensions gives an idea on how challenging it can be to engage each and everyone around the globe in IT innovation.

Joern and Jochen, how was your first meeting?

Jochen: Our former SAP Chief Design Officer, Sam Yen, had asked my team during the first day in the office after the Christmas holidays 2013 to support colleagues from Nestlé in implementing Design Thinking within their organization. This was a special request for me and the whole SAP AppHaus team for three reasons: First, we did not yet offer Design Thinking trainings officially these days although we had a lot of experience around the topic. Second, we knew the Nestlé IT organization quite well due long intense collaboration as well as some escalations we solved together. And third, I was happy to come back to Lake Geneva and Montreux, as I had the pleasure to perform several times at the jazz festival some years earlier.


Joern: At this point in time, Nestlé IT just recently reorganized one part of the IT function and created a new operational unit called ASI Architecture-Strategy & Innovation. This unit focused on the IT architecture vision, strategic partnerships and trends, and finally on how IT becomes an innovative partner to the business. With the newly created role of Innovation Champions we aimed to provide guidance and structure on how to deliver more desirable IT solutions to the business, and more importantly, to our employees. This was the beginning of a long transformational journey! Because of the long lasting professional and trustful relationship between Thomas Wildi, our Nestlé ASI lead, and Sam Yen and his team, SAP was our strategic partner on this journey. That way, Jochen had been appointed to become our first Design Thinking coach. And he became my volunteer partner in exploring and designing a long transformation journey together with me.

What was the work relationship between Nestlé and the SAP AppHaus about?

Jochen: Nestlé and SAP have had a very long innovative business partnership. As an SAP Platinum customer Nestlé probably has one of the biggest SAP system landscapes worldwide. Therefore, it was more than natural that Nestlé started their Design Thinking journey together with us. Looking back, our engagement with Nestlé was the starting point of a series of Design Thinking enablement and training projects we have done, in the meantime, also for customers such as Daimler or MTU. Interestingly, all these projects once started with joint design projects and resulted in transformation projects to foster innovation culture.


Joern: Jochen and I developed and executed a curriculum for future Design Thinking coaches, planned and ran several workshops and projects which indeed triggered off an overall change. A change, how Nestlé IT runs its projects, a change how people work together within the global corporation, and a change in the perception of the whole IT organization!

Jochen (smiling): Regarding the last point, I remember certain situations during our lunch breaks in the canteen at Nestle´s headquarter in Vevey when colleagues from different business areas approached Joern asking him to start innovation projects together. This was remarkable for Joern as IT was more used to being criticized for not solving any IT issues. And suddenly he had become an innovation partner of choice!

"What I really appreciate is that, for Joern and me, all our joined Design Thinking activities went along with a change on a personal level. Don’t you think, Joern?"

Joern: Yes, definitely. Our journey mission started with the implementation of Design Thinking skills into the IT organization to ensure IT delivers more desirable and valuable IT solutions. But what are the consequences and opportunities when you start going down this path? What happens when you force IT specialists to leave their comfort zone and you, in a certain way, force them to question if IT is always the right answer to the challenge? With the right balanced ingredients and tools of Design Thinking, Nestlé IT slowly but surely became a new face towards the business.

How did you stay in touch? What are your touchpoints today?

Jochen: We are both engaged in the Impact Week, a non-profit program which unites people from a variety of countries to develop skills and competencies which drive sustainable business models for social and regional entrepreneurs using Design Thinking and organized and executed together with other Design Thinking experts from different companies a training event in Rwanda, two years ago.

We also see us regularly at the Design at Business community meetups attended cross-company coach camps. A community which was primarily founded by SAP, Nestlé and Philipps to connect change makers to accelerate Design Thinking, as a people-centric innovation approach, across large enterprises worldwide.

To go the next steps focusing deeper on the human side, we participated together at the “Kommunikationslotsen Facilitation Curriculum”, a 16 days program which goes, in various aspects, beyond the original Design Thinking approach. Through all these activities we both made new personal experiences outside the comfort zone. Next things to do are one more Swiss cheese fondue, and eventually a trekking tour in the Swiss alps, don’t you think?


