Impulse 2: Personal development and personal growth


Impulses for a new curriculum, part 2
personal growth

The second event of the joint campus project of the iF Design Foundation and Die Neue Sammlung - The Design Museum took place from 10 to 12 October 2023 in Munich. The three-day event at the X-D-E-P-O-T of the Pinakothek der Moderne once again combined lectures, workshops and a concluding symposium that the interested public was invited to attend. This time, the impulses for a future curriculum in design were directed towards the topic of personal growth. To kick things off, renowned international speakers gave lectures on the current state of research. This was followed by an exchange of practical experiences in the workshops on how this can make a tangible difference to design studies. Finally, the findings were reflected upon and discussed together with the public. How can personal growth topics such as emotional intelligence, strength, resilience and critical thinking be incorporated into design teaching? The four sessions provided impulses from theory and practice and were held by Prof Dr Ilona Boniwell (University of East London), Sara Canna (World Health Organization, Geneva), Prof Dr Caroline Heim and Dr Christian Heim (Queensland University of Technology/University of Queensland, Australia) and Prof Dr Dr Norman Sieroka (University of Bremen/ETH Zurich).

Entitled "Designing Design Education - Impulse for a New Curriculum", the iF Design Foundation and Die Neue Sammlung have established a joint programme that will run until 2025. As part of this, Die Neue Sammlung will become a public campus. The focus of the project is the possible adaptation of design studies through practical impulses - based on the findings published by the iF Design Foundation in the White Paper "Designing Design Education 2021". The point of departure is the widely held view that design education should be updated by taking into account multiple perspectives. The project aims to provide teachers and universities with a proven range of applicable tools and insights that they can use for their specific transformation. The approximately 30 teachers, students and researchers from a wide range of design disciplines who attended the Personal Growth event explored four essential aspects of personal growth within the design curriculum in four sessions and related workshops: strength, emotional intelligence, resilience and critical thinking.


The first impulse Ilona Boniwell delivered on the topic of “strength”. The Professor of Positive Psychology at the University of East London is the founder of UEL's MSc in Applied Positive Psychology, the first degree of its kind in Europe. She is one of the world's leading figures in positive psychology research and has been working in the field for over 20 years. She published various books and gave over 200 keynote speeches on the topic, founded the European Network of Positive Psychology and organized the first European Congress of Positive Psychology. She is also a passionate practitioner of positive psychology and provides evidence-based training in the discipline.

During her session, Boniwell talked about how we can achieve our professional and personal goals better and more easily if we know our personal strengths. In the workshop that followed, she let the participants experience how "strength spotting" can work: "How do I recognise my strengths and those of my students - and how can I actively use them? And what happens when I accept who I am and what my strengths are?" In her workshop, practical concepts emerged that can be used to turn the topic of "strength" itself into the subject of classes: How can teachers inspire their students to recognise and name their strengths and help them to develop them further?

emotional intelligence

The second impulse came from Sara Canna from WHO in Geneva. The experienced HR professional with extensive international experience in leading large-scale projects in the areas of talent management and development, learning, employee engagement and organizational development spoke about emotional intelligence. With more than two decades of experience in global talent management and talent development in international and multicultural organizational environments and as a certified coach and career counselor specializing in the assessment and development of emotional intelligence, her greatest passion is helping individuals and teams realize their potential through to increase their internal resources.

During her workshop, she explained what emotional intelligence is and what relevance it has for building effective relationships, but also as a success factor in general. In addition, her workshop highlighted how emotional intelligence can be integrated into teaching practices: Sara Canna illustrated the power of emotions through experiential activities to gain knowledge of tools, approaches and a competency model for emotional intelligence: "The goal here is to develop and expand learners' knowledge, skills and competencies so that they can excel and feel fulfilled and empowered."


