Design Thinking for Strategizing? – A Critical Literature Review

Design Thinking for Strategizing? – A Critical Literature Review



Design Thinking for Strategizing? – A Critical Literature Review


Sandro GRAF

Classification JEL

M10, M13, Q31.


In an increasingly complex and dynamic business environment, accelerated even further by the coronavirus pandemic, decision-makers face the challenge of shaping the future of their organizations under uncertainty and with increasing time pressure. Conventional tools in strategic management are no longer sufficiently suited to envision preferable future scenarios and enable management to craft winning strategies. With the need for alternative approaches, practitioners promote design thinking as a novel process to develop innovative business strategies that gain a competitive advantage. However, the academic discussion concerning what principles and methods of design thinking may be valuable in strategic management remains scant and scattered. The contribution of this paper is to show how design thinking as an approach for strategic decision-making has progressed over time, synthesize the state of knowledge, and structure the findings for further research activities. Through a semi-systematic review, the texts of 23 articles and three book chapters published between 1995 and 2020 were analyzed. The paper presents an overview of the context in which design thinking may apply to strategic challenges and it structures the necessary skills, competencies, and tools applying design thinking for strategizing. The study includes a comprehensive synopsis of the impact of a design-led strategic management as discussed by academics. Its findings show that applying design thinking for strategic development does not replace traditional analytical thinking but rather complements strategizing based on a toolset needed to shape future opportunities in uncertain and complex markets. Hence, design thinking enables an organization to solve multi-faced strategic challenges by overcoming cognitive limitations, developing deep empathy for end-users, engaging internal and external partners, and ensuring ongoing learning through iterative prototyping and experimenting. Finally, the review identifies major streams for future research opportunities to advance the field with more evidence-based knowledge.


Design Thinking, Business Development, Strategic Thinking, Strategizing.

Full Text: download pdf

Cite: download citation (for EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite)