Mastering the Design Thinking

Helping the next generation of innovators understand the design moves that matter!

Under the title of Mastering Design Thinking, sixteen international students actively participated in five virtual workshops. The Workshops included a Design Thinking Sprint followed by four Deep Dives into the modes of this popular innovation method. The design experiences of each workshop were connected, and their effects were cumulative as the innovation journey continued over five weeks. Dr. Kai Bruns as Entrepreneurship Education Designer and Anna-Katharina Behrenbeck as Startup Coach executed the workshop series with the students.

Design Thinking as Social Technology that sets EDR-Students apart

Firstly, at the start of the workshop series, students experienced all core Design Thinking phases first-hand. Secondly, starting as a process tool, the transformative capacity of design thinking became obvious to the students. Thirdly, they were introduced to a series of mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets that innovators have and do in each of the design modes. 
During the course of the program, students learnt about eight fundamental design abilities. Therefore these abilities pushed them to question their assumptions, shifted their mindsets and helped to discover new skills. Skills such as: Dealing with ambiguity, rapid prototyping, learning from feedback, synthesizing information, moving between abstractions. As well as conscious building and designing, conscious communication and design were learned. Additionally, pairing action with reflection exercises enabled them to dive further into the journey of their own potential. In other words, Design Thinking has become a social technology that altered students’ thinking and got them closer to becoming their authentic selves.

A Key Experience: Exploring the Problem instead of Rushing to Solve it

For the ongoing design thinkers, it was a key experience to spend much longer than usual in the problem phase without jumping directly to solutions. Design tools like empathy maps and interview techniques helped them to get to know the needs of the people they were designing for. After that, these ones created an immersive empathy experience which placed the user in the center of their future work and research. In addition to that, another mind-hack was to learn about the re-framing of a problem statement that helped to incorporate a more diverse set of voices in the quest to identify the most important problem.

Designing a great Learning Experience with lasting Impact

The Mastering Design Thinking series strengthened students’ creative abilities and empowered them to apply the newfound creative confidence to complex problems. They will encounter in their roles as designers of their lives and (work-) environments. The organized innovation process along the Design Thinking modes kept the students on track. The additional workshop learning design provided a task-oriented setting. In this setting students could experiment the new ways of doing in a psychologically safe zone.

In general, human-centered design work has taken root in the participants’ thinking. However, at a deeper level, something else took place. The intercultural exchange, new ways of thinking about creativity, and getting out of the comfort zone regularly reshaped the world of the participants in profound ways. Moreover the workshops became a truly impactful kickstart to a hopefully life-long learning experience in the participants´ journey. Identify problems, develop design solutions, and make a difference in the environments in which they will work after graduation.