Two years ago, we began a long-term research project to better understand设计思维: 如何practitionersincorporate it into everyday work and its effects on project outcomes.

In setting out to define a design-thinking maturity model, we realized that the maturity of the individual team members and their experience, exposure, and mastery of design thinking were essential to the overall team’s (or organization’s) ability to effectively utilize design-thinking methodologies. To better understand this relationship between individual abilities and team performance, we identified催化剂—individual practitioners whose design-thinking mastery positively influenced design-thinking practices in their teams or organizations. Based on our conversations with these catalysts about their experience (and the experience of those they teach and guide), we hypothesized that design-thinking practitioners share roughly the same learning journey, despite different backgrounds and contexts.

To clarify the stages of this learning journey, we conducted alarge-scale surveyinvolving 1067 practitioners and aimed at investigating respondents’ experience with design thinking. We classified responses into potential learning stages based on the self-reported design-thinking exposure, experience, primary activities, and biggest challenges. This process, combined with talking to hundreds of design-thinking practitioners each year at ourUX Conference那helped us establish a set of unifying stages that most practitioners encounter while learning design thinking:新人adopterleader那和grandmaster

Why These Stages Matter

As a practitioner, you can better understand your own learning process and set appropriate expectations if you know the typical stages of your learning journey.

  • Most learning journeys feel frustrating at some point. Having insight into the design-thinking learning journey and what you’re working towards can provide encouragement during “what’s the point” moments. If you’re learning design thinking by yourself, awareness of the journey can help you feel less alone.
  • 确定您当前的阶段可以帮助您预测未来的进展。保持专注于您当前的学习阶段的目标,而不是跳跃。跳跃前方冒着创造经验的风险,让你感到怀疑或困惑,从而减少持续学习的动力。

As an educator (or manager or mentor), you empathize, create an effective design-thinking learning experience for others, and enable sustainable, long-term success.

  • 了解其他人,不同的人在学习过程中的不同阶段是一个有效教育者的关键部分。它允许您提供有效的学习体验,而无需压倒您的受众,其具有太多的复杂性,并且在每个阶段都抢先地缓解了学习者的痛点。
  • Educating and activating a group of people takes a lot of resources (time, money, and effort). This education process should intentionally designed, in order to maximize resources and return on investment. Mapping participants’ phases and their progression through the learning journey allows an educator to benchmark progress, and indirectly, success of the training.
There are 4 phases in the design - thinking learner’s journey:新人adopterleadergrandmaster Individuals progress through these 4 phases, as their experience with design thinking and exposure to it increase. The适配器阶段是最动荡的是从业者首次试验,申请设计思考他们的工作。在这一阶段,掌握(定义为能力之间的组合,有多好,并且信心,一个人的思想是多么良好)波动最多。




  1. Criteria是可观察的品质,可以帮助学习者(或外部观察者,例如教育者)识别学习者在学习之旅中的当前阶段。它们包括认识到自己的能力,曝光率水平和信心。
  2. Primary activitiesare the learner’s actions and use of design-thinking methodologies.
  3. Educator goals and obstaclessummarize learner’s pain points at any given stage and corresponding educator goals that can help learners overcome them.

Phase 1:新人




  1. Individuals who are committed to learn design thinking
  2. Individuals who are not interested to learn more about design thinking. They’ve been exposed to design thinking, but that is where their learning journey halts. These practitioners may remain in this stage indefinitely until they encounter a deeper exposure to design thinking that broadens their perspective, experience, or acceptance.

新人s’knowledge is minimal; they have a surface-level understanding of design thinking, often rooted in the definition they received during their first exposure. They may be able to provide a definition but are not familiar with the details of a framework or its value. They have topical associations with design thinking—sticky-notes, the infinity loop, whiteboards.新人s are unaware of their design-thinking incompetence — they don’t yet know what they don’t know.

