Five challenges from the production unit at Mercedes-Benz, five experienced employees, all over 50, and 20 students from the Bremen University of Applied Sciences, aged 19 to 27, divided into five workgroups. This was the mixed-age group setting. The groups had two days to present solutions for complex components.
Human Resource Management at Mercedes-Benz had the idea for the event, which took place in November 2016: to integrate the best of both worlds in order to solve the problems that arise in production: young, creative students, experienced process engineers, 3-D experts and 3-D printers, design thinking as a creative method, and enough space and materials for the implementation.
What exactly was it about? The main goal was to optimise assembly production at Mercedes-Benz by developing specific operating assets. Since they were asked to develop practical solutions for implementation, the motivation of the participants was very high. For the two labour intensive days, the young and the experienced had the following materials at their disposal: four kilogrammes of Lego bricks, three square metres of Styrofoam, 15 roles of insulating tape, 20 pipe cleaners, 50 metres of string, 30 metres of wire, five roles of double-sided tape, 20 ping-pong balls, X-MORPH mouldable plastic and much more… Design thinking is based on the assumption that challenges can be solved better when people from various different fields work together in an environment that fosters creativity, when they take the needs and motivation of others into consideration, and develop concepts that are repeatedly tested.
The jury members were clearly impressed by what the mixed-aged teams had achieved in just two days.
Finding ideas, building prototypes, discarding them, rebuilding them… When the two days were over, the moment of decision was at hand: Would the idea hold up in front of an expert jury of executive managers from Mercedes-Benz? Could the idea be realised in practice? It could! The jury members were clearly impressed by what the mixed-aged teams had achieved in just two days. And by the finished product that came tumbling fresh out of the 3-D printer. In conclusion: the young and the experienced make innovation “easy” and fun.