Connecting the dots – Planning, measuring and steering the impact of human-centered design and Design Thinking in organizations

PI: Professor Dr. Falk Uebernickel


Over the last years, the role of design in organizations expanded from a form-giving activity to a strategic problem-solving and decision-making capability (Kolko 2015). Especially in light of the uncertain and complex nature of digital ecosystems with various stakeholders pursuing different and sometimes contradictory goals, human-centered design (HCD) is (re-)gaining traction. At the same time, today’s dynamic world is characterized by volatility and change. Therefore, HCD is not only promising at the outset of innovation projects but needs to be adapted continuously over the life cycle of projects. Accordingly, the main research question at hand is “How can software-driven organizations plan the systematic improvement and constant use of Design Thinking and HCD aligned and synchronized with the existing corporate strategy?”

Outcomes and Findings

Running a literature review on existing metrics we found a list of metrics that practitioners could theoretically adapt to measure and steer their design thinking projects. In collaboration with Selina Mayer from the Balanced Scorecard project, we interviewed practitioners in Digital Innovation Units where Design Thinking is adapted. These interviews revealed a misalignment between the intention of using design thinking and the setup of the performance measurement system in the organization. Thus, either a clear intent by using Design Thinking was lacking, or Design Thinking was deployed for explorative, exploitative, or for transformational and innovation purposes. For example, several firms intending to use Design Thinking for exploratory purposes adapted a performance measurement system assessing based on exploitative purposes. Thus, within the performance measurement systems observed we found inherent conflicts resulting from the following misalignments: 1) Design Thinking has a long-term impact but management wants to measure short-term outcomes. 2) Management aims to measure quantitatively but practitioners can only report qualitatively. 3) Management requests standardized metrics for comparison but project teams require flexible metrics depending on the project. 4) Design Thinking outcomes are difficult to trace as Design Thinking can deliver outcomes like prototypes that are not further developed in a later stage. Building upon these learnings, we derived a set of requirements for a potential performance measurement system that will be tested with partners. Furthermore, we are in the process of developing performance measurement systems with corporate partners.


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Danielly Ferreira Oliveira de Paula

Danielly holds a Bachelor's degree in Information Systems and a Masters in Computer Science from “Universidade Federal de Pernambuco”, Brazil. She worked as an … > Zum Artikel