How Sennheiser used Design Thinking to get to the core of their millennial challenge

Millennials: A growing challenge for modern brands. As the generation grows in size and power, brands scramble to find creative ways to win the minds of the toughest generation to date. Sennheiser is among the ranks of brands that see the worth and importance of this group, which is why they decided to do something about it.

Problem Solving with Design Thinking 

Sennheiser recently undertook extensive consumer research to find out more about their core customer groups and future development opportunities.  Upon reaching the subject of millennials, they found that this unique group of consumers is highly varied within, consisting of different kinds of individuals who have very different music listening behavior. These findings showed that an approach that worked for older generations, would not be effective with millennials.

Equipped with these findings, a group of eight Sennheiser innovation, product, design, marketing, and retail specialists from eight countries around the world arrived at the Design Thinking Center Amsterdam eager to bring workable concepts to life using the human centric approach of Service Design Thinking.

With no time to waste, the team loaded onto the Plastic Whale Boat to engage their traveller mindsets and get their creative juices flowing out in the rainy Amsterdam canals. By fishing plastic out of the murky water, the team was brought together in an unexpected way. “This team had never worked together,” Emmanuelle Casado, Sennheiser Manager of Global Strategy and Business Development, explains, “So it was a very good way to start, being outside in a completely different environment. It already felt so dynamic and engaging.”

Taking space to innovate

After breaking the ice to form the team feeling, the group did not hesitate to put The Design Thinking Center’s space to full use throughout the Design Thinking process. Right from the start, the 600 sq2 meter space was used to map out their vast material from their research, finding patterns and forming groups based on various themes.

The team got creative with brainstorming by using thousands of Post-its on any white space available. Unconventional tools were also used, including drawings with crayons, prototypes made with Legos, and, at one point, even playdoh. These eccentric tools triggered a sense of inventiveness in the team. “I noticed that people were getting quite creative, even with the Post-its!” Emmanuelle reflects, “They tried to think about each concept in a very imaginative way by creating a story out of their drawings.”

By combining previous persona insights with the ideas generated during the Idea Garage, customer journeys were mapped. With these visualizations, the key areas of opportunity stood out. As the ideation round started late in the second day, the ideas began to come to life. Emmanuelle specified this as one of the most gratifying moments of the workshop, “It was really motivating when we started to come together to ideate because it gave a chance for the entire group to bring together all the solutions, and create first concepts.”

Blast from the past

Going into the third day, there was an overwhelming sense of exhaustion flowing from everyone in the group. Seeing this as an opportunity to inspire, workshop leaders Christof Zürn, Design Thinking Lead, and Fiamma Degl’Innocenti, Service Designer, surprised them with two musical instruments that propelled the group into the past.

Emmanuelle explained how the didgeridoo and theremin transformed the group, “The music filled us. Most of the time, we look into the future – especially when it comes to innovation. We always try to project what the future will look like. The instruments were simple and old, which made us look at things differently and completely engage.”

Final stretch of creativity

As the hours left in the workshop dwindled, the team moved through the final stages of Design Thinking. Throughout the last Ideation round, the team had the impending deadline of their validation with a panel of millennials who were recruited by the Design Thinking Center. This deadline drove the team forward with their prototyping stage so they would be ready to present their findings and collect feedback.

The Validation round allowed the Sennheiser team to gather feedback about their conceived concepts. It was through this that they could gage initial reactions about their ideas produced through Design Thinking. Emmanuelle explains that this round brought a fresh perspective to the mix, “At one point, you are so far into it that it’s hard to really see the relevance of the concepts. To have fresh insights helped us ask ourselves another round of questions. It certainly doesn’t serve as pure confirmation, we still need to go further, but it was a great first validation.”

The 3-day innovation workshop ended with a discussion of the insights that were produced and the following steps that would be taken. In the end, it was an eye-opening experience, full of insights that Sennheiser will take back to their respective markets and test further. Emmanuelle concluded with, “We had two expectations, the first being, that it goes well and the second was being able to come up with concepts that were actually actionable and able to fit within our established timeframe. In the end, I think we did very well. We achieved what we sought out to do!”

The ball is in your court

Is your company looking to approach challenges in a new way? Here at the Design Thinking Center we are eager to help companies of all sizes and of all Design Thinking experience levels. If you’re ready to take that step, please reach out to us!

About Sennheiser

Audio specialist Sennheiser based in Wedemark near Hanover is one the world’s leading producers of headphones, microphones and wireless transmission technology with its own plants in Germany, Ireland and the US. Sennheiser operates in more than 50 countries. Together with 19 subsidiaries and long-standing trading partners, the company sells innovative products and future-oriented audio solutions which are optimally tailored to customers’ needs. This enthusiasm for audio technology is shared by some 2,750 employees worldwide who work for the family-run company, which was established in 1945. Daniel Sennheiser and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser took the helm in 2013 and are the third generation to manage the company. In 2015, the Sennheiser Group‘s turnover totaled €682 million.