Research that illustrates the impact of design thinking for organizations

Since design thinking has become more widely adopted, there are now more design thinking research studies and reports that share study results about the impact of design thinking for organizations. Today we are discussing notable research reports, including:

Keep reading to learn more about these design thinking research studies.

Exploring The Impact of Design Thinking in Action

Organizational thinking that puts people first seems to be gaining in both popularity and attention as companies embrace alternative structures to promote problem-solving in the workplace. Enter the multifaceted results driven approach of design thinking. Simply put, design thinking is an industry agnostic problem-solving process that embraces creativity, encourages collaboration and focuses on a people first mindset. Long gone are the days when a single issue or problem resulted in a single solution or answer.  Companies are striving not only to honor knowledge and expertise but to leverage this information by considering what the customer desires, feels, and truly wants.  Here’s what well known organizations have to say about their decision to embrace design thinking.

Total Economic Impact of IBM’s Design Thinking Practice

“Our approach is to apply design thinking at the speed and scale the modern enterprise demands. It’s a framework for teaming and action. It helps our teams not only form intent but deliver outcomes— outcomes that advance the state of the art and improve the lives of the people they serve.”  By employing design thinking, IBM boasts:

  • Two times faster to market delivery
  • 75% team efficiency
  • 301% return on investment

How Design Thinking Reshaped Microsoft Products

Microsoft, a technology industry leader, employed design thinking principles to move from a technology-centric to a user-centric company model. According to a Design Council publication titled “Eleven Lessons: Managing Design in Eleven Global Brands“, this essential switch in their model led to tremendous success in fulfilling user expectations and addressing their needs during the production process. One example of this is live-streaming user research focus groups to all of its global locations, so that designers, developers, programmers, and researchers can use this information to inform and improve their work.

Apple Reinvents Itself with Design Thinking

Back in the 1990s, Apple was a struggling young company in a crowded market with very low brand awareness and respect. The implementation of design thinking was absolutely crucial to redefining the Apple brand and creating user-centered technology products that are some of the most frequently purchased today. With Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer, at the wheel, Apple focused on:

  • People’s needs and desires
  • Building empathy by helping people love Apple products
  • Design rather than just engineering work –  focus on both the form and function of the product
  • Building simple yet user-friendly products

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like… That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” – Steve Jobs

Design in Healthcare: Mayo Clinic

Design thinking does not limit itself to the business growth. The healthcare industry is thriving on the utilization of design thinking and the Mayo Clinic is no exception. Recent efforts have brought a full-scale design philosophy to the work of the leaders at Mayo and results indicate that “working directly with patients and providers allows rapid prototyping with all stakeholders to discover new insights and address problems in the current system of health care delivery.”

Design in Auto Industry: Ford Motor Company

Recently, a team of design thinkers at the Ford Motor Company took on the challenge to collaboratively and secretly attempt the design of new Ford GT. They asked themselves questions like:

  • Does the brand make the driver seem like a race driver?
  • How does the engine sound?
  • How does it make the driver feel?

The results of embracing design principles were reported as “a small empowered team with the key decision makers involved throughout, enabled not only a rapid pace but a focused and visionary effort to shape the future of the brand.”

Design Thinking Implementation Study

The Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) recently released a 2021 research study on design thinking implementation within organizations and businesses worldwide. The study attempted to answer several critical questions about design thinking deployment, including strategies implemented, how they educate their employees and spread a mindset of design thinking, and where it is implemented within the organization. You can review our full analysis of this study on our blog.


Design thinking, when done well, yields actionable results, no matter the industry. By enlisting design thinking, organizations can not only address everyday business challenges but also gain a measurable edge in today’s competitive market.

What are some design thinking research articles, reports, or stories you’ve come across that speak to the impact, outcomes, or result of the practice? Let us know in the comments below!

Other Design Thinking Research Studies and Articles

Are you willing to dive a little deeper and do YOUR research? Our AI tool suggested these articles to find.

There have been a number of research studies on design thinking and its impact on various outcomes. Here are a few examples:

  1. A study published in the Journal of Business Research found that design thinking was associated with increased innovation and creativity in individuals and organizations.
  2. A review published in the Journal of Marketing Education found that design thinking can lead to improved customer satisfaction and increased market share in businesses.
  3. A study published in the Journal of Product Innovation Management found that design thinking was associated with higher profits and increased productivity in organizations.
  4. A study published in the Journal of Engineering Education found that using design thinking in the classroom can improve problem-solving skills and collaboration among students.
  5. A study published in the Journal of Business Strategy found that design thinking can lead to more efficient processes in organizations.

    There have been many studies that have examined the impact of design thinking on various outcomes in different contexts. Here are a few additional examples:
  6. A study published in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology found that design thinking can lead to the development of more user-centered products and services in the tech industry.
  7. A study published in the Journal of Management Education found that design thinking can improve students’ self-efficacy and motivation in business education programs.
  8. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that design thinking can be used to improve the delivery of healthcare services.
  9. A study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production found that design thinking can be used to develop more sustainable products and processes in the manufacturing industry.
  10. A study published in the Journal of Higher Education found that design thinking can be used to improve the design of educational programs and curricula.

    Again, these are just a few examples of the many studies that have examined the impact of design thinking on various outcomes in different contexts. There is a growing body of research on this topic, and the specific impact of design thinking will depend on the specific problem being addressed and the specific implementation of the design thinking approach.