Microclimates for Design and Innovation

Learning from the Best:

Unpacking the Journey of Organizational Design Thinking Leaders

by Christi DINING ZUBER, Louise MOODY

Abstract:  Organizationally empowered people who can successfully create teams of design thinkers to tackle long-term challenges, is a coveted situation in the design field. While research has primarily focused on the organizational level, little has focused on the individuals who have achieved this goal. Inspired by a personal journey as an internal practitioner, this study reveals experiences of individuals who have successfully set up design thinking practices within large organizations.

Personal narratives were gathered using semi-structured interviews and personal journey maps. Multiple design thinking leaders from nine organizations ranging from healthcare to government to financial services reflect holistically on their own life story as well as their organizational experiences to leverage Design Thinking as an approach to innovation and creativity.
These narratives were analyzed to surface seven common conditions and behaviors. These findings are discussed in more detail along with the fledging theory of how these behaviors and surrounding supporting context form a “microclimate” within a larger organization, concluding that these approaches help enable the counter-culture design thinking approaches to occur. The study offers a set of learnings to inform and potentially elevate the practice of others seeking to understand and replicate their success.

Keywords: design competency; organizational change; design thinking; internal practitioner; design leadership


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