After the lunch break, the participants of the campus event started with the couple Caroline and Christian Heim from Queensland, Australia, and the topic of resilience third impulse of the day. Before her career in science and research, Caroline Heim worked, among other things, as an actress on the New York stage. She lectures worldwide and has written three books and numerous articles on topics ranging from the mental health of university students to psychological relationships in the theater. Christian Heim has more than 20 years of experience in the mental health field as a physician, researcher and speaker. His research area is preventive mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Caroline and Christian Heim theorized and implemented an innovative mental health and resilience program for Caroline's university students. The aim was to strengthen students' resilience during social isolation and a significant escalation in their anxiety and depression levels. Findings from this work have been integrated into Caroline Heim's teaching and research articles, and the program continues to be taught through her specific embodied learning approach.

In their session, the Heims delved into what builds resilience from biological, psychological and sociological viewpoints. They made the positive handling of fear, judgement, uncertainty, failing and inflexibility accessible through embodied, shared experiences. They also gave the participants important tips and practical exercises and techniques for building resilience in their workshop, which can be implemented in an empathy-led design theory. "Resilience in itself cannot be taught, but it can be fostered through shared experiences," the pair stated at the beginning. "And thus also be part of our teaching." Reliable, long-lasting relationships are essential for building resilience - certainly difficult in an individualistic society in which the well-being of the individual and short-lived enjoyments take precedence: "To build resilience, a secure long-term foundation is much better than short-term gratification.” According to Caroline Heim, the main issues she observes in her students are fear of failure and fear of being judged. In order to create a trust-based learning environment in her classes, she has therefore established a number of methods that she has actively tried out - such as check-in questions that invite students to discuss problems and stress factors together and then "park" them in an imaginary box. This way, students experience a sense of community right at the start of each lesson, helping to create a learning atmosphere characterised by empathy in which each individual can feel safe.

Critical thinking in teaching and research

Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka finally delivered the fourth impulse on the topic of “Critical Thinking in Teaching and Research”. The professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Bremen and lecturer in philosophy at ETH Zurich studied philosophy, physics and mathematics in Heidelberg and Cambridge and holds a doctorate in both philosophy and physics. His main research interests are philosophy of time, philosophy of perception, philosophy of science and historiography of philosophy.

In his keynote speech and subsequent workshop, the participants assessed both the necessity and the deceptive power of fundamental assumptions, concepts and approaches that underpin research and teaching. What does critical thinking mean and why is it so important - not only in teaching - to think critically and not dogmatically? Norman Sieroka encouraged the workshop participants to question their "response-ability" (literally: the ability to answer why one has done something) in interdisciplinary and cross-hierarchical settings and ultimately to adopt elements of critical thinking and adapt them to their own teaching examples and workplace contexts. To illustrate this, he presented three examples from his own teaching experience in different disciplines and explained how important it is to create "disruptive moments" in order to lure students out of their comfort zone - with the aim of being able to critically scrutinise situations from a different perspective beyond purely linear thinking and/or planning.

Feedback from participants

Prof. Dr. Andreas Ken Lanig

»An extraordinary symposium: the opportunity to meet colleagues from the various spheres of design education was and remains a valuable experience. A key insight from the keynote speeches and the dialogues in the small groups was the importance of resilience and emotional intelligence for studying. It became clear that the comprehensive area of mental health is by no means a niche topic, but a real and relevant issue for both students and practitioners in order to systematically promote innovation and re-creation. This emphasises the need to integrate mental health as a central component of design curricula.«

Prof. Daniela Kirchlechner

»Firstly, the topics of the workshops (including futures ones) are very forward-looking and interesting as aspects that need to be implemented in design teaching in the coming years. Thank you for the important topic of ‘personal growth’, which I think has so far been greatly neglected in the ‘curricular landscape’. The healthy and sustainable use of personal resources, which will be essential in the future, should urgently be integrated and addressed in teaching.

For me personally, there was a lot of food for thought and ‘light bulb moments’. The selected aspects that were discussed in the presentations were stimulating in many different ways. And, apart from the workshops themselves, there was a lot of dialogue with the other workshop participants. The workshops were a little short, but were very suitable for spontaneously translating ideas into ‘prototypes’. I consider the workshops to be a good basis for later implementation in specific teaching situations that are tailored to my field of specialisation.

There was a great atmosphere throughout and there were stimulating discussions between the participants and the speakers. I also found the professional heterogeneity very exciting.«

Prof. Javier Martín

»The Workshop on Personal Growth was very valuable. It confirmed my personal belief that establishing a strong bond and safe communication with the students is very important in order to create an impactful learning experience.

Building trust between educators and students and among the students themselves and enhancing critical thinking and open and respectful discussions are key to a successful experience in class. In a world in which digitalization and artificial intelligence are taking over our learning and working environments, emotional intelligence becomes even more important to maneuver through these exciting but uncertain times to come.«

Karianne Fogelberg

»The event provides an exceptional setting to think critically and constructively about a topic, design theory, that is close to all our hearts and drives us, and to exchange ideas with each other. The requirements for a positive learning environment were already met in the workshop and in the way it was structured, organised and moderated. In addition to the many valuable impulses that I was able to gain, another important takeaway was that a T-shirt with a customised slogan can sometimes create a better learning atmosphere than all the teaching materials in the world.««

Sonja Pham

»As a journalist who spends a lot of time looking at design teaching – its potential, rules and limitations – the workshop gave me hope above all: I was delighted to see committed lecturers and university staff who are genuinely interested in their students, who want to make their world a better and more beautiful place and, above all, who want to take time to address their personal challenges.

It resonates with me in particular that shared experiences and an honest interest in each other promote our resilience and make us more stress-resistant, resilient personalities – even outside of our studies.«

The symposium

A public symposium summarises the results of a highly educational day of workshops and invites the public to join in the discussion

The Campus event once again featured a public symposium, which reflected on the findings of the workshops and discussed them with interested members of the public in the X-D-E-P-O-T of the Pinakothek der Moderne. On the final day, speakers and participants provided lively insights into the topics of the previous day, underpinned by personal accounts of their experiences. The Director of Die Neue Sammlung, Prof Dr Angelika Nollert, thanked all participants and the audience for their valuable input on the further development of design studies. Christoph Böninger, Chairman of the Board of the iF Design Foundation, together with Annette Diefenthaler and René Spitz, gave an outlook on the next steps of the project, which will be completed in XNUMX - the XNUMXth anniversary of Die Neue Sammlung. Three events are planned for XNUMX: "Artificial Intelligence" is on the agenda in March, "Leadership/Public Value & Sustainability" in June and "Innovation" in October XNUMX. To register, please contact symposium@neumann-communication.

Speaker »Personal growth / personality development«

Sara Canna is an experienced Human Resources professional with extensive international experience in leading large-scale projects in the areas of: Talent Management and Development, Learning, Emotional Intelligence, Staff Engagement and Organizational Development. She has over 20 years' experience in Global Talent Management and Development within international and multicultural organizational environments; she is a certified coach and career counselor with a specialization in Emotional Intelligence assessment and development. Her main passion is supporting individuals and teams to enhance their potential by tapping into their inner resources; developing and growing their knowledge, skills and competencies in order to enable them to excel in their performance, feel fulfilled and empowered. She currently works at the World Health Organization and is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Caroline has had a multifaceted journey in her road to researching and presenting on university student resilience. She is regarded as the leading global authority on theater audiences through her often-cited book Audience as Performer: the changing role of theater audiences in the twenty-first century (Routledge, 2016), and prior to entering academia, Caroline worked as a professional actor on New York stages winning a Drama League Award.

Caroline gives keynotes globally, has written three books and numerous articles on topics that range from the mental health of university students to psychological relationships in the theater. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, for example, Caroline and Christian Heim theorized on, devised and implemented an innovative mental health program for Caroline's university students. The aim was to build their resilience during social isolation and significant escalation of their anxiety and depression levels. Findings from this work has been integrated into Caroline's teaching and research articles, and the program continues to be taught through her unique approach to embodied learning.

