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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Filippetti, Andrea, 2010. "Harnessing the 'essential tension' of design: The complex relationship between the firm and designer consultants," MPRA Paper 22002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:22002
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/22002/1/MPRA_paper_22002.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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 & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 1(1), pages 123-140, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Archibugi, Daniele, 2017. "The social imagination needed for an innovation-led recovery," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 554-556.
    3. D’Ippolito, Beatrice & Miozzo, Marcela & Consoli, Davide, 2014. "Knowledge systematisation, reconfiguration and the organisation of firms and industry: The case of design," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(8), pages 1334-1352.
    4. D’Ippolito,Beatrice & Miozzo,Marcela & Consoli,Davide, 2012. "Knowledge systematisation and the development of a business function: the case of design," INGENIO (CSIC-UPV) Working Paper Series 201202, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), revised 30 May 2012.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    industrial design; innovation; product development; case study;

    JEL classification:

    • M11 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Production Management
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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