research methodology

The 2019 report relies on visions and insights provided by almost 300 Design Thinkers around the world. Based on a scientific questionnaire, it provides a international overview of the frameworks, practices and tools applied by leading Consulting Organizations


research approach


The label “Consulting Organizations” includes all those players that provide Design Thinking services, such as design studios, digital agencies, strategic consultants, and technology developers at a global level. To do so, fruitful collaborations between five universities have been undertaken: Politecnico di Milano (Italy), Delft University of Technology (Netherlands), Imperial College Business School (United Kingdom), Reykjavik University (Iceland), and Stockholm School of Economics (Sweden). In addition to the overall investigation of several aspects of Design Thinking practices, the goal of this research is to attain useful insights on three main topics: (1) The main approaches adopted by consulting organizations and the related Design Thinking practices; (2) How design thinking practices impact Project Value; (3) How project goals moderate the impact of Design Thinking practices on Project Value.



Aiming to collect a significant amount of qualitative and quantitative data from the Consulting Organizations operating in different countries, the research team designed an extensive questionnaire structured in twelve main sections: Introduction, Profile, Project, Information, Goals, Phases and Practices, Capabilities and Practices, Attitudes and Practices, Value, Briefs, Portfolio, Closing. The questionnaire is composed of different types of questions that on average took respondents 45 minutes to complete. The overall structure of the questionnaire consists in two introductory sections, seven sections referring to consulting projects based on Design Thinking that the respondents completed in 2018 and with which they were familiar, two sections focusing on the portfolio of all consulting projects based on Design Thinking completed by the units the respondents are a member of, and one final section dedicated to conclusions.



The empirical results rely on almost 300 responses collected in the last quarter of 2018 and in the first quarter of 2019. The majority of the sample (93.8%) is composed of responses provided by Consulting Organizations located in four countries: Italy (43.9%), Netherlands (17. 2%), Sweden (15.8%), and the United Kingdom (16.9%). The Consulting Organizations in our sample have an interesting variety in terms of size: while the average number of employees is equal to 325.8, the sample includes Consulting Organizations with fewer than 5 employees and others with more than 1.000. The research focuses on the units (e.g., business unit, service line, department) providing consulting services based on Design Thinking. Also in this case, the sample shows an interesting variety along different dimensions: number of employees within the unit in 2018 (on average 73.6), % of employees within the unit who were involved in consulting projects based on Design Thinking in 2018 (on average 60.3%), total unit revenues obtained in 2018 (on average 50. 4 million €), and % of total unit revenues obtained in 2018 generated by consulting projects based on Design Thinking (on average 51.1%).

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dt4b report 2019 pictures the Design Thinking market across different industries, describes the kaleidoscopic nature of this paradigm introducing 4 different kinds of Design Thinking, measures the adoption of more than 70 practices and its impact on value in Design Thinking projects.

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