Book: Strategic Management of Innovation and Design

Book review: Strategic Management of Innovation and Design

From research and development to research, innovative design and development.

This book is neither new nor an easy read. It is challenging, at least for me and for my intellect. It is rich, philosophical and generous with both theory and practical examples. A lovely trial to read but don't be surprised if you have to reread bits now and again!

I have come to the design field via research, teaching and practical work in innovation management. Important starting points for the work I do with my colleagues come from fields such as innovation management, organisational development and change management as well as action research. Service design is based on approaches and methods that are an excellent match to our fundamental values and toolbox.

So what is the connection between innovation and design? That is the theme of the book Strategic Management of Innovation and Design. The conclusion is that strategic innovation management must be based on innovative design activities. How do the authors reach this conclusion?

The authors have distinguished five "action models for innovation" in the academic literature:

  • Laissez-faire: Innovation really cannot be steered and often fares badly from interference. In this model the basic approach is to give the innovator freedom. The innovation is "a happy surprise".
  • Black Box: As with laissez-faire, the innovation is "a happy surprise". We don't need to be able to describe or understand the innovation process. All we must do is to add resources, and something might happen.
  • One-off innovation: Radical innovations arise as the result of stand-alone projects. In this model people often seek new technologies and unique products. The idea is that the new innovations will create value that will cover the costs of previous mistakes.
  • Planned innovation: Continuous improvements and incremental innovations based on a dominant design can be planned for and do not have to cost a lot.
  • The innovative firm: Innovations are continuously occurring and it is unimportant whether they are radical or incremental. At the same time, we leave the stable product identities behind us: whether it is a physical product/specific technology or a service that delivers the benefit does not necessarily matter. In this context the innovative ability of a community, network or ecosystem is important, and don't always know in advance which competencies are significant. What the authors call "innovative design" happens in this situation.

According to the authors, innovative design is based on a process for defining value and a process for defining new competencies. The authors suggest that design activities and design theory have come farthest in the creation of the innovative organisation, partly via an ability to find new descriptions of functions, competencies and benefits, and partly via a development of the "steering" of the innovation work. Today, "design communities" can therefore be the right place for the development of new ways of acting.

Based on this reasoning, it is natural that devoting ourselves solely to research and development is not enough. Research is a controlled process for the production of knowledge, and in general involves seeking answers to pre-defined questions. This can be beneficial if the questions turn out to be well formulated. Research can also deliver unexpected results, which can be beneficial if we want to and are able to utilise them. Development concerns something else: it is a controlled process for utilising existing knowledge in order to specify processes, products, organisations etc. in order to meet well-defined criteria (quality, cost, time). Innovative design links research and development by means of its ability to "fill the gap" between R and D. The authors therefore suggest that we should replace the R&D concept with R-I-D (Research – Innovative Design – Development).

The book is rich in its contents and offers a convincing argumentation about the importance of design to innovation. The diligent reader will be richly rewarded because this is a real source of knowledge and inspiration.


The article is written by Hans Björkman and is published in Swedish Design Research Journal no 1, 2017.

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Swedish Design Research Journal no 1 2017

Framsidan till Swedish Design Research Journal nr 1 2017

This article is published in Swedish Design Research Journal no 1, 2017. 

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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Svensksundsvägen 13, 111 49 Stockholm | I +46 (0)8 406 84 40


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SVID, Swedish Industrial Design Foundation | Svensksundsvägen 13, 111 49 Stockholm | I +46 (0)8 406 84 40