Exploratory Thinking. (Episode 106)

Exploratory Thinking. (Episode 106)

Interview with José Miguel Bejarano, Innovation Lead at Siemens Energy.



We all know the process of Design Thinking. How it starts with “Stage 1: Empathize – Research Your Users’ Needs.” and “Stage 2: Define – State Your Users’ Needs and Problems.”

It sounds clever, smart and customer centric. But what if there is a better way for some?

I explored this thinking with José Miguel Bejarano, Innovation Lead at Siemens Energy, in an interview last year. José, who is based in Mexico City, shared with me an interesting insight: Researching and interviewing customers works great for B2C companies and other organisations with a lot of clients, but it works less well for companies like Siemens Energy.

Because Siemens Energy has just a handful of clients in each market.

And – to put it frankly – there are only so many times these clients will let you meet up with them to interview them about their needs and problems.

Siemens Energy is a fascinating company. It can be described as a 29$ billion start-up with 91,000 employees and a 175-year heritage, as it was spun-off to be its own company in 2020. And while the company is huge, their client list is relatively short – because they work with giant utility companies around the world.

José noticed that it was getting harder and harder for his company to get quality time with their clients. Not because the clients were not interested in sharing their needs and problems, but because once they had done so a few times they just did not see the value of doing it one more time.

José explained to me that “coming to clients just asking for their problems was enough to open the door, but not enough to keep the door open.”

José: “We realised that our challenges are different than those for consumer companies with unlimited numbers of clients to interview, so we had to come up with a better way.”

This better way was to invite their clients to co-create the future of EoT. EoT stands for “the Energy of the Future”.

Siemens Energy would match internal innovators (called “Intrapreneurs”) with clients, and together they would explore new technologies, trends and solutions.

And it worked.

José told me that the narrative changed. Instead of feeling that Siemens Energy came to “extract information”, the clients now felt “together we are part of the development of the energy future.”

Siemens Energy saw that the clients’ perspective and the customers’ willingness to talk to Siemens Energy changed a lot. The clients now get value. They felt that it was less than a one-way road of them just giving information.

Design thinking is about thinking about the design.

But what José and his team are doing is inviting their clients to imagine what the future of their industry could look like. To raise the bar. Look further. Imagine. To explore together.

So let’s call that “Exploratory Thinking”.

So Practice Exploratory Thinking – don’t just interview your clients about “their problems”, but invite them to imagine a better future together with you.

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