Design Thinking For Management Education

“What’s in for me?”, the manager asks.

“Anything”, we answered. “It depends on how we find it”.

Figure 1: Photo by Gabriel Sollmann / Unsplash

In terms of developing or dealing with the new in increasingly complex interdependencies and the capability to integrate various perspectives in the decision-making process, Design Thinking (DT) implies the potential to become a great asset for any organization. With its universal usability, DT has the power to become a key innovation driver. Katja Tschimmel (2021) concludes “that organizations should concentrate their innovation strategies and practices on creativity and design-based methods and their mindset.”

Changing awareness

However, this requires a mindset accordingly to resonate within the yet established traditional business development concepts, which are, according to Tschimmel (2021), based on rational problem-solving techniques. Not only that thinking besides the beaten path is simply difficult for anyone, Mauro Porcini in Kelley & Kelly (2013) goes even further and defines the very beginning of the journey as “pure denial”, culminating in the proposition that “we’re not creative”.

Relocating mindset

To push this thinking laterally, as De Bono (1994) describes it 30 years ago, a new way of management education is being in the need. Educators within this field, like Martin Parker (2018) question the traditional business education agenda and demand a critical view on how the ethos is being conveyed. Referring to his thoughts, educational research projects like the D-think project of Tschimmel & Santos (2018) can be observed already. It is on the design thinking approaches to relocate positions on how management could act alternatively in order to conduct change.

Figure 2: Photo by Maria Thalassinou on Unsplash

Within this context, project-based teaching & learning is the most effective pedagogical framework for both teachers and students to develop new perceptions and values in a collaborative approach in DT institutes (Tschimmel, Katja. (2011)).

Educating creative confidence

One such session was held online in DT course as part of Service Innovation & Design program at Laurea, where, lecturer Katja Tschimmel took us through the DT process with 7 key principles; a communal methodology involving many stakeholders (Collaboration), leading to build-up a user’s prospective (Human Centeredness/Empathy), which is iteratively investigated (Experimentation) to find out all possible outcomes (Divergence) and shaping to form/images  (Visualization/Prototyping) considering wider context and environment (Holistic Approach) in a creative process.  We were introduced with a practical exercise to the more elaborative Design Thinking model from Mindshake (as below).

Figure 3: E.62 Design Thinking Model by Mindshake

In search for answer that how design experts assist their students to evolve the capacity of design thinking, researchers discovered multiple levels of creative knowledge, which can be attained by design thinking education, evolving to a potential, termed as “Creative Confidence” (Rauth et al. 2010). Kelley & Kelley (2013) advocate to consider the social ecology in a group setting in reference to foster this creative confidence. Deferring judgement for example, among other guidelines, is vital.

Further thoughts

In summary and in reviewing the masterclass, the management education of future “innovation agents” (Tschimmel 2021) needs more than knowledge about the tools. By adding and exploring components of group psychology, facilitating dynamics or such, can leverage the full potential.

Figure 4: Photo by Stefan C. Asafti on Unsplash

Written by Ahmad Arslan & Manuel Schaumann, SID MBA Students at Laurea University of Applied Sciences


  • De Bono, E. (1994). De Bono’s Thinking Course
  • Kelley, D. & Kelley, T. (2013). Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All
  • Parker, M. (2018). Why we should bulldoze the business school. The Guardian, [Online]. Available at: [Accessed September 2021]
  • Rauth, I., Köppen, E., Jobst, B., Meinel, C. (2010). Design Thinking: An Educational Model towards Creative Confidence.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation.
  • Tschimmel, K., Santos, J. (2018). Design Thinking applied to the Redesign of Business Education. In Proceedings of the XXIX ISPIM Innovation Conference, The Name of the Game. Stockholm.
  • Tschimmel, K. (2011). Design as a Perception-in-Action Process. 10.1007/978-0-85729-224-7_29.

2 thoughts on “Design Thinking For Management Education

  1. I think how to incorporate DT to management education is a critical point. I think the challenge for the DT process and tools is that the audience needs to be somewhat educated about the process itself. Just hanging the frameworks on a wall and asking people to start sticking post-its don’t really give fruitful results all the time—and I believe that is due to the lack of understanding of “why” we are doing “what” we are doing; or at least that’s been the case in my personal experience.

    I’ve attended to a couple of DT sessions for different reasons—some facilitated by design professionals and some by me. Some of the “unfruitful” ones I’ve been in are 1) an annual content planning session for a global Finnish brand held by one of the major agencies in Finland with participation by the whole marketing team of the brand, 2) product development sprints held by in-house teams using DT templates but with no in-depth knowledge on the topic, 3) planning sprints held by me to identify demand generation actions with a group of old-school sales reps coming from an engineering background. These are only few of the disastrous ones I’ve seen.

    Few of the key problems—due to lack of education in the DT process—in each of these cases were: 1) a lack of overall trust for the process, 2) inability to provide fruit-bearing input for the activities, and 3) in ability to connect the dots between the activities.

    I think DT still hasn’t achieved to somewhat institutionalize itself, for example, like the agile methodology. Just like, DT, agile turns into a disaster when it’s tried to be applied by people who are not educated enough about using it—or modifying it per need and context. However, agile has achieved a certain degree of institutionalization that it is common to encounter agile couches or certified professionals in organizations. I’m curious if and when DT will reach to this level.

  2. You wrote a thought-provoking post, especially about management education. I wonder if the long tradition of goods-based logic is why management is often so slow to react to the changing needs of users and why they are maybe even afraid of using the user-centered methods for product and service creation?

    Also, “creative confidence” is a great term to be used in this context. If the management is not buying the idea of using design thinking tools as part of the product or service creation, it can easily be due to their disbelief in their own skillset. So I’m also looking forward to seeing more and more of the “innovation agents” to make the design thinking tools more approachable for the management level.

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