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Harnessing the 'essential tension' of design: The complex relationship between the firm and designer consultants

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  • Filippetti, Andrea

Abstract

A central factor which characterizes design-related innovative activities is that a major source of knowledge – that is designers – is very often located outside the firm. This raises a central management issue for the firm and unavoidably generates a tension between designer consultants and the firm which I name the essential tension. The aim of this paper is to shed some light on this complex relationship on the ground of the evidence provided by a multiple case study. The findings confirm that designer consultants can make a substantial contribution in enhancing firms’ innovation capabilities. We show that a better understanding of the types of knowledge that designers need for their activity is key. This affects the way designer consultants are integrated within the organizational structure of the firm, and it also impinges on the strategies put forward by firms to manage this relationship in order to gain a competitive advantage driven by innovation. Implications include the crucial role played by the product manager, the strategies to foster trust and to coordinate designers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 22002.

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Date of creation: 09 Apr 2010
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:22002

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Keywords: industrial design; innovation; product development; case study;

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  1. Czarnitzki, Dirk & Thorwarth, Susanne, 2009. "The design paradox: the contribution of in-house and external design activities on product market performance," ZEW Discussion Papers 09-068, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  2. Ashish Arora & Alfonso Gambardella & Enzo Rullani, 1997. "Division of Labour and the Locus of Inventive Activity," Journal of Management and Governance, Springer, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 123-140, March.
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Cited by:
  1. repec:hal:wpaper:hal-00936947 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Beatrice D'Ippolito & Marcela Miozzo & Davide Consoli, 2013. "Knowledge Systematisation and the Development of a Business Function: The Case of Design," DRUID Working Papers 13-06, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  3. Beatrice D'Ippolito, 2014. "The importance of design for firms' competitiveness: a review of the literature," Working paper serie RMT - Grenoble Ecole de Management hal-00936947, HAL.

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