Primary Activities

新人s’ primary goal is to understand the basics — what design thinking is and why it’s useful. Often, this stage’s activities are self-initiated: browsing articles, reading books, or signing up for a seminar. In other cases, design thinking is learned by necessity or requirement at work or school through onboarding programs, collaborative workshops, required courses, or mandated trainings. Most新人s have not yet actively practiced design-thinking activities, or if they have their participation is shallow and topical.


The goal of a design thinking teacher at this stage is to communicate the purpose and potential value of design thinking and motivate the新人to pursue learning, then make time for it and move on to the next phases. Common educator obstacles are overcoming learners’ negative sentiments: annoyance with “yet another thing to learn,” unsuccessful previous attempts or experiences, capped bandwidth, and realization of their own limits (in this case, how little they know about design thinking).

Phase 2:Adopter

Individuals at this stage have adopted design thinking and begun to practice it. They may have had some ups and downs in their limited experience with design thinking. It is common foradopters to waffle between overconfidence and self-doubt and to feel both confused and successful at the same time. SuccessfuladopterS见与工作或生活相关的设计思维,从而致力于继续学习。


增加(被动或活跃的)曝光和熟悉设计思维所做的adopters aware of their knowledge limits. They understand the potential of design thinking, but still have a lot to learn.Adopters have invested time, effort, and energy into design thinking and have started applying design thinking to their work with mixed success. Their commitment to design thinking can be self-initiated or dictated to them by an authority with an invested interest (company leadership, university, or boss).

Primary Activities

Adopter练习设计思考以线性方式 - 书籍。他们严重依赖清单 - 为6 design-thinking steps那as well as for the activities associated with each of those steps. Manyadopters lean towards a prescribed, branded version of design thinking, often provided by their institution, company, or a reputable external organization.

从业者遇到这种阶段的失败是常见的,如果他们主要在自己的学习 - 因为他们对设计思维框架的不完全理解。常见类型的失败包括跳到结论,在错误的时间使用错误的活动,缺乏别人的买入或支持。这些失败推动了一些从业者放弃了设计思维。但是,在此阶段的大多数学习发生在故障时发生。拥抱失败的从业者倾向于在未来阶段开发对设计思维的可塑性理解。(这是一个陈词滥调,但这是一个陈词滥调,因为它是正确的:失败是一个学习机会。)

Someadopters might learn primarily by actively participating in design-thinking workshops and activities together with experienced design-thinking practitioners. While this group ofadopters may not have the opportunity to experience a sense of failure because of the support received from their peers, it is still likely they will question the value and legitimacy of design thinking at some point.


AdopterS是在自行车上,但仍需要训练轮和教练。Adopters’ confidence drops as they realize the indirect ways in which design thinking can be applied and how much they have to learn — for example, how straightforward they originally thought the process was versus how abstract (and potentially overwhelming) it really is.教育家在这个阶段的目标是帮助learners through hands-on practice and assistance until they can comfortably use design thinking on their own. Individuals are most commonly lost in this phase when they cannot make a direct connection to the relevance of design thinking. Thus, it is imperative thatadopters find relevance and application to their everyday work.

Phase 3:领导

This is the proficiency stage of design thinking.领导s can articulate design thinking succinctly to others and their confidence grows steadily, with varied (generally positive) experiences and continued exposure.领导者take an active, independent role in their learning journey and begin to think adaptively about design thinking; they start to explore new applications and may even be known for design thinking within their circle.


领导者can practice design thinking with general ease, confidence, and independence.领导者become more and more aware of their new knowledge and comfort as they mature through this phase. They often teach others earlier in the learning journey. They are able to consistently and somewhat adaptively perform design-thinking activities without thinking about them. They don’t try to apply design thinking by the book, rather use it as needed depending on their goal.

