GDTW 2017: How skilled craft businesses can benefit from the digitalization

Around one million skilled craft businesses have to face the challenges of the ongoing digitalization. What does digitalization mean for skilled craft businesses and how can the German skilled craft sector benefit from this development? 50 students from 20 countries addressed these questions during the Global Design Thinking Week (GDTW), which took place from 21 to 27 September 2017 at Hasso Plattner Institute.

Skilled craft businesses are highly affected by the ongoing digitalization. Products and services are increasingly consumed online, big platforms and new apps bring new competitors onto the market, change margins and increase the pressure of competition on skilled craft businesses. In total, more than one million skilled craft businesses are affected by these developments. With more than 130 professions, skilled crafts is the most manifold economic sector in Germany. Therefore, the project partners for this GDTW were eight skilled crafts associations such as the German confederation of skilled crafts and the Kompetenzzentrum Digitales Handwerk.

According to the motto “Bring ideas to life”, ten international and multidisciplinary student teams worked on new user-centric ideas for skilled crafts during the GDTW. The teams presented their challenges, approaches and prototypes in short presentations and at the GDTW trade show for which they created their own booths. The broad range of ideas presented by the teams focus on the connection of the analogue with the digital world. They include the application of new custom-made technologies and software to reduce costs, e.g. for roofers, new elements and approaches for apprenticeships, online platforms and apps for industry-relevant news and trends for bakers as well as online communities for specific skilled crafts such as dentists and butchers.

The Global Design Thinking Week

According to the motto „Bring Ideas to Life“ the GDTW aims at the user-centric design of solutions. Starting point for the international student teams and Design Thinking coaches are first ideas for innovative business models and products. These ideas are further developed by applying the Design Thinking process to design new solutions and innovative implementation scenarios as a next step. “Design Doing” is in the center: Our goal is to design suitable applications considering the wishes and imaginations of users. 

During one week with five working days, our students learn the key competencies for working in innovative and creative environments. The problem statement, our so-called “Challenge” is posed by an external project partner and is approached together, just like during the semester program at HPI School of Design Thinking.

Partners of the Global Design Thinking Week: Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks (ZDH), Zentralverband der Augenoptiker und Optometristen, Zentralverband des Deutschen Baugewerbes e.V., Zentralverband des Deutschen Dachdeckerhandwerk, Zentralverband der Deutschen Elektro- und Informationstechnischen Handwerke, Deutscher Fleischer-Verband e.V., Bundesinnungsverband des Gebäudereiniger-Handwerks, Verband Deutscher Zahntechniker-Innungen, Werbegemeinschaft des Deutschen Bäckerhandwerks.