ROI of Design Thinking:

A Framework to Measure Impact

Design thinking offers a problem-solving approach widely adopted by the most innovative companies and organizations - but beyond anecdotal success stories, there has been little (in-depth) research to validate its actual impact - until now.


By increasing the visibility of the ROI of design thinking, more organizations have the understanding and evidence to adopt the methodology as a common problem solving technique - thus leading to superior design of products and services from those organizations.

Design thinking outcomes that we can count, such as gained leads or increased adoption rates, are the most easily measured, but the most significant value is created by outcomes which are difficult to quantify. Design thinking changes perception - the way people feel and see things. Going deeper, it changes the interactions with people and the innovation conversation itself. And at the deepest level it changes people’s mindsets, the very perspective they take on the world.

How does design thinking get us there? | MURAL
How does design thinking get us there? | MURAL
How does design thinking get us there? | MURAL
How does design thinking get us there? | MURAL
Below the waterline is where design thinking often has its most significant value.
quote icon | MURAL

The impact that design thinking can help us with is not just coming up with better products and services for tomorrow, but in the long term, building a set of durable organizational capabilities that mean we can continue to survive and prosper in the future.

jeanne liedtka
Darden School of Business

Professor Jeanne Liedtka, of UVA’s Darden School of Business, is a highly influential leader in accelerating the adoption of design thinking & human-centered design methods and helping "non-design thinkers" to understand the value. She specializes in the intersection of innovation and strategy, in particular the integration of design thinking into organizational problem solving processes.

Over the past 6 years, Jeanne conducted a research study exploring cases from over 30 organizations who were using design thinking in practice. She published the analysis of her findings in the report Evaluating the Impact of Design Thinking in Action, which is perhaps the most comprehensive analysis on the impact of design thinking to-date.

Her analysis systematically delineates a framework to calculate the ROI of design thinking, outlined by:

• IDENTIFY the most effective elements practiced under the rubric of “design thinking"

• EXPLORE the elements’ relationship to innovation processes

• ASSESS design thinking’s value for enhancing innovation outcomes

Thinking visually helps us to organize the complexities of Jeanne’s thoughts. We created an infographic to map how the design thinking elements work with their enabling mechanisms to impact specific innovation outcomes. Check it out below.

View the infographic


You can find all of the content from our ROI of Design Thinking webinar (hosted by Jeanne Liedtka) on our blog, including the full video recording and presentation deck.