Original Research

Design thinking in entrepreneurship education: Understanding framing and placements of problems

Thea J. Tselepis, Carol A. Lavelle
Acta Commercii | Vol 20, No 1 | a872 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v20i1.872 | © 2020 Thea J. Tselepis, Carol A. Lavelle | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 May 2020 | Published: 22 September 2020

About the author(s)

Thea J. Tselepis, DHET-NRF South African Research Chair in Entrepreneurship Education, College of Business and Economics, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Carol A. Lavelle, Department of Fashion Design, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa


Orientation: Design thinking presented an alternative lens for entrepreneurship education.

Research purpose: The purpose of this article was to illustrate (with a framework) the benefits of encouraging a design-based mindset when exploring problem placement and framing to create new opportunities for entrepreneurship students.

Motivation for the study: The role of placement and framing of open-complex problems has not been fully embraced in the literature on design thinking for entrepreneurship education. The seminal work of Richard Buchannan (a great influencer in the realm of design thinking) offered a deeper insight into the placement and framing of problems that could assist educators to facilitate thinking skills relevant to deal with the unpredictable contexts that future entrepreneurs have to be prepared for.

Research design, approach and method: This conceptual paper adopts a basic qualitative research approach that develops an extension of knowledge within the field of entrepreneurship education for the purpose of informing the development of practice. The principle method used is a progressive consideration of different theoretical perspectives and seminal studies concerning entrepreneurship education and design thinking in order to conceptualise the development of a framework that promotes framing and placements of problems. An interpretive paradigm is applied.

Main findings: The proposed framework offered a synthesis between the placement and framing of open-complex problems and the relevant thinking skills: invention, decision, judgement and evaluation to consider meaningful solution identification. These thinking skills are imperative for future entrepreneurs who need to transform their novel ideas in innovative ways.

Practical/managerial implications: The framework requires a paradigm shift from prediction and goal setting and may empower educators who apply a design thinking approach to entrepreneurship education.

Contribution/value-add: An in-depth understanding of problem placement and framing can assist educators in the field to make informed decisions about their approaches to entrepreneurship education when applying a design thinking methodology.


design thinking; entrepreneurship education; open-complex problems; design lens; solving problems


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Crossref Citations

1. Frugal innovations of South African female social entrepreneurs
Thea Tselepis, Cecile Nieuwenhuizen
African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development  vol: 15  issue: 6  first page: 678  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1080/20421338.2023.2177016