One of the ways that art students learn to paint is to copy the work of a master. Of course, there are many more complex and abstract design, creativity and innovation challenges than traditional portraiture.
The Human-Computer Interaction Group at Stanford trains people in designing interactive systems.
In a research study they conducted, subjects drew animals to inhabit an alien Earth-like planet and were presented with example drawings at different stages in the experiment.
The results indicated that “Early exposure to examples improves creativity (measured by the number of common and novel features in drawings, and subjective ratings by independent raters).
“Repeated exposure to examples interspersed with prototyping leads to even better results. However, late exposure to examples increases conformity, but does not improve creativity.”
The research paper is “Early and Repeated Exposure to Examples Improves Creative Work” by Chinmay Kulkarni, Steven P Dow, Scott R Klemmer, Cognitive Science, 2012 (there is a link to the paper, downloadable as a PDF, in the article.
Additional links included are to two books on design thinking: the more productive is "Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers", which discusses a multi-step process of implementing design thinking in what would be a non-typical , i.e. non-design environment, such as developing new business processes.