Is There a Proper Way to Teach Design Thinking? Empirical Evidence from Design Thinking in Education

Document Type : Original Article

Authors

1 Professor, Department of Business and Economics, Jacobs University, Berman, Germany and University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

2 Instructor, Institute for Strategy and Leadership, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

3 Associate Professor, Institute of Strategy and Management, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway

4 Jacobs University, Berman, Germany

5 Instructor, Institute of Design, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway

6 Associate Professor, Institute of Design, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway

Abstract

Since about a decade ago, design thinking has become a prominent topic in the scientific and business world. In order to keep up with global competition, design thinking has proven to be a valuable concept for assisting companies to innovate their products, services and processes. Therefore, business schools worldwide have introduced design thinking courses with the aim of preparing the future workforce. Scholars debate about the appropriate approach to teach design, with this paper trying to identify how a design thinking course should be arranged to teach non-designers the processes, methods and mindset of design thinking. It deals with the question of which form of knowledge conversion is more effective for bringing non-design students closer to the design thinking mindset. To answer this, it reviews current studies on design thinking in education. In particular, the research refers to Simon’s and Schön’s concepts of science of design and reflection-in-action, along with Nonaka and Takeushi’s SECI model. The research involves an experiment with two similar one-week design thinking courses, each having different teaching approaches. The courses are then compared through analysis of reflection reports by students, semi-structured interviews with them and a survey. This research shows that applying design thinking knowledge to real-life projects should be a core element in design thinking curricula, as it plays a crucial role in successfully imparting design thinking. Further, co-teaching and co-learning modes, where designers and non-designers work together and socialization takes place, is more appropriate for imparting design thinking than instructional teaching and learning modes, where design thinking coaches instruct non-designers to internalize design thinking.

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