What is Design Thinking?


Our society is becoming more complex. Through globalization and technological innovations, our pace of life is accelerating, and the way we live and work is becoming more diverse and sophisticated. Companies and institutions face an uphill battle. The pressure to change and to manage this growing complexity is increasing. This is where Design Thinking comes into play.


Design Thinking is a human-centered, iterative, team-based mindset that leads to breakthrough innovations. With its fusion of creativity, shared leadership and efficiency, Design Thinking can help overcome yesterday's working models and transform traditional organizational cultures.


What makes Design Thinking successful?


A shared culture of learning, working and thinking makes Design Thinking successful. The core elements of HPI's Design Thinking mindset are multidisciplinary teams, variable space and the Design Thinking process.


Multidisciplinary teams: Innovation and answers to complex questions are best developed in a heterogeneous team of five to six people. We form multidisciplinary teams to allow the development of ideas that extend far beyond the scope of the individual member’s own discipline. Instead of competition, we foster a we-culture that helps the teams develop innovative ideas together. In our academic programs each team is accompanied by an experienced and trained Design Thinking coach.


Variable space: A team needs optimal spatial conditions so that it can dive into the creative process. These include flexible, movable furniture, adequate space for whiteboards and presentation surfaces as well as materials for prototyping design ideas. These variable rooms can be adapted to the needs of each project and team. At the HPI D-School Design Thinking, teams work standing up in spaces designed for up to six people. Participants are also able to easily interact with other teams working in parallel.


Process: The Design Thinking innovation process leads teams through iterative loops which take the participants through six phases. The process requires an open culture of failure because in Design Thinking we like to think in the realm of the impossible. Human needs are the main focus of this emphatic approach and development process. During the process the team activates the entire thought apparatus of those involved, both the analytical and the creative-intuitive areas. 


Explainer video: What is Design Thinking and why is it important?


by our Design Thinking researchers Karen von Schmieden, Lena Mayer and Mana Taheri