Innovation with Design Thinking

The partnership agreement was signed by Professor Hasso Plattner, Professor James Plummer (dean of the Stanford School of Engineering), and Professor Christoph Meinel (director of the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering, in Potsdam, Germany).

“We are interested in the design thinking method of innovation, which has been successfully taught at both institutions,” said Plattner. “Through joint scientific research projects we want to find out which factors ultimately contribute to the success of this kind of engineered and creative development of innovation for all areas of life.”

Plummer emphasized how the research program highlights the importance of innovation in benefiting society. “As engineers, we strive to apply basic scientific discoveries in ways that will meet human needs. Improving our understanding of that innovation process will help us bring better solutions to society more quickly,” he said.

Meinel welcomed the extension of his institute’s cooperation with Stanford University from simply teaching the design thinking method of innovation to investigating the technical, economic, and human factors that contribute to its success. “Together with our colleagues from Stanford, we will examine how the innovative processes that originate in small, multidisciplinary teams can be improved and further developed in the future,” he said.

Larry Leifer, professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Center for Design Research, will be responsible for the program at Stanford. “It is time to use rigorous academic research to find out when and why the design thinking method succeeds in coming up with useful innovations more quickly,” said Leifer. “We will then develop the next generation of this method along with additional supporting techniques. We are very pleased that Professor Hasso Plattner will be supporting us in our efforts.”

According to HPI Director Meinel, half of the planned research projects will be undertaken at the HPI in Potsdam, and the other half at Stanford, giving each institution equal weight in the innovation research program.

The individual research projects will receive annual funding of up to $150,000 (approximately €100,000). The program, which also includes joint workshops in Potsdam and Palo Alto, started at the beginning of September 2008. The projects will investigate, for example, how the design thinking method can be integrated with other, traditional methods in technical fields, and how globally dispersed development teams can overcome differences in time and location.

Researchers at Stanford and HPI are also interested in the role interdisciplinarity plays in innovative systems development, the influence cultural factors have on the work of design thinking teams, and how individual efforts assist invention processes within a team.

Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering

Founded in 1999 with a donation from Hasso Plattner, the Institute was extended to include the HPI School of Design Thinking in 2007 ( It cooperates closely with the, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

Stanford School of Engineering

With a faculty of more than 240 academics and more than 4,000 students in nine departments, Stanford’s engineering school is devoted to educating future leaders and creating innovation.