Design Thinking: Past, present and possible futures

Ulla Johansson‐Sköldberg, Jill Woodilla, Mehves Cetinkaya Sendas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

614 Citations (Scopus)


This paper takes a critical look at the design thinking discourse, one that has different meanings depending on its context. Within the managerial realm, design thinking has been described as the best way to be creative and innovate, while within the design realm, design thinking may be partly ignored and taken for granted, despite a long history of academic development and debate. In the design area, we find five different discourses of ‘designerly thinking’, or ways to describe what designers do in practice, that have distinctly different epistemological roots. These different discourses do not stand in competition with each other but could be developed in parallel. We also observe that the management discourse has three distinct origins, but in general has a more superficial and popular character and is less academically anchored than the designerly one. Also, the management design thinking discourse seldom refers to designerly thinking and thereby hinders cumulative knowledge construction. We suggest further research to link the discourses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-146
Number of pages26
JournalCreativity and Innovation Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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