Her most recent project has been a global study spanning five years on Resilient Relationships, co-authored with psychiatrist Christian Heim. It is the largest cross-sectional global study on resilience in long-term relationships to date: 1402 coupled individuals were surveyed or interviewed from 52 countries.

Recent publication
Resilient Relationships: techniques for surviving hyper-individualism, social isolation and a mental health crisis. London and New York. Routledge. 2023. DOI: 10.4324/9781003263395

Christian has over 20 years of diverse experience in mental health as a clinician, researcher and speaker. His research area is preventative mental health and in this he publishes, gives international keynotes and lectures to lawyers, doctors, university students and the general public to help avoid burnout, compassion fatigue and mental illness, and to foster resilience. As a private psychiatrist, Christian subspecialized in people suffering personal trauma, particularly war-related PTSD or severe childhood sexual trauma, and in couple therapy where mental illness is prominent. As a Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland he lectures to trainee doctors and psychiatrists.

Christian was a lecturer in classical music composition and analysis at the Manhattan School of Music, New York, The University of Newcastle, and the University of Wollongong where he was nominated for a teaching award. He is a Churchill Fellow having researched the use of music in hospital environments in Germany, Italy and the UK, and is a recipient of the Newton-John Award for creativity in professional practice and the Blackwell Award for Critical Reasoning in Science.

Recent publication
Resilient Relationships: techniques for surviving hyper-individualism, social isolation and a mental health crisis. London and New York. Routledge. 2023. DOI: 10.4324/9781003263395

Professor Ilona Boniwell is one of the European leaders in positive psychology, studying, researching, teaching and implementing positive psychology for over 20 years, working as an academic, but also as a consultant with private companies, education, higher education and governmental institutions.

She is a full professor of positive psychology and coaching psychology at the University of East London, co-directs the International MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology and a PhD Programme in Positive Psychology at UEL, teaches Positive Management at l'Ecole CentraleSupelec Paris and HEC, and consults around the world as a director of Positran. Her main teaching expertise lies in the areas of positive psychology and positive psychology applications, with research interests around: subjective time use, time perspective, eudaimonic well-being, measuring well-being and engagement at work, tangible tools and applications of positive psychology to business, executive coaching and education.

Ilona founded and was the first Chair of the European Network of Positive Psychology (ENPP), and was subsequently the member of its Steering Committee for many years. She organised the first European Congress of Positive Psychology in June 2002 (Winchester), starting a successful tradition of bi-annual events. She was the first Vice-Chair of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) and has been continuingly the member of its Board of Directors since 2007. She is currently the Vice-President for the Francophone Association of Positive Psychology, serves on the Board of Directors of the Wellbeing Education Network (WEN) and is a co-editor of the Applied Positive Psychology Journal.

She had authored, co-authored and co-edited twelve books within the discipline of positive psychology. Ilona is the author of Positive Psychology in a Nutshell (2006, PWBC; 2016, McGraw-Hill), co-author of The Happiness Equation (2008, Adams Media), Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications (2011, 2019, Open University Press), Well-Being Lessons for Secondary Schools (2012, Open University Press), co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Happiness (2013, Oxford University Press) and Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace (2021), and co-author of Motivated Adolescents (2015, Odile Jacob) and PEPS: Positive Education for Parents and Schools (2018, Leduc). She is currently working on a new book, Positive Psychology at Work in a Nutshell (forthcoming in 2022). She acted as the main consultant for and appeared in the BBC2 series The Happiness Formula (2006). Her other media work included Guardian, Times, Top Sante, Cosmopolitan and Psychologies articles, TV and radio interviews, and columns. Currently, she is consulting ARTE on the documentary about the progress of positive psychology (appearing alongside Professor Martin Seligman) and writing a monthly column for the Positive Psychology magazine.

