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Sarah Wilner

What do we mean by ‘design thinking’?

Design thinking has gained popularity in recent years, as it promises an effective approach to innovation and problem-solving. However, the term is ill-defined, and thus considerable ambiguity and disagreement regarding the attributes, applicability, and outcomes of design thinking. This research provides a comprehensive analysis of existing conceptualization and study and consolidates the knowledge on the subject.

What You Need to Know

Design thinking is an innovation process that consists of unique attributes and practices, which are combined with the existing ones in a distinctive way. Design thinking differs from but often complements other innovation approaches such as agile product development and lean start-up. It is also a concept that is continuously being refined, through studies like this one.

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What Did the Researchers Do?

A team of researchers comprised of Pietro Micheli, Sarah Wilner, Sabeen Bhatti, Matteo Mura, and Michael Beverland conducted this research. They first conducted a systematic review of the previous work on design thinking, and identified 10 principal attributes of, and 8 tools and methods for, design thinking. They then conducted a card-sorting exercise with professional designers to further validate the attributes and methods identified in the review. Finally, through a cluster analysis, the researchers revealed structural patterns within the previous research on design thinking.

What Did the Researchers Find?

Design thinking is characterized in the literature by 10 attributes: creativity and innovation, user centredness and involvement, problem solving, iteration and experimentation, interdisciplinary collaboration, ability to visualize, gestalt view, abductive reasoning, tolerance of ambiguity of failure, and blending rationality and intuition. Moreover, there are some tools and methods that enable design thinking. These are: ethnographic methods, persona development, journey maps, brainstorming, mind-maps, visualization, prototyping, and field experiments. Finally, the article outlines promising avenues for the application of design thinking in organizations,

How Can You Use This Research?

Design thinking, despite the buzz surrounding it, is often vaguely-defined and not very well-understood. Firms engaged in innovation and design can use this research to get a more precise understanding of what design thinking entails, and how and when to practice it.

Want to Know More?

Contact: Sarah Wilner

Article citation: Micheli, P., Wilner, S. J., Bhatti, S. H., Mura, M., & Beverland, M. B. (2018). Doing Design Thinking: Conceptual Review, Synthesis, and Research Agenda. Journal of Product Innovation Management. 

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