BookPDF Available

IDBM Papers Vol.1

“It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always
fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than
Edgar Allan Poe
On the behalf of the entire IDBM group,
I want to dedicate this book to Markku Salimäki and his
eort to successfully nurture the IDBM baby through
infancy and teens to the gates of adulthood.
Toni-Matti Karjalainen, “Editor in Chief”
15 years of IDBM, and more...
8 Foreword
Markku Salimäki
12 Interview with Yrjö Sotamaa
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
20 Keynote: Designing multidisciplinary learning for the real world
Mikko Koria, Markku Salimäki & Toni-Matti Karjalainen
28 Greetings for IDBM
34 Introduction to IDBM Research
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
40 Strategic view of design in business
Brigitte Borja de Mozota
50 Making sense of design thinking
Lotta Hassi & Miko Laakso
64 Creating a synergistic dialogue among design thinking, strategy, and innovation
Ulla Johansson & Jill Woodilla
74 Theoretical model of cross-functional team eectiveness
Daniel Gra, Mikko Koria & Toni-Matti Karjalainen
86 IDBM student project as a teaching platform for package design
Sanna Heiniö & Toni-Matti Karjalainen
98 Metallic looks: Thoughts on the visual identity of Finnish heavy metal bands
Toni-Matti Karjalainen & Antti Ainamo
112 How consumers co-create value
Tore Kristensen
122 Best practices in business-design collaborations:
A study of Italian design consultancies
Davide Ravasi & Ileana Stigliani
132 IDBM Publications
IDBM papers vol 1.
Edited by Toni-Matti Karjalainen, Mikko Koria & Markku Salimäki
Layout by Riikka Kuukka and Pekka Pölkki, Pentagon Design
Published by IDBM Program, Aalto University
Printed by DMP
Helsinki, 2011
ISBN 978-952-92-8641-6 (paperback)
ISBN 978-952-92-8642-3 (PDF)
15 years of IDBM
Markku Salimäki
can you
10 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 11
Dear reader! You are holding a special book in your hand. IDBM papers vol 1. is produced to
celebrate the 15th anniversary of the IDBM Program and to promote our ever increasing research
activities. The book includes a short history of IDBM in this editorial, interview of Professor Yrjö
Sotamaa, a key person behind IDBM, as well as a number of articles exploring various topics
central to IDBM and design management research. The articles are written by our own sta and
a few colleagues sharing our interest in multidisciplinar y learning and business development.
The International Design Business Management Program was ceremoniously started on
the 9th of June, 1995 and the first cohort of some 30 students began their minor studies in
September 1995. The Minister of Education at the time, Mr. Olli-Pekka Heinonen stated in
his greeting that IDBM meets with two focal goals of the Ministry’s strategy for research and
teaching: industrial design and design in general is one of the focal areas and cooperation of
leading universities is supporting the new policy of the Ministry. Minister Heinonen was also
concerned about the employment opportunities of the university graduates and hoped that
multidisciplinary experience would increase graduates’ competitiveness on the job market. As
concrete support, the Ministry had confirmed financing for the IDBM program for five years.
The chair of the event, and the godfather of IDBM, Rector Yrjö Sotamaa from University of Art
and Design Helsinki stated in his speech that interaction with the society and industr y and the
international perspective were the two cornerstones on which IDBM was developed. IDBM was
established by a letter-of-intent type of agreement signed by the rectors of Helsinki School of
Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and University of Art and Design Helsinki, the same
schools that later merged to form the Aalto University. The chair of the IDBM Board, Professor
Reijo Luostarinen from Helsinki School of Economics defined the IDBM mission as follows:
“ability to optimize international business strategy by combining multidisciplinary knowledge”.
In his greeting from the industry, Jussi Karinen, Managing Director of Finn Karelia Virke Oy, was
looking for people who would understand whole industrial processes on top of single functions
and hoped that wider background of studies would produce such experts.
Ten years later, in my column in the Arttu magazine devoted for the 10 years of IDBM, I
expressed my future vision according to which IDBM would be an internationally recognized
fully-fledged Master Program that also conducts high-level research with a wide international
network, and would be financially independent. Today, while we are not financially independent,
we still have quite good resources, but have quite good resources, thanks for being one of the
first functioning joint programs of the Aalto Universit y. And within Aalto, IDBM has transformed
into a fully-fledged Master’s program, and the Minor Program is also still oered.
Our unique approach has also gained wide international recognition during the last 15
years. For example, we were selected as one of the nine global design “Programs to Watch”
by BusinessWeek in October 2009. Our mission is to continue and develop further world-class
learning and research in multidisciplinary, systemic and global business development through
design and technology. We have adopted the international dimension as a core of all our
activities. Over 600 hundred students from some 30 countries have participated in the Program,
and over 150 projects with some 100 partners have been conducted. This year our students are
travelling to countries such as China, Japan, Vietnam, India, USA, and Brazil in their industry
projects. Our key research partners represent leading universities in a number of European and
Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, China, and USA. And representatives of our alumni are
getting more and more visible positions in the industry and societ y.
Going back to the very star t of the Program, I am glad to see that the initial idea really has
endured and strengthened throughout these years. The idea to start IDBM was invented and
discussed as result of one workshop of my own doctoral research. We had invited experts from
dierent countries, both academics and company executives, to discuss and analyze data that I
had collected in 16 Finnish companies. Rector Sotamaa, Professor Ar to Lahti and me found the
seminar so exiting and useful that we decided to start talks that soon led to the establishment
of the IDBM Program. For me, after 20 years industr y experience, the process of starting and
running IDBM has been a wonderful adventure. I could realize my dream of the doctorate which
I received in 2003, I have had the possibilit y to visit several countries, give speeches and
presentations, meet with many interesting professionals and make friends with many. But the
most rewarding thing, after all, has been the possibility to follow and support young and creative
talents on their path from the school to the “real world”.
I would personally like to thank everybody, not to mention any names, within and outside our
schools who have helped us to make IDBM to what it is now. Your help has made my second
professional life possible.
Markku Salimäki
Program Director
Innovation activities
are essentially like
a football game; you
have to play in close
collaboration with
your team mates
in order to score.
Individuals need to
learn collaboration on
an early phase when
they still have open
minds and can absorb
new things.
On a football field with
Yrjö Sotamaa
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
14 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 15
Professor Yrjö Sotamaa was the key person in the establishment of the IDBM Program and
has served as its visible messenger ever since. Sotamaa, the former Rector of University of Art
and Design Helsinki, also acted as the main catalyst in the process that eventually led to the
foundation of Aalto University. On one sunny January afternoon, we sat down at the IDBM Corner
in Otaniemi and took a brief look into the essence of IDBM.
TMK: Let’s go back to the very beginning of IDBM. As one of the original architects of the
Program, what do you see was the starting point? How did you come up with the idea?
YS: I could use the analogy of two sports, ski jumping and football. People often thought that
creating innovations is like ski jumping; who makes the longest jump wins the competition.
Innovation activities, however, are essentially like a football game; you have to play in close
collaboration with your team mates in order to score. And our experiences suggested that the
collaboration between business and design didn’t generally function with this logic of a football
team. Skillful players didn’t play together. On this very practical ground, we then started to
search and build the connection. Individuals need to learn collaboration on an early phase when
they still have open minds and can absorb new things. So that they won’t find out only later in
their lives that this didn’t work at all. I don’t think there was any more specific reason than this.
Of course we also thought that design is a really important factor but a misunderstood one. We
should increase its significance. This was part of the story; we believed in the importance of
design in business. And it turned out to be not a completely wrong belief.
TMK: Was there something favorable in the spirit of that time? Finland was suering
quite a dicult recession in the early 1990s .
YS: Yes, in a way that we were thinking, quite similarly as now, how do we recreate our export,
where could new companies spring from, how to increase employment. The Ministry of Education
had reserved special funding for universities to develop these kinds of things. And I thought this
would be a good way to spend some money. Through this, we received the start-up funding for
IDBM. There also existed a national agenda that encouraged universities to collaborate. There
was a problem that required new solutions.
TMK: Besides IDBM, were there any thoughts about wider collaboration between the
three universities? When was the idea of Aalto University put on the agenda?
YS: Surprisingly as such, there is a long history preceding the Aalto-type cooperation. It started
in the 1960s when Sitra (the Finnish Innovation Fund) was established and funded one national
project in which I also took part. The project concerned developing innovation activities, product
development, design, and environmental issues in Finland. And business development was the
essential part of this. So, in a way we’ve had the idea of this type of collaboration for quite a long
And then again, when IDBM was built, the situation was a bit similar. We should do something
to better utilize the resources that we have in our country. To get people out of their individual
foxholes. And the time window was just right for this. Like it was in the case of the Aalto
University. It was one moment in history when it was possible. At that moment, we had a good
soil for IDBM to grow, and things star ted rolling on ver y well.
TMK: On such a time scale, 15 years starts to look a rather short period. But, in fact, how
much have design business, utilization of design resources, and innovation activities
changed since 1995?
YS: There has been quite a big change. Many issues have aected that. IDBM Program has
been one of those, as it has systematically educated people to utilize each others’ capabilities
and expertise in innovation activities and business development. A large crowd has been formed
that has this knowledge and experience, consists of team players instead of silo people. And
this has an impact on design and business context. And various research programs, like the
ones by Tekes and Academy of Finland, have tried to create new understanding of design. They
have built a new knowledge foundation through means that are dierent from the old model of
practical design work, in which designers do their design work and then tell other designers how
to do it. In this regard, the development of research activities, which started in the early years of
the new millennium with exceptionally large investments, starts to show little by lit tle. IDBM has
been an excellent actor in this development.
TMK: How do you see IDBM in the international education context? We have been
visibly acknowledged for example by BusinessWeek and the Cox Review of the British
Design Council. While you have been travelling in many countries and seen dierent
educational approaches, how unique would you think IDBM has been?
YS: The importance of multidisciplinary collaboration has been recognized in many countries.
But it is not an easy thing to implement. The success of IDBM has been largely grounded on
its functional operation and education concept. There have been right elements and they have
been implemented in a right way: company collaboration, opening up the relevant parts of other
universities’ education oerings, and the team work aspect on which the education is firmly
based on. It is very rarely when you hear students so abundantly praising education, the same
one that is also touted by companies and professors. It’s exceptional. Similar things have been
attempted also elsewhere but without major success. It has been more talking than acting. Many
attempts have started with fast pace but then crashed.
16 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 17
TMK: IDBM research activities have also expanded and gotten more structure along
the way. How do you see the status of multidisciplinary research? The academic world
has traditionally been, and still is , quite diverged into silos. Publication structures
encourage specific thinking. Is there any need for wider perspectives in research?
YS: People have contemplated this challenge of multidisciplinary research in various international
forums. If we think about research funding structures that have been built on the basis of the silo
thinking; there are no committees for multidisciplinary research. Such activities are easily slipped
into some marginal areas that then think that they are not relevant for them. It’s one aspect.
Another one is that all merit systems are also built on the silo model ; publication structures and
career development promote focus. That a person becomes good in some limited area, not a
multidisciplinary expert. It is really challenging to develop multidisciplinary research. But many
people understand that it is important. Future challenges are more complex and multifaceted,
and require that dierent expertise and knowledge is used to solve problems. Holistic thinking, to
which multidisciplinary research relates, is at an early development phase.
TMK: What should be done? Are there any other ways than just keep trying, bang your
head to the wall at times, and wait that the world starts opening up?
YS: I don’t have any other advice than that every communit y needs to fight for its space in the
society, show its usefulness and significance through good results. Then the world opens up.
The principles of scientific communities are so established and deeply rooted by history that
they cannot be easily swayed. And in the academic competition everyone is fighting for positions
and not necessarily interested in how well others succeed. The silo structure is solid, strong
and defensive. By small steps forward, as in the IDBM, is a good way. You have witnessed
yourself how dicult it has been to initiate IDBM research and how prejudiced some established
instances have been towards it. You just have to believe in it and have the strength to carry on.
TMK: It took 15 years to have the IDBM Master P rogram. Perhaps it will take another 15
years to come up with a Doctoral P rogram?
YS: Perhaps. These things are not self -evident. They need defense and long-term support. Of
course one often expects faster changes, but everything is based on the learning processes
of the community. It is a slow process to make the community learn new ways of acting and
requires involvement of new people, change of generations. Changing one’s behavior is slow. But
the fact that IDBM is alive and kicking is a result of its own growth strength. It has such a strong
life thread and vigor to push forward. And it has required lots of support and understanding.
TMK: What would you consider the most important research themes for IDBM in the
YS: Many things should be thought about from an entirely new angle. If only small steps are
taken to address the global problems which really must be solved, we will run out of time. We
need to reconsider innovation activities in ways much more radical than currently. If you get a
new rear view mirror and new t yres to your car, it won’t take you very far. A challenge is to build
up such education and research that enabled major leaps to the future. This concerns, similarly,
the development of new business models, globalization of business, education and research,
and solving the environmental problems. All these entail similar challenges. Some involve big
threats, some face increasing competition. It would be good to be agile. 15 years is already a
long time on this scale.
TMK: Do you think that the multidisciplinary approach generates such agile people
who can think more widely and are able to come up with radical solutions?
YS: Yes. Basic research generates solutions which can open up new development avenues. But
multidisciplinary collaboration is needed to apply this knowledge. This approach produces very
practice-driven people who have the ability to work with other people better than before.
TMK: Of course we also need to remember the central challenge of balancing between
multidisciplinary and specific knowledge. There is a limited need for IDBM people. Do
you think that the need for such generalists is increasing?
YS: We are still talking about relatively small numbers. Big volumes are related to specialist
education, and this will surely continue in the future. But relatively, we need more people that
master well the type of team work that actualizes in football at its best. That has a clear goal,
everyone plays well together, can exploit opportunities, notice opportunities. There is more need
for educating such teams than before. Of course we also need people who master specific
knowledge. In business, technology and design there exists narrow and deep special know-
how that is essential for implementing new things. Like the football team has dierent types of
players: attackers, defenders, a goalkeeper. There are lots of specialists who are masters in their
own role but also have a mastery of playing eectively together. Some are good in passing the
ball, while others are intelligent in finding good spots to score a goal.
18 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 19
TMK: And possibly, some of these team players will then become coaches who are able to
discern if a wrong strategy and tactics are being used. Or if an entirely wrong game is
being played, or on a wrong field. If the whole nature of the game should be altered.
YS: True.
TMK: Finally, do you see particular challenges for IDBM? If we wind forward the next 15
years, what should we have in our hands?
YS: IDBM has now three pillars: design, business, and technology. Should the equation include
also other components like humanities and social sciences? The major developments of the
world concern understanding and changing the behavior of people and communities. Humanities
and social sciences will ha a stronger significance in this context. How would it work, what could
it generate? There will be development in which some people can orientate themselves towards
innovation activities in societal services, which is a grand challenge. The innovation paradigm is
transforming; from a technology -driven activity to socially-led and human-led thinking. Bringing
such elements to IDBM might be a worthy experiment.
TMK: This seems like a fair challenge. Thank you very much for your valuable insights!
YS: My pleasure. 15 years is almost the age of a grown-up. Lastly, I should acknowledge Markku
Salimäki who has of course been the pivotal person in all this. He has brought the IDBM Program
forward in a proficient and nice fashion.
can you
Times of the lone,
heroic eorts of one
individual have mostly
passed, being replaced
by the concerted eorts
of highly qualified
individuals working
together to create
innovation and new
wealth in society.
Designing multidisciplinary
learning for the real world
Mikko Koria
Markku Salimäki
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
Part of this paper appeared in Salimäki, Markku & Koria, Mikko (2010). Design
as an actor in multidisciplinary business development, in Veinola, Anne (ed.)
(2010). Finnish Design Yearbook 2010-11. Helsinki: Design Forum Finland.
pp. 102-105. Used with permission from Design Forum Finland.
22 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 23
In today’s intensively global and competitive business environment, businesses are constantly
on the lookout for novel ways to achieve superior performance and added value for their
customers and stakeholders. Over the last few decades, the general drift has been to include
intangible elements into the previously straightforward palette of oerings in goods and services,
through close interaction with customers. The complexity of creating inimitable constellations
of solutions and oerings has led companies to also examine the benefits that can be gained
through design. Parallel to this, design has also been adopted into novel contexts somewhat
outside of traditional business organizations; social enterprise, services, and complex systems
are prime examples of new areas of engagement.
Re-design of design
In a concurrent development over the last two decades, substantial scientific evidence has
been built up piece by piece on the multiple benefits that design may bring to business and
organizational performance. This often involves better functionality, enhanced usability, delightful
aesthetics, while concurrently also lowering operational and manufacturing costs and developing
improved delivery (as in the case of services) . In the same context, communications that support
the brand and corporate identity have been found to widely benefit from design. In some cases,
companies use designers on the strategic level, with tools in business foresight and market
contexts, while engaging in the analysis of operating environments. Some case studies even
demonstrate that the strategic renewal of the whole firm can be initiated by a design function. On
another level, systems thinking, together with integrated or design thinking have come into play
within the fields of design.
That being said, there is an ongoing (and often heated) debate among managers and
management scholars about the roles and benefits of design. While a common understanding
that design is a good thing has been widely adopted as such, there exists also the observation
that designers, managers and engineers seem to all speak quite dierent languages. At times
major existential questions like “what do we mean by design?” are voiced, together with queries
like “are the benefits found externally on the market or internally as cost savings?”, “is design
a strategic or more operative function?”, “should design be organized internally as an in-house
resource and how, or bought from consultancies?”, and what is the right cost of design?”. So
far, there appear to be no clear rationales or commonly adopted answers to these queries.
