Interpretations of design thinking across a large organization

DS 94: Proceedings of the Design Society: 22nd International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED19)

Year: 2019
Editor: Wartzack, Sandro; Schleich, Benjamin; Gon
Author: Kosmala, Martyna; van der Marel, Floris
Series: ICED
Institution: Aalto University
Section: User-centred design
DOI number:
ISSN: 2220-4342


Design thinking has a prominent role as established corporations ramp up innovation efforts focusing on user needs. Current literature provides a plethora of definitions for design thinking with variations in tools, methods and cultures. This study aims to identify differences in perception and maturity of design thinking across different contexts within a large corporation. The results are based on a thematic analysis of nine semi-structured interviews with industrial and user experience designers in the case company, operating in different countries and three different organizational contexts: lone designers of a region, unit-embedded design team managers and global-level design managers. The results echo the literature in finding no uniform definition of design thinking. Instead, it was seen as a continuous scale of practices, cognitive approaches and mindsets aiming for stronger user-centrism in the organization. Practices and maturity varied between contexts, indicating that to strengthen the role of design in an organization, a deep understanding of the context is crucial for a successful implementation.

Keywords: Design practice, Design management, Organizational processes, Design maturity


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