Design Thinking is a development that has recently attracted significant attention in the management discourse. The Institute of Information Management at the University of St. Gallen, the academic home of all three authors, has been conducting Design Thinking teaching and research for 10 years.
In this study, Design Thinking is defined as: mindset, process, and toolbox. As a mindset, Design Thinking is characterized by several key principles: a combination of divergent and convergent thinking, a strong orientation to both obvious and hidden needs of customers and users, and prototyping. As a process, Design Thinking is seen as a combination of a micro- and a macro-process.
The micro-process—as innovation process per se—consists of these steps: “Define the Problem”, “Need finding and Synthesis”, “Ideate”, “Prototype” and “Test”. The macro-process consists of milestones manifested in prototypes that must fulfil defined requirements. As a toolbox, Design Thinking refers to the application of numerous methods and techniques from various disciplines: design, but also engineering, informatics, and psychology. Today, a growing number of companies, consulting firms, and universities use Design Thinking, continuously enlarging and re-defining its meaning.
At University of St. Gallen, Design Thinking is taught as a problem-based course, together with research partner companies, with more than 40 projects successfully completed over the past 10 years. Research in Design Thinking at the University of St. Gallen focuses on aspects of modelling the Design Thinking processes and corporate entrepreneurship.
In the near future, Design Thinking is expected to be deployed as an innovative method in corporations and also become an integral part of management education, particularly innovation. In addition, it will be developed further at the interface of design, design management and engineering sciences.