Innovation by Design Thinking @ NTNU

This is a 3-month master’s level course in design thinking at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), held in partnership with ten different private and public-sector organizations, including Tine, SINTEF, Alba Gruppen, Disruptive Technologies, amongst others.  The course is project-based, with student teams tackling real-life challenges in collaboration with the participating organizations.  This course, is one of the most popular electives at the university, and uses state-of-the-art teaching methods including blended/digital learning, flipped classroom strategies, project-based learning, and mindfulness training. 

Innovation by DT is the first university-wide, interdisciplinary innovation course at NTNU. Launched in 2015 in collaboration with Professor Martin Steinert, the course attracts nearly 200 students, who tackled team-based design challenges like, for example, autonomous vehicle development, handicapped accessibility, and the design of green markets. 

Link to Sign Up Sheet

Link to Teams and Challenges Sheet



Tuesday, September 5th

Wednesday, September 6th

Wednesday, September 13th

Tuesday, October 10th and Wednesday, October 11th

Tuesday, October 17th



Developing a Point of View



Interviewing Skills

Gaining Empathy

Stanford Bootleg

Video of Jon Kolko on Synthesis*

"Abductive Thinking and Sensemaking: The Drivers of Design Synthesis," Jon Kolko

Paul Ekman Website



Stanford Bootleg

Interpersonal Closeness Article

NTNU TechZone article about Empathy and Deep Immersion

"Can you read people's emotions?The New York Times

"Design Thinking: A Unified Framework for Innovation." Forbes*

"Anthropology, Inc.The Atlantic*

"Perceiving Needs," Rolf Faste*

"Empathy on the Edge," IDEO*

"Dancing with Ambiguity," Martin Steinert*

"IBM’s Design-Centered Strategy to Set Free the Squares.The New York Times

"What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team," The New York Times Magazine*



Davidson, R. and Goleman, D. (2017), Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body

Seppala, E. (2014), 18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation Today, October.

Free the Mind, a documentary about Richard Davidson, the world's leading mindfulness scholar, and his work.

Ricard, M. (2010).  Why Meditate? Hay House Publisher, August 12.

Any material from Matthieu Ricard, Richard Davidson (U. Wisconsin - Madison), Daniel Goleman (Harvard), Jon Kabat-Zinn (U. of Massachusetts), and Emma Seppala (Stanford) is sure to be informed and top-notch.

Apps:  Headspace,  calm Insight Timer



Module 1:  Introduction

Tuesday, September 5th:  10.15 to 14.00

Wednesday, September 6th:  12:15 to 16:00


Module 2:  Empathy

Tuesday, September 12th:  10.15 to 14.00

Wednesday, September 13th:  12.15 to 16.00


Module 3:  Needsfinding I

Tuesday, September 26th:  10.15 to 14.00 (coaching)

Wednesday, September 27th:  12.15 to 16.00 (coaching)


Module 4:  Needsfinding II

Tuesday, October 3rd:  10.15 to 14.00 (coaching)

Wednesday, October 4th:  12.15 to 16.00 (coaching)


Module 5:  Sensemaking & Defining a POV

Tuesday, October 10th:  10.15 to 14.00

Tuesday, October 10th:  19:00 to whenever - TMM4220 Video Awards Ceremony

Wednesday, October 11th:  12.15 to 16.00


Module 6:  Ideation

Tuesday, October 17th:  10.15 to 14.00

Wednesday, October 18th:  12.15 to 16.00 (coaching)


Module 7:  Prototyping & Testing

Tuesday, October 24th:  10.15 to 14.00 (coaching)

Wednesday, October 25th:  12.15 to 16.00 (coaching)


Module 8:  Iterations

Tuesday, October 31st:  10.15 to 14.00 (coaching)

Wednesday, November 1st:  12.15 to 16.00 (coaching)


Demo Day!

Tuesday, November 7th:  10.15 to 14.00 



Who should take this course?

