Global Design Thinking Workshop "Teamed Leadership"

From March 16th to 22nd, the HPI D-School facilitated the Global Design Thinking Workshop “Teamed Leadership.” 47 participants from 16 countries and 18 coaches from 16 countries came together on the HPI campus in Potsdam to work on a design challenge to further enable the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to provide concrete and practical solutions to pressing global challenges.


With a unique mandate, UNIDO is the multilateral player that leads the debate on solving our current challenges of hunger and poverty, and climate change through sustainable industrial development. The organization drives the industrial policies, technical cooperation and investment promotion activities that lead to industrial development and economic transformation, and to new, decent jobs. It supports the development and deployment of new technologies, and the application of new ways of thinking by being a platform for innovation, knowledge and technology transfer, business sector cooperation and investment promotion. UNIDO is working to support sustainable supply chains, limit the climate breakdown and end hunger.


Towards mainstreaming innovative approaches for global challenges

To further increase the impact of its development projects, UNIDO is working to become more agile, innovative, and responsive, and one path is through the setting up of its UNIDO Innovation lab. As it is common in large organizations barriers such as time constraints, dispersed knowledge and less agile structures, need to be addressed.

Given the global nature of today’s challenges and of UNIDO’s worldwide operations, effective and fast ways of addressing the beneficiaries’ needs and synergizing across teams and projects remain paramount to respond to the most pressing issues of our time in the form of practical solutions.

Nine international Design Thinking teams addressed this challenge over five days of workshops, guided by our experienced team of coaches. They analyzed all aspects of the design challenge, conducted interviews with UNIDO personnel, and boosted their creativity while developing ideas and building prototypes. After testing their prototypes with their project partner, the teams got ready for the presentations event at the D-Space in the HPI main building.


Fostering knowledge exchange across the organization

With different role-play scenarios, the teams introduced their ideas. Many of the solutions focused on fostering knowledge exchange and collaboration while at the same time encouraging a lean-agile organizational structure.

The teams introduced prototypes to increase knowledge-sharing opportunities between UNIDO personnel in different projects, departments and countries.

As digital tools also play an essential role in implementing and supporting exchange possibilities, a proposal was to use AI to generate relevant exchanges based on specific criteria such as interests, expertise, and the deliverables or functions of the projects that staff members are working on.

Creating inspiring environments for working and learning is another approach to strengthening innovation identified by the teams. For example, a proposal was to establish a design space to foster collaboration or an “empathy space,” including a room set up for virtual reality experiences.


A unique learning journey with teamed leadership

At the Global Design Thinking Workshop, participants experienced several layers of learning. On the one hand, they learned about and applied Design Thinking methods and mindset to solve a design challenge. On the other hand, they continuously reflected their teamwork and team development.

At the HPI D-School, we define teamed leadership as an interactive and multi-directional influence process. Team leaders, who are committed to a shared vision, lead their team(s) and each other with a purpose and empathetically. They enhance team performance by holding themselves mutually accountable and supporting team well-being and learning. This way, they develop teams with equality and equity.

To top off these aspects, the D-School offers a flexible and innovative learning environment, which helps create a safe space and a unique community atmosphere. Especially after three years of virtual workshops, it was terrific for our team, coaches, and participants to experience Design Thinking live on-site again.