Design Thinking



Design Thinking Basics

Design Thinking is more than just an innovation method; it is a mindset and a stepping stone for creating an innovation-centric culture.

This website presents design thinking related case studies and interviews, demonstrating the range of perspectives on design thinking.


User-centricity is a way of working in which the user with his or her needs, wishes and problems is the focus of (innovation) efforts.


Dealing with complexity has become one of the most frequently quoted reasons for using Design Thinking in large systems, such as organizations operating globally. As these are highly dynamic complex systems operating within similarly complex contexts, the Design Thinking principle of “MOVING FORWARD WHILE LEARNING FROM FAILURES AND SUCCESSES” is seen as an appropriate strategy for remaining adaptive and innovative.

Scientists and practitioners agree that complex systems:

  • involve large numbers of interacting elements
  • feature nonlinear interactions in which minor changes cause major consequences
  • are dynamic, meaning that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and solutions cannot be imposed; rather, they arise from patterns

not only create unpredictable and counter-intuitive connections between existing issues, complex issues but also feature opaque entanglements through time.

Design Challenge

The Design Challenge is a question that frames the problem field and serves as a starting point for a Design Thinking project.

Design Research

Qualitative research is conducted to learn more about the user needs, pain points, conflicts, or problems. The focus lies on finding inspiration for solutions.

Design Thinking Components

Innovation and effective problem-solving combine three essential components: technical feasibility, economic viability and human desirability. Design Thinking approaches problems from a human perspective, with the objective of designing innovative and desirable products, services or experiences that reflect all three aspects.

Design Thinking Elements

Three important factors make Design Thinking successful: the collaborative interaction of multi-disciplinary and decision-capable teams, flexible work space for collaborative work and a workflow that follows the DT process.

Multidisciplinary Teams 

Ideally, a Design Thinking team consists of 4-6 people who differ in such aspects as their professional expertise, job functions, seniority levels, background, gender, and culture

Place (Space)

Flexible spaces help Design Thinkers to think flexibly. Space and furniture should allow for easy rearrangement in order to enable teams to change the space to support their various working modes.

Design Thinking Process

The Design Thinking Process consists of 6 steps: understand, observe/empathize, define point of view, generate ideas, prototype and test. The process is non-linear and iterative.


Real understanding of a problem comes before the solution to a problem. The team exploits the problem space with various methods and asks themselves: What or who has what needs and problems with relation to the challenge at hand? What solutions are out there already?


The team develops empathy for the user through qualitative design research. Methods such as interviews, observation of behavior or immersion (to put oneself in the shoes of the user) allow deeper access to the user.


Synthesis is the art of connecting the dots. Once a design thinking team has accumulated numerous data from observing users, their task is to make sense out of these data by arranging and rearranging them in a meaningful order that inspires them for future solutions.

Point of view 

Defining a point of view is the process of reframing a design challenge into an actionable problem that incorporates and synthesizes key learnings from the research.


Ideation is what happens after teams truly understand a user and her needs and generate ideas on how to help her. Any idea or a combination of ideas can potentially become a future solution. In Design Thinking, it is essential to separate the generation of ideas and their evaluation.


Prototyping is a craft that transfers ideas and assumptions into a tangible form that both the team and the users can experience and react to. Prototyping in teams is not only a highly creative and generative experience but also a unique way to connect minds in a playful manner.


Testing prototypes is crucial for iteration in the Design Thinking process. A prototype is a representation of the current knowledge and assumptions of the team. Testing them – that is, setting up scenarios in which the user can experience and interact with the prototype, as well as give feedback – is a crucial step in learning more about the idea, assumptions, and the user, and is often the basis for further iteration.


Iteration is the act of returning to steps in the Design Thinking process flexibly (i.e. in varying order based on needs) and multiple times in order to learn, revise, refine, or experiment, and thus come to a better result.

Extreme user 

 Extreme users have an extreme, non-average relationship to the design question. They are included in design research because they may be able to help produce particularly inspiring research findings. 


A check-in is a brief session of a team or group used at the beginning of a phase of collaboration-for example, at the start of the workday. It is used to adjust to others in the group on a personal level and can improve the quality of collaboration and togetherness. Check-In is also often used with new teams to help team members get to know each other better. 


A check-out is a short session of a team or group that is used towards the end of a phase of collaboration – for example, at the end of the workday. It is used to adjust to others in the group on a personal level and can improve the quality of collaboration and togetherness. The check-in is also often used to reflect on the collaboration or what has been worked on. As a meeting ritual, it often marks the end of the team’s shared workday. 


A warm-up is an exercise that gets a team into a mental or physical state appropriate for the work phase that follows. It is often used at the beginning of the day or after the lunch break to raise energy levels. In the training context, it can also hint at the training content to follow. 

Design Thinker 

A Design Thinker is person living and working with the Design Thinking mindset.

Design Thinking Coach 

A coach is a trained Design Thinker who supports a team throughout a design thinking process and/or project. The role of the coach is to support the team in the process and methods, while content generation responsibility belongs to the team

Program Manager

Our program managers are the link between our customers and our coaches. After understanding our customer’s expectations and goals, the program managers define and individualize formats that match those preferences. They then bring in coaches to design an experience in which customers can experience Design Thinking according to their goals.

More Information


Design Thinking in action

Where do companies benefit from Design Thinking and other agile methods? How do organizations implement this innovative approach in concrete terms and with what measurable effect?

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Your safety is our top priority

Due to Covid-19, we are currently conducting our workshops in small groups and observing the recommended rules of conduct.
All workshops are conducted under high hygiene standards.

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Design Thinking at HPI

Innovative thinking, creative teamwork and finding user-oriented solutions: These are just a few aspects and strengths of the method. But how does Design Thinking work in practice?

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