Design thinking: A paradigm on its way from dilution to meaninglessness?

This paper is a critical view on design thinking, addressing both, the limitations of the traditional design thinking research as well as the contributions of the new approach, often referred to as design thinking movement. The traditional design thinking approach has meanwhile produced a broad research history but has to cope with its fragmented variety of empirical results, due to a lack of theoretical integration; the new view on design thinking as management strategy is not grounded on empirical studies or evaluations and suffers from an ambitious and too general concept. Both approaches could gain from each other in different ways.

In this paper the authors want to shed light on the question why has the traditional concept of design thinking been overtaken by industry as a mainly business and management approach. Although the concept of design thinking has been established and widely accepted in the scientific community for as long as 25 years, the ‘new' movement seems to ignore this approach by ambiguously redefining its core principles. They will discuss briefly three main principles of this framework and by this they will try to explain why this sweep over is not beneficial for the scientific development of design thinking research. They will finalise with a brief extrapolation of necessary changes in order to arrive at a more comprehensive and integrated scientific knowledge of design thinking research. Ultimately, such changes ought to be applicable to education and practice, continuously building on empirical research and contributing to the further theoretical development of the field.

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Jeremy Myerson



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