Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI

Neurodesign Lecture - Designing for Empathy in Business Contexts (Wintersemester 2021/2022)

Dozent: Dr. Julia von Thienen , Irene Sophia Plank (Internet-Technologien und -Systeme)

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 01.10.2021 - 22.10.2021
  • Lehrform: VL
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch

Studiengänge, Modulgruppen & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-KO Kommunikation
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-DTA Design Thinking Advanced
Digital Health MA
Data Engineering MA
Cybersecurity MA


The lecture takes place on Mondays, beginning Oct 25, in the mornings 11:00-12:30.
Predominantly, the lecture is held in person: HPI main building, ground floor, HE.51/52.
In addition, a video-recording of the lecture will be available on TeleTask.

- - -

In this course, you practice how to design and conduct your own creative IT project. You can begin with your own digital engineering skills and passions, taking further inspiration from neuroscientific insights on empathy, next to application needs in business contexts.
In neuroscientific terms, you learn how people understand each other, and what can go wrong in the process, such as biases that obstruct mutual understandings. In addition, you learn about the work stages in social neuroscience projects: applying theories, methods, statistics and then engaging in data interpretation. The course encourages good scientific practices in each of these stages.
Beyond social neuroscience, guest lectures offer a complementary perspective on applications and needs in practice, highlighting how empathy and the understanding of others are relevant in business contexts. This can be both in terms of understanding customer needs as well as in terms of a mutual understanding among employees/members of an organization.
In your semester project, you will be asked to bring these perspectives together, by devising an IT solution prototype of your own choice, to facilitate empathy in business contexts.

Please note: The neurodesign lecture has changing curators and key topics from year to year, so this lecture on empathy is unique and will not be repeated!
By comparison, in 2019/20 the neurodesign lecture focused on collaboration and was curated by Julia von Thienen together with Caroline Syzmanski. In 2020/21 the neurodesign lecture focused on Artificial Intelligence & creativity, curated by Shama Rahman. Students who took part in a previous neurodesign lecture can enrol again, since the content is new each year.


There are no prerequisites for attending this class. 


Your major grading-relevant contribution in this class is your own creative project (3/4 of grade).
You can pursue this project alone as well as in teams.
You have great creative freedom to choose and design a project that is of deep interest to you, while meeting the following requirements: (i) Your project needs to be an application of digital engineering. (ii) Your solution takes inspiration from neuroscientific insights on empathy. (iii) Your solution is designed to facilitate empathy in business contexts.
You can pursue one bigger project across the Neurodesign Lecture and the Sonic Thinking Seminar.
You can continue to work on a project begun in an earlier neurodesign or sonic thinking class, if some empathy and business aspect can be elaborated.

  • 1/4 of your grade is based on your first project presentation.
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on your final project presentation.
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on a homework (up to 1 page) where you critique a neuroscientific article on empathy research.
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on some brief documentation of your project including code (or other digital engineering prototype) due March 31st, 2022. The project documentation can be an amended version of your PowerPoint slides from the in-class presentations.


Preliminary dates:


25 Oct: Course information and overview, introduction to neurodesign and social neuroscience; introduction to guest lecturers and topics

01 Nov: Basics - How do we understand others?

08 Nov: Task - How to measure performance in “understanding others”, using social neuroscience opportunities?

15 Nov: Methods - How to measure neural responses?

22 Nov: Statistics - How likely is it that our conclusions are wrong? 

29 Nov: Biases - How is our understanding of others influenced by who we are, and who we believe “them” to be?

06 Dec: Guest lecture – The importance of empathy in business contexts (Jacobs University)

13 Dec: First student presentations*

03 Jan: Paper critique (homework discussion)*

10 Jan: Deviations - What about persons who are not neurotypical?

17 Jan: Guest lecture – Empathy as an opportunity for IT entrepreneurship (Shama Rahman)

24 Jan: IT prototypes to bring teams on the same wavelength (Julia, Corinna, Kim)  

31 Jan: Guest lecture – Teams on the same wavelength perform better (Caroline Szymanski)

07 Feb: Final student presentations*

14 Feb: Conclusion - What’s next in social neuroscience and IT-for-empathy?


31. March: Submission of project documentation*


*Dates with content by course participants