The other main observation is that these questions are wicked in nature; they do not really
have a single clear, unequivocal answer, and answers given depend on the background and
design experience of the person responding. The very word ‘design’ is ambiguous: it can
mean all kinds of planning, irrespective who the planner is. There is a distinction between
engineering design and the activities undertaken by industrial designers that emerge from ar t-
based education. Professional skills in engineering design are largely based on mathematics and
natural sciences, and often target optimization of process and output as an overriding aim. In
the context of Finland, industrial designers’ education is strongly based on art, starting from the
selection of students and including the content of early teaching delivery. This fact is reflected in
designers’ way of thinking and approaching problems, which tend more towards aect-oriented
Coalescence of disciplines
If diving into the subject of design-intensive success stories a bit deeper, the prime observation
that emerges is that multidisciplinary teams create success. Times of the lone, heroic eorts of
one individual have mostly passed, being replaced by the concerted eorts of highly qualified
individuals working together to create innovation and new wealth in society. Creating tangible,
replicable and sustainable benefits from design requires multi-, inter- and cross-disciplinary
approaches and ways of working that bring together experts from dierent professional
backgrounds. Teamwork based on designers working with engineers, marketing executives,
lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, and other contributing professionals can make significant
and well recognized contributions to business success.
But this can also lead to failure. While research clearly points to the understanding that high
value is clearly created through multidisciplinary approaches, there is also the downside. The
lowest value is also produced by heterogeneous teams, and these outcomes clearly outnumber
the high value ones. In other words, multidisciplinary teams more often fail than succeed in
achieving excellence. This indicates that just bringing dierent professionals together is not
enough; one has to know how to train and manage the teams.
At the same time, the global economy also has implications : the teams working in
transnational circumstances are most of ten multicultural in nature. This is clearly observable in
globally oriented business enterprises and international organizations. On the sur face, the eect
of multiculturality appears to be similar to that of multiple professional backgrounds: significant
gains can be obtained, provided individuals are able to work together and cross-fertilize ideas
without falling into dysfunctional and non-creative abrasion.
Thus, we recognize that design is able to add exceptional value to business, while noting that
this is mainly achievable through multidisciplinary approaches, often with individuals that have
diverse cultural backgrounds. But we also know that various professional groups speak dierent
languages. The crucial question then becomes: how would one manage multidisciplinarity so
that one would not fall into the low outcome, low productivity traps? And especially in the context
of higher education, how would one teach multidisciplinary skills and competence? Especially
when they contain multicultural dimensions?
24 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 25
The IDBM exploration
In order to come to grips with the development of the needed abilities required to create
exceptional value within design intensive global businesses, we examine the learning that we
have gained over the last 15 years from running the International Design Business Management
(IDBM) program, first as a joint initiative of Helsinki School of Economics, University of Art and
Design Helsinki and Helsinki University of Technology, and now within the context of the new
Aalto University.
IDBM aims to develop world-class multidisciplinary and systemic research and learning in
global business development through design and technology. The program builds on the premise
that students originating from dierent schools have distinct worldviews, capabilities and skills
that are linked to their institutional backgrounds; this variance underpins the creative abrasion
that enables innovation. Since 1995, IDBM has educated over six hundred M.Sc. level students
from over twenty countries, with over hundred and fifty completed industry projects with some
100 enterprise partners, of both Finnish and foreign origin.
The IDBM program is a two year masters degree, which includes, among others, an eight-
month long learning-by-doing (embedding both practice and project based learning) industry
project with a real-life business enterprise setting, with multidisciplinary student teams that
are equally balanced in terms of business, design and engineering students, coached by
multidisciplinary faculty and expert industry tutors; student team-work based NPD projects with
rapid prototyping of actual products; multiple business and design case studies; and finally
relevant elective course work in business studies, art and design, and engineering. Within the
program, attention has been directed towards the creation of an IDBM community of practice
(through the IDBM Club structure), which has helped to link the alumni to the program, in a loose
and informal fashion.
The essential element in the program is the notion of multidisciplinarity. The program also
seeks complementarities between industr y projects, research and learning. Projects have
involved the development of new business concepts, services or products, as well as translating
corporate strategy to visible and tangible solutions, commercializing novel technologies, and
changing existing business to suit oncoming novelty, to name a few. The original international
context has naturally evolved into a global one, embedding in it the idea of cross-cultural activity
(as an example, industry projects are done with partners from Vietnam, China, India and Brazil,
in addition to Nordic organizations) . The systemic nature of the initiatives is embedded in the
very nature of the program and the idea of business development implies a future orientation and
learning in strategic foresight.
In pursuit for unified tempo
Furthermore, in order to achieve coherence across the development of systemic and
multidisciplinary competence development, IDBM uses an approach consisting of five major
dimensions: tools, environment, management, process, organization (TEMPO) . The Tools
dimension involves developing a series of instruments that support multidisciplinary and systemic
learning and research. First and foremost, project management emerges as a core competence
that is seen to be both a means and an end. Project management is not only a tool but also an
object of research within IDBM.
On another level, it is argued that coherence in programs such as the IDBM demands
understanding of how creative Environments are built up and sustained. Again, this is both a
means and an end: creating positive environments is essential for both students and knowledge
intensive enterprises. The Management dimension of TEMPO covers wide issues from the
perspective of business management, ranging from functions such as HR, marketing, finance,
also covering entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial aspects of business, and covering, among
other things, leadership and strategic planning and management.
A clear future orientation is observable in the Process dimension. New ideas in business,
services and products are the currency of business development; this is where the
multidisciplinary and systemic skills emerge as they key competence that drives development.
Finally, enabling innovation in Organizations is a key dimension of the program. The TEMPO
elements enable students to cover a wide area of elements that contribute to innovation in social,
virtual and physical dimensions.
In order to achieve systemic and integrative abilities, IDBM is also concerned with the
development of the abilities to undertake practical processes for creatively resolving complex
problems, joining empathy and aect with rational choices to meet user needs and drive
business success. The value of this “design thinking” is well recognized in recent research and
literature; the key challenge is linked to diusing best multidisciplinary practices while adopting
design thinking within business enterprises. In practice this means adopting a common language
in multisdisciplinary teams, while maintaining distinct professional profiles. The language barriers
created by distinct professional backgrounds need to be overcome before any diusion is
eective. The academic year long industry project exposes students to the complexities of the
business environment, forcing them to live with high degrees of real ambiguity and to develop
understanding and sense -making strategies in complex, non-linear situations that may be also
filled with non-technical agendas and alternative logical frames of thinking. But this exposure is
also safe and secure, as it is mediated through a learning environment, with neutral facult y and
industry coaches, allowing (and demanding) experimentation and occasional failure.
Management by design
In essence, developing a deeper understanding of the elements of management is highly
beneficial in the task of creating a common language. Each profession has somewhat distinct
practices in terms of planning their activities; engineering tends towards the linear model,
while designers tend to an iterative planning process, where many levels of observation exist
concurrently. In terms of implementation, professionals have varying strategies, ranging from
hands-o to hands -on approaches, with great dierences in terms of the roles assumed.
Well executed planning and implementation processes are the key elements of successful
management. As the third, control is essential to finding a common language. This is based on
26 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 27
the observation that in today’s hectic business environment, the three elements of management
do not occur one after the other but concurrently. This means that we control all the time the
planning and implementation as an iterative circle, and the ways and means through which
this control is done (with its underlying assumptions) shapes the planning and implementation
processes and thus also the contact between professions. Adopting design thinking implies
furthermore also adopting agility as a driving principle in business enterprise. Professionals adopt
control mindsets in the initial stages their studies, and if we wish to influence this development in
order to develop integrative, systemic, and multidisciplinary mindsets, we must learn the control
worldviews of other professions early on, before full sedimentation of professional values has
In other words, future eective multidisciplinary professionals must be introduced as early
as possible to the mindsets of other future professionals. This should occur in deep interaction,
through practice-based learning in real life settings, filled with “secure” ambiguity and significant
challenges, so that they can acquire understanding of how others think and exercise control
over their doings. This, we argue, creates insights that are valuable throughout life and enable
excellence in business through multidisciplinary thinking. And this is what the IDBM program is
all about.
can you
Greetings for
can you
an industry?
30 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 31
“Since its establishment the IDBM has been
a successful model of collaboration platform
between universities and industries with the
unique multidisciplinary approach.”
Mikio Yamashita, CEO,
Villa Tosca DMC Japan Inc.
Professor, Takarazuka University,
Graduate School
“I look upon IDBM as a sibling. Four years ago,
when we went around the world to see where
we could find inspiration and experiences for
our new master program in Business & Design
at Gothenburg University, we visited about
a dozen schools. But nowhere did we find
anything like what we wanted to have. I think
that is rather normal in academia, because
every university already has its own world
that something new needs be integrated into.
However, we found a sibling that we liked and
respected and with whom we have had a good
collaboration ever since – and that is IDBM.
What I especially like is close collaboration
with industry. Similar to IDBM believe that
design education and research do benefit
from intense cooperation and experimentation.
Design research – and design management
research as well is not only about studying
how things are but very much also how
creating a scenario about how things could
be, as Herbert Simon put it in 1966. And it
is also reflecting about what is happening. To
me that reflection is the core of design and
design management research. But you need
something interesting to reflect about. And
that is what I regard IDBM to have. However,
there is one thing with multidisciplinary
research that is important to be aware of –
that you cannot avoid being marginalized. You
can never become a really good mainstream
researcher if you blend with other disciplines.
Therefore, I do have one piece of advice to
those who like IDBM – are situated within
a multidisciplinary research area: Be aware
that we are a minority and that this needs a
paradoxical combination of humbleness and
Professor Ulla Johansson
University of Gothenburg, Business &
Design Lab
“I became acquainted with the IDBM Program
in 1997 when I was working as Design Manager
at Nissan Motor Company, which led to deeper
collaboration and also helped me to receive
the Doctor’s Degree at TKK in 2000. Along
with this process and my later involvement
with this distinctive interdisciplinary Program, I
am convinced by the approach by which IDBM
guides students, researchers and companies
to create innovative businesses.”
Professor Mikio Fujito
Kyoto Institute of Technology
“Teaching IDBM students has been the most
enjoyable and stimulating experience.”
Dr. Brigitte Borja de Mozota
Director of Academic Research, Parsons
Paris School of Art + Design
“IDBM has contributed well to a vision that
brought growth and innovation in Finland in
a way that was admired by many. It definitely
means training and materialization of new
concepts and products in a cross-disciplinary
context. The fact that the Aalto University also
rests on the same pillars of design, technology,
and business is really a “cadeau” to the team.
Yet, there may be more to come. We may be
facing a new era, where the old regime of mass
production, consumption, and communication
may be replaced by a knowledge society. It
does not look like an easy challenge, but the
IDBM structure may be what is needed with its
focus on material production, innovation and
cross-disciplinary collaboration. As we have
seen many times before, visionary thinkers of
the enlightenment and their predecessors and
followers have seen this coming. Thinkers like
Diderot and D’Alembert understood well that
the knowledge of both the brain and the hand
had to go together to bring enlightenment.
Inspired by Spinoza’s reach to the old Greek
system of coherent, integrated and incisive
system did they create a document of
knowledge combined with visions for what was
required of a society to build on this. Later
thinkers like Kropotkin and Arendt stressed
that it was through the mutual adjustments
in work related contexts that the civil society
had to emerge, not through a “contract” where
the population votes, but otherwise passively
watches the political spin from a distance. By
showing the way, IDBM can bring people, work
and growth to the core of society.”
Professor Tore Kristensen
Copenhagen Business School
“For a few years now IDBM has become my
second academic home. At some point, I
was teaching design management more in
Helsinki than in Milano, where my primary
aliation is. And even now the content of
my sessions is constantly evolving as, in
Helsinki, I refine my classes, cases, and
discussions first experimented in Milano, and
vice versa. Indeed, throughout these years,
my understanding of design and design
management has truly benefited from exposure
to the varied perspectives of IDBM students,
and the wise pragmatism of the IDBM sta.
You often hear about the importance of
building joint programs that encourage the
collaboration between future designers,
managers, and engineers. Well, IDBM has
done it for a long time. And it has done it very
well. This ver y book, together with the wide
network of proud former students and the
strong international reputation of the program,
attest to the capacit y of the IDBM people to
build, over the years, a program that balances
conceptual rigor, empirical grounding, and –
what’s more important – practical relevance.
What makes IDBM special for me, though, is
also the warmth that surrounds me every time
I come to Helsinki. More than a program, IDBM
feels like a family to me. IDBM is an impossible
dream built magnificently. I am looking forward
to the next fifteen years!”
Professor Davide Ravasi
Bocconi University, Milan
32 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 33
of Bauhaus and the traditions of ancient Athens
by opening the academic playfield for creative
“While industry demands ability to work in
multifunctional teams and preaches things
that do not happen inside the box, educational
institutions are still stuck in administrative
and bureaucratic constraints failing to inspire
academics to fully explore their potential. IDBM
strives for tearing down these constraints, and
oers students the opportunity to build on their
capabilities; by creating an environment that
enables mutual inspiration.”
“IDBM is a good start to explore the benefit
and eectiveness of interdisciplinary creative
collaboration. The way we work should always
be adjusted so that the best result can be
achieved. We are still learning.”
“I am not punished for being a kid again.”
“IDBM brings a sense of intimacy from being
inspired by other people. Maybe not necessary
to knowledge or education, just something that
needs to happen now.”
“IDBM is a studying environment that supports
us in becoming what we were meant to be.”
IDBM is a boot camp of design thinking. If
you want to live in crossroads of design and
business choose IDBM.”
“IDBM is something I never expected from
school; a chance to work with dierent kinds
of people from various background, but who all
have one thing in common: Enthusiasm to learn
new things and challenge the old ways.”
“A creative bunch of talented people with
dierent backgrounds can open your mind like
no other institution could. It is like the ride of a life
time, seat belt unfastened.”
“For me, one of the most important things
about IDBM has been to get to know dierent
backgrounds and approaches better. That has
helped me understand where we stand and find
common ground, communicate and work better
“Most schools destroy creativity – IDBM does not!”
“1+1+1 > 100”
“The course is what I expected and more, but the
real value is to be found in the community.
The inspiration of motivation from people that
challenge and push each other; I feel like we
are all shaping this, I can see myself in this, I
see everyone in this. “
IDBM 2010-2011 students
“I think the overall experience of working with
dierent kind of persons helped me to learn
about myself and to elaborate my team working.
It has also been very useful to show that you
have experience in working with people from
dierent areas. It gives you a possibility to
show that you are able to do so also in the real
working life.”
“My background is in business. IDBM has
opened doors for working in more creative
industries like advertising, design, technology.”
“I ended up as a conceptual designer for
internet services, and my job requires daily
interaction both with visual and technical people.
Studying just marketing would not have opened
these doors.”
“Working as entrepreneur you need variety
of skills and the career is what you make of it.
Through studying in IDBM I’ve learned a lot of
useful things way beyond my own department.”
“I understand much better how much I need
experts of other fields (and how much I should
respect their professional skills) in addition to
engineering to successfully carry out projects
and new product development. Cross-
scientific groups really have forced me to better
“It is easy to recommend IDBM to anyone
interested in internationalization and design.”
“Through IDBM my view on the concept of
design itself was redefined. It was no longer
about products as object, but the whole network
of relationships and connections between the
people and of course products too.”
“The fact that the IDBM program is becoming
more and more well known has opened doors
and initiated interesting discussions.”
“The people I have learned to know in the
IDBM Alumni have put me into contact with
opportunities in both business and foreign
academic institutions I wouldn’t have dreamed
of before the IDBM program.”
“Design management positions were open for
me thanks to the program that wouldn’t be
possible for junior designers.”
IDBM Alumni (from survey 2010)
“IDBM opened my eyes to new things and
opportunities and to look at them from dierent
perspectives. There are a lot of things to learn
from each other and that’s´ what we´re doing.
It is challenging, but extremely interesting.”
“IDBM has made think dierently and in a more
holistic way on business; also the company
strategy approach created a good platform for
jumping o from educational life.”
“IDBM is taking what is essential for future and
bringing it together today to guide students
from dierent backgrounds of culture and
discipline down the path towards success. You
break the boundaries. Not only do you learn,
grow and develop, but you get inspired… You
“IDBM reaches beyond the modern schooling
system by enabling students to flourish within
broader fields of science and culture. In a way
it looks back at the interdisciplinary principles
Introduction to
IDBM research
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
can you
a process?
36 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 37
In addition to mastering the graduate-level program and practice-based industry projects,
IDBM has carried out its own research and participated in the development of the international
community in design management research. Since the beginning of the Program, dierent
research activities have emerged, including numerous master theses and special reports
conducted within the IDBM sphere, let alone the research components of the industry projects.
The doctoral theses by the editors of this book, Markku Salimäki (2003, HSE), myself (2004,
TaiK), and Mikko Koria (2009, HSE) have formed the foundation of IDBM research on the
doctoral level. Preceding them, Eija Leiviskä collected data for his PhD (2001, HSE) by studying
creative interdisciplinarity within IDBM student projects.
The more extensive and systematic development of IDBM research activities started in
2007 as part of the wider evolution towards the new version of IDBM within the incipient Aalto
University. Since that, we have been able to substantially increase our research activities, as
a number of new projects have been initiated and conducted. The collection of recent IDBM
publications consists of around 60 articles in journals, conferences, books, and other media
(see the list at the end of the book) .
In line with the generic goals of the Program, IDBM research has the aim to generate systemic
and multidisciplinary knowledge applicable to global business development that is design- and
technology-intensive. IDBM functions on the cross-point of disciplines, integrating relevant parts
of existing disciplinary views and epistemologies, and developing new theoretical and empirical
perspectives on the multidisciplinary interaction. IDBM research is strongly based on empirical
data and industry interaction. It nurtures an explorative, creative, and open-minded approach
in order to be agile and reactive towards emerging phenomena within design and creative
Research themes and projects
IDBM Research is constructed around (but not limited to) three main research themes:
1. Design management, strategic knowledge (Why?)
t Subtopics: strategic knowledge applied to the management of design and product
development, design’s role as competitive element, the benefits of design (eectiveness
and eciency), design thinking, the philosophy of science of multidisciplinar y research,
design and marketing, multicultural design management, design and innovations.
