Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Capturing the Value of Design Thinking in Different Innovation Practices

Academic journal article International Journal of Design

Capturing the Value of Design Thinking in Different Innovation Practices

Article excerpt


Recently, practitioners and scholars in an array of non-design sectors have become interested in the concept of design thinking, because they want to tap into designers’ problem-solving strategies and benefit from design as an agent of change (Stewart, 2011).

Managers and management scholars are particularly attracted to the concept of design thinking, as the recent financial crisis has forced them to look for new strategies to survive within the competitive landscape (e.g., Kimbel, 2009; Liedtka, 2004). While applying design thinking, managers find that this approach empowers them to develop new or alternative solutions to their management problems. Additionally, the management field is interested in adopting design thinking as a powerful way of working that can promote and support innovation (see e.g., Beckman & Barry, 2007; Boland & Collopy, 2004; Lockwood, 2010; Martin, 2009a, 2009b; Meyer & Marion, 2010; Seidel & Fixson, 2013). Innovation refers to the core renewal process in an organisation resulting in new products and services that create value for both the user and the company (Bessant, Lamming, Noke, & Phillips, 2005). Managers more and more often see design thinking as a way to create this value (Hassi & Laakso, 2011; Rae, 2016).

At the same time, the world of (industrial) design is expanding due to social, cultural and technological transformations in the late 20th century (Buchanan, 1992; Stewart, 2011). These transformations radically changed assumptions about value creation that stem from the industrialisation of societies (Brand & Rocchi, 2011). Global access to the Internet and Web 2.0 has transformed the way value is created. Value production is no longer solely in the hands of large companies as consumers are gaining access to more and more tools for value production.

Design practitioners such as Kelly (2005) and Brown (2009) adeptly anticipated these technological and social developments by broadening the scope of their working field. For instance, in his book Change by Design, Brown shows how design thinking could be a major lever for change by using design as a systematic tool for managing the innovation portfolio. The ideas of Kelly and Brown on design and design thinking originated in the design research community, which has a long-standing research tradition in investigating how designers think and act while designing products and buildings (within an industrial economy). This research community coined the approach to designing products as ‘design thinking’, a term first used by Archer (1979).

These two inherently different ‘worlds’, the world of design and the world of management, that are interested in design thinking meet each other in early-stage innovation practices. The innovation practices include opportunity identification, opportunity analysis, idea generation, idea selection, and concept and technology development (Koen et al., 2001). This is the phase in which strategy (developed by managers) and product (and service) development (created by designers) are integrated (Koen et al., 2001; Moenaert et al., 1995). Therefore, this study focuses on the innovation practices in the early stage of innovation. Due to their different roles in innovation, designers and managers have different interpretations of what design thinking means within innovation practices. For managers, design thinking means creating and applying strategies by taking a designerly approach. For designers, design thinking means the approach designers take while designing products (and services). To harness the business opportunities offered by employing design thinking in the field of innovation it is important to gain a better understanding of the concept of design thinking and its method of application in the early stage of innovation.

Research Design and Paper Structure

This paper presents four interconnected studies, which together capture the value of applying design thinking in innovation practices. …

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