Design & Innovation – The implications of embedding design within innovation processes
Companies and organisations that are operating in the marketplace are, on a day-to-day basis, exposed to a vast degree of competition, which eventually can lead to situation with a lot of market turbulence and disruption taking place. Perry (2017), for instance, shows that only 60 companies were present in the Fortune 500 in 1955 as well as in 2017, meaning that 88% of the companies from 1955 either went bankrupt, merged with (or were overtaken by) other firms or were not able to meet the Fortune 500 revenue threshold anymore. Anthony et al. (2016) and Zook (2014) state that many companies
have not been able to adapt or to take advantage of changing market situations as they fail to scout and
invest in new areas of growth or keep applying existing business models to new market segments.
Lately, design has received increased attention from companies that want to anticipate on present or future market turbulence. Besides the formation of intercompany alliances, merger & acquisition activities,
servitization of a product portfolio or the co-operation with startups, design is seen as a way to overcome creative destruction, helping companies to maintain their competitiveness in the marketplace. Both business scholars and design (management) scholars have described the added value of design and design thinking to businesses, organisations, (innovation) processes, products and services. However, the fact that the added value of design and design thinking is mainly described by anecdotal cases of businesses and organisations that successfully make use of design and design thinking seems to ignore the process that precedes the situation whereby design is fully operationalised in and adds value
to innovation processes.
It is therefore that this research project is executed with the aim of exploring the implications of design when being embedded in a company’s innovation process. Based on current collaborations between the Delft University of Technology’s IDE faculty and various businesses, three companies have been found suitable for examination in the context of this research project. As a result, three cases can be described
through conducting empirical research, whereby further insights into these cases are provided through conducting two rounds of interviews.
The data sets stemming from the interviews show that in each of the three cases a design project is seen to be initiated by a non-design project brief, that design is positioned in the Fuzzy Front End of innovation
processes and that design is seen to be employed in a separated type of department. Besides, two out of the three cases present an emerging disconnection between the design output and the innovation process that is already put in place. A further exploration of the latter shows that this disconnection can be traced back to a barrier that is positioned within the higher ranks of the two companies as well as a barrier is perceived in the way companies have set-up their organisational structure
with regard to the design output. It is suggested that design should become an
‘implemented reality’ and it should be incorporated into the ‘thought processes of a company’s organisational structure’ when companies want to successfully make use of design with the aim of arriving at outcomes other than their current innovation processes are producing. Therefore, companies should adapt, revise and/or redesign each aspect of their innovation process that is either preceding or coming after the embedded design element in order to fully facilitate an innovation cycle.