Posted June 19, 2016 Karen Jackson

“Design thinking” has long been a way of life for architects and industrial designers. Professional designers do not go to classrooms or offices; they go to studios and workshops. Designers surround themselves with the people and tools they need to inspire them, to test limits so they can come up with things the world has never seen before. Designers live and breathe to create new value.


Recent cover stories in Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Business Review, and Fast Company show that the business world has now become fascinated with the power of design. From startups in garages to corporate America, design thinking has developed a stock track record for helping companies manage increasing complexity and create new value.


It is clear that design has swept the minds of business professionals around the world who are eager to develop this new skill set so they can go on to create new value in short order. The first thing to know for those new to design thinking is that it is best learned by doing and it certainly cannot be learned in a day, a week, or even a year. Like any professional skill, understanding and mastery come from experience over time.


There is no substitute for hands-on trainings and project based learning, but a great primer and compliment can come through some important readings.


Following are the go-to books that have been by my side during my ten years of experience as a design strategist. I leaf through these books for inspiration and process guidance on a regular basis, while I dream of a world where others can do the same.


An acknowledgment goes out to Parsons New School’s Masters in Strategic Design and Management for introducing me to many of these books.



Design thinking relies on methodology and the following set of books can serve as initial and ongoing references for application in your work:


1) 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization, Vijay Kumar


2) Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design Methods, by LUMA Institute


3) Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions,

Bruce Hanington



Understanding the way the human mind works is essential for creating and delivering value to customers and communities:


4) Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman


5) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely



Identifying the best business opportunities within your pile of sticky notes and user insights requires yet another set of tools:


6) This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases, Marc Stickdorn


7) Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want, Alexander Osterwalder


8) Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, Alexander Osterwalde



When designing new services and products there are numerous decisions to be made and each has its own consequence. All systems, including those in the natural world, serve as models of complexity and these two books provide priming on systems and the implications of altering them:


9) Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Meadows, Donella Meadows

10) Silent Spring, Rachel Carson

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Karen Jackson

Karen Jackson is passionate about developing human potential and creativity as the source of a sustainable, healthy, happy future for our children and planet.


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