2. Integrated multi- and interdisciplinary processes in design, business and technology,
process knowledge (How?)
t Subtopics: team eectiveness, creative processes, multidisciplinary learning and team
work, cultural knowledge and sensitivity, multidisciplinary pedagogy (teaching and
learning), multidisciplinary and cultural innovation processes.
3. Design for brand and product identity, product knowledge (What?)
t Subtopics: strategic brand and product identity, visual design management, design
semantics, concept development, design and brand platforms.
At the time of this publication, three externally funded IDBM research projects are in
progress. All of them comprise a mixture of post-doc, doctoral, and master level research and
active industry collaboration.
The “VIP - Messenger Package” project (2008-2011), funded by Tekes - the Finnish
Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation and the par ticipating companies, is conducted
in collaboration with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland (project coordinator) and the
Association of Packaging Technology and Research (PTR). VIP project aims to provide solutions
and guidelines for more ecient and intensive package communication. Focus is on integrating
technology, marketing and design expertise and knowhow, and particularly on the communicative
and strategic aspects of package design. Strategic branding and visual communication have
been the specific themes in the IDBM part of the project. Visual communication in the case of
selected package designs has been analyzed and new innovative package solutions created
during the project.
“BogFires - Best practices of globalization in Finnish music export” (2008-2012) is a project
funded by the Academy of Finland ( It investigates the export
and globalization structures and practices of Finnish rock bands, with a particular focus on
the phenomenon of Finnish metal in international markets. The conceptual framework builds on
research literatures in international business and entrepreneurship, visual brand management,
and design theory, as well as sociology and cultural export. BogFires project has brought
valuable insights to the core areas of IDBM, design and design management, from another
creative field.
“EDEST - Employment of Design Strategies” (2010-2012) is the latest IDBM research
endeavor, funded by Tekes and the participating companies. EDEST analyzes the practices and
structures of design management in selected companies on both organizational and process
level, and by doing so aims to open new insights into strategic use of design in business.
A number of doctoral and master theses are also in progress in dierent Aalto schools,
supervised and/or mentored by the IDBM sta. We are also engaged in research activities with
our international research partners, particularly in Europe and Asia. IDBM has adopted an active
role in developing the international research community within design management and other
multidisciplinary research fields. Collaboration with partner universities occurs on various levels,
including information exchange, joint research projects, joint events, researcher exchange,
lecturer exchange, visiting professorships, to name a few. In addition to generating research,
our idea is to provide an open arena for discussion and development. An example of such a
community service is the EDESMAN (European Design Management) network that was initiated
38 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 39
in close collaboration with our partners and has been concretized in three international meetings
(2008 Helsinki, 2009 Gothenburg, 2010 London) and increased research collaboration between
the partners.
Papers in this book
To reflect the various themes of IDBM-related research, we have compiled a collection of
eight specific research papers in this book. These articles have been writ ten both by the IDBM
sta and a few research colleagues of ours. This paper collection doesn’t necessarily give a
comprehensive overview of all the areas and specific topics that we and our colleagues have
been scavenging in our various projects. The idea was neither to include finished “high-profile”
papers in this very book, but merely to select texts that incorporate themes that, we think, are
highly topical in the IDBM context and can stir up some interesting debate and new ideas.
The first three papers explore the topics of design management, strategy, innovation, and
design thinking, all of which are central to the first research theme of IDBM. Dr. Brigitte Borja de
Mozota from Parsons Paris School of Art and Design discusses the transition that is taking place
regarding the role and utilization of design in companies and the society. According to her, this
shift calls for new types of skills in design profession and new openings in design management
research. The strategic view of design in business is also accentuated by the exploded discourse
around the notion of design thinking. Design thinking, as such, has various interpretations and
streams of thoughts, which has been identified by Lotta Hassi and Miko Laakso in their article.
Their work is partly based on a project conducted in IDBM as an attempt to examine and
concretize this important yet disorderly concept. The topic has also been a key point of interest
for Professors Ulla Johansson and Jill Woodilla from the Business & Design Lab in the University
of Gothenburg. They explore and integrate ideas from three disciplines that influence design
management: strategy as the managerial framework, innovation as the marketplace imperative,
and design thinking as a way of problem solving.
As an example of the second main theme of IDBM research, multidisciplinary teamwork, two
articles by our own IDBM sta are included. The paper by Daniel Gra, Mikko Koria and me
tackles the challenge of cross -functional teamwork by building a tentative theoretical model of
team eectiveness on the basis of management literature. In the following paper, Sanna Heiniö
and I discuss how teamwork and project management were experimented through the approach
of problem-based learning in a package design development as part of our VIP project. The
thematic focus of the package project was on visual communication; how to create and nurture
strong brand identities through visual product design. Regardless of the quite obvious dierences
between the fields of package design and music, such topic of visual identity building is also
central to our BogFires project. Our explorations in visual narration practices in Finnish heavy
metal bands are briefly discussed in the sixth article that I wrote together with Professor Antti
Ainamo from the University of Turku. VIP and BogFires projects, and these two articles in the
book, are examples of our intriguing expeditions within the third research theme of IDBM.
Next, Professor Tore Kristensen from Copenhagen Business School provides us with an
example of the topical themes of co-creation and co-design that are approached within one
of his research areas. The paper scrutinizes how consumers modify their environments in a
variety of means to improve their experience of living. Our colleagues Professor Davide Ravasi
from Bocconi University in Milano and Ileana Stigliani from Imperial College in London have the
last word, but surely not the least one, by reporting on their extensive study of Italian design
consultancies. The paper reveals the practices by which dierent types of design consultancies
operate in terms of their collaboration with clients.
We hope that IDBM papers vol 1, for its part, advances our journey towards a more
comprehensive understanding of multidisciplinary knowledge and more polymorphous research
openings in design management. This book marks a shift to a new phase within the IDBM
Program and is a milestone on the path of IDBM research, but, most of all, it was put together to
celebrate the 15th Anniversary of the Program. Please feel free to be inspired!
Design is now
embedded in
organizations and
institutions, and in
innovation teams.
Consequently, design
has become an activity
that is more process-
oriented and less
project-driven. Design
creates substantial
and financial value for
organizations, cities,
regions and countries,
and this value can be
measured.Part of the paper was previously used for a speech in the
International Design Management Research Seminar
at Tokyo University on July 30 2010.
Brigitte Borja de Mozota
Strategic view of design in business
Exploring the value of designer skills
in our 21st century economy
42 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 43
Single loop design
Double loop design
Changes Design in macro economy Design in organizational
Design management context Design profession
Creative industry
Design Index
Managerial DM
Meta design management
Business development
Designers have consistently adapted their practices to the changes of environmental
contexts with the aim to always invent a better future through artifacts. Historically, whenever the
environment has changed, the design activity has reacted by inventing new design disciplines.
The recent invention of “service design “or “design thinking” are examples of the design
profession’s adaptive strategy. But the design activity is now mature enough to define itself
also through its specific skills in our society and economy rather than just through its creative
Because of this major shift towards a skills driven design definition, the design research
and design management communities should focus on two major changes. First, the end of
the “design planet” has its implications on the aspects of design as an industry, design as a
profession, design as a function of organization, and design as value in the intangible economy.
Second, the emergence of “design as core competency” suggests that the problems managers
have to face are beyond traditional design territory and require specific design skills.
The end of the “design planet”
Traditionally, designers have worked as free lancers or in design consultancies. Many
designers are now working in organizations for a design department that is also working with
outside design experts. Recognition of design value in macro economy results to a major change
in designers’ employment situations. New hybrid situations emerge.
Design is now embedded in organizations and institutions, and in innovation teams. Therefore,
it is not anymore limited to the elitist “design planet” with design schools and design awards.
Consequently, design has become an activity that is more process-oriented and less project-
driven; and designers are organizing their profession as an industr y among the creative fields.
These changes in the design activity also highlight the dual nature of design management as a
“single loop” and “double loop” activity (see table 1).
Through my own research on European SME’s, the “Designence™” design management
value model, evidence has emerged to show that design creates value on products, employees
and organization through dierentiation, coordination and transformation. Design creates
substantial and financial value for organizations, cities, regions and countries, and this value can
be measured. The design activity is an active part of the intangible assets of a country, a city
and a corporation. Design assessment tools measure design value through customer capital,
brand capital, human capital, organizational capital, and technological capital [3]. Such shift
for design management research also aects education, as new approaches are required to
educate designers to become “designpreneurs” or “intrapreneurs”.
The change requires more macroeconomic research openings and precise actions such as:
t Creating a design Index or national observatory of design value in macro economy that
aggregates statistics about the profession.
t Develop benchmark studies between creative industries on common issues such as
comparing managing creativity in the film, multimedia, publicit y, or design industries.
t Network with researchers and auditors working on the implementation of the new
accounting standards with design included in intangible assets.
When the socio- technical system in society is stable, industry trajectories, infrastructures,
institutions, culture, customers’ preferences, scientific knowledge, and technology are all on
the same line. But we are living in a period of transition where these trajectories are missing
coherence. Through multiple niche innovations that are all experimentations and prototypes of the
new world, the trajectories start to diverge. It will take a certain time for all these experimentations
to generate a system that regulates itself on new patterns and directing diagrams.
Hence, we live in an economy of paradox and of coexistence of a new system and the old
one. A new form of hybrid democracy is building up. The services economy is helping in the
mutation towards an “economy of the individual“ that is designed for individual persons, not the
industries. In this new world, it is “you“ who has the power. Accordingly, the old systems have
to be reconsidered from “your viewpoint“, and new interfaces have to be invented. Needs and
desires are analyzed starting from the perspective of an individual and the actors are networking
in order to satisf y that individual. The frontiers between industries are blurring because we are
thinking more by “activit y” rather than by “industry”.
Designer skills for transition economy
Through holistic or systemic thinking, the designer is able to analyze the aspirations of
each individual actor deeply and with empathy. Such thinking can help inventing “myths” or an
ideal system for one activity or one actor. And this system will confront itself with the present
institutions and the reality of existing net works. An example, our research Project FIDJI (2010)
with a consor tium of French banks & insurance companies resulted in substantially increased
user-oriented and co-design processes in these companies, which changed the whole vision of
these industries in terms of their customer relationships.
In summary, this transition economy needs both global vision and an ability to manage the
paradox (see table 2) . It is not only the services industries but all the companies that have to
Table 1: Single and double loop design management.
44 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 45
Our “complexity economy” means adopting this “down-up” person-centric attitude. This is the
reason for the emergence of design thinking and user-driven design success; their empathetic
attitude gives designers new roles. Designers’ research skills and attitudes mean that the design
profession can embrace larger issues such as social innovation and, as such, invent new
business models. Designers and strategists share a similar entrepreneurial spirit .
Designer skills define the design profession
This design management system is based on design viewed as a human activity with specific
skills for cultural innovation and user oriented innovation. Table 3 presents a synthesis of
designer skills, and the skills (in italics) that are the most relevant ones to our present context.
So the most important skills that designers should have include risk taking, experimentation,
team work ability, narrative building, holistic thinking, and open-mindedness to transcend the
existing barriers of industrial “silos”. Because of the contextual macroeconomic changes and
the raise of the individual macro economy, the importance of understanding user insights is
becoming even more strategic for the organization. User-oriented design and ”design for all
services are essential for this type of innovation.
In this transitional economy, where any individual on the Internet is challenging the role of
institutions to regulate the economy, new skills are needed to innovate in the organization’s
relationship to the world. Design activity becomes an agent of change for prototyping the new
think product and services in integration. Organizations are bound to augment their flexibility in
order to personalize customer relationships and to empower the sta that is in direct contact
with the clients. Similarly, public services and governments institutions must inverse the pyramid
and provide service to the client. All public sectors are aected by this change towards user
oriented interface, including postal service, telecommunications, transport, employment search,
public health, and even prisons.
Consequently, in management, this transition economy is forcing us to reinvent a new way to
manage the transition, and to change the governance of innovation. It is necessary to experiment
an interactive “process -oriented approach” to management and innovation and this is coherent
with the design profession and its thinking mode [10] .
Multidisciplinary innovation management
Innovation follows user-oriented design that improves simultaneously product and process
(figure 1). This user focus changes traditional “stop/go“-innovation models, because it
necessitates the collaboration of multiple experts. Service design is rather a new way to think,
merged with increasingly discussed “design thinking” or holistic thinking. And this thinking
is an actor for change in organizations in terms of their innovation management. This is also
acknowledged in some multidisciplinary education programs such as IDBM in the Aalto
Therefore, I am – as a person, an individual human being devoted to reconstruct many
dierent industries, and promote alliances between traditionally competing actors. Consequently,
in this individual “down-up” economy, the brand power of organizations is fundamental in
shaping our mental images that this brand, rather than another brand, is best for me regardless
of whatever product or services it oers. The power is in “me” as a human being, with the power
of individual choice for “my“ brands.
industries (e.g.
automotive and
consumer goods
Services industries
(e.g. hotels)
Public service
& Government
institutions (e.g.
health sector)
New service
industries (e.g.
person to person
tCreate empathy
with the client
tThink product &
tMake the quality
of service
through services
tInverse the
tInnovate by
system thinking
tBe user-oriented
Table 2: Transition towards service integration in all industries.
Figure 1: User oriented design innovation model [10].
tInformation integration / co-
tCommon reference point /
shared metrics
tVisualization / conceptualization
tFrom aligement
tTransmutation of design
tTechnology translation
tAdoption characteristics
tValue delivery
tCognitive and experimental
46 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 47
socio-technical system that has to be invented, as well as for helping companies manage the
transition between the old, and the emerging socio-technical systems.
The recognition of design as a function in the organization now justifies a design focus
in management and the question of design’s role in organizational design and strategy
development. Going back to table 1, this is called double loop design management. Strategic
development of unique competitive advantage for a company portfolio in a specific industry is
shifting from external “strategy as fit” (according to Michael Porter’s value chain) to “strategy as
discourse” or “sense building”, a “rhetoric view of strategy”. And further to a “resource -based
view” of strategy focused on building a unique competitive advantage through selected internal
core competencies.
Design management is shifting also from merely designing the product portfolio or product
strategy to both a holistic “design you can see” multidisciplinary process attitude and to a
”design you can’t see” attitude. In this view, design is a core competency for a country, city,
institution, and company, and embedded in knowledge and intangible assets.
One of the major blank spots on the innovation management map of most companies is
inventing the conceptual aspect of company strategy. “The term conceptual is concerned less
with merely developing abstract ideas for the future… than with tr ying out abstract strategies
by actually putting them into practice and translating them into tangible product and ser vice
concepts “[6] . Decision makers have to face specific challenges now such as managing
complexity, globalization and innovation, process oriented companies, socially responsible
enterprises where designers skills can help [7] .
Design management research
The shift also creates challenges for research. Design management research should take part
and leadership in the debate on “organization as design “launched by organization science
journal [9] and on” organization studies as a science for design” by organization studies journal
[8]. In my opinion, there are three major routes on which design management research can
create new value: (1) Managerial route, (2) Meta route, (3) New business model route.
The managerial route. The concepts and values of designer skills need to be better
understood in order to apply a design approach outside the traditional boundaries. “Words make
worlds”, a new vocabulary for management can emerge with design skills: “Agonize, artifact,
balance, borrow, boundary object, circulation, client, collaboration, constraint, cr ystallize, default,
dialogue, drawing, emotion, experiment, fit, form, functional, gesture, goal, groundlessness,
handrail, improvise, iteration, liquid, love, model, opportunistic, path creating, path dependent,
place holder, play, project, prototype, recycle ,repertoire, space, study, tension, vocabulary”[1].
The Meta route. Fundamentally ,the conventional thinker welcomes the world as it is. The
integrative thinker welcomes the challenge of shaping the world as it might be. A “meta design”
experience is needed: “design strategy as discourse”. The “experience economy” is where new
“Meta design” disciplines are needed, to help navigate between existing design-discipline silos.
This “Meta design” direction is an adaptation of multidisciplinary design approach.
Strategy as language provokes the formation of mental images of the reality. Interpretive
managers question the boundaries. In an uncertain environment, conversation becomes more
important than closure. Conversation with the market and the consumer is needed, and a
company needs to be both an eective listener and an active par ticipant in the conversation
[2 p. 150 ].
The cognitive approach to strategy develops this idea that a company has access to its
environment through a selection of representations or mental images of this environment.
Postmodern organizations are collages that value creativity. Managers in postmodern
organizations are reinventing a management that enhances autonomy and individual creativity.
Design managers in postmodern organizations should enhance autonomy and individual creativity:
Design process Risk-taking
Practical design
Drawing ability
Material Originality Creative techniques
Lateral thinking
Market Anticipating future
Forward thinking
Commercial skills Logical thinking
Technology Proactive in
Communication skills
(Presentation and
report writing)
Structuring problems
User awareness Open-minded Computer skills Scenario building
Culture Understanding
Design for
Holistic thinking
Aesthetic awareness Focusing on
Project management Intuitive thinking &
Human factors Attention to detail Optimization Consumer and
stakeholder needs
Learning from
Team work Human empathy
Table 3: Designer skills needed in the transitional economy (the most relevant ones are marked with italics).
48 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 49
co-design, user-centered design, inclusive design, etc. The postmodern design manager is seen
as an artist or a theorist who focuses on creativity, freedom and individual responsibility. For
example, the design manager focuses on self-entrepreneurship, on deconstructing hierarchical
power, through the galaxy of projects. Design is now valued as giving voice to silence, voice to
previously overlooked or unheard minorities : gender, disabled persons, and employees.
The new business model route. Emanating from a resource-based perspective, as well as
a collective-learning objective, another view of strategy focuses on the internal development, but
also on pushing the traditional boundaries of organizations through network management (see
figure 2) . A resource refers an asset or input to production that an organization owns, controls,
or has access to on a semi-permanent basis. Resource-based management highlights how the
possession of internal, valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable resources may result in
sustained superior performance.
