Using design for practices for developing innovation capabilities in firms

Start date 01/03/2011
End date The project is closed: 31/12/2011
Recently, researchers are acknowledging design as a potential avenue for improving innovativeness in firms. One approach held forward is Design Thinking (DT), promoted by practitioners such as Tim Brown (IDEO) and Roger Martin (Rotman School of Management). DT as a managerial approach emerged around 2003, and several large firms have engaged in its implementation - so far mainly in the US and in Germany.
The ambition of the research project is to contribute to a better understanding of DT, how it can be applied in large firms and the value it may create in these organizations. More specifically, it focuses on the perceived value of DT and how the approach is integrated with existing innovation efforts and product development processes.
The project consists of several sub studies, mainly financed by CBI.
Design Thinking in large German firms – pilot study (2011)
A first pilot study was performed during 2011 in collaboration with HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam, Germany – an institute providing executive education in DT. A series of qualitative semi-structured interviews were held with a number of firms educated by HPI, which had later applied DT in various ways for a minimum of two years in their organizations. The interviewees had managerial positions with R&D/innovation, and a majority had participated in the HPI education.
Design Thinking in large US firms – pilot study (2011)
A number of American firms using DT, mainly in Silicon Valley, were identified through secondary data and press. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were performed, and snowball sampling was used in order to identify further companies to investigate. The interviewees were key individuals in the implementation of DT, or innovation leaders on various levels. In total the two pilot studies consisted of 15 companies in the US and in Germany.
Extended study of Design Thinking in large firms - Cross-case study (2012)
Based on results from the pilot studies, during 2012 we performed an extended study of six companies (four of which were identified through the pilot studies), all with 4-9 years experience of using DT. In these studies 3-6 individuals with various roles have been interviewed in each organization.
The influence of DT on innovativeness– Single case studies (2012-2013)
During 2012 and 2013 we are performing deeper case studies in three companies, partly financed by Vinnova’s call for Design and Innovation. Here we are interested in how companies use DT in practice, and what value is created in these firms. We are also attempting to conceptualize what DT means and entails in practice.

Using DT to build innovation capability at Ericsson – Single case study (2014-2015)
Study of the implementation of Design Thinking and its role in building innovation capability on a local level at Ericsson AB, using an insider/outsider action research approach. As an insider, Lisa Carlgren has been conducting interviews as well as working at Ericsson as a consultant in a design and innovation team. As an outsider, Ingo Rauth has been conducting interviews with Carlgren.
Do not hesitate to contact us for more information or potential collaboration!
Project leader
External partners

​HPI School of Design Thinking, Germany

Business & Design Lab, University of Gothenburg

Page manager Published: Tue 08 Dec 2015.