Ilona frequently addresses psychology and professional audiences at national and international conferences, having delivered a TEDx, as well as over 300 keynotes, invited presentations and workshops. Multiple keynotes delivered range from those addressed to highly specialist audiences (e.g. International Conference for School Violence, Canada, 2018; 9th European Congress of Positive Psychology, Hungary, 2018; 5th Happiness and Well-Being Summit, Mexico, 2017; 8th Congress of the European Network of Positive Psychology, France, 2016), the 5th Australian Positive Psychology and Well-being Conference, Australia, 2016), through to many other professional groups - business leaders (e.g. EY, Luxembourg, 2021; Chanel, France, 2021; Goldman Sachs, UK, 2018), teachers (e.g., GESS Education, UAE, 2018), parents (e.g. Unilever, 2020-21), general public audiences (e.g. Action for Happiness, UK, 2014) and even children (e.g. Printemps d'Optimisme, France 2021). She gave evidence to the British and Bhutan Governments, and addressed congresses of up to 5, 000 delegates (e.g., LH Positive Economy Forum, Italy 2014).

Ilona is passionate about practical applications of positive psychology to coaching, business and education. Her clients include Club Med, L'Oreal, Microsoft, SNCF, EDF, Sanofi, Bull, Mars, Eric Bompard, Microsoft, BNP Paribas, Sanofi, Sodexo and many others. Nowadays, as a director of Positran, a boutique consultancy specialising in the applications of evidence-based methodologies to achieve lasting positive transformation, Ilona delivers advanced professional training in positive psychology. She has developed her own approach to positive psychology coaching and training and trained thousands of professionals around the world (in Japan, Singapore, China, Dubai, South Africa, Portugal, France and the UK). She further worked for the Government of Bhutan to develop a framework for happiness-based public policy at the request of the UN, as a member of the International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm. She also consulted the Prime Minister's Office of the UAE around the development of the toolkit for workplace positivity and organisational well-being assessment.

Recent Publication
Smith, W., Boniwell, I., & Green, S. (2021). Positive psychology coaching in the workplace. Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79952-6

Norman Sieroka is a full professor of philosophy at the University of Bremen and a lecturer at ETH Zurich. He studied philosophy, physics and mathematics in Heidelberg and Cambridge and holds a PhD in both philosophy and physics. 

Norman engages in research-based teaching and learning and was a member of the core team of ETH's Critical Thinking Initiative. He has been developing interdisciplinary courses together with colleagues from, for instance, physics, pharmaceutical sciences and architecture. To facilitate collaborative efforts in teaching and research, he has co-developed special online and coaching tools.

The consideration of problems from different, often interdisciplinary perspectives is a characteristic feature also of Norman’s philosophical work. This characteristic stems from the conviction that only such an approach can lead to a deeper understanding of systematic questions. This includes reference to recent developments, particularly in the context of data-driven methods (keywords here are “big data” and “machine learning”), as well as an intensive reference to history in order to trace developments and historical variations of concepts and topics. Norman argues that several areas of science are characterized more by their long-standing methods and epistemological motives than by their specific content.

Norman has written numerous articles, in particular on the philosophy of time, the philosophy of perception (especially of hearing), the philosophy of science (especially physics) and the historiography of philosophy. He is the author of several books, including introductory monographs on “Philosophy of Time” and “Philosophy of Physics”, both published in the C.H.Beck Wissen series.

Norman Sieroka was Visiting Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame (USA), Fellow at the Einstein Center Chronoi in Berlin, Visiting Professor at the Singapore-ETH Center, Associate Member of the Zurich Center “History of Knowledge” and Managing Director of the Turing Center Zurich. He is, among other things, member of the Governance Board of the Think-and-Do Tank “rethink” at ETH Zurich, Participating Researcher in the DFG Research Training Group “Contradiction Research” and member of the coordination team of the Bremen “Humans on Mars” initiative.

His most important publications on critical thinking include:

N. Sieroka, V.I. Otto, G. Folkers (2018): Critical Thinking in Education and Research—Why and How? Guest Editorial, Applied Chemistry (International Edition) 57: 2-4.

Schneider P, Walters WP, Plowright AT, Sieroka N, et al. (2020): Rethinking drug design in the artificial intelligence era. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 19: 353-364.