The resource-based view emphasizes the impor tance of the invisible internal assets such
as the skills and values, and consequently regards design process as “design you can’t see”.
Design skills are resources and core competency for reinventing new business models. Rather
than seeing the present system as more complex, it is the system that has to be reinvented.
New business models and new industries will emerge that will change the balance of our socio-
technical system within the shift in strategy definition [5].
What has changed in management is the emergence of a mental image of design as a
horizontal function in organizations and institutions. Design management is based on skills,
process, awareness, research, and knowledge for improving organizations’ capital – whether
human, knowledge, cultural, or technological (S.P.A.R.K model of Design Management, [4]) .
Managing design as a core competency is a high-risk venture and requires a long -term
vision. Therefore, many companies have been reluctant to invest in building design capabilities.
There exist, however, a number of companies that have understood that building a sustainable,
competitive advantage requires adopting a long-term resource view of design management in
order to improve the probability of success in the present chaotic business environment.
Managers have to integrate design theories in their organizational theories, and see
the “design science”, design methods and conceptual models, as skills for designing their
organizational platforms, structures and organizational systems. This is a challenge for design
education. Designers have to reinvent the guilds, and to become more eective entrepreneurs in
order to help society at large to face the changes in this transitional period bet ween t wo socio-
technical systems. They also have to re -design their profession as part of the creative industries.
[1] Boland R. & Collopy F. (eds.) (2004). Managing as designing. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford university Press.
[2] Borja de Mozota, B. (2003). Design management. New York: Allworth Press.
[3] Borja de Mozota, B. (2006). The four powers of design: A value model in Design Management.Design
Management Review, Vol 17 Spring 2006. pp 42-53.
[4] Borja de Mozota B. & Hua, D. (2009). Towards a theory of Design Management: can theoretical models define
its territory? A transcultural conversation between design and business. D2B2, Design to Business conference,
April 23-26 2009. Beijing China.
[5] Borja de Mozota B. & Kim, B.Y. (2009). Managing Design as a Core Competency: Lessons from Seven Korean
companies. Design Management Review, Vol 20 No 2. pp. 66-76.
[6] Herrmann C. &Moeller G. (2009). Design Governance. Hyderabad, India: Icfai University Press .
[7] Inns T. (ed.)(2007) Designing for the 21stcentury: interdisciplinary questions and insights. Aldershot, UK:
[8] Jelinek M.; Romme G. & Boland R. (2008). Introduction to the special issue organization studies as a science
for design: creating collaborative artifacts and research. Organization studies, Vol 29 No 3. pp. 317-329.
[9]Romme G. (2003). Making a dierence: organization as design. Organization science , Vol 14 No 5. pp. 558-
[10] Veryzer R. & Borja de Mozota, B. (2005). The impact of User Oriented Design on New Product
Development : an examination of fundamental relationships. Journal of Product Innovation Management ,Vol
22 March. pp. 128-143.
Figure 2: The resource-based view of design strategy [5].
Financial Value
Implemental Action
Human Capital
Designer &
designer group
Design skill &
Design economic
based view
Design managerial
based view
Design resource
based view
Technological Capital
Value added
Customer value Market value
Strategy Process Controlling
Creative idea &
Concept &
Knowledge Capital Cultural Capital
It appears that there
are two dierent
streams in design
thinking, one in
design and another
in management.
Moreover, academics
consider the roots
of design thinking to
go back to the 1960s,
whereas practitioners
regard the concept
as a rather recent
phenomenon having
formed during the
Making sense of
design thinking
Lotta Hassi
Miko Laakso
52 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 53
Design thinking - a popular but vague concept
The concept of design thinking has received increasing attention during the recent years
especially in the management discourse. However, despite of the current hype, there is no agreed
view on what is meant by design thinking. Looking into the vast literature related to design thinking
reveals t wo diering discourses on design thinking: one in design, and another in management.
The former discourse has its roots in the 1960’s, while the latter is considerably younger. Focusing
on the management discourse, this study discusses the concept of design thinking as a set of
certain practices, cognitive approaches, and mindset. These three groups consist of characteristics
used to describe design thinking in the management discourse. We call these characteristics the
elements of design thinking, and present a framework for design thinking that draws on existing
literature in the management discourse.
Management magazines have covered stories about the power of design thinking, and during the
lasts years, there have been several books published on the concept [e.g. 3, 24, 28]. It seems fair
to say that there is a considerable amount of hype surrounding the concept – which has not gone
unnoticed in the academia. Johansson and Woodilla [18] specifically discuss the problematic hype,
and describe how it simplifies the situation and eventually leads to backlash. The management
literature oers design thinking as a cure to nearly every challenge in business, and today, as
Kimbell [22] points out, “in management practice, it seems, everyone should be a design thinker.”
On one hand, design thinking is seen as a remarkable phenomenon in its own right, described
for example as a “powerful, eective, and broadly accessible” approach to innovation, “that can
be integrated into all aspects of business and society, and that individuals and teams can use to
generate breakthrough ideas that are implemented and therefore have an impact” [3, p.3] , or as
“the next competitive advantage” [28]. On the other hand, there exists significant doubt about the
validity and novelty of the concept. Some disregard it entirely as nonexistent, while others view it
as nothing new, such as Donald Norman, who writes “Design thinking is a public relations term for
good, old-fashioned creative thinking” [30].
However, despite the hype and ample attention, there is no consensus on what is meant by
design thinking. The notion of design thinking is broad [8], and the term is considered confusing;
there are debates over what exactly is meant by it, and how it diers from creativity, innovation or
systems thinking [22]. What seems rather obvious though, is the expansion of design into new
arenas and target areas, such as strategy, services or organization design, that go beyond the
realm of traditional design that is linked tightly with physical objects [8, 22].
Aiming for clarity and common understanding
The confusion and disagreement that surrounds the concept call for investigations that
provide clarity and common understanding and pave ground for a more fruitful discussion on
the issue. This study seeks to provide such common ground by presenting a three dimensional
framework that has emerged from the current management discourse concerning design
thinking. Our aim is to summarize how design thinking is depicted in the current management
discourse. Emphasis is given to identifying common terminology and characteristics used to
describe the concept of design thinking.
This study is based on a review of selected literature and on a set of interviews with experts
on design thinking. The study does not aim to present an all-inclusive literature review, but rather
focuses on some of the key texts, relevant to the aim of the research; reviewing the current
management discourse on design thinking.
There were three groups of literature chosen for the review. First, there is the literature in
the management discourse cited e.g. by Johansson & Woodilla [18], and Kimbell [22]. Second,
Design Management Institute’s Review and Journal were considered relevant due to their focus
on design management and the recent issue on design thinking. Third, The Journal of Business
Strategy has published two special issues: D esign and Business in 2007, and Practice of
Innovation: Design in Process in 2009. These two special issues were considered relevant
due to their specific combination of business and design. From the Design Management
Institute’s Review and Journal, as well as from the Journal of Business Strategy, the papers
included in this review addressed design thinking directly, i.e. the phrase appeared in the title or
the abstract.
Altogether over 50 articles or books were reviewed, of which 31 were useful in addressing
the characteristic elements of design thinking, and were used for building the framework. The
reviewed literature contained articles describing the point of view of representatives from various
prominent organizations, such as HP [35], 3M [31], IBM [7] , IDEO [3, 4, 21], SAP AG [17], and
UK’s Design Council [38]. The literature also included several ar ticles, where the concept of
design thinking was explored by interviewing practitioners and experts [e.g. 11, 6]. The articles
found relevant were screened for characteristics or qualities describing the concept of design
thinking. These characteristics were collected as concise explications and grouped according to
similarity. The resulting elements were then arranged under three unifying dimensions according
to thematic similarities.
In addition to the review of literature, interviews with ten experts were conducted as part
of the research. The aim of these inter views was to find out where the inter viewees consider
the origins and roots of design thinking to be and to discuss the three dimensional framework
for design thinking developed during this research. The comments of the experts were used
to verify the framework in terms of wordings and the grouping of elements. The specialists
interviewed for this research included four academics from the field of design methodology and
six experienced practitioners with a design education (industrial design or architecture). All
interviewees were familiar with the concept of design thinking prior to the interview and had their
own understanding of what the concept entails. The interviews were semi-structured, explorative
in nature and included discussions between the interviewer and interviewee. All interviews were
conducted during 2010 and involved experts from the Netherlands, Finland, and the United
We now continue on to the current two discourses in design thinking. After that, based on
the study of relevant literature, we present the framework summarizing the management view
on design thinking. We conclude with a discussion including suggestions for future research
54 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 55
Two discourses on design thinking
Searching existing literature for a definition for design thinking merely adds to the initial
confusion; it appears that there are two diering streams in design thinking. Johansson and
Woodilla [18] clearly point out these two separate discourses and name them as the ‘design
discourse’ and the ‘management discourse’. The former discusses “the way designers think as
they work”, and is an academic discourse with a history of roughly 50 years. The latter discourse
regards design thinking as a “method for innovation and creating value”. This management
discourse is a more recent one, appearing around the change of the millennium, and focuses on
the need to improve managers’ design thinking skills for better business success.
The interviewed experts were asked where they considered the roots of design thinking to
be, where it has originated, and around what time. Academics considered the roots of design
thinking to go back to the 1960s, whereas the practitioners regarded the concept as a rather
recent phenomenon having formed during the 2000’s. Interestingly, the practitioners were mostly
unaware of the 50 years of ongoing design discourse on design thinking. Figure 1 summarizes
a few responses from the interviews, including views from interviewees representing the design
discourse and the management discourse, and presents the key literature the respondents
referred to.
As depicted in figure 1, the management discourse places the roots of design thinking at the
work of the design company IDEO and Stanford’s d.School, with statements such as “Design
thinking ultimately came from IDEO”. Also the interviewees representing the design discourse
acknowledge the role IDEO plays in the management discourse. However, they considered that
the design thinking paradigm started when “research embarked on finding out what designing is
and how can designing as a process and as an activity be improved”. The representatives of the
design discourse regularly mention Simon [37] and Schön [36] and go back to 1960’s in their
descriptions of the roots of design thinking: “The concept of design thinking begun to formulate
after Schön published Reflective Practitioner in 1983.” The interviews highlight the impact the
management discourse has among practitioners, underlining the importance of understanding
what precisely is understood by the concept. As one of the interviewed academics said, “if we
talk about bringing the working styles and methods of designers to other areas of management,
then it would also be important to understand what these working styles are, how to establish
them, how to apply them and in which context.”
Regardless of all the current discussion, even the most established writers on design thinking
within the management discourse (the same holding true for academic discourse) have not
presented a comprehensive definition or conceptualization for the concept of design thinking.
For example, Tim Brown, CEO of the design agency IDEO and one of the most prominent authors
within the management discourse, describes it in quite abstract terms such as “a discipline that
uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically
feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market
opportunity” [4] . Therefore, in the following chapter, based on existing literature, we synthesize
the central elements of the ongoing discussion in the management discourse, to formulate an
initial conceptualization of design thinking as it is presented in the management discourse.
A three-dimensional framework for design thinking
Analysis of the selected literature discussing the concept and application of design thinking in
dierent contexts resulted in three main groups of elements, or components. These were named
as practices, cognitive approaches, and mindset. Each dimension contains a set of elements
that were presented as key ingredients of design thinking across the reviewed literature. In the
following sections, the three dimensions and the elements forming them are discussed in a
compact manner with the aim of providing a clear overall picture of the division.
The “practices” –category comprises of elements that are closely related to concrete activities,
describing tangible approaches, ways of working, activities and the use of specific tools. The
elements included in the category include: human-centered approach, thinking by doing,
visualizing, combination of divergent and convergent approaches, and collaborative
work style.
Figure 1 : Roots of design thinking: views from the two discourses. References to the key literature
mentioned by the respondents.
“At the start
of the design
1960’s in the
“The beginning of the design
thinking paradigm was when
research embarked on finding
out what designing is and how
could designing as a process
and as an activity be improved.“
“The concept of design
thinking begun to
formulate after Schön
published Reflective
Practitioner in 1983.“
and Palo Alto
region….” “Design
came from
Dunne &
Design discourse
Management discourse
1960’s 1970’s 1980’s 1990’s 2000’s
56 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 57
One of the most prominently emphasized issues in design thinking is its inherent and thorough
human-centred approach - “putting people first” [4, 31, 38] . Authors were extremely consistent
in emphasizing developing empathy towards and understanding of the customer/users [4, 7, 12,
17, 20, 24, 26] and even “being in love” [31] with them. Some authors even go as far as labelling
design thinking as synonymous with “customer, user or human-centered design” [35] . The use
of observational and ethnographic methods [1, 4, 6, 12, 25] is seen as a key means to achieve
a deep and emphatic understanding of the customer. Beyond empathizing and understanding,
collaborative design with the customers [2, 4] is suggested as a viable approach.
Thinking by doing refers to the iterative and highly tangible approach favoured by designers.
Knowledge creation in design thinking is practical, as the process proceeds through reflection-
in-action [33]. The development cycles of the iterative approach are described as systematic
[35] and rapid [6, 17, 27]. Early – “from day one” [4] – and continuous prototyping [11, 13, 14,
17] is seen as necessary and beneficial throughout the entire process. Prototypes are seen to
facilitate thinking and knowledge creation by means of idea formulation and demonstration [24] ,
to make concepts concrete [35] , and to help the exploration of numerous possible solutions [13,
14]. In essence, prototypes can be seen as a tool for stimulating thinking and exploring ideas,
not as representations of the products [2].
Closely related to prototyping, visualizing, i.e. expressing oneself in media other than
words and symbols [3] is seen as the dominant sensemaking mode of design thinking [33] .
Visualization of intangible concepts, models and ideas is seen essential [6, 11, 25], functioning
as a tool aiding common understanding [38] , allowing ideas to be shared and discussed [20]
and revealing relationships that are not accessible in verbal presentations [35].
Combination of divergent and convergent approaches refers to widening the scope and
then moving towards a preferred solution by selection and synthesis. The process of design
thinking is described as having divergent beginnings, i.e. creating multiple alternatives using
various methods [11] without assuming that the existing alternatives, or the first ones that were
thought of, include the best ones [2] . The wide range of ideas does not need to be limited to the
very early stages, as openness to exploring multiple paths toward a solution [11] is considered
important. Recognizing patterns [3, 6, 35] and relationships in the broad number of diverse
variables, including conflicting, ambiguous, or paradoxical data is central to design thinking.
Contrasting the age-old and commonly abandoned notion of a lone genius, a collaborative
work style is emphasized as integral to design thinking by virtually all authors. The importance
of involving a wide range of stakeholders [e.g. 11] is seen as a key approach. This most t ypically
takes the form of using interdisciplinary teams [4, 3, 7, 12, 17, 27, 35]. A collaborative work style
is seen as important in tackling complex and “wicked” problems through gaining knowledge
from many fields and disciplines [15], promoting diverse perspectives [12], and merging them in
a meaningful and novel way [12] . Some authors also emphasize that thinking is not something
done exclusively inside one’s head, but is often accomplished in interaction with other people
[2], using expressions such as collaborative integrative thinking [12].
Cognitive approaches
Elements categorized into the “cognitive approaches” –dimension relate to issues such as
mentality, cognitive processes and thinking styles. These elements are: abductive reasoning,
reflective reframing, holistic view and integrative thinking.
Abductive reasoning, or “the logic of what might be” [24], in addition to deductive and
inductive reasoning is emblematic to design thinking. Whereas inductive reasoning has to do
with proving through observation that something works, and deductive reasoning has to do
with proving through reasoning from principles that something must be [24], a designer uses
abductive reasoning to move from what is known to the exploration of what could be [14] - to
say, “What is something completely new that would be lovely if it existed but doesn’t now?”
[12]. Designers use abduction to generate ideas, challenge accepted explanations, and infer
possible new worlds [28, p.65]. It’s a skill that plays a critical role in design thinking, and is a
pre-condition for intelligent designing [10] .
While developing solutions to design problems is a well-recognized skill of designers, the
ability to think up new ways of looking at the problem in the first place is key as well [10].
This ability is referred as reflective reframing of the problem or situation. Design thinking is
seen to inherently include questioning the way a problem is represented [2] , looking beyond
the immediate boundaries of the problem to ensure the right question is being addressed [11]
and going beyond what is obviously stated to see what lies behind the problem [26] . Identifying,
framing, and reframing the problem to be solved are seen as equally important as solving the
problem or finding an appropriate solution [1]. The process of challenging the original problem
is not limited to the beginning of the process, but is ongoing, incorporating the findings already
gained to re-phrase the problem [11].
The ability to adopt a holistic view - a 360° understanding [17] of the problem including
issues such as the customer’s needs, the end-user’s environment and social factors is inherently
linked to design thinking. This understanding includes not only the customers’ functional needs,
but also the customers’ emotional, social and cultural needs [34] . Some authors use the term
systems thinking [e.g. 14] to describe visualizing a problem as a system of structures, patterns
and events, rather than just the events alone—and understanding the impact of changes in one
component on the others, and on the system as a whole [12] , and the ability to connect external
form with internal functionality or holistic vision with specific attention to detail [38].
One of the foundations of design thinking is said to be bringing competing constraints into a
harmonious balance [3]. Most authors see this as being achieved through integrative thinking,
which is about identifying salient aspects of problems [4, 12] and being able to face two (or
more) opposing ideas or models. And furthermore, instead of choosing one versus the other,
to generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a better model, which contains
elements of each model but is superior to each [4, 14, 12] . Design thinking is seen to include
achieving a natural balance between the technical, business, and human dimensions [4, 7, 17],
balancing human-centeredness with company-centricity throughout the cycle [35], reliability with
validity [28, 34], exploitation with exploration [28], and analytical thinking with intuitive thinking
[28, 31, 35].
