The Social Psychology of Design Thinking

Leigh Thompson*, David Schonthal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This article examines the cardinal tenets of design thinking using the research, theory, and insights of social psychology. People’s intuitions are often incorrect and, moreover, it is often difficult for people to revise their thinking. There are four principles common to many design thinking approaches: observe and notice; frame and reframe; imagine and design; and make and experiment. For each of these design thinking prescriptions, this article analyzes the social-psychological phenomena involved and illustrates practical applications from a real design thinking project at IDEO. Design thinkers and their companies can use these insights from social psychology to inform and inspire the design thinking process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalCalifornia Management Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • creativity
  • design thinking
  • ideation
  • innovation
  • social psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management


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