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Making Of

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How might we strengthen the educational offerings of a leading institution for Design Thinking in order to prepare graduates as innovation professionals in the “VUCA” world?
Open Full Report


We integrated design-driven content, considerations, and formats, keeping existing program frameworks and legacy alive while elevating the content, project work, and reflection quality.


The HPI D-School’s Basic & Advanced programs have been the nurturing ground for innovation talent across Germany and beyond since 2007. While evolving over time, the HPI D-School has emerged as an adaptive and unique learning environment for Design Thinking.

In recent years both the team and the participant community have brought an increasing amount of pre-existing knowledge into the cross-disciplinary, highly interactive context. In parallel, more and more German medium-sized and large businesses search for Design Thinking talent and (digital) innovation capacities. 

Accordingly, content, structure, and culture of the core Design Thinking Programs programs are continuously adapted to new developments.


We collaboratively evolved the overall learning experience through constant reassessment and re-design of program structure, content, processes, and resources.

An increased level of design throughout all program interactions and deployed media, as well as the explicit inclusion of design-led research and Design Sprints, equips graduates with a diversified, industry-ready skillset. We empower peer-students and coaches to gain and express critical perspectives on the quality of innovation projects and their related impact on society and the economy.

As part of the integration of blended, experiential learning, we introduced OpenHPI as a digital learning platform, streamlining knowledge sharing.


System Insight

A growing demand for talent with Design Thinking knowledge across all sectors of the German economy opens up the opportunity and need to evolve innovation education.


Prototype Insight

A rigorous and design-driven approach can add higher satisfaction of students and coaches, as well as improve the quality of (design) outputs even in a highly creative, agile organization.


Human Insight

Many students and professionals perceive Design Thinking as a value-agnostic approach to user-centered innovation, losing sight of critical and deep reflection about their potential impact on society.

Design Thinking Programs

Design Thinking and innovation programs for 110+ students and 30+ coaches


with Dr. Claudia Nicolai, Elisabeth Höpner, Stefanie Gerken, Jen Tzen Tan, Sherif Osman, Renata Landa-Lopez


HPI School of Design Thinking


Innovation Spaces, Education, Innovation Management, Team Development, Sustainability, Org. Change, Consumer Behavior


Applied User Research, Learning Design, Experience Design, Immersive Prototyping


Learning Goals, Re-designed Learning Resources, Project Posters, Exhibition, Design Sprint, Workshop

Project Details

Session on System Thinking

The introduction to System Thinking, System Mapping, Stakeholder Mapping and Service Blueprinting led coaches and participants to delve deeper intro the complexity of human behaviors and their contexts

© HPI D-School, Jana Legler

Beyond Human-Centered Design

The academic leaders of the HPI D-School are actively expanding the boundaries of the Design Thinking way beyond a "fun, collaborative, user-centered approach" to a holistic, strategic, and sustainable mindset.

© HPI D-School, Jana Legler

Expert-Critique on Projects

Expert-driven analyses and opinions on student project development elevates both quality and relevance of each proposal, supporting participants to deliver excellent work.

© HPI D-School, Christian Smirnow

Minority-aware Research Synthesis

An open discourse about "similarity bias" and misrepresentation in the context of human-centered research, as well as a growing number of socially rooted projects, leverage emerging innovation potentials.

© HPI D-School, Jana Legler

Design Sprint

An adapted Design Sprint format in the Advanced Program accelerates the ideation-prototyping-testing-loops and equips students with a contemporary, industry-relevant experience.

© HPI D-School, Christian Smirnow

Project Posters

Each Basic and Advanced Program team now completes a project poster to present and document project outcomes in simple, accessible ways for any audience. (Examples: © Team Xtreme Learners, © Team Empower Rangers)

© HPI D-School, Christian Smirnow

Critical Reflection and Discourse

Fishbowl discussions and silent reflection activities trigger work modes tailored towards introverts, and also deepen the learning and trigger critical reflections about innovation at large.

© HPI D-School, Tim Hönig

Playful Culture-Building

We set the tone for open-minded interview-situations by running an ice-breaker activity that dares incoming participants to ask blunt questions, which often leads to realizing personal and social biases.

© HPI D-School, Jana Legler

Tinkering as Learning

Tinkering and hands-on learning through classic design-activities that focus on physical replication boost prototyping skills and non-verbal communication in teams.

© HPI D-School, Christian Smirnow

Shared Ownership of Space

Exploratory space-exercises and a clear visual floor plan establish a strong sense of ownership and responsibility among over 150 people who use the HPI D-School facilities regularly.

© HPI D-School, Jana Legler

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