Design Thinking, Quo Vadis?

You’ve probably heard of “Design Thinking” pitched as a marketing strategy by IDEO and popularized by some other major advocates (like David M. Kelley, Tim Brown or Bruce Nussbaum …). In recent years, many schools, professionals, institutions and businesses, anxious not to get left behind, started looking around to see what could help re-ignite creative thinking. Especially in business, Design Thinking became a major issue and a frequently heard question was… “Can business people learn from designers and their process?”

 However, today it looks like this, the most widely used label of the applied nature of designers’ creative act, the “Design Thinking”, is  quickly going out of fashion. Bruce Nussbaum -one of Design Thinking’s previous main advocates- is moving on to something new, the “Creative Intelligence”, as you can see in his new published book ( For Bruce, the time of Design Thinking is ending, but I’m wondering if it’s no more to it…

One of the biggest problems may be that no one thought about the intrinsic nature and logic of design, the “divergent thinking”. Design, art and creativity all imply doing things in a “liquid” manner, and when you try to do it in a well structured way within the rigid structure of business, this type of thinking easily dies. This tension is created because the creative act is not primarily aimed at economic gain, and business is about economic gain and efficiency, as Vijay Govindarajan, professor at the Tuck School of Business pointed out: “Breakthroughs cannot happen inside the performance engine –it is built for efficiency, not for innovation”.


The mindset of companies is set to avoid risk and uncertainty. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter if we talk about “Design Thinking” or “Creative Intelligence” because in order to know where either of these thinking approaches are working/effective, there is another key challenge we first have to understand: How to move from a regimented logical-analytical industrial age mindset into a creative mindset.

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