58 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 59
The mindset-category refers to the mindset of both the individuals immersed in the work and
the mindset portrayed by the organizational culture. Here “mindset” describes the orientation
towards the work at hand, and the mentality on which the problems are approached. The identified
elements describe design thinking mindset as being experimental and explorative, ambiguity
tolerant, optimistic, and future-oriented.
An experimental and explorative mindset is a seen as a key feature of design thinking [4].
This includes a licence to explore possibilities [13] and a willingness to risk by pushing the limits of
both personal and a team’s capacity, as well as the capabilities of technology and the boundaries
of the organization [17]. Design thinkers are said to pose questions and explore constraints in
creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions [4]. Mistakes that follow from exploration
and experimentation are seen as a natural part of the process. “Failing fast” through early tryouts,
models and prototypes is seen as a preferred strategy enabling exploration with reasonable levels
of risk [3, 26] . In addition to an acceptance of failures on an organizational level, exploration also
requires personal courage [14] .
The mindset of design thinking requires a high tolerance for ambiguity. In the field of design,
ambiguity is accepted as a natural part of the process [33] as the inquiry is rather emerging than
deterministic [8]. Therefore a key feature of the design thinkers’ mindset is being comfortable with
the ambiguous [11], and maintaining the ability to work in the face of ambiguity. The design mindset
is noted to “foster an acceptance of and a comfort with a problem-solving process that remains
liquid and open, celebrating new alternatives as it strives to develop a best design solution.” [2].
Design thinkers are also seen to possess an optimistic mindset. They assume that no matter
how challenging the constraints of a given problem are, at least one potential solution is better
than the existing alternatives [4] and present an absolute unwillingness to give in to constraints
and obstacles [13]. Design thinking is associated with enjoying problem-solving and finding
opportunities in places where other people have given up [15], as well as with an appreciation for
constraints, as they serve to focus scope of the work and increase its challenge [27]. Competing
constraints are accepted willingly and even enthusiastically [3] and they are seen even to increase
the challenge and excitement [12].
Finally, design thinking can be described to be future-oriented. A common characteristic of
design thinking is the ability to anticipate and visualize new scenarios [27, p.86]. Design is seen
as improving an existing situation into a more preferred one, and designers are therefore always
dealing with change [20] . Due to this desire to create change for the better, design thinking is
described as having an urge to create something new through challenging the norm [11]. As the
driving logic in design thinking is that of ‘what could be’, the starting point for work is more often a
strong vision than the status quo [ibid]. This future orientation is long-term, and the forces guiding
the vision-driven process include intuition [28, 31], and hypotheses about the future [28].
Figure 2 summarizes the described elements of design thinking, and suggests a three-
dimensional framework explicating the management view of design thinking. The framework
presented here is more suggestive than conclusive and forms a basis for the future research of the
Towards a deeper understanding of design thinking
The research presented here set out to pave way for a more commonly shared understanding
on the concept of design thinking rather than at tempting to produce a decisive definition. This
study proposes a framework depicting the dimensions and related elements underlying the
concept of design thinking within the management discourse. The framework builds on existing
literature on design thinking, and it describes the concept as consisting of three dimensions :
practices, cognitive approaches, and mindset. Each dimension consists of ‘elements of design
thinking’ – approaches, methods, values, and concepts that continuously surfaced from existing
E.g. People-based, user-centered,
empathizing , ethnography,
observation (e.g. Brown 2008;
Holloway 2009; Ward et al. 2009)
E.g. Early and fast prototyping, fast
learning, rapid iterative development
cycles (e.g. Boland & Collopy 2004;
Lockwood 2010; Rylander 2009)
E.g. Visual approach, visualizing
intangibles, visual thinking (e.g. Carr
et al. 2010; Drews 2009; Ward et
al. 2009)
E.g. Ideation, pattern finding,
creating multiple alternatives, (e.g.
Boland & Collopy 2004; Drews 2009;
Sato et al. 2010)
E.g. Multidisciplinary collaboration,
involving many stakeholders,
interdisciplinary teams (e.g. Dunne
& Martin 2006; Gloppen 2009; Sato
et al. 2010)
E.g. The logic of “what could be”,
finding new opportunities, urge to
create something new, challenge the
norm (e.g. Fraser 2009; Lockwood
2009; Martin 2009)
E.g. Rephrasing the problem, going
beyond what is obvious to see what
lies behind the problem, challenge
the given problem (e.g. Boland &
Collopy 2004; Drews 2009; Zaccai in
Lockwood 2010)
E.g. Systems thinking, 360 degree
view on the issue (e.g. Dunne &
Martin 2006; Fraser 2009; Sato
E.g. Harmonious balance, creative
resolution of tension, finding balance
between validity and reliability (e.g.
Brown 2008; Fraser 2009; Martin
E.g. The license to explore
possibilities, risking failure, failing
fast (e.g. Brown 2008; Fraser 2007;
Holloway 2009)
E.g. Allowing for ambiguity ,
tolerance for ambiguity, comfortable
with ambiguity, liquid and open
process (e.g. Boland & Collopy
2004; Cooper et al. 2009; Dew
E.g. Viewing constraints as positive,
optimism attitude, enjoying problem
solving (e.g. Brown 2008; Fraser
2007; Gloppen 2009)
E.g. Orientation towards the future,
vision vs. status quo, intuition as
a driving force (e.g. Drews 2009;
Junginger 2007; Martin 2009)
Figure 2: The three-dimensional framework of the study explicating the common elements of design
thinking, as depicted in the management discourse.
60 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 61
There are several recurring themes crossing the boundaries of the three groups. For instance,
“thinking by doing”, which entails e.g. early prototyping, is represented in the practices, but it
also manifests in the mindset dimension as the explorative nature of design thinking. Similarly,
the future-oriented mindset of design thinking is manifested also in the cognitive approaches as
abductive reasoning – the continuous strive to think of “what could be”. The elements described
above are not separate units, but rather form an entity that may be called design thinking.
The proposed framework was presented and its dimensions and elements were discussed
in the expert interviews. All experts agreed that the elements presented were relevant to the
way they perceived design thinking. However, two elements were considered to be understated:
the central role of intuition as opposed to mainly analytic approaches, and the role of design in
synthesizing information. Considering that the experts interviewed for this research represent
both discourses, the design and the management streams, it is interesting to notice that their
view on what design thinking “is made of” did not dier. This leads us to ask: How do the
characterizations of design thinking in the two discourses dier? A comparison of definitions
would not be sensible, since, as Johansson & Woodilla [18] point out, no unified theory of design
thinking exists, but a comparison of characterizations in the two discourses may be viable.
Many of the writers within the management discourse emphasize qualities and aspects of
design thinking that contrast the approaches supposedly innate to business people and other
persons outside the discipline of design. Therefore, it is dicult to achieve a balanced holistic
picture of design thinking or a designerly way of working. Additionally, authors very seldom
presented any possible drawbacks or weaknesses of adopting a designerly approach to
unconventional fields. Further research should explore what limitations and risks design thinking
may carry, and under which conditions it can or should be implemented.
The framework presented here lays the foundation for the future research of the authors.
The authors will continue to pursue a more thorough understanding of the concept of design
thinking, its roots and current discourse, possible application areas, benefits, and limitations to
its use.
[1] Beckman, S. L. & Barry, M. (2007). Innovation as a learning process: Embedding design thinking. California
Management Review, 50(1), pp. 25-56.
[2] Boland, R. J., & Collopy, F. (Eds.). (2004). ‘Design matters for management’, in Managing as Designing,
Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, pp. 3-18.
[3] Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
[4] Brown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June 2008, pp. 84-92.
[5] Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), pp. 5-21.
[6] Carr, S.D., Halliday, A., King, A.C., Liedtka, J., Lockwood, T. (2010). The influence of design thinking in
business: Some preliminary observations. Design Management Review, 21(3), pp. 58-63.
[7] Clark, K. and Smith, R. (2008). Unleashing the power of design thinking. Design Management Review, 19(3),
pp. 8-15.
[8] Cooper, R., Junginger, S., & Lockwood, T. (2009). Design thinking and design management: A research and
practice perspective. Design Management Review, 20(2), pp. 46-55.
[9] Cross, N. (2001). Designerly Ways of Knowing: Design Discipline Versus Design Science. Design Issues,
17(3), pp. 49-55.
[10] Dew, N. (2007). Abduction: a pre-condition for the intelligent design of strategy. Journal of Business
Strategy, 28(4), pp. 38-45.
[11] Drews, C. (2009). Unleashing the full potential of design thinking as a business method. Design
Management Review, 20(3), pp. 39-44.
[12] Dunne, D., & Martin, R. (2006). Design thinking and how it will change management education: An
interview and discussion. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5(4), pp. 512-523.
[13] Fraser, H. M. a. (2007). The practice of breakthrough strategies by design. Journal of Business Strategy,
28(4), pp. 66-74.
[14] Fraser, H. M. a. (2009). Designing business: New models for success. Design Management Review, 20(2), pp.
[15] Gloppen, J. (2009). Perspectives on design leadership and design thinking and how they relate to European
service industries. Design Management Journal, 4(1), pp. 33–47.
[16] Golsby-Smith, T. (2007). The second road of thought: how design oers strategy a new toolkit. Journal of
Business Strategy, 28(4), pp. 22-29.
[17] Holloway, M. (2009). How tangible is your strategy? How design thinking can turn your strategy into
reality. Journal of Business Strategy, 30(2), pp. 50-56.
[18] Johansson, U. & Woodilla, J. (2010). How to avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water: An ironic
perspective on design thinking. EGOS Colloquim 2010: June 30 - July 3, Lisbon, Portugal.
[19] Johansson, U. & Woodilla, J. (2009). Towards an epistemological merger of design thinking, strategy, and
innovation. 8th European Academy of Design Conference. April 1-3, 2009, Aberdee, Scotland.
[20] Junginger, S. (2007). Learning to design: giving purpose to heart, hand and mind. Journal of Business
Strategy, 28(4), pp. 59-65.
62 IDBM papers vol 1.
[21] Kelley, T. (2001). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading design firm.
New York: Doubleday.
[22] Kimbell, L. (2009). Beyond design thinking: Design-as-practice and designs-in-practice. European
Academy of Management, May 2009, Liverpool.
[23] Lawson, B. (1980). How Designers Think. The Design Process Demystified. Oxford: Architectural Press.
[24] Lockwood, T. (2009). Transition: How to become a more design-minded organization. Design Management
Review, 20(3), pp. 29-37.
[25] Lockwood, T. (2010a), The bridge between design and business. President’s Letter. Design Management
Review, 21(3), pp. 5.
[26] Lockwood, T. (2010b), Design thinking in business: An interview with Gianfranco Zaccai. Design
Management Review, 21(3), pp. 16-24.
[27] Lockwood, T. (ed.) 2010c), Design Thinking. Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand
Value. New York, NY: Allworth Press.
[28] Martin, Roger. (2009). The Design of Business. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.
[29] Martin, R. (2007). Design and business: why can’t we be friends? Journal of Business Strategy, 28(4), pp.
[30] Norman, D. (2010). Design Thinking: A Useful Myth. Core77 [online] Available at:
[31] Porcini, M. (2009). Your new design process is not enough—Hire design thinkers!. Design Management
Review, 20(3), pp. 6–18.
[32] Rowe, P. (1987). Design Thinking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[33] Rylander, A. (2009). Design thinking as knowledge work: Epistemological foundations and practical
implications. Design Management Journal, 4(1), pp. 7-19.
[34] Sato, S. (2009). Beyond good: great innovations through design. Journal of Business Strategy, 30(2), pp.
[35] Sato, S., Lucente, S., Meyer, D. & Mrazek, D. (2010). Design thinking to make organization change and
development more responsive. Design Management Review, 21(2), pp. 44-52.
[36] Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. London: Basic Books Inc.
[37] Simon, H. (1969). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[38] Ward, A., Runcie, E. & Morris, E. 2009. Embedding innovation: design thinking for small enterprises.
Journal of Business Strategy, 30(2), pp. 78-84.
can you
Reprint from: Johansson. U. & Woodilla, J. (2009) Creating a synergistic dialogue among
design thinking, strategy, and innovation. Research Design Journal (now Design Research
Journal), No 1, pp. 29-33. Published with permission.
In a synergistic
dialogue the
partners will stand on
a humanistic ground
and be desirous
of harnessing the
resources of design
thinking, strategy,
and innovation for
purposes of adding
value for all the
actors connected with
developing and using
the product or service.
Creating a synergistic dialogue
among design thinking,
strategy, and innovation
Ulla Johansson
Jill Woodilla
66 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 67
The three discourses of strategy, innovation, and design thinking have a paradoxical
relationship. On one hand, the three discourses are quite separate, with very dierent origins
and purposes. Strategy is an executive discourse that focuses on long-term goals, resource
allocation, and decision making. Innovation is a technological discourse that aims to be
knowledgeable about bringing inventions to the market. Design thinking is an emerging discourse
coming from architecture, design, and art that strives to understand the character of designers’
sense making. It has recently infiltrated the management discourse. On the other hand, there
are similarities among all three discourses. They are all used in both large and small companies
when referring to growth-intended strategic work. Also, they are used by top management for
organizational change and thereby as competitive “tools” for growth.
Here we explore how to make sense of the separate discourses, their characteristics and
relationships between them, and how they might contribute to an integrated discourse. How
do they relate to each other – are they complimentary or are they competing discourses? In
particular, how does design thinking stand in relation to the others? What consequence does this
have for the design management discourse?
The discourse of strategy
Strategic discourses generally acknowledge their roots in the discourse of military orders in
the ancient world. The word strategy comes from the Greek “strategia”, meaning “generalship”,
suggesting goals and directions that were set outside of the sight of the enemy. While this
discourse of strategy existed long before it was an academic field, phrases in the management
discourse such as “battle of competition”, “winning”, and “rivalry”, are signs of its origins,
including Clausewitz’s [17] definition of strategy as “the art of using a battle to win a war” while
tactics are “using the troops to win a battle”. Warfare metaphors still inform prescriptions for how
to use the company’s resources in order to “win the competitive battle”.
During the 1950s and 1960s, when management struggled for a place in the academy,
strategy came to signify creating a specific position in the market. The foundation of strategic
management is frequently traced to Chandler’ [13] comparative analysis that identified patterns
in the growth of diversified companies during the 1920s and 30s [44]. Chandler, as a business
historian, worked with messy empirical data. In contrast, Ansho [2] , with a background
in applied mathematics, created analytical tools to help companies create their own position
through attention to the five elements of (1) arenas, (2) vehicles, (3) dierentiators, (4) staging,
and (5) economic logic. Michael Porter [31, 32, 33, 34, 35] further developed Ansho’s analytics
within the managerial discourse and authored many books and articles over a t wenty-year
period, including a series in the Harvard Business Review. Through these, and many others on
strategy and competitiveness for the firm, economic development, and society, Porter continues
to be recognized as a, if not the¸ leading authority on business strategy ( His
work sedimented the strategic management discourse as normative, static, and a way for the
chief executive to formulate a plan before it was implemented by the organizational hierarchy.
During the 1990s other influential strategy streams developed, included those emanating
from a resource-based economic perspective (see [5]) . For managers, Prahalad and Hamel’s
[36] concept of core competencies as collective learning in the organization provided an
impetus for working across organizational boundaries and creating alliances while focusing on
internal development. While still prescriptive, this theme pointed towards a more collaborative
discourse. A more process oriented view of strategy was introduced by Mintzberg [27, 28],
who first critiqued the dominant view of equating strategic planning with strategic thinking, and
later defined strategy as patterns of action, which turned the strategic discourse towards actor-
network theory and its possibilities for mobilizing social networks of relationships in the process
of creating strategic dierentiation (cf., [22] ). Normann and Ramirez [29, 37] coined the phrase
value constellation to emphasize that the key strategic task is to reconfigure the roles and
relationships among a constellation of actors – suppliers, partners, and customers – to mobilize
the creation of value by new combinations of players.
With the new millennium and “flattening” of the global landscape [21] part of the strategic
discourse re-examined the structuralist view of firms forced to compete within a landscape
dominated by economic forces greater than themselves. Some took a reconstructalist worldview
in which market boundaries and industries can be reconstructed by actions and beliefs of
industry players, as so-called “blue ocean” strategies [23]. Rather than competing within the
existing industr y or trying to steal customers from rivals in the “red ocean”, a company can
create an uncontested market space that makes competition irrelevant; this is a “blue ocean”.
The discourse is concerned with the strategic moves, as managerial actions and decisions,
rather than naming competitors or rivals.
The discourse of innovation
The word innovation comes from Latin “innovare”, meaning “making something new.”
Innovation is an area consisting of many dierent discourse streams, with even the discussion
around “what is an innovation?” taking on the character of a discourse of its own. The concept is
used on multiple levels; the micro/individual level, organizational level, and macro/national level.
Within the academy, the origin of the discourse on the economic character of innovations
is attributed to Schumpeter [40] who maintained that innovation and entrepreneurship drive
economic development forward. An innovation, he said, is any invention (including a theoretical
idea) in use, and thereby also an invention that has reached the market. Schumpeter also made
the distinction between incremental and radical or disruptive innovations, thus initiating the
discourse further developed by Christensen [15] . Christensen observed that some firms had
success with products or ser vices that were not as good as those already used in established
markets, but had simplicity or low cost that appealed to a new set of customers. Assink [4]
provided a conceptual model of the interrelationships and interdependence of factors inhibiting
disruptive innovations.
Following World War II, another innovation discourse originated in the technical universities,
and is still growing. This discourse aims to codify the sources, goals, measures, and diusion
68 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 69
of product and service innovations [1]; over time the technical discourse has became less
theoretical and more normative, aiming at understanding the process of making an invention into
an innovation, or how to take a new technological idea into the market with commercial success.
As this technical discourse grew, critique against it developed; for example, Mensch [26]
proposed that the “wave” model of Shumpeter and others be replaced with a metamorphosis
model of long-term instability, while Verganti [42] claimed that there are no epistemological
borders for innovations, they are whatever is regarded as new to the market, whether physical
or not.
