Design Thinking Workshop

Design Thinking Workshop with "Inno Space" - our innovation partner at Mannheim University of Applied Sciences

Complex problem solving, passionate studying and "learning by doing": Daniel Gerlach and Thomas Erkert from HITA e.V., together with Professor Kirstin Kohler and employee Clara Dieing, present a design thinking course at Mannheim UAS., the Design Factory Mannheim, is the place to go for students who want to work out creative solutions to challenging tasks in addition to frontal instruction during their studies. "Co-creation", interdisciplinary cooperation as well as intercultural competence in the predominantly industrial cooperation count. Teamwork, prototyping and digital manufacturing in an inspiring and open atmosphere form the motivating conditions for solving complex real-world problems. In, methods of prototyping for services, software and smart products are prepared and offered in such a way that they support virtual, collaborative work in creative processes. Based on a so-called "Design Challenge", teaching units for the acquisition of methodological competence and the corresponding manufacturing techniques are combined with work on concrete prototypes. This approach follows the Design Thinking method, which was developed at Stanford University about 20 years ago. The requirements of relevant users are taken into account throughout the entire process. This is done not only with the help of market research, but also through early and repeated testing of the innovation by target group representatives. The Design Thinking process normally runs through 6 phases, which are shown in the following figure with the methods established for the respective process step.

Design thinking process, phases and methods

The first phase of the Desing Thinking process is about understanding the problem and the associated "Design Challenge". The "Design Challenge" is formulated in such a way that, if possible, it does not yet contain a solution or constraint. This is what happened in mid-March 2023: Thomas Erkert and Daniel Gerlach "beam" the students to a hospital in Africa. With many pictures and descriptions of experiences, the HITA experts tried to show the course of a typical hospital stay for a user in rural areas of Ghana by means of a "patient journey". This immersion in the actual situation is extremely important in order to understand the situation on the ground. This context of use forms the basis for requirements that "our" product/service should fulfill in a later project phase.
Professor Kirstin Kohler explains the learning objectives for the semester project

Patient Journey

After this insight into the Ghanaian healthcare system - structured according to the process steps of the Patient Journey - the focus of the workshop turns to the Design Challenge: "How can an administration tool / interactive system improve, support and ensure the management, maintenance and sustainable operation of hospital beds in micro, small and medium-sized hospitals in rural Ghana?"

Design Challenge

Thomas Erkert explains the association's goals of HITA e.V.
As described above, no solution or constraint is yet specified in the Design Challenge, if possible. The workshop and the challenge describe the "problem space":
  • The WHY: Why is the problem a problem?
  • The WHO: Who is/are the user group(s)?
  • The WHAT: What is the need that is to be met?
  • The WOMIT: What is used to achieve this? What resources are available?
However, a well-articulated design challenge alone does not help to generate the same understanding in a team. An optimal team composition is when people from different disciplines work together in a team. For example, experts from different fields often use similar terms, but the meaning of these words can be far different. In the next steps of the project, students* will deepen their shared perspective on the Design Challenge and identify possible solutions to address the challenges presented and improve the situation. The team, Professsorin Kirstin Kohler and Clara Dieing, guide through the next steps. The design of the first prototypes will soon be on the agenda. Daniel Gerlach and Thomas Erkert from HITA e.V. accompany the Mannheim students as "clients" in the Design Thinking process. The next highlight is already in preparation. During a project status trip of HITA e.V. at the end of March there will be a video conference with users directly from Ghana.