There has been much debate about the contribution of ‘design thinking’ to the fields of public policy and governance. This article makes an empirical contribution to this debate by examining the Organised Crime Field Lab ‐ an environment for experimenting with, learningabout and innovating in collaborative governance. The study involved working with 18 different multi-agency collaborations involving over 160 professionals as they developed novel approaches to fighting organised crime. Combining quasi-experimental and action research methods, our analysisoffers valuable insights into how an environment can be designed that creates the conditions to support collaborations in overcoming the most common challenges in their design process. In particular, we find that a specially designed environment including a structured but flexible problem-solvingspace, an inclusive facilitative process and a custom-made accountability structure can support collaborative design processes.