How Designer-founders Manage the Innovation Paradox

Nico Florian Klenne, Gerda Gemser, Ingo Karpen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Anecdotal evidence suggests that designers may be successful entrepreneurs. When designers become business founders and engage in strategic decision-making, they may encounter a strategic paradox. This paradox arises from pursuing interdependent, yet contradictory goals: optimising one single innovation outcome (desirability) versus satisficing multiple innovation outcomes (desirability, feasibility, and viability). We examine how designer-founders experience and manage the tensions resulting from this strategic paradox through a qualitative research design analysing secondary interview data. We find that the way designer-founders perceive their professional identity relates to their ability to effectively mitigate paradoxical tensions. Designer-founders who adopt a generalist role identity seem to be able to balance contradicting innovation outcomes and thereby mitigate tensions. On the other hand, designer-founders who assume a specialist role identity seem to focus on optimising desirability and avoid the experience of paradoxical tensions by erecting clear boundaries protecting their specialist role identity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Australian and New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference (ANZMAC) 2017 : Marketing for Impact
EditorsLinda Robinson, Linda Brennan, Mike Reid
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationMelbourne
PublisherRMIT University
Publication date2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe Australian & New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference. ANZMAC 2017: Marketing for Impact - RMIT - Swanston Academic Building , Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 1 Dec 20176 Dec 2017


ConferenceThe Australian & New Zealand Marketing Academy Conference. ANZMAC 2017
LocationRMIT - Swanston Academic Building
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the ANZMAC Conference


  • Role identity
  • Innovation paradox
  • Designer-founders

Cite this