(Examples are competitive advantage, innovation, measurability).
In contemporary society where most business or management practices are easily copied, companies are looking towards innovation as a point of difference. Design thinking is seen to be pivotal to this and should, according to Brown, be included in all processes within a company (Brown,2008, p. 86). Brown advocates for using design thinking but acknowledges that limited research has been undertaken regarding the use of design thinking in organisational settings. Research that has been done seems to indicate difficulties in implementation with frustration expressed in online practitioner forums. Proponents of design thinking argue that design thinking has positive effects on innovation but show concern that it may be limiting in industrial settings (Carlgren, Elmquist, & Rauth, 2016b, p. 345). A study undertaken found that design thinking was difficult to implement and that this may be linked to the “inherent characteristics of the concept itself” (Carlgren, Elmquist, & Rauth, 2016c, p. 358). The authors concern supports Brown’s call for design thinking to be reinvented. Martin (2009, p. 7) supports Brown in his belief that design thinking will remain a competitive advantage to those companies willing to engage and devote resources to creating advances in both innovation and efficiency. In a study covering the challenges of using design thinking authors Koppen, Rhinow & Schmiedgen (2015, p. 344) remark “despite being increasingly promoted as an approach to innovation, there is still little evidence of successful impact. Rather, indications suggest that ﬁrms ﬁnd implementation challenging”. The authors further state that their study found elements unique to design thinking itself that makes implementing it particularly challenging.
A study undertaken in 2015 noted that “Design thinking is not necessarily appropriate, nor does it work out well in every environment” (Jan et al., 2016, p. 106). Reasons for discontinuation were noted as problems of leadership, organizational culture and insufficient internal anchoring. No respondents laid blame directly on the design thinking methodology although a strong theme of design thinking being used as a one-off affair was noted. The report noted that several respondents felt they were not doing ‘serious work’ when involved with the methodology and that other departments even ‘laughed at the name design thinking’. This point lends itself to further investigation of the acceptance of the phrase and if the term design thinking may require an evolution (Jan et al., 2016, p. 113). A study done by Carlgren, Elmquist, et al. (2016b, p. 352) found that it was difficult to determine the value and contribution of design thinking associated with a given project. This led to users forcing quick results and having to justify the use of design thinking to higher management. The authors remarked that there was little research available on how to measure value in innovation projects. Opportunities and methods of measuring this should be researched further. Design thinking can be implemented across many industry sectors for example governments or NGO’s. MAYA Design recognized the need for a single entity focused on teaching design thinking to organizations requiring guidance in creating more effective and efficient methods for embedding a culture of creativity targeting customer satisfaction (“MAYA Design,” 2010). Governments are typically of this group in that they are not driven by profits, but rather providing better services to their constituents (Smith & Gross, 2015, p. 33). Governments need to satisfy citizen experiences and in doing so are required to better understand human nature or requirements. Over the next few years’ governments around the globe will be under mounting pressure to provide improved services to all citizens. What is of interest is whether this transformation will be driven from within the public sector organization or through external opportunities presented by its citizens? (Smith & Gross, 2015, p. 34).
The literature however shows that there has been an increase in the number of organizations choosing to discontinue using design thinking. Some of the reasons offered in a study undertaken by the Hasso Plattner Institute are poor implementation, company culture, change in leadership and measurability (Jan et al., 2016). In contrast, there is growth in the level of interest from scholars and academics wanting to understand this method of problem solving. This dichotomy supports consideration of further research into the possible division between acquisition of knowledge and the implementation thereof. The discomfort amongst current users has led to calls for the reinvention of design thinking. Amongst those advocating considerations for possible change to design thinking is Tim Brown . In an article written by Brown for the Harvard Business Review (Brown,2015, p. 2) Brown remarks on the increasing number of designers and companies using the process and questions whether design thinking can still be considered a competitive advantage. During the same interview, Brown remarked that design thinking was a methodology in constant pursuit of improvement and that possibly design thinking may need some reinvention. Brown stresses that for it to stay a competitive advantage companies must not only practice the process but master it. Brown states that to be successful design thinking requires sustained investment. Brown’s partner, David Kelley, along with Hasso Plattner (SAP), is an original founder of the internationally recognized Stanford d.school. The d.school is a major advocate of design thinking and offers higher education teaching in the methodology.
In November 2016, Harvard Business Review, published an article by Tim Brown (IDEO) titled ‘Leaders Can Turn Creativity into a Competitive Advantage’. In this article Brown (2016) mentions that efficiency is no longer enough to ensure success. Throughout the article Brown is questioning the future of business reliant on constant innovation and that without employing creativity as a key part of their strategy, many companies will not be sustainable. Essentially what Tim Brown is arguing for “is a shift in emphasis from operational competitiveness toward creative competitiveness” providing organisations with the opportunity to innovate (Kelley, 2016). Organisations are continuously looking for innovations that will provide them with an edge over competitors and in doing this are required to effectively manage the process of change. The ability to manage the processes surrounding change is a pivotal part of business strategy that is reliant on both internal and external expertise support (Buono & Subbiah, 2014, p. 36).
In confirming the influence of design thinking on innovation, Ketter (2016, 23) notes “design thinking is a means to an end, and that end is to accelerate innovation across your organization”. Although design thinking as a process has demonstrated areas of limitation, it is recognized by the World Economic Forum report on future skills as a conduit for innovation. Luchs (Griffin et al., 2015) defines design thinking within innovation and new product development “as a systematic and collaborative approach for identifying and creatively solving problems”. The author continues to describe the process of design thinking allowing for “low risk actions taken to discover, develop, and test an idea” (Griffin et al., 2015, p. 3). This comment is in line with the design thinking steps employed by both IDEO and d.school. The potential role of design thinking in terms of innovation has been noted by several academics (Carlgren, Rauth, et al., 2016, p. 38).
Innovation is an outcome and not a process. Applying design thinking increases the probability of successful innovation (L. J. Leifer et al., 2011, p. xiii). The authors state that innovation is not a chance happening or discover. They confirm “Innovation demands experimentation at the limits of our knowledge, at the limits of our ability to control events, and with freedom to see things differently” (L. J. Leifer et al., 2011, p. xv). Balaram (2010, 9) adds an interesting point to the need for design thinking and references India where 80% of the population still resides in villages, but design only caters for the 20% living in cities. The author believes design needs to be taken to the masses and calls for “a majority world design movement” (Balaram, 2010, p. 9).