Workshop concept for transformations towards sustainability in small and medium-sized enterprises

Sara Breitbach

Inga Wachter

Miriam Schlegl

zukunft+ workshop concept

"The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself. "
-Alan Kay

The realization that current consumer behavior has far-reaching consequences for our future lives has been around for years.

It is therefore necessary to act in such a way that a responsible use of resources is possible. In order to break old consumption patterns and establish new ones, the action of three entities is crucial: consumers, companies and politics.
The current business models of many companies will not be able to continue in this way in the future.

Therefore, the master thesis zukunft+ deals with the transformation to sustainability in SMEs. There are many business and strategy consultants on the market. They offer assistance in the technical implementation of a transformation, but are less concerned with the decision makers and their motivation. However, this is crucial if a lasting change towards sustainability, at all levels, is to be achieved. Emotions play a decisive role in the decision for or against (sustainable) action.

The following research question was therefore addressed in this masters thesis:
How can we support companies in overcoming their barriers to sustainable transformations while taking emotions into account?

The strength of strategy designers is the ability to approach so-called "wicked problems" with design methods and to develop suitable solutions. This particular approach makes it possible to gain a special perspective on issues and to design user-centered concepts.
We have used this design capability to develop a new approach to business consulting: a one-day workshop based on methods such as design thinking and design futuring. The workshop thus covers not only the technical but also the emotional component for the participants.
Above all, Design Futuring (exploring futures) succeeds in conveying information about sustainability and in synthesizing and dismantling companies' obstacles to transformation.

The result of the masters thesis is a one-day workshop, which, with the help of methods from psychology and design futuring, conveys information about sustainability, as well as synthesizes the obstacles of companies with regard to transformations.
In order to achieve a long-term learning effect for the participants, the workshop will be supplemented by a digital platform. It contains the workshop results, further futuring methods for the team and better practice examples for sustainable transformations.

Before the workshop begins, participants receive an e-mail with a link to a preliminary survey. With the help of questions in the style of the semantic differential, the mood regarding transformation and sustainability in the corporate context is evaluated.
The semantic differential is to be completed online and anonymously by participants prior to the workshop.
The Polak game takes place at the beginning and end of the workshop and is used for stocktaking and self-reflection. In addition, a comparison can take place later: Has anything changed in the attitude of the participants as a result of the workshop?
Participants receive input on the relevance of sustainability.
Industry-specific better practice examples are presented. They introduce companies that have already successfully implemented various approaches to sustainable transformation.
Through selected futuring methods, participants develop scenarios around sustainability that can become relevant for their company. The aim is to examine trends, promote innovation and creativity, initiate a transformation, and identify points of attack for the business competency of sustainability. Participants explore where the company might be headed in the future. The first two methods are completed in small groups using Post-Its on large canvases.
The two other methods are worked on by the participants individually. For these, they receive a flyer in the form of a plus, on which there is space for notes on other trends and scenarios in addition to the two canvases.
The participants summarize their scenarios, which they have worked out with the Futures Ladder, in the Scenario Card and present them to each other. The different scenarios may be discussed.
With the help of the wonder question, possible false and correct assumptions should be exposed and questioned. It is reflected where inhibitions are located, but also where hopes and opportunities are seen.
To get the results of the workshop, the participants have to fill in the survey again. Here they also see the general sentiment of the other participants.
After completing the survey, participants receive access to the platform. On this platform, they will find their materials from the workshop, as well as further information on the transformation for sustainability in the company.
In addition to their own canvases, the participants can also see those of the other groups. Interesting scenarios can thus be pursued further in the corporate context.