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

Wayfinder - Self and Leadership Development (Wintersemester 2021/2022)

Dozent: Dr. Claudia Nicolai (D-School) , Dr. Martin Schwemmle (D-School)
Website zum Kurs: https://hpi.de/en/school-of-design-thinking/for-students/wayfinder.html

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 01.10.2021-24.10.2021
  • Lehrform: Projekt / Seminar
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch
  • Maximale Teilnehmerzahl: 18

Studiengänge, Modulgruppen & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-DTA Design Thinking Advanced
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-ML Management und Leitung
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA


Wayfinder - Self and Leadership Development is a newly developed program by HPI D-School that adds an essential perspective to the other program offerings in the area of Design Thinking: for self-leading and designing your own well-lived life and career.

Working in innovation teams requires flexibility, agility and, above all, empathy. Empathy, and thus empathic leadership, requires skills in self-awareness and self-leadership, and shaping one's own life as well as one's own career. We believe that a structured design process can help people to develop and grow. Such a process allows them to find out what they want and how to design a satisfying and successful life. By applying and developing the methods of Design Thinking combined with fundamentals from systemic coaching and self-leadership, this program aims to learn and apply tools and techniques to improve self-awareness, recognize one's own behavioral patterns and values, reflect on and expand one's context of experience to make self-efficacy a reality in the future; building on this, to explore, prototype and test new options for a successful future. The program is based on the "Designing Your Life" Concept and has been extended and further developed by the HPI D-School.

Wayfinder has four major focus areas:

  1. Empathy and Self-Awareness: Understanding one's own values and attitudes.
  2. Exploring: Shaping career and personal life with purpose and energy.
  3. Prototyping: Making good choices and exploring options.
  4. Iterate: Learning forward in a strong network.

Within these four topic areas, we apply the following methods and tools together:

  1. Awareness and meditation exercises, value code, activity analysis, energy-flow matrix, journaling, embodiment.
  2. Coherence analysis, Hero's Journey, vision and strategy modeling with Lego Serious Play
  3. Problem framing, brainstorming, decision heuristics, identification of new action patterns, experience and life prototyping
  4. Future prototyping, resource and network analysis, strategies for change, networking

These will be introduced in the virtual format and deepened and applied in individual, triad and group exercises and reflections.


We use openHPI and Zoom/bbb as virtual platforms for our program design.

openHPI is our interactive online learning platform through which we provide most of the course content, videos, reading, discussion groups, etc.

Zoom/bbb is our virtual meeting place for the entire course during in-class hours.

Coaching Team

The program is delivered by Klaudia Thal (Systemic Coach, Design Thinking Coach, LSP Certified Trainer), Dr. Martin Schwemmle (Innovation Researcher, HPI) and Dr. Claudia Nicolai (Academic Director, HPI).

Voices of our participants

"In the hustle and bustle and stress of a typical semester, the Wayfinder course provides space in your schedule every other Friday to take time for reflection and to talk with your trusted fellow Wayfinders. I looked forward to each and every session! Anyone facing a decision, needing some guidance to reflect, or just interested in the topic of self-development, I would recommend signing up for the course." – Julia Joch

"Wayfinder is a great program for curious people who want to make the most of their lives but don't know where to start. Together with other amazing people from the D-School ecosystem, you develop ideas and prototypes - for your future life!" – Carl Goedecken

"Thank you for the Wayfinder program over the past few weeks. Especially in this difficult decision-making phase at the end of my studies, it helped me a lot to think about my future in a structured way on fixed dates. Thank you for taking the time to offer such a seminar!" -Student Winter Semester 2020



  • No prior experience is necessary to participate in this course.
  • This format is especially designed for students who have already worked in project contexts, preferably innovation projects/mixed teams.
  • Having participated in Design Thinking-courses beforehand is not a mandatory requirement. However, they will prove to be an advantage for faster understanding of the mindset and tools. Therefore, to participate in this event, we recommend attending one of these courses:
    • Global Design Thinking Workshop
    • Basic Track (Design Thinking Foundations)
    • Global Team-Based Innovation (GTI/ME310/SUGAR)


The course is limited to 18 participants to allow for intensive exchange and reflection in small groups. We would therefore like to ask you to apply by October 24, 2021 using the following form and also briefly outlining your motivation for participating.


