HPI Certification Program for Design Thinking Coaches

Design thinking is one of the world’s most popular approaches for establishing a dynamic, user-centered, goal-oriented innovation culture in companies. Our experience has shown that in order for innovation teams to reach their full potential, they need the guidance of well-trained design thinking coaches.

At the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany, we have been coaching teams through all kinds of design thinking formats for over ten years. Our experience has shown that in order for innovation teams to reach their full potential, they need the guidance of well-trained design thinking coaches. With this in mind, we decided to launch the HPI Certification Program for Design Thinking Coaches in 2015. The Certification Program requires 20 days of in-person attendance (over 180 hours) spread over approximately one year. Upon completion of the program, participants will have the methodological competence, practical experience and personal confidence to successfully support teams through design thinking projects.

Since the Certification Program was established, we have trained over 150 coaches from around the world. Our alumni bring design thinking straight into the heart of their organizations, companies and clients every day.

Goals of the certification program

Participants learn.

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


Now also bookable as an in-house training program!


HPI Academy has designed an in-house training program for Design Thinking coaches. Learn more about the program here.

The Curriculum of the certification program

Participants in the Certification Program complete 20 days of training spread over approximately one year. Everyone participates in the three core training modules together, which take place on campus. The practice and transfer parts of the curriculum are then tailored to the personal interests, needs and availabilities of each participant.

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

Who Should Apply to the Certification Program?

The program is aimed at people who have experience with design thinking and want to deepen their knowledge and confidence in order to be able to coach teams effectively. In addition, experience working as a coach, moderator or teacher is helpful. The program broadly targets three groups of people:

  • people who practice design thinking in professional contexts and want to teach it to others;
  • teachers, trainers and coaches who want to expand their portfolio of methods and
  • consultants and strategists in the public, private, and non-profit sectors who want to work as coaches in their organizations.

Training - 8 days

The training part of the program consists of three core modules: one twoday Design Thinking Deep Dive workshop, and two three-day workshops, Train the Trainer 1: Coaching a Team and Train the Trainer
2: Coaching in Context.

This forms the foundation of the program and all participants must attend all three modules.

Deep Dive: Design Thinking & You

This workshop gives participants the chance to refresh their understanding of design thinking. The first part is a deep dive into the innovation mindset of a design thinker. Here, the aim is for all participants to experience the mindset through various activities, reflect and finally consider what they would like to improve on. The second part is dedicated to exploring the design thinking process and its six phases. Here the aim is firstly to understand the logic of the process as a whole, then to zoom into each phase, and finally to reflect on how the mindset and process fit together.

Learning Objectives:

  • Experience and reflect on the innovation mindset of a design thinker,
  • understand the logic behind the design thinking process as a whole, as well as each individual phase,
  • think about what design thinking means to you, and how to communicate it effectively and authentically.

Train the Trainer 1: Coaching a Team

This workshop focuses on coaching a team. Participants start by building their confidence guiding teams through the design thinking process. They then explore the characteristics of different styles of coaching, before reflecting on their own style. Finally, participants consider the impact of team dynamics on design thinking projects, and explore various strategies to deal with them effectively. Over three days, participants have various opportunities to try out their skills as team coaches in a safe space. For the whole duration of the training, our experienced HPI Academy coaches provide continuous, intensive support and personalized feedback to all participants.

Learning Objectives:

  • accompany teams through the design thinking process as a coach,
  • explore different styles of coaching and discover your own,
  • perceive team dynamics and respond appropriately.

Train the Trainer 2: Coaching in Context

This workshop aims to place the activity of coaching a team into its wider context within a company or organization. As such, this module mainly focuses on the preparation and follow-up work that a coach undertakes in order to lead a successful design thinking project. We start by exploring different formats for design thinking projects. Using real-life challenges submitted by course participants, teams design a detailed project roadmap which takes into account the bigger picture, such as the organization or company’s strategy, internal culture or constraints. They then present this to their peers for feedback at the end.

Learning Objectives:

  • design and execute design thinking projects,
  • plan them in a targeted, yet flexible way,
  • locate the design thinking project within the bigger picture.

Practice - 11 days

In addition to the three core training modules, each participant completes a personalized learning journey consisting of eleven days of practical experience. The purpose of the practice days is to support participants in developing their coaching skills, building up their confidence through experience and experimenting with different coaching styles. Additionally, they are able to experience first-hand the challenges that arise when design thinking is coached in different organizations, or with different participants. During their practice days, participants are always accompanied by our experienced coaches, who are there to support them and give individual feedback.

The Certification Program offers three types of practical experience:

  • Shadow Coaching: Participants are able to shadow experienced coaches either at the HPI School of Design Thinking (D-School) or at the HPI Academy. At the D-School, participants accompany a coach from the Basic Track, thereby gaining an insight into coaching longer term projects in an academic setting. At the HPI Academy, participants shadow in the Design Thinking Introduction course, which is a 2 – 3 day format for executives.
  • Co-Coaching: Here participants have the opportunity to coach a team through the design thinking process themselves, as part of the Pop-Up Workshop format. We work in partnership with various NGOs and non-profit organizations to give them a chance to experience design thinking and you a chance to develop your skills and gain more coaching experience.
  • Method Labs: This is a one-day format where we do a deep dive into one of the six phases of the design thinking process. In it participants explore various tools and methods which can be used to coach this phase, as well as experimenting with new ones.

Transfer - 1+ day

For the duration of the Certification Program, we constantly encourage participants to think about how to transfer learnings into their everyday work. In addition to this we also offer three formats to support participants in transferring or expanding their knowledge and skills.

Master classes are one-day formats which combine design thinking with other approaches in order to expand your toolbox. These can be anything from learning new skills (e. g. non-violent communication), to applications of design thinking in specific contexts (e. g. social innovation or implementation of corporate strategy). Finally, we also have master classes to test out highly experimental 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 a platform for current participants and graduates of the Certification Program to exchange experiences and best practices. During each VEE, two coaches from the program showcase how they are working with design thinking. After the short presentations, other participants have the chance to ask questions. The VEEs take place as an online call, and a recording is sent out to everyone who was not able to participate.

Connect & Do Day
Once a year we hold an event for alumni of the Certification Program, Professional Track and the Leading Digital Transformation Program. The purpose of this one-day event is to encourage participants to connect, share learnings and experiences and inspire one another. This event takes place at the HPI. There is no obligation to attend, but if you would like to be there, our team will send an email with details on how and when to purchase your ticket.