Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Design thinking and organizational culture: a review and framework for future research

  • Elsbach, K
  • Stigliani, I
Publication Date
Nov 29, 2017
DOI: 10.1177/0149206317744252
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


Design thinking comprises an approach to problem solving that uses tools traditionally utilized by designers of commercial products, processes, and environments (e.g., designing a new car or the layout of a new airport). While design thinking was originally introduced as an approach that would work best when infused into the culture of an organization, most early studies of design thinking focused on identifying the specific tools and methods that might be used to solve management problems. Only recently have researchers examined how the implementation of design thinking might relate to organizational-level constructs, such as organizational culture. In this review, we examine empirical research (mostly from the past decade) that relates the practice of design thinking to the development of culture in organizations. Through this review, we identify how the use of specific design thinking tools supports the development of specific organizational cultures and vice versa. In addition, we identify how using design thinking tools produces emotional experiences and physical artifacts that help users to understand why and how specific cultures support the effective use of specific tools. Together, our review findings suggest that the experiential nature of design thinking tools and cultures (i.e., that they require people to actively engage in hands-on work) allows them to support one another. On the basis of this insight, we develop a general framework for organizing design thinking research and identify a number of avenues for future research that might advance our understanding of design thinking in organizational contexts.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times