Design Thinking and Contingency Theory: Why Some Firms Benefit More from Design Thinking than Others
11 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 3, 2019
Design thinking (DT) has been often described as a strategic management tool that fosters user-focus, collaboration, and creativity. However, we argue that the benefits from its implementation depend on internal and external characteristics of firms. The aim of this paper is to discuss for which firms the usage of DT should be more (or less) effective. To do so, we scrutinize the literature on contingency theory, which argues that the effectiveness of management policies depends on internal and external contingencies, and apply it to design thinking. We discuss three internal contingencies (strategy, culture, and structure) and two external contingencies (industry product differentiation and industry dynamism). First, we argue that DT is more effective in organizations where its internal contingencies fit well with the creative and collaborative nature of DT. Second, DT should be more beneficial in industries that require an understanding of customer preferences and frequent adaptations to environmental changes. Therefore, the goal of this paper is to provide the basis for future empirical research that takes into account the contingent nature of design thinking.
Keywords: Design Thinking (DT), Contingency Theory, Organizational Environment, Corporate Culture, Strategy, Industry
JEL Classification: M11, M14
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