The culture of design thinking for innovation

Peter Prud'homme van Reine


Design thinking has been adopted widely as a tool for innovation by companies and other organizations. However, statements by researchers and practitioners about what design thinking is are often seemingly conflicting with each other. This paper aims to improve our understanding of what design thinking for innovation is and under which conditions it can be implemented successfully. It discusses design thinking for innovation in the broader perspective of organizational culture. A framework of nine innovation culture dilemmas or ‘tensions’ is used as an organizing device to analyse the existing literature on design thinking for innovation and accounts of using design thinking for innovation in practice. It is argued that the power of design thinking is in the tension between seemingly opposite ways of thinking, such as analytic thinking versus intuitive thinking, and linear thinking versus thinking in iterative processes. For design thinking to flourish, it needs to be embedded in an organizational culture capable of maintaining a dynamic balance on a number of fundamental tensions in innovation processes. It is shown that the innovation dilemmas framework can be used as an analytical tool to evaluate to what extent organizations are equipped to benefit from design thinking for innovation.


Innovation; design thinking; organizational culture; dilemmas; creativity

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© FEUP EdiçõesThe International Journal on Multidisciplinary Approaches on InnovationISSN 2183-0606