The emperor’s new clothes or the magic wand

Ulla Johansson‐Sköldberg, Jill Woodilla, Mehves Cetinkaya Sendas

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookConference contribution


Design thinking is a discourse that – at least within its managerial realm - has been described as the best way to innovate, and as a saviour of the economy! The claim suggests a magic wand; but maybe this is a situation of the Emperor’s new clothes – instead of being everything, it may become nothing. We do not assume this will happen; instead we relate the design thinking managerial discourse to the discourse of design thinking within the design research area. We observe that the managerial discourse has a surface and popular character and is less academically anchored than the designerly one. Also, the managerial discourse seldom refers to the designerly one and thereby hinders cumulative knowledge construction, and this makes it easy to criticize from an academic perspective. We find five different discourses of “designerly thinking” or ways of making sense of 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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication1st Cambridge Academic Design Management Conference
Subtitle of host publicationNew Thinking in Design Management, CADMC2011
PublisherUniversity of Cambridge
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Cite this

Johansson‐Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Cetinkaya Sendas, M. (2011). The emperor’s new clothes or the magic wand. In 1st Cambridge Academic Design Management Conference : New Thinking in Design Management, CADMC2011 University of Cambridge.