Strategic Innovation: Driven by Design

Jonas Thoft Haugaard & Marius Frederik Laurberg Cortsen

Student thesis: Master thesis


It is repeatedly acknowledged that incumbent firms need to innovate strategically to sustain long term competitiveness. According to scholars, design has in recent years shown capable of taking on companies’ strategic challenges. The companies specializingin this, strategic design consultancies (SDCs) are approaching strategic innovation in a fundamentally different way than traditionally. This begs the question of how SDCs manage to innovate strategically. This is the fundamental question that this thesisattempts to answer. The investigation was based on eight qualitative interviews with high-profile designers in Frog Design, Fjord+Accenture, Designit, Hello Group, 1508, and Bespoke, all leading international and Danish consultancies. Their processes were analyzed on the basis of design theory, strategy theory, and theory addressing the interplay between the two.The analysis investigates how SDCs gather research, sense-make, and ideate to challenge the visions of clients before testing both concepts and client capabilities, and finally enabling clients to transform. In contrast to a traditional crafting design process, the SDCs do not work from a defined brief. Through the works of multiple design scholars, it becomes apparent how the SDCs systematically challenge the problem understanding by searching far and wide for insights which form the basis of a better solution. New and classical theories within strategy formation assist in explaining how the SDCs reach valid solutions to complex problems. The research draws attention to strategic design’s applicability for bridging differences between ways of reasoning, and inside-out and outside-in perspectives when innovating strategically. Lastly, the research considershow incumbents can become Learning Organizations and facilitate vision and design cycles to strategically adjust to changing environments. More specifically, the research arrives at severalbalanced recommendations on how a work group for such cycles could be composed and empowered. Including, but not limited to, the establishment of a collaborative room, the necessary attitude and dynamic capabilities for searching, sensing, experimenting, learning and continual transformations.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages136
SupervisorsTore Kristensen