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Bosch Global

Ulrich Weinberg giving a speech on stage of Bosch’s IoT conference.
Experts@IoT

“Connected thinking”

Ulrich Weinberg, School of Design Thinking, Potsdam University

Reading time: 6 minutes

Together we are strong — and creative! The innovation method known as design thinking relies on small, interdisciplinary teams. This method is taught and implemented at the University of Potsdam: Department head Prof Ulrich Weinberg and his students support companies in solving complex problems.

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An interview with the IoT expert Ulrich Weinberg

“The mindset of most people is still in a kind of 20th century competitive mode. Design thinking can help them to think differently.”

Ulrich Weinberg, Hasso-Plattner Institute Potsdam

Thinking differently

Becoming an expert in a particular subject and working autonomously gains you a lot of respect. However, the problems of the working world are gaining in complexity. It is no longer sufficient to look at things simply from one point of view. This is where the innovation method design thinking comes in. It is an approach geared towards creative problem solving. “Design thinking enables a completely new form of cooperation”, says Ulrich Weinberg, founder of the School of Design Thinking at the Hasso-Plattner Institute at the University of Potsdam. According to Weinberg, the core of the innovation method is comprised of the “three Ps”: place, project and people. “Innovation needs the right environment. It is best to equip the furniture with rollers for more flexibility. Small interdisciplinary teams work on their projects in these kinds of rooms. We at the institute, for example, are a large “team of teams”, and the groups are in constant communication with each other.”

“More and more companies are approaching us — and are then finding out that what we do is very efficient and state-of-the-art at the same time.”

Ulrich Weinberg, Hasso-Plattner Institute Potsdam

Mistakes are welcome

In general, design thinking — and the area of design itself — is strongly orientated towards the user. The idea is to understand the customer’s problem, to observe user behaviour, to summarise the results and view them from the customer’s point of view, to generate ideas, to create prototypes and finally to test them out in daily working life. In the process, which takes a winding path, team members inspire each other. Ideally, they come from different cultural environments, have different jobs and are of different ages. An experienced programmer, after all, has different ideas from a young architect. Ulrich Weinberg adds: “It is also about creating an open mistake culture in which everyone can try things out. Crazy ideas are welcome! However, you must not lose sight of the topic at hand.” Creating personas, drawing mind maps, brainstorming or role-plays are intended to put us into the customer’s shoes; these are typical methods within the design thinking approach.

“Bosch could be a very good example for other companies.”

Ulrich Weinberg, Hasso-Plattner Institute Potsdam

Letting employees do their job

The School of Design Thinking in Potsdam trains up to 240 students each year in the postgraduate course in design thinking. They come from around 20 different countries, from 60 universities and from more than 70 different disciplines. Weinberg: “Small, medium and large companies approach us because they are looking for bold solutions. We work with real customers and their problems.” According to Weinberg, companies have to recognise that nothing is achieved by simply focusing on the creativity of individuals and on competitiveness: “Many people are still in a 20th century mindset. It is no longer about being better than the rest but about innovative cooperation.” It makes no sense for a large company to travel to Silicon Valley, visit Google and then copy their working methods. Each company has to find a path which suits its own culture, takes all the employees into account and convinces them of the virtues of the design thinking approach: “We at the Hasso-Plattner Institute can help to stimulate transformation. If employees are given the chance to redesign their working environment and processes, they will produce great things.” At Bosch, a lot is already going well from a design thinking perspective. Weinberg: “Volkmar Denner, the CEO of Bosch, is always emphasising the importance of openness, collaboration and new working methods. These are among the reasons why increasing numbers of companies want to cooperate with Bosch.”

Prof. Ulrich Weinberg — Founder “School of Design Thinking“, Potsdam University

Ulrich Weinberg studied graphic design. He specialised in 3D computer animation, worked among others for TV broadcaster ZDF and BMW and founded the companies TERRATOOLS and CYPARADE (simulation, 3D animation, computer games). After a professorship at the University of Film and Television in Babelsberg, he took over the reins of the School of Design Thinking in 2007. He is co-founder of the civic WeQ-Foundation and author of “Network Thinking”.

Ulrich Weinberg giving a speech at the Bosch IoT conference.
Ulrich Weinberg specialized early on 3D computer animations.

Summary

Ulrich Weinberg, from the School of Design Thinking at Potsdam University, is convinced that the future lies in interdisciplinary teams. The design thinking approach can help companies to find creative solutions to complex problems.

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