Primary Activities

在这一阶段的从业者在这个阶段的设计思维活动与他人或在没有教练的情况下进行设计思维,但仍然具有一些准备和焦点。虽然他们以前参与者,他们现在促进,发起,甚至倡导合作设计思维活动。例如,他们可能会发起一个同理心建筑workshop那pull others into user research, or map auser journeyto uncover pain points or moments of truth. These activities that leaders are involved in gradually increase in complexity, ranging from involving users in workshops to fostering stakeholders into the process and multimedium prototyping (for example,bodystorming那future-state蓝图那和故事板)。


The goal of the teacher in this phase is to continue to instill confidence and help sustain the learner’s commitment. The goal should be to empowerleaders过渡到设计思维教师和促进者的作用。尽管他们已经进展了,但他们仍然可能无法意识到弱点或潜在的改进(即使他们经常在他们制造之后承认错误)。在这一阶段推动反思是帮助的关键leaders继续增长(并进展爷爷). They must take an active role in adapting the design-thinking practice to fit their contextual goals and needs, be sustainable over time, and maximize potential benefits.

Phase 4:棋圣

在这个阶段的从业者不仅成为设计思维的教师,而且创造了应用它的新方法,思考它,并加入它。设计思维的实践如此体现在他们的行为中,他们很少需要考虑应用它。棋圣s查看设计思维作为灵活的动态工具包。他们很长时间离开了规定的过程的概念,而是将其视为脚手架,以解决组织(通常是内部)和最终用户(外部,产品相关的)问题。但是,这种阶段没有没有缺陷的内容。棋圣sare more likely to doubt design thinking thanleaders那often when early-stage learners fall victim to mismanaged design-thinking marketing and thus misinterpret, misapply, or undercut the practice as a whole.


棋圣s’ defining characteristic is the ability to critically reflect on their design-thinking practice. This reflection enables them to judge what is useful and potentially depart from the traditional ways and activities of design thinking.棋圣s also know how to help others to this same stage of enlightenment.棋圣s意识到他们的能力。它们深入,直观的理解,并可混合设计思维技能,共同满足他们的具体需求。

Primary Activities

Traditional design-thinking activities are still used bygrandmasterS,但被改变,调整,并以复杂的方式应用,取决于目标,观众和潜在障碍。棋圣S不要坚持规定或品牌版本的设计思维,更常用的其他境界的工具和/或活动,如服务设计和业务战略。例如,grandmasters are more likely to use activities such asservice blueprinting和商业模式游说。在基本设计thinking activities are still carried out in this phase, they differ from those in earlier stages because they are inputs or alignment strategies for more complex, involved activities (compared to previous stages where the basic activities are the end goal).


棋圣shave very likely surpassed their original teachers. Their goal becomes not just activating and educating individual learners, but rather organizations as a whole. As practitioners themselves,爷爷face an increasing likelihood of (re)questioning the value of design thinking. Increased knowledge and mastery are a blessing and curse; this pessimistic view is often rooted in the realization of what design thinking can and cannot solve (contrary to earlier naive ideas that design thinking can be a cure-all). However, even爷爷can get better, by self-reflection, by learning from their peers, and also by learning from their juniors: one of the skills of supreme mastery is the ability to discern which of the hundreds of ideas generated by eager newcomers is actually a stroke of genius.

Additional Notes and Considerations

  • 训练有素的设计师体验设计-思考学习旅程也是不同的。Many designers view design thinking as simply a way to articulate and communicate a “designerly” approach to problem solving. Thus, many designers are likely to feel as if they bypassed this learning journey altogether because this is how they instinctively think. However, designers experience this learning journey too, albeit much earlier in their education or career, and likely not packaged or branded as design thinking. This does not mean that all爷爷are designers, but rather that many successful designers likely are.
  • One person may be at multiple levels at the same time.一些技能可能落入一个阶段,而其他技能则进入较低的不同阶段。例如,从业者的心态和反思可能会崩溃棋圣那while their hands-on experience and exposure to activities into领导。The goal is to identify this imbalance and invest in experiences that bolster weaker dimensions of our practice.


The design-thinking learning journey is a high-level, distilled representation of the most common learning phases observed in our research. Learning and teaching design thinking is messy; not all experiences will fit squarely into this model.

Regardless, it is imperative we frame and articulate learning design thinking as an experiential journey. Doing so can help us become more effective learners and educators. Learners can gain insight and awareness into the greater journey and goals, while educators can thoughtfully and successfully execute the design-thinking learning experience they aim to create.