Global Design Thinking Week

Global Design Thinking Workshops

Global Design Thinking Workshops (GDTW) are a novel concept that goes beyond the mere introduction to Design Thinking as a process. It has been initiated and developed by Dr. Claudia Nicolai and the HPI D-School team. We have been creating this format as deep dives into the strategic questions of Design Thinking as a mindset and we are offering this course to HPI students and external participants.


In this program, participants experience Design Thinking not only as a process of this life-centered approach by dealing with complex innovation problems and a creative mindset in diverse teams.

We combine this life-centered approach with the perspective of technological feasibility (how can ideas be realized?) and economic viability (how can new business models look like?).

In our GDTW program we offer three different workshops with a respective focus topic, which we deepen into:

01 Strategic Design: From Human-Centered Design to Strategic Futures

02 Designing for Global Impact

03 Teamed Leadership

The GDTW program is being held in English.

We combine the work on a concrete innovation project with reflections on a specific topic. Our learning approach is based on the concept of problem-based experiential learning. We implement this approach as a project-oriented course in which the participants collaborate with a partner organization (NPOs and NGOs, large companies, SMEs, young start-ups, social organizations and public institutions).


Designing for Global Impact (March 2022)

This Global Design Thinking Workshop focuses on framing innovations in a sustainable manner. Human-centered solutions will fail short on implementation if they don't incorporate finding new answers to how to make a change on the systems level. Here, we frame our Design Thinking approach with the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). Thus, we would like to address a fundamental design principle of Design Thinking: how to achieve sustainable impact at the system level with innovation? When designing new and innovative solutions to complex problems like policy design and citizen participation, we face two challenges:

On the one hand, it is about focusing on the needs and requirements of people in the context of their lives (human-centered perspective). Why do they (not) participate in local processes? What do they see as relevant problems? How would they like to make their voice heard?

On the other hand, it is about finding opportunities for sustainable impact (systems perspective). How can we connect the different stakeholders? How do we create open discourse culture at the local level, especially in the context of local parties and activities within them? The teams will design solutions for a global problem and focus on how a solution can be translated to different local contexts to impact. 

The workshop will take place in a "hybrid" format and will last 50-60 hours of working time. Our program includes the fixed times for working together in the program (34 hours):

- Tuesday 1.3.2022: 9.30 – 11.30 am CET (2 hours)

- Monday/Tuesday 7./8.3.2022: 9.30 am- 3.30 pm CET (10 hours)

- Monday/Tuesday 14./15.3.2022: 9.30 am- 3.30 pm CET (10 hours)

- Monday/Tuesday 21./22.3.2022: 9.30 am- 3.30 pm CET (10 hours)

- Tuesday 29.3.2022: 9.30 – 11.30 CET (2 hours) 

We also expect flexible individual and team work between and after program days. This will include in total 16 – 20 hours: for Design-Led Research, Prototyping and Testing, and in particular creating your project documentation until March 31st, 2022.

We are talking about interactive, virtual collaboration throughout the workshop as team members and their international coaches will be in different locations. We use the digital tools Miro, openHPI, and Zoom for virtual teamwork. However, our program design is also based on onsite activities: For example, you can interview people you know or go out on the street and observe what is happening there. If part of your team is located in Berlin or Potsdam, you can use our facilities to work in a hybrid environment. We offer you the opportunity to use our Design Thinking Studios at the HPI D-School in Potsdam. These studio spaces offer you a variety of digital equipment, analog materials, and inspiration to think, prototype, and test your ideas.

On the Hasso Plattner Institute website you can find further information about the course.


Strategic Design: From Human-Centered Design to Strategic Futures

Human-Centeredness is of the key pillars to the design of innovation processes. However, it is also the first pitfall and criticism of Design Thinking as interrogating and observing current needs of today’s users as they have difficulties to imagine others than near-by futures and might not care about long-term impact of design and consumption decisions. The imagination of our today’s user fails in particular short when it comes to envision disruptive solutions: we are able to give direct feedback about our dislike concerning today’s and tomorrow’s public transportation system, but we might not be able to give valuable insights about self-organizing traffic systems, as we can’t imagine how it really feels to be in a vehicle without a driver and a steering wheel.

Therefore, strategic futures come into play, as we want to create solutions that will work long-term and will also address near-by users’ delight. Thus, when we are about to change the current system towards a strategic design of the future that we all want to live in we have to tap into more than a human-centered approach. Thus, we have to design what’s the future we want to live in and what are the first steps into creating a systemic change.

Accordingly, this Global Design Thinking Workshop 01 will give you a strategic approach of  Design Thinking: You will learn about how to tap into trends, build scenarios and how to use speculative design to create desirable futures.


Teamed Leadership

This GDTW workshop focuses on team work and team dynamics of diverse and cross-functional teams. The diverse backgrounds of team members are an important factor for high-performing teams. The teams will work on a Design Thinking challenge related to this topic and at the same time we will dive into the questions of how to analyze, assess and enhance your individual and your team’s potential with regard to skills, team roles & communication, and leadership.

Global Design Thinking Workshop virtual
Global Design Thinking Workshop in the virtual space.


What makes the GDTW program global?

The program team:

We design our GDTW program with our international network of Design Thinking Coaches and cooperate regularly with partner institutions from our global network, which also gave rise to the GDTA (Global Design Thinking Alliance). Participants have the opportunity to benefit from the experience and exchange with colleagues from other design thinking institutions in the USA, South Africa, Sweden, Malaysia, Mexico and Egypt.

The participants:

In addition to HPI students, we particularly invite international participants to apply. In this program, they form international, multidisciplinary teams that work together with a team coach and a project partner on a real-life problem.


Program structure

We run these 3 workshops regularly and we are currently offering 2 GDTWs per year. You have to apply for each GDTW workshop separately.

You are invited to participate in more than GDTW workshop. If you are interested in more than one topic/focus, you can apply for several GDTWs. There is no fixed sequential order of the GDTW workshops.


Applications for the Global Design Thinking Workshop

Interested students of all disciplines and universities and young professionals with less than two years of work experience can apply for the Global Design Thinking Workshops. The participation fee is 200 euros.

HPI students can register directly by email to the Studienreferat. The participation is free of charge for HPI students.

You can sign up for our application reminder and we will inform you via e-mail once the next application period starts.


Interested in becoming a project partner?

For each of our GDTW workshops we are working together with a partner organization. We have for example been partnering with the Federal Association for Skilled Crafts (Zentralverband des Handwerks), Deutsche Bahn, ING Diba, Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI) and Interhyp to develop innovations, ideas and solutions. Please contact us, if you are interested in project partnership.

More Information

Example documentation


Elisabeth Höpner

HPI School of Design Thinking
Assistant to Dr. Claudia Nicolai & Program Coordinator

Phone: +49 -331-5509-507

E-Mail an HPI D-School Office