A special discourse is that of open innovation [14,43], with roots in computer science, sports
products, and R&D practices. This discourse shuns the logic of an internally-oriented, centralized
approach to product development, and instead brings external ideas into play with those of
internal developers. Here user innovation communities create user-designed modifications, and
in turn share these with other users. Von Hippel also introduced the concept of “lead users” and
regarded them as co-producers in the innovation process, thereby merging with approaches that
are traditionally related to design methods.
The discourse of design thinking
A third discourse, derived from the concept of design thinking, is closely related to innovation
and has recently become widespread in both design and management circles. Design
thinking occurs at the merger of business and design, and has recently become somewhat of
a fad in the executive and management realm. Within the academic discourse of design and
architecture, however, the concept of design thinking has been around for more than thirty years
with forerunners Schön [39] in education and Lawson [25] in architecture, who both in their
respective ways described and reflected on how designers think. Lawson, for example, claimed
the design process includes formulating, moving, representing, evaluating, and reflecting. Cross
[18] joined the discussion with his reflections around “designerly ways of knowing.” He called
upon design scholars to recognize that design practice does indeed have its own strong and
appropriate intellectual culture, and therefore we should avoid swamping design research with
dierent cultures imported from either the sciences or the arts. The implication was clear, the
design discourse must strive to remain the purview of the design community alone.
Another stream formed around the notion of wicked problems, a concept borrowed from
philosopher Karl Popper, reintroduced in Rittel’s description of social planning problems as
indeterminate [16, 38] and subsequently developed by Buchanan [1]. Buchanan created a new
conversation around wicked problems in design, arguing that designers deal with problems
that are ill defined, so that the creative re -definition of the problem is par t of the professional
skill. Later, Edeholt [20] added that designers focus on the reconstruction and the solution of
problems rather than analysis of the problems as such – in contrast to the outlook of social
and natural scientists. Recently, even some strategy problems have been labeled as wicked
problems, for example, if the problem involves many stakeholders with conflicting priorities, if it
changes even as solutions are attempted, and if there’s no way to evaluate if the remedies will
work [12].
The academic discussion of design thinking has been in play for nearly three decades,
resulting about 5,000 scholarly works on the topic (Google scholar, 10/09) . However, during
the last few years the discourse has turned into a multidisciplinary discussion focusing on
how business uses design thinking, and this stream has spilled over into the popular business
press (e.g. [19]) . This turn is strongly associated with IDEO design company (
and Stanford D -school (, a cooperation between IDEO and
Stanford. Here, design thinking is conceptualized as a specific way of thinking and using design
methods by non-designers. And this, it is argued, is what the companies need more of. The
D-school and its representatives have been apostles for the concept and for the use of design
thinking in companies. This thesis is conveyed in the following quote from Tim Brown, former
CEO of IDEO [8]:
“Most of us are trained in what I would call analytical thinking. Analytical thinking is...good for
analysis and cutting things apart and slicing and dicing the world. It’s also good for extrapolation
or prediction from the past into the future... ( It) isn’t very good for is trying to envision a new
future and figure out how to change it . So we tr y to encourage companies to use what we call
design thinking. In design thinking, basically you’re very generative, you’re goal-driven. You’re
trying to create a future. Design thinking is rooted in optimism, and the goal to get something
done and to bring it to the marketplace.”
The intersection of the discourses of strategy,
innovation, and design thinking
As seen from the literature review above, the three discourses have quite dierent origins.
Strategy came from the militar y and economics and has become its own strong discourse
within management. Innovation originated in economics and entrepreneurship, but has become
a discourse of its own within technology. Design thinking emerged from architecture and design
and, while it strives to maintain a stream of its own, has recently come into the mainstream
management discourse.
Despite apparent dierences, these discourses are all engaging with each other within
the mainstream management realm as part of the company’s general development and as
growth enablers. Until recently, strategy, as the oldest discourse, dominated the conversation.
Innovation, formerly confined to the operational level, joined in, because as Kanter [23] notes,
“each managerial generation embarks on the same enthusiastic quest for the new thing.” When
design (and design thinking) edged into the discourse, wanting to help strategy in competitive
positioning, it added to the existing strategic platform – at that time dominated by Porter (c.f.
[6,7,10,30]. Design consultants claimed they could participate in strategic planning as “strategy
visualizers” or “core competency prospectors” [40] . Articles directed at senior managers
suggested, “while by mapping your innovation strategy, you can chart a path that will produce
successful innovations time af ter time” [3], or, even more forcefully, “thinking like a designer can
transform the way you develop products, services, processes- and even strategy” [9] .
70 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 71
However, there are dierent ways in which the three discourses can engage with each other
in an epistemologically compatible dialogue. In the beginning – with Chandler -- strategy was an
interpretative and clearly descriptive discourse. It was only later that it developed into a more
rationalistic and normative field, and the epistemology became more clearly positivistic. With
the development of the concept of “blue oceans” and more process oriented views such as
“creating value constellations”, the epistemology underlying strategy has transformed into a
more humanistic discourse, capable of embracing ambiguities and paradoxes, thereby being
much more compatible with the design thinking discourse with its humanistic perspective. The
discourse on open innovation creates similar opportunities.
Implications for design management
The ideas presented above have important implications for design management research. The
discourses of strategy, innovation, and design thinking each embrace multiple discourse streams,
but each has developed over time in ways that currently make them more epistemologically
compatible, or at least each has discursive streams within them that are compatible. This
means there is a possibility of creating a synergistic dialogue. In such a synergistic dialogue
the conversational partners will stand on a humanistic ground and be desirous of harnessing
the resources of design thinking, strategy, and innovation for purposes of “adding value” for all
the actors connected with developing and using the product or service. Consequently, design
management, in order to influence companies on a strategic level, no longer needs to adjust to
a normative/positivist discourse. Instead it can contribute on a more equal level, provided the
epistemological ground is more compatible.
[1] Abernathy, W. and Utterback, J. (1978). Patterns of industrial innovation. Technology Review, vol. 2, pp.
[2] Anso, H. (1965). Corporate strategy: An analytic approach to business policy for growth and expansion.
New York: McGraw-Hill.
[3] Anthony, S., Eyring, M. and Gibson, L. (2006). Mapping your innovation strategy. Harvard Business Review,
vol. 84, no. 5, pp. 104-113.
[4] Assink, M. (2006). Inhibitors of disruptive innovation capability: A conceptual model. European Journal of
Innovation Management, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 215-233.
[5] Barney, J., Wright, M. and Ketchen, D. (2001). The resource-based view of the firm: Ten years after 1991.
Journal of Management, vol. 27, pp. 625-641.
[6] Borja de Mozota, B. (1998). Structuring strategic design management: Michael Porter’s value chain. Design
Management Journal, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 26-31.
[7] Borja de Mozota, B. (2003). Design management. Using design to build brand value and corporate
innovation. New York: Allworth Press and Boston: Design Management Institute.
[8] Brown, T. (2005). Strategy by design. Fast Company, vol. 95, pp. 52-54.
[9] Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, vol. 86, no. 5, pp. 84-92.
[10] Bruce, M. and Bessant, J. (ed.) (2002). Design in business: Strategic innovation through design. London:
Design Council and Financial Times/Prentice Hall.
[11] Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 5-21.
[12] Camilus, J. (2008). Strategy as a wicked problem. Harvard Business Review, vol. 86, no.5, pp. 98-106.
[13] Chandler, A. (1962). Strategy and structure: Chapters in the history of the industrial enterprise.
Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press.
[14] Cheesborough, H. (2003). The era of open innovation. Sloan Management Review, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 35-41.
[15] Christensen, C. (1997). The innovator’s dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Boston,
MA: Harvard Business School Press.
[16] Churchman, C.W. 1967. Wicked problems. Management Science, vol. 4, no. 14, pp. 141-142.
[17] Clausewitz, C., Ghyczy, T., Oetinger, B. and Bassford, C. (2001). Clausewitz on strategy: inspiration and
insight from a master strategist. New York: Wiley
[18] Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: Design discipline versus design science. Design Issues, vol.
17, no. 3, pp. 49-55.
[19] Dvorak, P. (2008). Businesses take a page from design firms. The Wall Street Journal, November 10, p. B4.
[20] Edeholdt, H. (2004.) Design innovation och andra Paradoxer – om förändring satt i system. Göteborg:
Chalmers Tekniska Högskola, Innovativ design – Arkitektur.
[21] Friedmann, T. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus
and Giroux.
[22] Hung, S. (2002). Mobilising networks to achieve strategic dierence. Long Range Planning, vol.,35, no. 6,
pp. 591-613.
[23] Kanter, R.M. (2006). Innovation: The classic traps. Harvard Business Review, vol. 84, no. 1, pp. 72-83.
[24] Kim, W.C. and Maubourgn, R. (2004). Blue ocean strategy. Harvard Business Review, vol. 82, no. 10, pp.
[25] Lawson, B. (2006/1980). How designers think: The design process demystified (4th. ed.). (1st ed. 1980).
Oxford: Architectural Press.
[26] Mensch, G. (1979). Stalemate in technology: Innovations overcome the depression, Cambridge, MA.
Ballinger Pub Co.
[27] Minzberg, H. (1987). The strategy concept I: Five Ps for strategy. California Management Review, vol. 30,
no. 1, pp. 11-24.
[28] Mintzberg, H. (1994). The rise and fall of strategic planning. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 72, no. 1, pp.
72 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 73
[29] Normann, R. and Ramirez, R. (1993). From value chain to value constellation: Designing interactive
strategy. Harvard Business Review, vol. 71, no. 4, pp. 65-77.
[30] Olsson, E., Cooper, R. and Slater, F. (1998). Design strategy and competitive advantage. Business Horizons,
vol. 41, no.2, pp. 55-61.
[31] Porter, M. (1979). How competitive forces shape strategy. Harvard Business Review, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 137-
[32] Porter, M. (1987). From competitive advantage to corporate strategy. Harvard Business Review, vol. 65, no.
3, pp. 43-59.
[33] Porter, M. (1990). The competitive advantage of nations. Harvard Business Review, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 73-93.
[34] Porter, M. (1996). What is strategy? Harvard Business Review, vol. 74, no. 6, pp. 61-78.
[35] Porter, M. (2008). The five competitive forces that shape strategy. Harvard Business Review, vol. 86, no. 1,
pp. 78-93.
[36] Prahalad, C.K. and Hamel, G. (1990). The core competence of the corporation, Harvard Business Review,
vol. 68, no. 3, pp. 9-91.
[37] Ramirez, R. (1999). Value co-production: Intellectual origins and implications for practice and research.
Strategic Management Journal, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 49-65.
[38] Rittel, H. and Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, vol. 4, no. 2, pp.
[39] Schön, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Aldershot, Surrey:
Ashgate Press.
[40] Schumpter, J. (1934). Theory of economic development. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
[41] Seidel, V. (2000). Moving from design to strategy: The 4 roles of design-led strategy consulting. Design
Management Journal, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 35-40.
[42] Verganti, R. (2006). Innovating through design. Harvard Business Review, vol. 84, no. 2, pp. 114-122.
[43] von Hippel, E. (2001). Innovation by user communities. Sloan Management Review, vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 82-86.
[44] Whittington, R. (2008). Alfred Chandler, founder of strategy: Lost tradition and renewed inspiration.
Business History Review, vol. 82, pp. 267-277.
can you
a product?
Team members from
disciplines like
engineering, design and
business think, act and
behave dierently. Those
dierences eectively
create a functional
wall that surrounds
individuals and hinders
interaction among team
members. Reciprocal
understanding can
be acquired through
education, training, and
cross-functional team
Daniel Gra
Mikko Koria
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
A Theoretical Model of
Team Eectiveness
Part of this paper appeared in Gra, Daniel; Koria, Mikko & Karjalainen,
Toni-Matti (2009). Modeling research for cross-functional team
eectiveness. IASDR 2009. October 18-22. Seoul, South Korea.
76 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 77
Designers, business managers and technologists are working together in cross-functional
teams to develop new products and services, and to achieve operational eectiveness [7].
Organizations such as Boeing, Coca- Cola, DuPont, Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Federal-Mogul,
Siemens and Xerox are only a small sample of companies employing cross- functional teams
[1]. That being said, it is argued that research into cross -functional team eectiveness still lacks
tools and methods which would be able to eectively describe, examine and explore the issues at
hand. Functional team diversity is a complex theme to study, and research to date has provided
only weak and/or inconsistent evidence, with mixed conclusions [15]. While e.g. Bunderson
and Sutclie [4] brought a better understanding to the subject by conceptualization functional
diversity, there appears to exist no clear model that incorporates the potential limitations and
benefits of designers and managers working together.
This paper addresses this gap in knowledge. It has two main parts and objectives. First,
it examines cross-functional team eectiveness in the management literature. Secondly, we
develop a theoretical model of cross-functional team eectiveness. Recent management research
articles on cross- functional teams were reviewed to determine the methods used to study these
teams, with the aim of developing an understanding that can ser ve as the base for research
of cross-functional team eectiveness. This research includes all cross-functional teams (e.g.
management teams, project teams), in which team members are from more than one discipline.
In this paper we do not dier in terms of cross-functional, inter- and multidisciplinary teams, as
we argue that the proposed framework is indierent to this distinction.
Literature on cross-functional teams
A review of recent management literature demonstrates a broad and diverse spectrum of
writings in cross- functional team eectiveness, with no common focus. Researchers are using
dierent frameworks (e.g. input-process-outcome framework, input-mediator-outcome framework),
dierent methodologies (e.g. experiments, surveys) and focusing on various factors, such as
inputs (e.g. contextual- level influence studies), processes (e.g. empowerment) and outcomes
(e.g. quality of service provided) . As a result the existing knowledge of cross-functional teams
is incommensurable and splintered, failing to achieve the consistence needed from a cohesive
body of knowledge. In the functional diverse team literature, we can find, on the one hand, that
diverse teams can be more innovative [3], can develop more precise strategies [2] , and have
advantages over functional homogenous teams in introducing some organizational changes [23] .
The positive eect of diverse teams is based upon the theoretical perspective of information
processing [13] . Information processing states that diversity in teams will increase the range of
perspectives and enhance opportunities for knowledge sharing, and thus improve the outcome
in terms of quality and creativity [13] . On the other hand research shows that functional diversit y
also broaden opinion and perspective within the team, which can lead to increased conflict [18] ,
slower competitive response [10] and lower performance [19] . These research studies are often
based upon the similarity-attraction paradigm and/or self- and social categorization. Similarity-
attraction paradigm and self- and social categorization argue that individuals are more attracted
towards other individuals with similar traits, and hence experience less cohesion and social
integration in functional diverse teams [13] . All in all, we can assert that performance outcomes
in diverse teams are inconsistent.
Team eectiveness
McGrath [16] presented the Input-Process-Outcome (IPO) framework (see figure 1) . Inputs
explain individual, team and organisational factors that allow and restrict members’ interactions.
These factors, which steer team processes, consist of individual team members’ characteristics
(e.g. competencies, traits) , team-level factors (e.g. task structure, team size) , organizational and
contextual factors (e.g. environmental complexity). Team processes describe how team members’
interact and work together to achieve the assigned task. Outcomes include performance (e.g.
quality) and team member’s aective reactions (e.g. satisfaction) [15].
Although this model has been shown to be of value, it has received criticism for not including
time as a factor or to distinguish among multiple types of processes and outcomes [e.g.
6,11,14,15]. This critiques led to the development of input-mediator-outcome (IMO) framework
(figure 2) advanced by Ilgen at al. [11]. The IMO framework addresses the multilevel nature
of teams. Individual members are imbedded in teams, which are imbedded in the organization
[12]. All three input factors are presumed to be influencing each other, while the outer layers
aect the inner layers more than the opposite [15] . The team level inputs eect mediators and
outcomes. One variable within the team level input, which received considerable attention in
research [15] , is interdependence (or interaction) and explains how “team members cooperate
and work interactively to complete tasks” [20: 137]. According to Wageman [21] the team
Team Processes Performance
Figure 1: Input-Process-Outcome (IPO) framework (by McGrath in [15]).
78 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 79
members’ skills and abilities, as well as the need to share resources within the team, thrive
the team member’s level of interdependence. High interdependence takes place when team
members work cooperatively and depend on each other’s resources [20].
Marks et al. [14] introduce mediators to the IMO framework. Mediators are divided into
the emergent state (e.g. collective ecacy, potency) and process (team members’ action), to
demonstrate the importance of other factors than just processes. Emergent states influence team
processes, which then again can alter the emergent state [14]. Traditionally team processes
have been separated into taskwork and teamwork [17]. Taskwork explained the function a
team member must perform and teamwork explained the interaction within the team [17].
The taxonomy of team processes by Marks et al. [14] is a more modern approach, dividing
processes into (a) transition phase process, (b) action phase process, and (c) interpersonal
processes. In the transition phase, teams focus mainly on evaluation and planning of activities
to accomplish their task (e.g. goal specification). The action phase process describes the actual
activities leading to the task accomplishment (e.g. coordination). Interpersonal processes explain
the teams’ management of such things as conflict and motivation. Those three processes occur
within episodes, rather than over the entire life cycle.
One of the key constructs of team outcomes is built by Cohen and Bailey [6] . They divide
team eectiveness into three categories: (a) per formance, (b) attitudes, and (c) behavior.
Mathieu [15] on the other hand split team performances in (1) organizational-level performance,
(2) team performance behaviors and outcomes, and (3) role-based performance. The focus of
organizational-level performance is on top management teams (TMTs), because of the close
relation between performance of TMTs and organizational performance. Team performance
behaviors are actions to accomplish the goals [15]. Role-based performance analyzes the
degree to which team members have the necessar y skills and competences to perform their
tasks [22].
