Testing open-source visualization tools with small- and medium-sized enterprises ecosystem data : Towards the understanding of innovation ecosystem design

Nthubu, Badziili and Richards, Daniel and Cruickshank, Leon (2021) Testing open-source visualization tools with small- and medium-sized enterprises ecosystem data : Towards the understanding of innovation ecosystem design. Journal of Design, Business & Society, 7 (2). pp. 165-187. ISSN 2055-2114

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This paper explores open-source visualization tools using innovation ecosystem empirical data to enhance the understanding of SME ecosystem structures. Ecosystem approaches are becoming important in business strategy and innovation where organizations are heavily relying on inter-firm resources to innovate. Consequently, the traditional firm-focused business models are facing challenges, thus making it difficult for interconnected and diverse actors to figure out how to co-create across firm boundaries. This challenge is even worse for manufacturing SMEs, who often lack the tools to make sense of their innovation ecosystem structures. This present study involved a rich ethnographic investigation in three SME ecosystem cases in the UK, i.e. the ceramic artist ecosystem, the 3D printing bureau ecosystem and the FabLab ecosystem. From the initial thematic analysis results, all participants indicated the difficulty in understanding complexities associated with the dynamics of innovation ecosystem structures. The following ecosystem attributes were highlighted as essential in understanding SME innovation ecosystem structures; Clusters and bridges, tie size, structural holes, role structure, interactivity. In this paper, fourteen open-source visualization tools are tested to compare how well different methods reveal the six ecosystem attributes. Our findings demonstrate that open-source visualization tools have different affordances, most of which are useful in revealing ecosystem attributes. Results show that most tools reveal six attributes identified in this study as useful in aiding the understanding of SME ecosystem structures. This study contributes new knowledge on the scarce subject of designing and managing innovation ecosystems, presenting a unique design visualization approach to explore and understand ecosystem configurations. The study also identifies limitations in open-source visualization methods and offer the design management community a set of recommendations for further development of visualization tools to support decision making in manufacturing SME ecosystems.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Design, Business & Society
Additional Information:
© Nthubu, 2021. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in Journal of Design, Business & Society, Volume 7, Number 2, 165-187, 2021, https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/intellect/dbs/2021/00000007/00000002/art00004
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20 Oct 2021 10:50
Last Modified:
26 Nov 2023 00:27