Organizations are rapidly adopting design thinking. Design thinking promotes innovation through formal creative problem-solving. Design thinking has spread rapidly in practice, but its theoretical underpinnings have not. This article identifies design thinking practices that imply different paradigm interpretations to clarify their theoretical contribution.
- Design thinking promotes innovation through formal creative problem-solving.
- Design thinking is based on the idea that tackling complexity requires making decisions, which many businesspeople struggle with.
- Holistic thinking helps design thinkers challenge and reframe the problem statement.
Scholars and practitioners acknowledge design’s centrality as an agent of innovation and change (Brown, 2008; Forrester, 2018; Liedtka, 2015). Studies have examined the significance of design as a source of value creation (Fournier, 1991; Hirschman, 1986). Nonetheless, the majority of these studies focus on design as the aesthetic and symbolic dimension of products, i.e., design as ‘form,’ identity, and emotions, attributing design a marginal role in the field of innovation studies (Capaldo, 2007; Dell’Era & Verganti, 2010; Verganti, 2017). The significant increase in the business community’s focus on design can be attributed to a shift in perspective: design is now viewed not only as an aesthetic driver of innovation but also as a comprehensive innovation management practice, a new set of processes, mindsets, capabilities, and organizational settings, practiced not only by designers but by anyone in organizations seeking to innovate. This transforming role in innovation studies is marked by the emergence of new paradigms, such as human-centered design (Buchanan, 2001), participatory design (Sanders & Stappers, 2008), and especially design thinking (Brown, 2008; Martin, 2009).