The IMO framework incorporates time as a crucial factor. According to Mathieu et al. [15] the
two most common ways to include time are (a) the development method and (b) the episodic
method. The development models exemplify how teams change over time and that they are
dierent influenced by dierent factors over time [15] . On the other hand, the episodic model
illustrate that teams have to work on dierent processes during the teams life span. This depends
on the task demand, which can recur [cf. 14, 16].
The concept of functional wall
The IMO team eectiveness model, while established, is yet insucient to study cross-functional
teams, as its general expression is problematic and it does not take explicitly into account
factors such as the functional background of the team members. The issue emerges from the
observation that team members from disciplines like engineering, design and business think, act
and behave dierently. Those dierences eectively create a “functional wall” that surrounds
individuals and hinders interaction among team members. The thought of the functional wall
builds on the dominant function conception [4] . According to Bunderson and Sutclie [4] the
dominant function of team members is the function in which they have worked most of their
career. The conception is based on the assumption that every team member has a certain
functional perspective that is acquired through work experience [4] and/or education. The extent
to which the dominant functions of team members are balanced or broaden within a team is one
of the factors determining the eects of the functional wall in cross-functional teams.
The principle of jointness
To overcome the functional wall, team members must integrate and synchronize strategies
and activities to achieve the objectives of the team [9] . Douglas and Strutton [9] developed
a “jointness” principle, transferring it from the military context to general organization ; this
paper applies it to cross-functional teams. The principle of jointness introduces : (a) functional
competences, (b) reciprocal understanding, (c) cross-functional communication, and (d) trust,
together with behavioral norms and organizational capabilities, as factors to overcome the
functional wall. Eective cross-functional teams must consist of functionally competent team
members, able to successful achieve their taskwork. If functional competence is missing,
reciprocal understanding, cross- functional communication, and trust are unlike to emerge [9].
Organizational Context
Team Context
Emergent state
Episodic Cycles
Developmental processes
Multiple Criteria
Figure 2: Input-Mediator-Outcome (IMO) framework [15].
80 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 81
Reciprocal understanding is created when team members know each other’s skills (strength
and weaknesses) , goals and concerns, as well as team members’ dominant functional
knowledge and their usefulness for the team [9]. Cross-functional communication denotes the
“interoperability” [9 p.256]. To operate successfully in a cross-functional environment team
members must know how to communicate timely and eective with each other [5] and operate
together. Cross-functional communication and reciprocal understanding can be acquired
through education, training, and cross-functional team experience [9]. Trust builds upon
reciprocal knowledge. While its presence does not guarantee success, its absence increases
the probability of failure [5]. When functional competence exists, reciprocal understanding
occurs and communication is enabled, trust can be build and the team will be eective. With the
absence of any of the four factors team will fail [9].
Cross-functional team eectiveness
Figure 3 builds upon the jointness principle and illustrates the eects of cross-functional
communication and reciprocal understanding on the functional wall surrounding team members.
The matrix does not include functional competence or trust as variables. Functional competence
is a constant and integrated in the abilities and skills of a team member. We assume that cross-
functional teams are, important and therefore cross -functional teams are staed with skilled and
competent employees. Trust on the other hand builds upon cross-functional communication,
reciprocal understanding and functional competence. Consequently, higher cross -functional
communication and reciprocal understanding within the teams will generate higher trust.
The T describes team member’s skills, abilities, and functional competence, and is
surrounded by the functional wall (shown by a square) . When cross-functional communication
and reciprocal understanding are low, team members’ functional wall is solid and makes
it for those team members impossible neither to accept other ideas nor to communicate
eectively with other team members. Team members with high/low or low/high cross -functional
communication and reciprocal understanding have a more open functional wall (shown by a
dashed square), desirable in cross-functional teams. Although cross- functional communication
(or reciprocal understanding) can pass through the functional wall, it is not a sucient condition
for cross-functional teams to be successful. If, for example, cross -functional communication is
low and reciprocal understanding is high, the team member is able to understand the other team
members, but unable to incorporate this knowledge within the cross- functional communication.
Consequently, the cross-functional team cannot reach its full performance. Cross-functional
teamwork requires high interdependence and therefore team members with high reciprocal
understanding and cross-functional communication will perform best in this environment.
Their functional wall (shown by a dotted square) is open for other team members’ functional
perspective and allows timely and eective communication.
Figure 4 illustrates the integration of the functional wall in to an updated IMO model, named
cross-functional team eectiveness framework with a focus on the potential change of the
functional wall through the dierent phases. It incorporates the emergent state construct in
each phase of the framework, because the emergent state is dynamic in nature. The outer layer
illustrates the organization, in which the team and team members with their functional wall are
imbedded. Similar to the IMO model [15], all layers influence each other, whereby the outer
layers aect the inner layers more than opposite. Organizational context describes such factors
as environmental complexity, and team context explains factors such as task structure [15]. The
functional competences, personalities, skills and abilities are imbedded in the team member, who
is surrounded by the functional wall, defined by cross- functional communication and reciprocal
By showing the dierent levels of the functional wall, the framework does not try to predict the
changes in the functional wall; it merely tries to show that the functional wall exists and is able
to change over time. The quad arrow illustrates interpersonal processes (conflict management,
motivating/confidence building and aect management) established by Marks et al. [14] and
describes “processes teams use to manage interpersonal relationships” [14 p.368]. The eective
management of interpersonal processes depends on the functional wall : Only if cross-functional
communication and reciprocal understanding is high, can interpersonal processes be eectively
managed. The framework indicates strong interpersonal processes by a solid quad arrow and
very weak interpersonal processes are shown by a dotted quad arrow. Time is included as a
development factor, illustrating that the team can change over time.
The two left-right arrows between the two processes and the outcome show that a team
can not only advance in their task, but also come back to a previous stage. A Forming phase
is incorporated into the Input stage, which is crucial to the outcome and describes the team
low high
Figure 3: Cross-functional
communication, reciprocal
understanding and the functional
82 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 83
shaping. It incorporates the transition phase processes (mission analysis, goal specification,
strategy formulation and planning) [14] and the team creation (e.g. introduction). Cross-functional
communication and reciprocal understanding will aect the interpretation and evaluation of the
team’s mission and hence, complicate the prioritization of goals and the development of the
strategy. The process describes tasks, which teams perform to the achievements of goals [14].
The processes of monitoring progress toward goals, system monitoring, team monitoring and
backup behavior and coordination occur during this phase [14]. Similar to the forming phase
the functional wall has major eects on the team’s outcome. For example, De Dreu and West
[8] showed in their study the significance of team member’s participation. Participation depends
very much on the level of cross-functional communication and reciprocal understanding. The
outcome of the teamwork will have eect on the team member’s future teamwork. The team
members learn from their experience, and positive as well as negative experience will influence
their functional wall.
This paper has examined the question of how to study cross-functional team eectiveness.
Through the literature review it was observed that the input-mediator-outcome framework [16] is
a good base, but lacks the central notion of a functional wall. The paper proceeded to propose
an updated cross-functional team eectiveness model, which takes into account the functional
In terms of the relevance of the research, we note that organizations are increasingly using
functionally diverse teams in an international setting, and an enhanced understanding of how to
utilize them more eectively is important for future success. This also means that academia has
to understand how functional diverse teams work, in order to teach these skills and knowledge
to students. This paper contributes to the design research by re-contextualizing knowledge from
the management field. More importantly, the developed model will help to structure and direct
future research in cross-functional team eectiveness in the field of design.
[1] Aurand, T.W., DeMoranville, C. & Gordon, G.L. 2001. Cross-Functional business programs: Critical design
and development considerations. Mid-American Journal of Business, vol. 16, no. 2, pp 21-30.
[2] Bantel, K. A. (1993). Strategic clarity in banking: Role of top management-team demography. Psychological
Reports, vol. 73, no. 2, pp 1187-1201.
[3] Bantel, K. A. & Jackson, S. E. (1989). Top management and innovations in banking: Does the demography of
the top team make a dierence? Strategic Management Journal, vol. 10, special issue: Strategic Leaders and
Leadership, pp 107-124.
[4] Bunderson, J. S. & Sutclie, K. M. (2002). Comparing alternative conceptualizations of functional diversity
in management teams: Process and performance eects. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 45, no. 5, pp
[5] Cantalone, R., Droge, C., & Vickery, S. (2002). Investigating the manufacturing-marketing interface in new
product development: Does context aect strengths of relationships? Journal of Operations Management, vol.
20, no. 3, pp 273-287.
[6] Cohen, S. G. & Bailey, D. E. (1997). What makes teams work: Group Eectiveness research from the shop
floor to the executive suite. Journal of Management, vol. 23, no. 3, pp. 239-290.
[7] Dahlin, K. B., Weingart, L. R. & Hinds, P. J. (2005). Team diversity and information use. Academy of
Management Journal, vol. 48, no. 6, pp 1107-1123.
[8] De Dreu, C.K.W. & West, M.A. (2001). Minority dissent and team innovation: The importance of
participation in decision making. Journal of Applied Psychology, vol. 86, no. 6, pp 1191-1201.
[9] Douglas (Major), M.A. & Strutton, D. (2009). Going “purple”: Can military jointness principles provide a key
to more successful integration at the marketing-manufacturing interface? Business Horizons, vol. 52, no. 3, pp
[10] Hambrick, D. C., Cho, T. & Chen, M. (1996). The influence of top management team heterogeneity on firms’
competitive moves. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 41, no. 4, pp 659-84.
[11] Ilgen, D.R., Hollenbeck, J.R., Johnson, M., & Jundt, D. (2005). Teams in organizations: From input-process-
output models to IMOI models. Annual Review of Psychology, vol. 56, no. 1, pp 517-543.
Figure 4: Cross-functional team eectiveness framework.
Input & Emergent state
Organizational Context
Process & Emergent state Outcome & Emergent state
84 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 85
[12] Klein, K., & Kozlowski, S.W.J. (2000). Multilevel theory, research and methods in organization. San
Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
[13] Mannix, E., & Neale, M.A. (2005). What Dierence Make a Dierence? The Promise and Reality of Diverse
Teams in Organizations. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 31-55.
[14] Marks, M.A., Mathieu, J.E., & Zaccaro, S.J. (2001). A temporally based framework and taxonomy of team
processes. Academy of Management Review, vol. 26, no. 3, pp 356-376.
[15] Mathieu, J., Maynard, T. M., Rapp, T. & Gilson, L. (2008). Team Eectiveness 1997-2007: A Review of Recent
Advancements and a Glimpse Into the Future. Journal of Management, vol. 34, no. 3, pp 410-476.
[16] McGrath, J.E. (1964). Social psychology: A brief introduction. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
[17] McIntyre, R.M., & Salas, E. (1995). Meassuring and management for team performance: Emerging
principles from complex environments. In R.A. Guzzo & E. Salas (Eds.), Team eectiveness and decision
making in organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
[18] Pelled, L.H., Eisenhardt, K.M., & Xin, K.R. (1999). Exploring the black box: An analysis of work group
diversity, conflict, and performance. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 44, no. 1, pp 1-28.
[19] Simons, T., Pelled, L. H. & Smith, K. H. (1999). Making use of dierence: Diversity, debate, decision
comprehensiveness in top management teams. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 42, no. 6, pp 662-673.
[20] Stewart, G.L. & Barrick, M.R. (2000). Team structure and performance: Assessing the mediating role of
intrateam process and the moderating role of task type. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, pp
[21] Wageman, R. (1995). Interdependence and group eectiveness. Administrative Science Quarterly, vol. 40,
no. 1, pp 145-180.
[22] Welbourne, T.M., Johnson, D.E., & Erez, A. (1998). The role-based performance scale: Validity analysis of a
theory-based measure. Academy of Management Journal, vol. 41, no. 5, pp 540-555.
[23] Williams, R. J., Homan, J. J., & Lamont, B. T. (1995). Demography and diversity in organizations: A review
of 40 years of research. In B. M. Staw & L. L. Cummings (Eds.), Research in organizational behaviour, Vol. 20,
77-140, Greenwich, CT, JAI Press.
can you
a culture?
The Problem-Based
Learning approach
towards new package
design development
provides a fruitful
learning experience for
students, the academic
sta, and companies
Part of this paper appeared in two papers: Heiniö, Sanna & Karjalainen, Toni-Matti (2010).
Multidisciplinary Student Project as a Teaching Platform for Package Design. International
Association of Packaging Research Institutes (IAPRI) Conference. October 12–2010. Tianjin, China.
Karjalainen, Toni-Matti & Honkaniemi, Sanna (2009). Cut to the c(h)ase: Communicating strategic
brand intent through visual package design. IASDR 2009. October 19-22 2009. Seoul, South Korea.
IDBM student project as a teaching
platform for package design
Sanna Heiniö
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
88 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 89
Where do good package designs come from? And where do the good package designers come
from? There are no simple answers to these questions since package design does not really fit
into any single discipline. Package design is not only engineering, it is not only about marketing
and branding, and it is not solely the territory of graphical or industrial design either. Instead,
good package design is a result of skillfully combining knowledge from all three disciplines:
technology, business and design.
In this article, we illustrate how an IDBM student project can provide an excellent teaching
platform for package design. We found that teaching package design with problem-based
learning (PBL) approach and conducting a package design project with industry partners can
be very fruitful. Students learn multidisciplinary team skills and project management as well as
gain understanding on the complex nature of managing package design. Conducting a package
design project together with a student group can be insightful and inspiring also for industr y
partners. In addition to new ideas and new approaches industry partners get from student
cooperation, the project can lead to new package design solutions.
In many companies, package design processes tend to be linear and the cooperation
between technical, marketing and design experts is often sequential rather than continuous.
The way in which a multidisciplinary student team works with package design can challenge
companies to question their working structures and encourage the dierent experts of the
company into closer collaboration. Finally, the approach of teaching package design with PBL
approach and conducting an actual package design project with industry partners meets the
academic learning objectives and provides students skills they will need in practical working life.
The Messenger Package project
Messenger Package (ViestiPakkaus) is a Tekes-funded research collaborative (2008-2011)
between IDBM program, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and Association of Packaging
Technology and Research (PTR) . The research aims to provide solutions and guidelines for
more ecient and intensive package communication by integrating technology, marketing and
design know-how. In addition to Messenger Package research partners, there are seven industr y
partners involved in the project. The industr y partners represent Finnish carton- and cardboard
producers (two companies) , brand owners of consumer products (three companies) , a retailer,
and a design agency.
During the academic year 2008-2009, Messenger Package project provided a learning
environment for an IDBM master-level student group. A team of four students was assigned the
task to study communicative elements of packaging and provide new innovative package design
solutions. The students had their undergraduate degrees in business management, marketing,
engineering and graphical design. In addition to diversity of their educational background,
students also had dierent cultural backgrounds: British and Finnish.
Of the seven industry partners of the project, the brand-owner companies were central for
this group as they briefed the package design cases for students to work with. Each brand
owner chose one product on which they wanted student group to focus and provide new
insights on product’s package. The chosen products represented three brands, which were a
gift chocolate brand (confectionary), a gardening soil brand (soil products) , and a pruner brand
(gardening tool) . The learning objective of the course was to provide solutions for more ecient
and intensive package communication by integrating technology, business and design knowhow
(cf. Messenger Package research). Specific emphasis in the IDBM student project was placed
on visual brand recognition and package design’s role as a medium of communication. The
project lasted almost nine months, which enabled students to build a strong team and establish
proper connections with the industry partners.
Visual brand recognition and package design
The main thematic objective of the student project was to enhance the recognition of the
involved brands. Creating visual brand recognition through distinctive design features is
considered strategically important for an increasing number of companies. Specific focus is
often on product packages, while package design possesses strong communicative power in
many product categories. The package is used to inform about the product it covers or supports,
to point out specific product qualities and, in specific, to create unique brand experience [1,5,6].
In many product categories, product package is of ten focused as the key marketing element of
the product, and the first contact point between product and customer. Already 50 years ago,
Pilditch [2] argued that package is the connecting link bet ween company and consumer, and
consumer’s purchase decision is dependent on the package. Pilditch’s basic argument seems to
hold true even today although the ways how companies connect with consumers and the factors
that determine consumer’s purchase decisions have changed.
Companies producing consumer products are confronted with a culture of consumption that is
fast and instable. In order to establish a longer-living relationship with the consumers, a growing
need for aesthetically appealing commodities has emerged. Strategic focus is of ten placed on
product package being able to transfer a strong message. In many product categories, package
often takes the role as the key marketing element of the product. In the case of low -involvement
products (such as daily food products) , the package is often the sole communicative device
for building a brand identity. Many of these general consumer products are bought frequently
and with a minimum involvement of the consumer. At the same time package takes the role of a
brand medium also in high-involvement product categories, i.e. in the case of products that need
a considerable cognitive eort from the consumer before the purchase decision can be taken.
For those products the package can be used to emphasize specific product qualities in order
to reinforce the unique brand experience. The package is used to inform about its product, to
put forward specific product qualities and above all to create the unique brand experience and
image. By integrating dierent functions into holistic experience, the package serves as a crucial
visual interface bet ween the brand and its user.
The growing interest towards package as a strategic brand medium sets new challenges
not only for companies and practitioners but also for education. Students aiming to work in
90 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 91
consumer product industry need to understand the dierent roles of product package, and
most importantly, the ways to employ package as a strategic medium for brand communication.
However, the traditional ways of academic teaching do not to provide sucient skills for students
to work in multidisciplinary and environments that are typically dynamic and involve high degree
of complexity. Packaging and package design are dicult to be taught by lecturing.
Conventional education tends to fail in two areas: firstly, students don’t learn to solve problems
in professional practice, and secondly, they don’t acquire “learning to learn” skills which are
essential in the climate of continuous change that characterizes working life and professional
development [3] . New and more practical approaches to educate students on packaging are
therefore needed. The Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach can provide an educational path
through which students can explore the real world of packaging as well as “learn to learn” the
working practices within a multidisciplinary team.
