Certification Program for Design Thinking Coaches

Design Thinking is one of the world’s most popular approaches for establishing a dynamic, user-centric, goal-oriented innovation culture in companies.

The many layers of the approach require well-trained Design Thinking coaches to guide innovation teams safely through the Design Thinking process. For this reason, the Hasso Plattner Institut Academy (HPI Academy) launched the certification program for Design Thinking coaches in 2015.

The certification program requires 20 days of in person attendance spread over one year. Upon completion of the program, participants will have the practical experience and methodological competence to help innovation teams successfully navigate their way through the Design Thinking process.

Since the certification program was established, over 100 Design Thinking coaches have been successfully trained at the HPI Academy.


Goals of the certification program

Participants learn

  • to recognize the potentials of innovation teams and how to activate them,
  • to apply and teach the methods and principles of Design Thinking in various organizational contexts,
  • to discover their own coaching style and develop their coaching skills.


The Curriculum of the certification program

The participants in the Design Thinking coach certification program will complete a 20 days of in person attendance spread over one year. During this time, all of the components related to training, practice, and transfer can be completed.

Become a Design Thinking Coach with the certification program of the HPI Academy
Training 8 Days

Design Thinking Deep Dive: 2 Days

Train the Trainer Team Coaching Workshop: 3 Days

Train the Trainer Lead Coaching Workshop: 3 Days

Practice 11 Days

Practical experience: 11 Days

These dates will be agreed individually with each participant

Transfer 1 Day

Masterclass: 1 Day

Virtual Experience Exchange (optional)


Who is the intended audience of the certification program?

The program is aimed primarily at experienced Design Thinkers. In addition, coaching and/or teaching experience is helpful. The program thus targets the following groups:

  • People who practice Design Thinking in professional contexts and want to teach it to others
  • Teachers, trainers, and coaches who want to expand their methods portfolio
  • Consultants and strategists in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who want to work as coaches in their organizations.


A quick look at the advantages of the certification program:

  • Certificate from the Academy of the Hasso Plattner Institute, the European hub for Design Thinking
  • Continuous exchange between the HPI Academy and other members of the Global Design Thinking Alliance (GDTA) for improving the training of Design Thinking coaches
  • A unique combination of teaching and research on the HPI campus
  • High level of practical experience: at the end of the training, participants will already have 11 days of practice engaging in a wide range of coaching experiences
  • Practice days are organized individually, allowing the program to fit in readily with participants' everyday professional lives
  • Continuous individual feedback from experienced Design Thinking coaches
  • A detailed coaching manual
  • Admission to the large HPI alumni network of Design Thinking coaches


The training part of the program consists of three workshops: the twoday Design Thinking Deep Dive and the two three-day workshops, Train the Trainer Team Coaching and Train the Trainer Lead Coaching.


Design Thinking Deep Dive

This workshop forms the basis for the certification program and dives deep into two central aspects of Design Thinking: the mindset and the process. This creates the basis for the transition to coaching Design Thinking teams.

Learning objectives

  • An in-depth examination of the Design Thinking mindset
  • Reflection of the central principles of Design Thinking
  • Definition of objectives in different process phases
  • Linking of the different process steps

Train the Trainer: Team Coaching

The first Train the Trainer focuses on team coaching. Over three days, participants are given various opportunities to try out their skills as team coaches in a safe space. In the process, continuous, intensive support is provided by experienced HPI coaches as participants prepare, implement, and reflect on their coaching.

Learning objectives

  • Accompany teams through Design Thinking processes
  • Analyze and understand team dynamics
  • Select the correct Design Thinking methods and use them skillfully
  • Give constructive feedback

Train the Trainer: Lead Coaching

The second Train the Trainer focuses on designing and implementing Design Thinking workshops. These aspects are learned and practiced through various exercises. In addition, the trainee coaches learn to play with the methods and tools in different contexts and to make intentional, thoughtful selections from among them.

Learning objectives

  • Design and implement Design Thinking workshops
  • Plan workshops in a targeted, yet flexible way
  • Communicate effectively with project partners
  • Moderate various workshop elements


Within the certification program, participants gain 11 days of practical experience. Here the trainee coaches can further develop their coaching skills and their individual coaching styles. Trainees are continuously accompanied and supported on this journey by experienced Design Thinking coaches. By applying the methods they have learned to a variety of real coaching situations, participants experience how the methods and principles of Design Thinking work in different organizational contexts.

The certification program offers three types of practical experience:

  • Participants shadow experienced Design Thinking coaches in the academic program at the HPI School of Design Thinking (D-School); the focus here is on observing different coaching styles and understanding longer-term Design Thinking formats.
  • Participants can also shadow experienced coaches leading the executive education workshops at HPI Academy; these are usually shorter formats (mostly 2 – 3 days).
  • Participants also have the opportunity to prepare and conduct their own Design Thinking workshops, in which teams of trainee coaches create a Design Thinking experience from start to finish.


The coaches of the certification program are always available to give participants detailed feedback on their coaching.


During the certification program, the HPI Academy offers formats designed to help participants reflect on their learning experiences and transfer them to their everyday work. This allows participants to further deepen their experiences on their learning journey.


Master classes

Master classes are individual events in a workshop series with different thematic focuses. The topics of these workshops range from methodological explorations (e. g., non-verbal communication or team dynamics) to special applications of Design Thinking (e. g., in social innovation or implementation in corporate strategy) to new, innovative formats (e. g., yoga thinking). Participation in at least one master class is required for the program. As a rule, we offer three to four master classes per semester.


Virtual Experience Exchange (VEE)

The VEEs are intended as an platform for current participants and graduates of the certification program to exchange experiences. Here, two coaches from the program report on how their company or organization is working with Design Thinking. After the short presentations, the audience can ask questions. The VEEs take place  online.