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Design Thinking: Research and Observations (September 2019): Home

by Gundars Kaupins


This bibliographic essay originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Choice (volume 57 | number 1).


Design thinking is an exploratory process for gathering feedback from potential users of products and services. By visualizing, experimenting, and prototyping models, it innovatively deals with ill-structured situations and can lead to satisfying a very wide range of user needs. According to Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen, who wrote The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators, disruptive technologies can change industries or create entirely new ones. The authors discuss innovative reasons and ways to disrupt the marketplace with radically new products or services. Innovators question current markets by eliminating constraints on their thinking, observing potential users’ needs, networking with others to search for new ideas, and experimenting with prototypes that might work or fail. Failure can educate innovators on how to improve their proposed products or services. Some world-class examples of market disruption include Stephen Jobs’s iPhone and Jeff Bezos’s Other examples of disruption include the switch from film to digital cell phone cameras, taxis to Uber and Lyft, and travel agents to online reservations and trip information.

Building on the Dyer et al.’s work, Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail shows how to adapt and blossom in disruptive economies by determining whether to go to large or small markets and when to not listen to existing customers. Unserved customers can provide a significant amount of useful information concerning products or services that do not yet exist.

Almost all books focusing on design thinking cover the basics of design thinking, tools used to make design thinking happen, and cases of design thinking. This bibliographical summary of design thinking organizes the books by what appears to be emphasized (major themes, design thinking tools, or case studies). Some related books cover empirical research on design thinking, how creativity can be enhanced in the individual and the corporation, and the personality types that help support design thinking.

Gundars Kaupins is a professor of management at Boise State University. Along with humor and creativity research, he has coauthored the textbook “Design Thinking and Strategy” as well as a how-to book on creativity, “Business AHA! Tips on Creativity.”