Design management absorption in SMEs with little or no prior design experience

Acklin, Claudia and Cruickshank, Leon and Evans, Martyn and Cooper, Rachel (2013) Design management absorption in SMEs with little or no prior design experience. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

[thumbnail of 2013acklinphd_def.pdf]
2013acklinphd_def.pdf - Published Version

Download (22MB)


This thesis studies, how eight SMEs with little or no design experience absorb new design management knowledge, how they build design management capabilities during innovation processes, and how able or unable they are to turn potential into realised absorptive capacity. Furthermore, this thesis investigates, why some SMEs absorb design knowledge more easily than others. – To answer these questions the literature review explores several building blocks from strategic management, innovation, and organisational studies, and connects them to design and design management studies to understand this fundamentally interdisciplinary topic. The empirical foundation of this thesis is an action research project conducted with eight SMEs in Switzerland from different trades. During cooperation with the author of this thesis and through collaboration with external designers, different design and design management approaches and tools were introduced to support the absorption of new knowledge. Individual company projects were facilitated from the formulation of an innovation hypothesis to the launch of new offerings. The data from over 80 workshops was analysed using a critical framework, the Design Management Absorption Model to evaluate the progression of absorption of new design management knowledge. The model suggests that absorption processes unfold in steps of acquisition, assimilation, transformation and exploitation of design management knowledge – and if successful – yield internal as well as external outcomes. It was concluded that there are three different types of companies with respect to design management knowledge absorption, some that reject design after initial attempts due to limited resources or differences in culture and value systems, some that make a basic use of design to improve their offerings but do not fully integrate the knowledge design management knowledge, and some that adopt design and design management to an extent that it starts to act as a dynamic capability enhancing a company’s strategic flexibility. The three types have different perceptions of how far they have progressed with respect to their knowledge absorption causing an absorption gap.

Item Type:
Thesis (PhD)
ID Code:
Deposited By:
Deposited On:
16 May 2013 11:20
Last Modified:
06 Jul 2024 00:15