If you just got started in research on design thinking, you might have got a bit overwhelmed by the literature out there when typing “design thinking” into google scholar. Since I felt similar in the beginning, I thought I should provide some articles that might be considered an introductory read. The material presented in this post is a loose collection of papers around the topic of design thinking providing a basic introduction to the current state of research (Hassi & Laakso, Johannson et al.) and practice (Brown & Martin).
Tim Brown – Design Thinking (PDF) - this almos classic piece, which is often cited, describes the design thinking from consultant perspective. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO describes his consultancy’s approach and gives some easy to understand examples, along with a definition that he later questioned on his blog. He later published a book, entitled “Change by Design Thinking“, in which he extends on the subject as well as his consultancy’s work.
While Brown describes design thinking from a consultant point of view, Roger Martin (Dean of the Rotman School of Management) is focusing on “design thinking for managers”. In his publications he advocates that managers should think like designers and that they would benefit from the way designers work. Along with the HBR article of Brown, this interview with Martin provide a good introduction into the popular notion of design thinking.
The poular notion? Yes, there is a stream in academia that has talked about design thinking since the late 1960is and that has brought forward various theories about what it is, that designers do. Sadly, there is not much new work, that referes to this academic stream of research. While it is crucial to understand these academic contributes – if you want to relate to something a little bit more profound than consultants taking about what they do (in terms of research) – you might want to check a very insightful design thinking literature review by Johansson, Woodilla & Çetinkaya (2011).
Another, very informative literature review on design thinking in the management discourse was published by Hassi & Laakso (2011) : Conceptions of design thinking in the management discourse. Proceedings of the 9 th European Academy of Design. For their review, the author interviewed a number of people concerned with design thinking and asked them to reference books and articles concerned with design thinking. Based on this sample Hassi & Laakso describe design thinking in a three-dimensional framework divided into: practices (ways of working), thinking styles (cognitive styles and ways of processing information) and mentalities (the mental attitude by individuals and the organizational culture).
Beside these three 3 are numerous interesting articles, taking different perspectives on design thinking, for example: an Article by Beckman and Berry that looks into design (thinking), innovation and learning; a paper bei Seidel & Fixson (2011) who proposed a set of 3 broad methods to characterize design thinking, or a recent paper by Lucy Kimbell on rethinking design thinking, which comes in two parts (2011/2012) .
I hope this material will help you to get started with researching design thinking. For those who already know this material and feel that there are some essentials that should be mentioned here, please feel free to suggest them below.