Innovation Theater vs. Design Thinking Mastery

With Karel Vredenburg really a bona fide designer, I would prefer the term designing over “design thinking”, but the article points out that laymen might have challenges with the distinctions anyway.

The phrase [innovation theater] perfectly captures the essence of only appearing to be innovative by standing around with stickies and a sharpie at a whiteboard wall, if we’re in-person, or the digital equivalent, if you’re remote and digital. People doing innovation theater simply use the activities and mapping techniques of design thinking and nothing more. They think design thinking equates to doing a workshop and nothing else.


You may ask, so what’s wrong with Innovation Theater? If your goal is to simply look innovative and cool, there’s nothing wrong with Innovation Theater. However, if you want to actually be innovative using Enterprise Design Thinking then you’re doing it wrong. In brief, you’re only doing the "reflect” element of the three element observe-reflect-make loop of Enterprise Design Thinking. Unless you’re going to do it right, don’t call it design thinking because your failed project will give design thinking done right a bad name.

Read more about …

  • Observe
  • Reflect
  • Make

… in the original article.

“Innovation Theater vs. Design Thinking Mastery” | Karel Vredenburg at

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