Joern: Yes, Jochen motivated me to participate in the Impact Week 2017 in Rwanda. Which had been another impressive experience on how to combine a learning by doing exposure with sharing and developing new innovative competence. After a second journey to Rwanda the Impact Week program has now become an innovation mindset development program within Nestlé, facilitated by IT. In the upcoming episode of the Impact week we will train 60 Design Thinking coaches from Europe and Central West Africa together with 180 University Students in Ghana. Doing the “Kommunikationslotsen Facilitation Curriculum” together with Jochen was for me pure stress at the beginning. Why? Because it forced me to come to a full standstill. The training required us to challenge and thoroughly reflect what and why we do something, and then how we do it and probably transform it. In the context of supporting user-centric design through Design Thinking, it was certainly not an easy task to take the mental break. But it is clearly one of the mile stones that got us where and what we are today.

Jochen: And you are a great role model for passion and execution for me. I see this openness to go beyond corporate and personal comfort zones.

How did Design Thinking evolve in the last years?

Jochen: I do Design Thinking for almost 10 years now. I did it almost everywhere around the world. With colleagues from inside and outside SAP in Brazil, Russia, Kenia, South Africa or most of the European countries. With students at the in Berlin and with pupils and their teachers in Rwanda, for German sailors, ice hockey fans, future mums, smart city architects, or young festival managers. And I still – and even more – believe in Design Thinking as a very team-oriented working culture for today`s problems.


Joern: Clearly, In the recent years, Nestlé did a lot in trying to create a common culture in innovation, and to spread a common way of thinking when dealing with innovating or solving a problem creatively.  Design Thinking nowadays is not only used in classical design projects but also as catalyst for organizational change and transformation. Therefore, my team continued the journey, from being responsible for Design Thinking to define and scale innovation methodologies. Today, we are recognized as an in-house transformation agency to support Nestlé’s IT innovation vision. The team has four priorities:

  1. Innovation as a Service: Become a trusted innovation partner in Nestlé by facilitating business teams on strategic innovation initiatives.
  2. Innovation Academy: Build the skills, behaviors, mindsets and culture to enable everyone across the organization to deliver innovation as a service.
  3. Innovation Tools: Develop expertise and reputation in innovation methodologies, tools and trends to ensure state-of-the art innovation acceleration across the organization.
  4. Innovation Ecosystem: Create the conditions that allow human creativity and curiosity to thrive in diverse communities with internal and external partners

The program of the Design at Business team seeks to empower people with the capability to foster a user-centric way of working that will encourage a culture of innovation, inside and outside Nestlé. The academy offers a complete catalogue of learning experiences to best support individuals and teams in their transformation and innovation journey. Hence, the role of the initial Design Thinking coach changed a lot. Today, this role means much more than a method expert or moderator role, it has become a role model for change, a real agile innovation driver.

Joern and Jochen, what would be the one or two sentences that best describe you?

Joern: When I met Jochen six years ago, we had eye-opening sessions that helped my team identify new opportunities for my work area at Nestlé. Over time our good relationship evolved. It is built on trust that has grown with every new experience, with every problem solved, and with every business challenge accepted. I can say that the professional and the personal growing went hand in hand. I have seen Jochen as a truly inspiring and sometimes challenging coach, and as a co-innovation partner we could always rely on. On a personal level, I am just glad that our ways crossed, and that we could make a lot of very exceptional experiences together on our transformation journey.


Jochen: I know a lot of great design thinkers all around the world, but Joern is somehow special. He combines deep method knowledge and rich practical experiences in planning and moderating all kinds of formats with an enormous strategic mindset. He has the power and willingness to take on responsibility, to execute, and also sponsor long-term transformations within his organization. I do not know anybody else with this combination! And, most importantly: Joern is a good friend of mine.



Nestlé and SAP jointly evolved the innovation concept

The human factor grew a long-standing business relationship further

Engaging Nestlé’s six business lines, 2.000+ brands and 308.000 employees around the globe in IT innovation

published on SAP AppHouse by

Jochen Guertler

Design Thinking Experte, Coach und Trainer. Facilitator und Business Coach. Gestalttherapeut.

Speaker und Autor