If there are more applicants than places, we will have to make a selection based on this information. We will then inform you within a few days whether you can participate in the course and will then send you a confirmation and all further information.


This course partially builds up elements of "Design Your Life".

Therefore, the following sources are recommended as an introduction to the field:

  • Ayse Birsel (2015): Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future.
  • Bill Burnett/Dave Evans (2017): Designing Your Life: Build the Perfect Career, Step by Step.
  • Bill Burnett/Dave Evans (2020): Designing Your Work Life: How to Thrive and Change and Find Happiness at Work.
  • Jim Dethmer, Diana Champman/Kaley Klamp (2014): The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership.

as well as:

  • Campbell, Joseph. 2014 (Reprint). The Hero's Journey: Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work. Novato: New World Library.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Jackson, S. A., P. R. Thomas, H. W. Marsh, and C. J. Smethurst. 2001. Relationships between Flow, Self-Concept, Psychological Skills, and Performance. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 13 (2): 129–53.

Relevant sources as well as additional recommended readings will be provided during the course.

Lern- und Lehrformen

This course will take place as a virtual format on the virtual face-to-face dates.

For this format we have designed the following combination of learning forms:

  • Individual reflection assignments to prepare for and follow up on the virtual face-to dates.
  • Live virtual sessions for the entire cohort
  • Inspiring inputs & short presentations
  • Virtual teamwork sessions for sharing with others
  • Meeting and sharing in triads (groups of three) (virtually or on-site) with other Wayfinders
  • Offering individual coaching sessions (virtual or on-site)

We use openHPI as well as Zoom as virtual platforms for our program design:

  • openHPI will be our interactive online learning platform through which we will provide most of the course content, videos, reading, discussion groups, etc.
  • Zoom will be our virtual meeting place for the entire course during attendance hours.

The didactic concept is based on a combination of (1) elements in which the underlying mindset can be experienced and thus applied to one's own situation, (2) targeted live learning units in which theoretical concepts and research results on relevant topics are explained (e.g. decision-making) and methods for further work are presented, (3) times for individual work as well as exchange and discussion with others, and (4) elements of (guided) reflection on content and approach - individually, in small groups and with all participants.

Unlike in other Design Thinking formats, the development of content and results does not take place permanently in a group. Rather, elements of individual work alternate with exchange rounds in small groups (triads) and short teaching units.

The participants:

  • get to know the adaptation of the Design Thinking-Mindset to Self-Leadership,
  • get to know Self-Leadership and its components Self-Awareness, Self-Efficacy and Self-Confidence both theoretically and in its practical implementation,
  • are enabled to use methods inspired by Design Thinking to introspectively identify the status quo of their own life and career development and to identify fields of change,
  • are able to develop creativity and apply it to their own and other participants' questions of life,
  • acquire and train competencies of active listening and questioning,
  • learn techniques for translating the wish for change into concrete action,
  • are given the opportunity for self-reflection, team reflection and iteration.


Prerequisites for the acquisition of course credits (3 ECTS) are:

  • Attendance and active participation during the course block dates (dates see below).
  • Completion of individual tasks between the course block dates (approx. 3-4 hours)
  • Regular exchange in triads (groups of three) for reflection with other Wayfinders.

The graded acquisition of course credits consists of:

  • Preparation of an individual scientific essay of 12 text pages (in German or English) on a self-selected topic that addresses, deepens, or expands on concepts covered in the course. Further information will be given during the course. 

It is also possible to actively participate in this course as an ungraded achievement (e.g. for students in the Bachelor). In this case, the above-mentioned requirements apply accordingly.


This format is offered over the semester with a total of 4 virtual block dates. The virtual sessions will take place from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CET on each of the following dates:

  • November 12th, 2021

  • December 3rd, 2021

  • January 14th, 2022

  • February 4th, 2022

The kickoff e-mail with your first prep-work will be sent on October 29th. Between block dates, students will meet in small groups by individual appointment.

The individual scientific essay must be submitted by February 28th, 2022.