What is it about?

Design thinking is a strategy for innovation popularized in the business press and recently investigated in academic literature. Some research points to design thinking as an enabler of an organizational culture of innovation. Much research demonstrates a link between a culture of innovation and successful business outcomes in every sector, and establishes values for a culture of innovation. Colleges, including community colleges have begun using design thinking as a strategy for change. This comparative phenomenological case study analysis aims to increase understanding of the use of design thinking and innovation at two community colleges, Valencia College and Cuyahoga Community College’s Metro Campus, and cultural values that support its implementation. The study uncovers several key findings. First, it confirms a link between transformational leadership and a culture of innovation, as well as establishing that link specifically for design thinking. Second, it identifies values for design thinking at community colleges that are not related to values for innovation in general, i.e., focus on data and inquiry, student success, and inclusion. Third, it demonstrates that transformational leadership and innovative institutional identity must be sufficiently strong to mitigate the negative effects of bureaucracy on innovation and design thinking. Fourth, it identifies the importance of symbols and metaphors as descriptive communication that facilitates the implementation of design thinking. Last, it proposes a model for design thinking implementation at community colleges based upon six major themes identified by the study.

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Why is it important?

Design thinking has been popularized in the business press and now also in the academic press. It has been the subject of recent studies, and adds to understanding of related studies on innovation. Innovation has been shown to ensure the survival and growth of organizations and institutions.


I am passionate about design thinking because it unites perspectives and viewpoints and creates collaboration among disparate individuals and voices. It truly promotes inclusion and collaboration like few other innovation practices do.

Brenda Sipe
Ferris State University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Embedding Design Thinking in a Culture of Innovation at Two Community Colleges, Community College Journal of Research and Practice, June 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/10668926.2019.1631230.
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