Design Thinking. Mindsets by Learning: Exploring the Concept of Design Thinking Mindset as a Learning Process in the Context of Collaboration between Innovation Agencies and their Business Clients

Daiana Borislavova Tzvetkova & Julia Katarina Kjær Langfred

Student thesis: Master thesis


This paper explores the concept of a Design Thinking Mindset (DTM) as a learning process shaping the interaction between innovation agencies and their clients. The rising interest of businesses towards innovation processes as a competitive advantage, initiates collaboration with innovation agencies who introduce Design Thinking (DT) as one pathway for change. Thus, we have discovered common perceptions of DT as a tool, method, process and mindset in both literature and the field. These make it difficult to define a DTM and respectively to successfully implement it in organizations. A comprehensive review of relevant DT literature revealed that there is not one, but several DTM attitudes needed throughout the innovation process. Further reviewing theories on innovation as a learning process, we recognized four phases involving different learning approaches and thereby various DTM attitudes. This paper combines three studies identifying in total 34 attitudes recognized by consultants and managers and allocates these to the four process phases. As a result, we propose the DTML framework - a blended model of existing theories supporting the learning of a DTM. The model complements literature firstly by noticing overlapping DTM attitudes. Onwards, it arranges them according to relevance to each learning phase. Based on researcher´s interpretation of theory and findings, we name the phases observe, absorb, generate and activate to highlight their specific learning approaches. Additionally, we extract three categories relevant for all phases. Premises are attitudes required in the beginning of the learning process, Constants are such needed on an ongoing basis, whereas Should´s are additionally supporting a successful learning outcome. In the course of the research, we gathered qualitative data from two innovation agencies and three of their client companies. Using the DTML framework, we conducted an explorative analysis of 7 semi-structured interviews out of 18 realized in total. The primary focus of investigation are underlying perceptions of both consultants and managers on how a DTM is identified and adopted in the context of their collaboration. As a result, we established a correlation between mindset, DT process and methods. Thus, the direction of this alters according to the understanding and purpose of the two groups. On one hand, managers perceive the mindset as supportive to the DT process for innovative solutions. On the other, consultants consider the collaboration a learning process aiming to develop a DTM through experience. Identifying DTM attitudes among consultants and managers is relevant research topic to investigate the intangible character of the DTM as phenomenon embedded in the innovation learning process.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages145
SupervisorsLena Olaison