Overhead photo of a group of people assembling LEGO as part of a design thinking workshop

Design thinking has become one of the most talked about and promising business practices for creating and innovating. But who is driving the conversation?

We looked at all the news stories from the past two years to understand which institutions are at the forefront of the public discussion around design thinking. The coverage for design thinking has grown steadily over the last two years.

We found that the narrative around design thinking breaks down into two broad themes: education stories that discuss applications of design thinking in teaching and learning, and industry stories that talk about how design thinking is being used in a variety of companies and industries.

Timeline of news articles on design thinking.

Overall, industry applications of design thinking accounted for 67 percent of news articles between February 2015 and February 2017, while 33 percent of articles were about applications of design thinking in education, that is, in teaching and learning.

But who is driving the conversation?

While a few companies are prominent in the conversation around design thinking, we also looked at which universities were contributing the most to the conversation.

Among academic institutions, Stanford University has the strongest influence on the conversation and their coverage is pervasive across both education and industry.

Chart showing count of news articles on design thinking mentioning prominent universities.

Only four universities, Stanford University, Harvard, MIT and University of Virginia, have more than 15 primary mentions in the media conversations.

Stanford dominates the discussion with almost twice as many stories as the next three universities.

Moreover, we can see Stanford’s influence on the conversations around design thinking is not confined to teaching and learning. Indeed, 54 percent of the design thinking coverage from Stanford is around industry applications, while 46 percent about applying design thinking in education.

Chart showing the number of articles on design thinking from Stanford University over time.

Stanford has been consistently mentioned within the conversation around design thinking over the last two years, and much of this is driven by Stanford’s d.school.

Stanford’s d.school, formally known as The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, is a design thinking institute that brings together business, law, medicine, the social sciences and humanities – and the d.school continues to inspire design curriculum and industry applications around the world.

In the next article in this series we take a closer look at the industry conversations around design thinking.

Dr Sandra Peter is the Director of Sydney Executive Plus at the University of Sydney Business School. Her research and practice focuses on engaging with the future in productive ways, and the impact of emerging technologies on business and society.

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