What is Design Thinking?


Our world is becoming more complex and challenging. Digitalization and globalization are changing the way we live, learn, and work. Companies, institutions, and politics are under increasing pressure to change and representatives must learn to effectively manage complexity and sustainability. This is where Design Thinking comes into play.


Design Thinking is a mindset and an approach for developing innovative and life-centered solutions to complex problems in collaborative teams. It creates an agile learning and working culture to thrive, change, and be sustainable in periods of digital transformation.


Design Thinkers work in diverse teams and apply the iterative Design Thinking process in a flexible and agile work environment.


The core elements of Design Thinking

Core elements Design Thinking


A shared culture of learning, working and thinking makes Design Thinking successful. The core elements of HPI's Design Thinking concept are multidisciplinary teams, HyFlex working environment and the iterative 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.


HyFlex working environment: 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. State-of-the-art technological equipment encourages hybrid-flexible collaboration, no matter where the team members are located.


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