What is Design Thinking? 


What is Design Thinking? 

Design Thinking is a systematic, human-centered approach to solving complex problems within all aspects of life. The approach goes far beyond traditional concerns such as shape and layout. And unlike traditional scientific and engineering approaches, which address a task from the view of technical solvability, user needs and requirements as well as user-oriented invention are central to the process.   

This approach calls for continuous feedback between the developer of a solution and the target users. Design Thinkers step into the end user’s shoes – not only interviewing them, but also carefully observing their behaviors. Solutions and ideas are concretized and communicated in the form of prototypes as early as possible, so that potential users can test them and provide feedback – long before their completion or launch. In this way, Design Thinking generates practical results. 

Design Thinking was developed by David Kelley, Stanford professor and founder of the renowned design agency IDEO in Silicon Valley, and strongly influenced by Professors Terry Winograd and Larry Leifer at the Stanford University d.school. Since 2007, Design Thinking has been successfully applied and further developed at the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam and made available to companies and professionals through the HPI Academy.  

Design Thinking creates practical results 

Innovation and effective problem-solving combine three essential components:  

  • technical feasibility 
  • economic viability 
  • 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.  

Success factors 

Three important factors make Design Thinking successful:

  • the collaborative interaction of multi-disciplinary and decision-capable teams
  • flexible workspace for collaborative work
  • a workflow that follows the Design Thinking process. 

Multidisciplinary teams 

Innovations and answers to complex questions are best generated in a heterogeneous team of five to six people. A variety of professional backgrounds and functions, plus curiosity and openness for different perspectives, are the foundation of the creative working culture of Design Thinking. In Design Thinking workshops, each team is accompanied by a coach who is trained in the DT methodology. The coach leads the team members through the entire process so they can focus on the contents of their constructive collaborative work and reach their targeted goals.  

Teams constantly strive toward achieving tangible and concrete results. These outcomes are then regularly exchanged with other teams to maximize the learning effect. The practice of splitting into small groups ensures that every perspective is given the proper consideration. A strong cohesion develops within the teams with a lasting effect, due to the high acceptance of the resulting concepts.  

Design Thinking process 

The Design Thinking process is based on the intuitive workflow process of a designer. The team is led through iterative loops which take the participants through six phases.  

Understand: In the phase understand the team sets the problem space.  

Observation: In the phase observation, participants gain an outward view and form empathy for the users and stakeholders.  

Define the point of view: In the phase, which serves to define the point of view, the knowledge gained will be collated and summarized, and the challenge reframed.  

Ideation: In the phase of ideation, the team subsequently generates a variety of solution possibilities, then selects a focus.   

Prototyping: The prototyping phase serves in the development of concrete solutions. These solutions can then be tested on the appropriate target group.  

Selected Workshops

For me

Workshop / Program Next events Location Language Costs Information


Design Thinking Advanced

  • Design Thinking
Online German 3000 €
plus VAT


Strategic Design Thinking for Every Day

  • Design Thinking
Online English 549 €
plus VAT

For teams and companies

Workshop / Program Information


Design Thinking Advanced

  • Design Thinking


In-house Training Program for Design Thinking Coaches

  • Design Thinking


Design Thinking Sprint

  • Design Thinking

Design Thinking

  • Design Thinking is a systematic approach to solve complex problems and goes far beyond the classic Design disciplines.

  • Design Thinking is more than just a process. Methods and tools alone are not enough to drive innovation in companies and organizations. For many experts, researchers and practitioners, the key to successful innovation and transformation lies in shifting the mindset.

  • An overview of the most important terms and definitions of Design Thinking.

  • As experts in the field of Design Thinking, we regularly publish e.g. papers, articles and anthologies. An overview of all relevant publications on the topic of Design Thinking can be found here.

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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