Are you interested in putting a ding in the universe?  If the answer to this question is "yes," then TMM4220 is for you! 

AND, this "ding" comes with several caveats and responsibilities.  We are looking for students willing and able to deal with tons and tons of ambiguity.  (If the meaning of ambiguity is unclear to you, read this article.)

We (the profs and coaches) will NOT tell you what to do---that is up to you to find out.  We assure you that you will---many times---find yourself drowning in confusion, a bit of stress, and lots and lots of lack of clarity.  That is all part of the TMM4220 learning experience.  There will be no right and wrong answers to anything we do in TMM4220.  You will learn to deal with the grayness of life and innovation.  After all, black and white is so 1990s.

This course, furthermore, will NOT follow the traditional ordered and structured (read: boring) set up.  We will not give you lectures, nor will we test you.  We don't believe in either.  We believe in the human experience and real-world learning, which are messy, confusing and at the same time exciting, inspiring, and really fun.

Along the way you will be supported by a dedicated team of awesome design thinkers who deeply care about your learning experience.  Your profs and coaches are fully student-focused.  You are the main thing we care about---above and beyond anything else (i.e., research, publishing, university politics, etc.).

So if this sounds like something you can handle and are interested in, then we would be thrilled to have you as part of the course. 

Let's do this!

But I can't attend all sessions.  Can I still join the course?

We are aware that you cannot come to all lectures/sessions.  As long as you get the material and coordinate within your team, and attend at least 80% of the time, that is OK.  Having said that, if your team as a whole feels you have not contributed enough to deserve a Pass grade, we will seriously re-consider your status in the course.

Will I be working on real-life challenges?

Yes.  A major part of TMM4220 will be based on addressing real-life Design Challenges.  These Challenges will be tackled in teams and will cover a wide range of areas, including Mechanical Engineering, Product Development, Service Innovation, Business Model Innovation, and Process/Systems Innovation.  We will introduce these Design Challenges, so that you can choose to join one, between Module 1 and 2.

How will I be graded?

The grading system for TMM4220 is Pass or Fail.  Keep in mind that some Erasmus universities have issues with this, and that we cannot issue letter grades.

We will evaluate you on the following three criteria:

1.  Project Presentation during Demo Day –(Team-based)
•2.  Design-driven, Knowledge Portfolio (Team-based)
•3.  A 5-Page Reflective Essay (Team-based)

Our primary focus will be on the learning process, and NOT on your final deliverables.  Unlike your traditional university experience, we will not be too worried about whether you came up with the "right" solution, since we don't believe that such a solution exists in design and innovation.  Design thinkers care about the process, above and beyond the final results.  This might sound strange to you now, AND we feel that you will all understand what we mean by the time you dive into your projects.

Can I choose my own team?

During Module 3 or 4, we will post a link to a Google Spreadsheet where you will be able to build your teams.  We will leave this process completely up to you.  You can choose both which team members you will work with, and what Challenge you will address.  The only requirement is for you to try your very best to form multidisciplinary and diverse teams.  This includes diversity in gender, country, and educational background.

Where will the course be held?

VE-22 SMASH, Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MTP), Richard Birkelandsvei 2B.

A lot of the work you will do for this course will be "out in the field."  We plan to turn the traditional educational environment upside down, where most of your learning will be done in teams in the real and nasty world, and not in the old-school, stale classroom setting.

Am I really eligible for this course?

All NTNU students are eligible to take this course.  There are, however, limited spaces.  Besides going through a special application process (more info on this during Day 1 of the course), the only other requirements are an open mind, a doer attitude, and lots of positive energy!  AND...a bit of awesomeness.

Where can I get more info about the course?

1.  Official NTNU Site

2.  NTNU TechZone

3.  NTNU Technoport


Are there any books for the course?

1.  David & Tom Kelley (2014).  Creative Confidence:  Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All.

2.  Chade-Meng Tan (2012).  Search Inside Yourself:  The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).

These books are available for purchase at Akademika.  If you buy both together, you will get a special discount.