#dtimpact22: 15 years of Design Thinking at HPI

Together with more than 360 participants and 80 speakers from all over the world, we celebrated 15 years of Design Thinking at HPI with the hybrid Design Thinking ImpAct Conference from September 15th to 16th, 2022.The two-day conference focused on the many different aspects and applications of Design Thinking in different areas of business and society as well as the development and future of the innovation approach.


Design Thinking ImpAct Conference opening

The innovation approach Design Thinking has long been established in the field of science and economy, yet in Germany and Europe, it is only 15 years young. Its success story started in 2007 with the founding of the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam.

At the beginning of the conference, Dr. Stephanie Ullrich from the Hasso Plattner Foundation described how Hasso Plattner founded the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam (D-School) based on the model of the Stanford d.school.

Very quickly, under the direction of Professor Ulrich Weinberg, the D-School developed into Europe's leading education and research hub in Design Thinking. More than 3,000 students have since learned how to develop innovative solutions to complex problems using the innovation approach at HPI, and the HPI Academy, a provider of further education, has trained more than 10,000 professionals. 

In inspiring keynote presentations, panel discussions and numerous interactive workshops, everything revolved around Design Thinking. For two days, leading experts explained and discussed how the mindset can change the way we work together as well as structures in companies from different industries and increase innovative strength. Why does working in interdisciplinary teams lead to better results, promote entrepreneurial spirit and inspire the foundation of start-ups? How can Design Thinking help to solve major social problems or blockages? Speakers and conference participants discussed all of these topics using case studies and examples, e.g. how to accelerate the digitization of the healthcare system in Germany.


Design Thinking ImpAct Conference Keynote

HPI and its IT students have benefited from Design Thinking in many ways, said HPI CEO Professor Christoph Meinel. Instead of focusing only on technical aspects in software development, for example, the needs of future users play a central role in the development process right from the start. With Design Thinking, software development has clearly improved.

HPI CFO Dr. Marcus Kölling also emphasized the importance of Design Thinking with regard to the urgently needed transformation in many areas in Europe. Design Thinking could be a key driver for faster transformation in particular in the field of education and schools, he said.

Dr. Claudia Nicolai, Academic Director of the D-School, explained how much the Design Thinking approach has evolved over the past 15 years, using examples from the economy. While the approach was originally used primarily in the field of business to develop innovative products and services, it is now open to all other disciplines, she said. ”We need a general mind shift to change", she added.

This also applies internationally, said the Director of the D-School, Professor Ulrich Weinberg. At the 10th anniversary five years ago, the Global Design Thinking Alliance (GDTA) was founded with a number of partner institutions. The growing international network of Design Thinking schools that teach, conduct research and further develop Design Thinking and the ever-expanding Design Thinking community are further proof of the important impact that Design Thinking has worldwide, he added.


Design Thinking ImpAct Conference Workshop

The "Design Thinking ImpAct Conference" is part of this year's "Global Design Thinking Festival". In addition to the conference in Potsdam, HPI D-School, Hasso Plattner d-school Africa and the Global Design Thinking Alliance (GDTA) will host the Global Design Thinking Challenge from September 8 to October 14 and the d.confestival in Cape Town from October 12 to 14, 2022.

Photos: Jana Legler und Anja Harnisch