If you can think it, why not design it? – Study of design thinking practices and challenges in three large Finnish companies

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
International Design Business Management
115 + 35
As the world around us continues to change and forces new kinds of restraints and pressure on companies, the organizations’ capability to innovate becomes ever more important. Some research suggests that design thinking could help organizations innovate their products and services, organizational processes, as well as customer experiences in new and better ways, and therefore create competitive advantage. In this study, I examined three large Finnish companies and their design thinking implementation. The overarching empirical goal of this study was to research how design thinking is perceived in these organization as well as in what ways design thinking has been implemented in them. In order to address this research problem, the following research questions guided this study: Why and how is design thinking implemented in large Finnish companies?, as well as What are the factors that enable or challenge the implementation of design thinking in large Finnish companies? To answer these research questions, the research followed a case study methodology, with each of the three companies forming a case. Empirical data was collected through ten semi-structured interviews with a total of eleven interviewees. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data, allowing the formation of meaningful codes, sub-themes and themes from patterns of data. My study concludes that based on the experiences of these three case companies, there exists a process model for the design thinking implementation. This model includes four phases for the implementation of design thinking (Awakening, Dating, Honeymoon, Maturing), four gateways between these phases (Gateways of Understanding, Permission, Proof, and Acceptance), as well as a variety of factors that challenge and support the overall implementation process. Overall, the model provides an example of what the implementation of design thinking can be like in an organization. Organizational implementation of design thinking can still be viewed as a relatively unmapped area of research. While this study proposes that a certain process model can be formed regarding the general implementation process of design thinking, further research and cases should be examined to validate the findings of this thesis. The aims of this study are therefore to offer interesting findings and grounds for the further research, and through that commit to the overall discourse of design thinking.
Thesis advisor
Lehtonen, Miikka
design thinking, design transformation, organisational change, design leadership
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