PBL approach for teaching package design in IDBM
The rapid changes in technology, information and economy call for the new competence such
as skills of critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, team working etc. Problem-Based
Learning emphasizes a “real world” approach to learning : it is a student centered process that
is both constructive and collaborative. It is also based on the premise that students will be
motivated to “want to know” and solve the problem posed because it is presented in a context
that simulates real situations [4] . PBL has been applied to dierent fields of education in many
countries for over 20 years. It has spread worldwide to various disciplines of higher education
such as architecture, economics, engineering, mathematics and law. The basic premise of
PBL is that learning star ts from dealing with problems that arise from professional practice. In
other words, the aim of problem-based learning is to build a bridge between working life and
education. PBL gathers and integrates many elements regarded as essential in eective, high
quality learning, such as self-directed or autonomous learning, critical and reflective thinking
skills, and the integration of disciplines [3] .
Tien, Chu and Lin [4] have indentified four phases in problem-based learning process: (1)
selecting a problem, (2) designing actions, (3) determining learning objectives and (4) linking
contents (see figure 1). The first phase is often the most dicult one as a good PBL problem must
engage students’ interest and motivate then to probe for deeper understanding of the concepts
being introduced. An eective problem should also be complex enough that cooperation from all
members of the student group will be necessary in order for them to eectively work towards a
solution. For the Messenger Package project, the PBL problem was rather easy to find. Package
design issues were interesting for students who could identif y themselves as buyers and users
of packaged consumer products, and the multifaceted nature of package design provided a
teaching platform that required participation from all student members: in order to complete the
project, the knowledge -base of each student was needed.
The second phase in problem-based learning process deals with designing actions. The
student project lasted for nine months. This period was divided into three action modules,
each lasting about three months. The first and the last modules involved much cooperation
with academic teaching sta and industry partners, whereas the second module was largely
independent working by student team themselves.
The third phase of PBL process is to set the learning objectives. Tien, Chu and Lin [6]
suggest that PBL curriculum should state what students must learn, what they should learn and
what would be nice for them to learn. For the package design project the learning objectives
were not defined exactly in this manner, but the learning objectives were drawn from industry
partners’ wishes and expectations for package design, and the general course requirements.
Course requirements included: active par ticipation in the team and other course-related
activities (lectures, workshops, discussions etc.), researching the topic with empirical methods
e.g. interviews and observations, reporting the team activities regularly during the project, and
delivering a final report and presentation by the end of the course. Students also had the chance
to modify the learning objectives according to their own interest. By enabling students to take
part in goal- setting, their commitment and motivation towards the project was increased.
What type of package
designs meet technical,
financial, functional,
informational and
emotional aspects of
packaging and express
the brand identity?
Provide new concepts
for the three case
products: gift-
chocolates pruners
gardening soil
Visual brand recognition and package
design as a strategic medium for
brand communication
Provide new package design concepts
for three brands: gift-chocolates,
pruners & gardening soil
1st module: research, data collection,
interviews, team-building
2nd module: working with the briefs,
finding dierent solutions to problem
3rd module: evaluating and improving
the chosen package design solutions
1st Phase
Selecting a problem 4th Phase
Linking contents
2nd Phase
Designing actions
3rd Phase
Defining learning objectives
Figure 1: The framework for problem-based learning (PBL) in the package design project
92 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 93
As illustrated in figure 1, the purpose of the fourth phase in PBL process is to link all the
contents and state the questions students are expected to answer by the end of the project. The
teacher is mainly responsible for conducting the fourth phase, whereas the three first phases
can be worked together with students and industry partners. This process framework provided
the general guidelines for the package design project. The three modules of the second phase
basically formed the practical structure of the IDBM student project during the 9 months
academic year:
First module (months 1-3). During the first months of the project (the first module) students
studied literature on branding, package design and research methods. The studied material was
discussed together with academic teaching sta and the team made several visual analyses
on case products. Students also wrote a blog diary on their reflections on literature and on
the packaging observations they had made in supermarkets and contexts of use. Blog diary
also included sources of inspiration, such as links to web-pages, magazines, and other visual
media. The team even visited Packaging Museum in London and attended the Emballage trade
fair in Paris in order to understand the history and the current trends in the packaging industry.
To define the strategic intent and brand essence, in-depth discussions and interviews were
conducted with company representatives. In addition, a detailed review on current packages was
performed to identif y strength and weaknesses in visual communication.
The second module (months 3-6 ). The analysis was then followed by a concept design phase
that was further divided into ideation and development phases. First, students were mapping out
the challenges and opportunities of packaging, brainstorming for novel ideas, and selecting most
prominent ideas into further development. The development phase resulted in initial sketches
and concepts, which were then revised in a number of iteration rounds. These phases of the
project involved rather independent work by the students.
Third module (months 6-9) . The third and final module of the project commenced when the
first package concepts were ready. Students had built three new packaging solutions. These
concepts were introduced to the company and the academic teaching sta for comments.
Students received feedback on the creativity and innovativeness as well as real-life practicality
and feasibility of the concepts. While industr y partners of ten advised students to consider the
current packaging technology and retailer requirements for packaging, the academic teaching
sta encouraged students to be innovative and not to think about possible limitations too much.
Such a polarity was yet a challenge for the team but proved to result in interesting package
concepts. In this situation characterized by conflicting opinions, which, in fact, also simulates the
real-life challenges, the team was given the eventual responsibility to take the package design
concepts into direction they found the most appropriate. Finally, prior to the final presentation
of the concepts, students had few weeks for the necessary adjustments and fine- tuning of the
designs. Attention was also put on the communicative contents of the new package concepts
from the perspective of the particular brand in question, as this was the underlying theme of the
New package design concepts for Fiskars pruners
Finally, we take the example of Fiskars pruners to illustrate the development of packaging
designs for a specific brand, as one of the many products included in the project. In the case of
Fiskars, devotion on product functionality was seen as the brand essence. Fiskars tools have a
strong history and reputation of a producer of highly functional and ergonomic products. Fiskars
well-known signature orange-handled scissors (in production since 1967) are a good example of
excellent functionality.
The development of Fiskars’ gardening tools is also based on the same functionality and
timeless design language the scissors have created. Fiskars products are light weight and easy
to use, including innovative mechanisms that enable people with even limited strength to use
them eectively. Fiskars tools are recognized by their strong contrasting orange and black
colors, giving them a powerful and reliable appearance. In overall, Fiskars product design is
considered simple and honest.
These values, the brand essence of Fiskars, and strong products should be supported by
packages in which the products are displayed in stores. The aim of the analysis and concept
design was to find new ways to enhance the visual communication of packages as well as to
support and even further strengthen the Fiskars brand. The key attributes of Fiskars that should
be communicated through package design were high quality, experience, nature, style, and
professional. Moreover, packages should help consumers to easily discover the use purpose of
the product.
In the first module, the student group analyzed current packages to see how well they
correspond to the Fiskars brand essence and clear recognition of the use purpose. One
example, the package of the Fiskars Power-Lever® pruners that was in the market at the
time of the project, is shown in figure 2. Fiskars has a wide portfolio of gardening product
families, and each product family contains a wide range of dierent type of tools. Consequently,
communicating the use purpose of the product is a challenge. Just by looking at the product,
a customer should clearly recognize the product as a Fiskars, understand what is the product
used for, and how it should be used. These aspects are an eliminate part of Fiskars brand
essence. From this viewpoint, a detailed analysis was performed on the various design features
of the current packages.
The analysis concluded, first of all, that the basic concept and shape of Fiskars package
is rather idealistic in terms of material usage, information sharing, functionality, and creativity.
However, development challenges were identified within the form and graphics that was regarded
as not communicating the expertise of the company and the use purpose of the tools in the
best possible manner. In specific, three focus points for development were identified; the overall
appearance, infographics, and colors.
94 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 95
First, the overall appearance of Fiskars packages is currently very technical, which, on one
hand, well reflects the functionality and technical performance of the products. On the other
hand, a high number of technical details and complicated product names can easily alienate
people. A more playful appearance could dierentiate Fiskars products from the competitors and
also invite potential customers to more easily approach the products.
Second, infographics are currently used to indicate the use purpose and functionalities of the
products. However, they may confuse users as the visual formats vary and not all infographs are
self-explanatory. If the infographics fail to serve their purpose, the user is easily mislead, which is
against Fiskars brand essence. The solution to enhance infographics would be to streamline and
downsize them. Infographics should be clearer and all follow the same format.
Third, the current stands on which Fiskars products are displayed are easy to recognize by
their strong orange and black color. The product also looks good in the package and reflects the
values of strength and good quality. However, when the stand is looked at from a distance, the
shape of the well designed product fades to the similarly coloured background. Moreover, it is
dicult to distinguish dierent products from each other. One solution to enhance communication
would be either to change the background colour of the package e.g. to white, which would more
clearly detach the product and its shape from the background. Another possibility would be to
change the proportions of colour usage (orange and black). Black is now perhaps too dominant
since the product itself is mainly black. Hence, the proportion of orange colour should be raised.
These three areas were in focus when new package concepts were next designed by the
students. Figure 3 presents the concepts that were developed during the project.
In the first concept, for instance, a more dynamic appeal was sought after by increasing the
amount of orange color on the package. This was meant to highlight the beautifully streamlined
figure of the product and to prevent the product from fading into the background. The product
looks as good as it feels in hand, which the package should also emphasize.
In the second concept, specific background pattern were used for specific models in order to
help the customer to recognize the technology in question. It was noticed that the true benefits
of the technologies, (PowerGear, Power-Lever, PowerStep, etc.) are not communicated clearly
by the current packages. Furthermore, the infographics were replaced by more expressive texts.
The third concept addressed the issue of creating a more human and light-hearted
appearance for the product. This was implemented by changing the background color to white
and by adding a clearly written story about the proper use purpose of the product on the
package. The white color was also used to emphasize the impressive figure of the product.
In the VIP project, the quality of student work was acknowledged particularly by the companies
involved. The ideas and concepts created during the project were highly appreciated by the
companies, and some inspirations were used, and will be used, in the development of new
packages. Moreover, companies were able to enhance the communication between their internal
departments and teams through this multidisciplinary student project. In the reported Fiskars
case, for example, the company was conducting a large scale product and package renewal at
the time of the VIP project and found many student concepts inspirational and helpful in their
own design process. As shown by figure 4, the new package designs of Fiskars pruners have
lifted the communication of brand values and product use onto a new level.
In terms of package communication, the project has shown that even though the primary role
of the package is to support the message of the core product, like in the Fiskars case, it can
have a great communicative power as such. The aspect of creating simplicit y, clarity, and strong
messages was particularly highlighted in this case. Colors were regarded perhaps the most
important single element in the Fiskars case where they are one of the strongest elements of
brand recognition.
Figure 2: Fiskars Power-Lever® pruners in the old package.
Figure 3: New package
concepts for Fiskars
pruners designed by the
student group.
96 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 97
Fiskars case highlights many central themes discussed in the first part of the paper. The
project showed that the role of package design in brand communication is central even in
the case of high-involvement products like Fiskars tools. Our experience with the project
demonstrated that this type of a practical PBL approach towards new package design
development and more eective brand communication provides a fruitful learning experience
both for students, the academic sta, and companies involved. According to the feedback and
course evaluations, students found the project rewarding and motivating. This type of a project
is highly challenging and time consuming and requires intensive involvement from the students,
but the positive rewards in the form of close company collaboration and realistic product
development challenges seemed to overrule the personal investments.
As an educational approach, PBL is a strategic answer to the competence needs of the
information society, as also suggested by Poikela and Poikela [3] . These competencies
emphasize the skills of knowledge processing, communication, interaction and problem-solving.
The shift from knowledge to knowing is reflected in the demand for continuous learning and in
the need to repeatedly develop or even change a professional orientation. It is not enough that
education provides a sucient knowledge to be applied in professional practice; education itself
has to be able to produce the core competences needed in future.
The project also showed that this type of analytical and practical approaches are needed,
in particular, when new ways are sought to explore the perceptual and experiential aspects of
package design on a deeper level. Furthermore, this project successfully highlighted the multiple
functions of product package both in low - and high-involvement product categories. It turned
out to be a potential approach to tackle the multidisciplinary and multifaceted challenges of
contemporary package design.
The authors would like to thank the wonderful Messenger Package IDBM student team (2008-
2009) – Sari Alén, Maija Liiri, Antti Kivinen, and Jitan Pavel – for demonstrating the PBL’s
eciency in teaching and industr y cooperation. In addition, we thank the representatives of the
three case companies for high devotion and interest during the student project. We also want
express our gratitude to all Messenger Package project partners for providing the intellectual,
practical, and financial resources to make our explorations in the world of the package design
[1] Meyers, H. & Gerstman, R. (2005). The Visionary Package – using packaging to build eective brands. New
York: Palgrave MacMillan: New York.
[2] Pilditch, J. (1961). The Silent Salesman. London: Harper and Row.
[3] Poikela, E. & Poikela, S. (2005). The strategic points of problem-based learning. In Poikela E. & Poikela, S.
(Eds.), PBL in context – bridging work and education. Tampere: University Press 2005. pp. 7–22.
[4] Tien, C-J.; Chu, S-T. & Lin, Y-P. (2005) The strategic points of problem-based learning. In Poikela E. &
Poikela, S. (Eds.), PBL in context – bridging work and education. Tampere: University Press 2005. pp. 117–134.
[5] Underwood, R.L. (2003). The communicative power of product packaging: creating brand identity via lived
and mediated experience. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Vol 11, No 1. pp.58–68.
[6] Young, S. (2008). Designing for the shopper – Six principles for eective packaging. Brand Packaging
Magazine, April 2008. pp. 38–44.
Figure 4: Examples of new package designs for Fiskars pruners.
Many enterprises have
lessons to learn from
the music field, as to
how to create consistent
and profound oerings
that truly speak to the
target audience on
symbolic, emotional,
and meaningful levels.
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
Antti Ainamo
Metallic looks
Thoughts on the visual identity
of Finnish heavy metal bands
100 IDBM papers vol 1. IDBM papers vol 1. 101
Throughout its entire history, popular music has involved a strong visual component. Album
cover art, posters and other print media, stage design in concerts, and other visual artifacts
have emerged to create unique emotional experiences for the music audience. Visual artifacts in
popular music have helped to co-create meanings in sync with dierent tonal, structural, lyrical,
and other components of the music itself. Visual cues have been instrumental in enhancing the
cultural meanings of each particular music -playing band and its recordings. Furthermore, visual
identity has been a key “competitive element” for many rock and pop bands.
As in any other product development field and meaning creation activity, bands have used
visual ar tifacts in an active manner, as intentional media, to transfer specific meanings for their
current and potential fans, to build awareness and recognition of themselves within the music
field in general or in some specific sub-category, as well as to raise interest and to support
purchase decisions. Visual artifacts have sometimes even constituted self-standing pieces
of art. Throughout and on the side of these visual strategies, the popular music industry has
gone through drastic changes in the recent decade in terms of technological and structural
development concerning music production, reproduction, social mediation, and distribution.
Contemporary artists, bands and their various stakeholders have faced growing competition
in their quest for international recognition, consecration, and meaning. The number of bands
playing and delivering music has increased considerably and the industry has witnessed the
birth of alternative configurations of music : catalogue oerings, distributed compositions, and
new e-platforms like the iTunes.
In this paper, we focus on (heavy) metal music. Metal music is a genre of music that, across
its numerous incarnations and sub-genres, is a major sub-field of popular music. Within this
genre, visual imagery has played a notable role in the musical experience since the emergence
of heavy metal in the late 1960s. This is highlighted, for instance, in a quote from the “Rock-
Suomi” ( “Rock Finland”) TV documentary that was broadcasted in the autumn of 2010 by YLE,
the national public broadcasting corporation in Finland (translation by the authors) :
“An essential part of the attraction of metal music is not only how it sounds but
also how metal looks. Album covers, dressing, stage constructions, posing in photos,
facial expression, postures, spectacular shock eects, and small details telling about
the extremely precise aesthetics of the sub-culture constitute the visual code system
of metal. The visual imagery of metal may appear as a stream of frequently repeated
clichés for the external world, but with a deeper scrutiny it is full of nuances and
signals that unfold only for the true fans. The external appearance of Finnish metal
may look consistent in its dark seriousness when looked from the distance but a closer
look will reveal surprising dierence in tone and message.”
The quote suggests the importance of the typical idea of situational and context-dependent
meaning creation that occurs in creative and cultural sub-genres. The quote also highlights the
importance of the visual dimension in the case of certain Finnish metal bands. In Finland, heavy
metal has grown into a mainstream genre and also become a main “export item” of the Finnish
music scene. After our initial analyses and observations of numerous Finnish metal bands, we
have noticed that they have paid careful attention not only to the skillful and distinctive music
which they compose and perform but also to the overall concept including visual identity. We find
that the communicative dimension of their appearance and their visual cues, in particular, play
an important role in their success. More specifically, we find that it is of ten the Finnish origins
that give these bands, their concepts and songs, and their visual expressions, a unique accent
that is either implicitly or explicitly – and very distinctively – utilized as a communicative element.
BogFires project
We are making an attempt to explore visual meaning creation in heavy metal in the BogFires
Research Project (Best Practices of Globalization in Finnish Rock Export, http://bogfires., one of the research enterprises of the IDBM Program. The project, in general,
focuses on the commercial side of music export and production and comprises three main
1. Principles and practices: Theorization of “Finnish metal“ as a process of entrepreneurship,
with a focus on both business and cultural entrepreneurship.
2. Structures and gatekeepers: Description of the distribution networks and core players in the
Finnish music industry, with a focus on the process of internationalization of Finnish metal
3. Contents, concepts, and brands : Identif ying the instrumental, aesthetic and symbolic
mechanisms in Finnish metal, with a focus on understanding the interaction of the various
band-specific and collective strategies at play.
The topic of visual communication discussed in this paper falls particularly under the third
umbrella theme. In practice, we explore how bands create and articulate their concepts and
narratives, and how they become manifest in the visual (and, to some exte