Edited by Robert DeFillippi, Alison Rieple and Patrik Wikström
Chapter 13: In design we trust: dealing with the innovation imperative
As a process of inquiry, centred around the generation of ideas and activated to solve problems of economic and – increasingly – societal importance, design has become recognized as a key function of innovation and international competitiveness (Andrews and Criscuolo, 2013). This notwithstanding, its utilization as a structural ingredient in the developmental processes of new products, services, processes and systems remains underexploited (UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2014). Rather than trying to understand the causes of resistance, however, this chapter seeks to understand how design plays out and is harnessed in the process of innovation and entrepreneurial venturing and functions as a value creation mechanism (see, for example, Johansson and Woodilla, 2009; Junginger, 2009, 2012; Thomson and Koskinen, 2012). The chapter investigates its enabling capacities while challenging the notion of the ‘omnipotent designer’ and being sceptical of the introduction of design as an unexpected power, a deus ex machina (cf. Walters, 2011). Instead, it examines what it means for designers to act in their ‘normal capacity’ and how they might intervene in the ideation to monetization process. It does so by using empirical material from a Scottish innovation initiative that aims to investigate the strategic capacity of design in the context of a novel innovation mechanism. It aims to help the development of a more integrated innovation vocabulary and cumulative body of knowledge on design-driven (business) innovation as called for by Johansson and Woodilla (2009). The capacity of a nation to create, innovate and move beyond its current state is widely recognized as being vital to its economic success and social prosperity. This is particularly true for the advanced economies operating closely at the forefront of technological development, whose sustained success is more and more dependent on ‘improvements in multi-factor productivity’ (OECD, 2012). The rise of the information society in the last quarter of the twentieth century has led to the heightened importance of knowledge-based capital (KBC) as a key driver of innovation-based growth. According to the OECD (2012), firms in some of its member countries, such as Sweden, the United States and the United Kingdom, now spend as much or even more on non-physical assets as on those with physical embodiment. Such shifts in resource allocation are indicative of substantial economic restructuring and institutional transformation. Emerging economies such as India and Brazil are contributing to this trend, claiming an increasing share of global investment in innovation and addressing the stimulation of KBC investment as an issue of central political concern (OECD, 2012). It is precisely the national need for entrepreneurial activity and growth in innovation that has formed the rationale for the design-led initiative considered in this chapter, as over the past three decades the Scottish economy has consistently underperformed in terms of growth relative to both the United Kingdom and other small European countries. Factors seen as particularly problematic in light of Scotland’s poor productivity performance are the low levels of business research and development (R & D), weak links between the country’s research base and business innovation as well as the limited number of (high-tech) new venture formations (The Scottish Government, 2007).
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