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

D-School Basic Track in Design Thinking (Wintersemester 2021/2022)

Dozent: Dr. Claudia Nicolai (D-School)
Website zum Kurs: https://hpi.de/school-of-design-thinking/studium/basic-track.html

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 6
  • ECTS: 9
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 31.07.2021
  • Lehrform: Projekt / Seminar
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch
  • Maximale Teilnehmerzahl: 60

Studiengänge, Modulgruppen & Module

IT-Systems Engineering BA
IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-DTB Design Thinking Basic
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA


Design Thinking is a life-centered approach to purposefully design innovative solutions for complex problems with an impact.

The design thinking process combines methods and tools from the field of design, social science, engineering and business administration. The innovative approach uses methods and tools to understand what the latent wants and needs of tomorrow's customers will be. This human orientation is combined with the perspective of technological feasibility (how can ideas be technically realized?) as well as economic viability (what can new business models look like?).

In addition to the combination of desirability, feasibility and viability, the design thinking mindset is characterized by an innovative working method and team culture. The team-based approach relies not only on the individual creativity of the individual innovator, but also on collaboration in a diverse and interdisciplinary team that brings together a wide range of expertise and knowledge. The complex problems that need to be solved in the field of innovation management also require a different work culture, which is created by an open space that can be flexibly adapted.

Our approach is based on problem-based learning. Within the semester, we work on different problems in the areas of product and service innovation, business model innovation, and social innovation. In doing so, we go through the iterative Design Thinking process, which distinguishes between the phases Understand, Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test, several times in projects.

The projects vary in length; we start with a so-called Project 101, which runs for 4 weeks, followed by a so-called Partner Project, which runs for 8 weeks, for which we enlist up to eight companies and non-profit organizations as project partners, who formulate a Design Challenge for the project work together with us. Together with our coaches and the support of our project partners, you as a project team will explore innovation potentials and develop creative concept ideas that are both radical and feasible. This intensive project work is followed by the documentation phase for the partner projects, which lasts a total of 3 weeks.

During and between these projects, we conduct so-called Learning Journeys, in which we deepen methods of Design Thinking as well as reflect theoretically on the areas of Strategic Innovations, Innovation Management, Leadership and Team Culture.

The course is co-designed by Dr. Claudia Nicolai, Angela Galeano Colonia, Maria-José Juarez, Jentz Tan, and Sherif Osman. If you have any questions about the course and the contents, please contact Dr. Claudia Nicolai (Claudia.Nicolai(at)hpi.de).




A separate application via the HPI D-School is required for this course. The application period for the winter semester 2021/22 has already passed.

The application for the summer term 2022 will open in November 2021Please register here to get informed about the application start for the next term (as this course is offered every winter and summer semester). Further information about the application process can be found here.


We recommend taking this course for:

  • students in any Master's program: any semester
  • students in any Bachelor's program: 5th - 6th semester



You can watch our video introduction to Design Thinking here.


We recommend the following resources to get a thorough overview of Design Thinking as a concept.

  • Beckmann, S.L. & Barry, M. (2007): Innovation as a Learning Process: Embedding Design Thinking, California Management Review, 50 (1): 25-56.
  • Brown, T. (2008): Design Thinking, Harvard Business Review, 86 (June): 84-92.
  • Brown, T. (2009): Change by Design - How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation
  • Kelley, T. & Kelley, D. (2013): Creative Confidence.
  • Kelley, T. & Littman, J. (2001): The Art of Innovation.
  • Liedtka, J. & Ogilvie, T. (2011): Designing for Growth - A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers.
  • Martin, R. (2009): The Design of Business.
  • McGrath, R. G. (2011): Failing by Design, Harvard Business Review, 89 (April), 77-83.
  • Nussbaum, B. (2013): Creative Intelligence: Harnessing the Power to Create, Connect, and Inspire.


And if you already want to learn more about Design Thinking, we recommend our openHPI-course Beyond Brockhaus Thinking: With Design Thinking to a Networked Culture.


Lern- und Lehrformen

Design Thinking in the hybrid space

Since March 2020, we have developed entirely new virtual programs for our Basic Track and Advanced Track students and GDTW and Wayfinder. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our programs in the fall semester of 2021/22. This disruption has propelled our program design and how our participants, coaches, and partners collaborate in a new form: Design Thinking in a hybrid space, combining the virtual format with on-site work in the Design Thinking spaces at HPI D-School.

The virtual program takes place two days per week. It consists of live inputs from our program & coaching team and collaborative teamwork in the digital space, supported by interactive live coaching sessions. We use various digital tools, such as the virtual whiteboard "Miro" and our online learning platform "openHPI".

Our program team also creates an open culture of experimentation in the virtual space, promoting creative self-confidence (concept of psychological safety).

Physical presence in Potsdam is generally not necessary for participation in the Basic Track in the winter semester 2021/22. The format we offer can be conducted from any location. As participants, you are willing to actively participate during daytime hours on the CEST/CET time zone program days.

However, all participants will have access to the physical Design Thinking spaces, all of which will be equipped with appropriate technology to work in a hybrid setting (part of the team on-site, part of the team remote/distributed). This results in an innovative hybrid format that defines the next step towards "new work". We want to allow all participants in our program to experience this new innovative form of collaboration.


Our learning approach

Overall, the cousre has a multi-dimensional concept as its learning approach:

  • Thematic deepening and content discourse/discussion in the whole group
  • Live coaching and teamwork sessions with your individual team coach
  • Exchange and collaboration with other design thinking teams
  • Inspiring inputs and short presentations
  • Individual reflections on content and your own learning experience



Prerequisites for obtaining graded ECTS are:

  • Attendance and regular participation on program days
  • Active participation in different project teams
  • Project documentation for project 101


Achievement of graded ECTS consists of:

  • Presentation of the partner project (20%).
  • Summary of the project results of the 8-week project in a project poster, project documentation (approx. 30 - 40 pages) and a detailed description of the prototype (80 %)

The delivery and submission of presentation and summary of project results is done together in the project team.



This hybrid course will be held weekly on two program days (Tuesday and Friday) from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm (CET).

The dates for the winter semester 2021/2022 are:

  • First day of the program: 26.10.2021
  • Last day of the program: 04.02.2022
  • Deadline for submission of the final version of the project documentation: 25.02.2022


The total time investment in this course is 16 hours/week. On program days, we require active participation for a total of 10 working hours (either onsite or virtual). In addition, we expect all participants to invest an additional 6 working hours per week in teamwork and individual contributions to the program. You can plan this time independently. Our experienced Design Thinking coaches are also available to provide support for this.

The program overview can be downloaded here.