Leadership, Design Thinking and Messy Institutions

  • Steven Ney
  • Christoph Meinel
Part of the Understanding Innovation book series (UNDINNO)


This chapter takes a step back from the fray of cultural change to contemplate how these transformations are likely to impact on management and organisational strategy. This chapter discusses the leadership challenges that emerge from the cultural transformations that Design Thinking brings about. It looks at the impacts of Design Thinking on organizational structures, organizational actors as well as the way people interact with these new structures. Based on this analysis, the chapter identifies three central management challenges: enabling collaboration among more autonomous Design Thinking teams, making-sense of and dealing with increased ambiguity and uncertainty, as well as promoting critical, yet constructive conflict. The chapter also provides an overview over the preconditions for leaders to effectively face these management challenges.


  1. Allison, G. T. (1971). The essence of decision: Explaining the Cuban missile crisis. Cambridge, MA: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  2. Bason, C. (2010). Leading public sector innovation: Co-creating for a better society. Bristol, UK: Polity Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumgartner, F. R., & Jones, B. D. (1993). Agendas and instability in American politics. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  4. Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. Malden, MA: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  5. Colebatch, H. K. (2009). Policy. Maidenhead: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Cross, N. (2011). Design thinking: Understanding how designers think and work. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dorst, K. (2015). Frame innovation. Boston, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Douglas, M. (1992). Risk and blame: Essays on cultural theory. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fuller, R. C., & Myers, R. R. (1941). The natural history of social problems. American Sociological Review, 6(3), 320–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gabriel, Y. (2008). Organizing words: A critical thesaurus for social and organization studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Grint, K. (2010). Leadership: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Heclo, H. (1974). Modern social politics in Britain and Sweden: From relief to income maintenance. London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kolko, J. (2010). Exposing the magic of design: A practitioner’s guide to the methods and theory of synthesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Martin, R. L. (2009a). The design of business: Why design thinking is the next competitive advantage. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  16. Martin, R. L. (2009b). The opposable mind: Winning through integrative thinking. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  17. Morgan, G. (1986). Images of organisation. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Ney, S. (2009). Resolving messy policy issues. London: Earthscan.Google Scholar
  19. Ney, S., Beckmann, M., Gräbnitz, D., & Mirkovic, R. (2014). Social entrepreneurs and social change: Tracing impacts of social entrepreneurship through ideas, structures and practices. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Venturing, 6(1), 51–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pierre, J., & Peters, B. G. (2000). Governance, politics, and the state. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  21. Pierson, P. (1996). The new politics of the welfare state. World Politics, 48, 143–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Plattner, H., Meinel, C., & Leifer, L. J. (2014). Design thinking research: Building innovators. Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  23. Rein, M., & Schön, D. (1994). Frame reflection: Towards the resolution of intractable policy controversies. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  24. Rhodes, R. A. W. (1997). Understanding governance: Policy networks, governance, reflexivity and accountability. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Sabatier, P. A., & Jenkins-Smith, H. (1993). Policy change and learning: An advocacy coalition approach. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  26. Schmiedgen, J., Rhinow, H., Köppen, E., & Meinel, C. (2015). Parts without a whole? The current state of design thinking practice in organisations (Technical Report No 97). Potsdam: Verlag der Universität Potsdam.Google Scholar
  27. Stone, D. (1997). Policy paradox: The art of political decision making. London: W.W. Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  28. Thompson, M., & Ney, S. (2000). Cultural discourses in the global climate change debate. In E. Jochem, J. Sathaye, & D. Bouille (Eds.), Society, behaviour and climate change mitigation (pp. 65–92). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  29. Thompson, M., Ellis, R., & Wildavsky, A. (1990). Cultural theory. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  30. Verganti, R. (2009). Design-driven innovation: Changing the rules of competition by radically innovating what things mean. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  31. Verweij, M. (2011). Clumsy solutions for a wicked world: How to improve global governance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  32. Weick, K. E. A., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (2015). Managing the unexpected: Sustained performance in a complex world (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Weinberg, U. (2015). Network thinking: Was Kommt Nach Dem Brockhaus Denken? Hamburg: Murmann.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Ney
    • 1
  • Christoph Meinel
    • 2
  1. 1.T-Systems InternationalBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Hasso Plattner InstituteUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations