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Why Design Thinking is Failing at your Company (+ The Right Framework)

Why Design Thinking is Failing at your Company (+ The Right Framework)
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Design thinking is starting to gain traction in many large organisations. It is being recognised as a powerful way to drive innovation and subsequently companies are upskilling their employees on the methodology. Excited employees can’t wait to apply design thinking after receiving training on the topic, however it is sometimes not that easy.

Here are six roadblocks that are stopping organisations from successfully embedding design thinking.

It boils down to not following the proper design thinking framework.

1. Not measuring success

Companies often fall into the trap of implementing a new methodology but failing to measure its success.

Here are a few ways to measure the ROI on design thinking:

  1. Training - number of people upskilled and coached in design thinking
  2. Project - number of projects that have applied design thinking
  3. Employee satisfaction - measure the impact design thinking is having on employee satisfaction (eg. surveys, feedback from projects)

2. Only applying design thinking end to end

When learning design thinking it is essential to understand the end to end process, from empathy to test. Companies often try to apply this same exact end to end process for every problem encountered. This doesn’t always work because design thinking is a non-linear process.

Ensure that design thinking is applied in a way that works best for your problem.

For instance:

  • You may move from test to ideate: Tests create new ideas for a project.
  • You may move from prototype to ideate: Learn from prototypes to spark new ideas.

3. Internal assumptions and biases

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” Peter Drucker

Budget, Process, Technology

These are regular limitations limitations flagged by long-term employees when going through the ideation process. Employees understand the current business environment and the limitations that come with it.  These assumptions and biases need to be put aside when applying design thinking as it will impede the positive impact of design thinking.

4. ‘See everything as a nail’ mindset

Those without an understanding of design thinking and the methodology see it as the solution to every problem in the organisation. Bringing design thinking into a project that is already on the path to failure will not demonstrate the power of design thinking. Design thinking takes a human-centred approach and its impact will be diminished on a project that is already implementing a solution that your customer does not want.

5. Culture of shooting down ideas

Any change as large as the shift to design-led thinking requires support from the top. Where this exists, the results can be rapid and substantial. However, a culture of shutting down ideas will prevent design thinking from succeeding in an organisation. Oftentimes in large companies we wait for leaders to show us the way, but this is extremely difficult in a culture that does not support failure. Sometimes the best way to combat this is to know how to sell your idea to management.

 6. Access to customers

Design thinking follows a human-centred approach. There is no point looking to apply design thinking if your employees will never be allowed to engage with and learn from your customers.  Access to customers is crucial, given the highest quality solutions come from valuable insights into human behaviour.

Design thinking needs to be given the opportunity to succeed in any organisation. These roadblocks need to be considered and remedied to ensure successful implementation. Transforming into a design-centric company is a long journey, but a necessary one if you want innovation to thrive within your organisation.

Workflow Podcast

The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.


Stop talking. Start making.

This guide provides an overview of the five key stages of design thinking, from empathy through to test. Find out how to apply the approach and start innovating at your organisation.



To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.


Stop talking, Start making: A guide to design thinking

This guide provides an overview of the five key stages of design thinking, from empathy through to test. Find out how to apply the approach and start innovating at your organisation.


Unlock new opportunities and markets by taking your brand into the brave new world.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 10 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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