DESIGN AS A FUNCTIONAL LEADER: A case study of Philips to investigate the potential of design as a leading functional discipline

Mersha Aftab, Robert Young, Liz MacLarty

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This research investigates the role of design as a functional leader in multinational industries, to drive innovation successfully at a strategic level. It involved a detailed case study of the innovation process, and practices within Philips Design based in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, where design is a key decision making function within the company but not yet recognised as a leading discipline at strategic level. Philips Design wanted to use design research to build an integrated map of its actual practices and correlate these with other corporate innovation practices, to help establish strategic recognition for their value. The doctoral challenge was to explicate the process and determine whether the findings have generic capacity to support the role of design as a functional leading discipline. The investigation integrates an iterative loop of; abductive reasoning of design thinking and inductive reasoning of management thinking in an action research cycle. The case study was part of an empirical enquiry, where the researcher became a participatory observer at Philips Design, conducting one-on-one interviews for data collection and refining their analysis using a Delphi Technique. Three other multinational organisations were explored to take into account how each perceives the contribution of design and the different roles it plays in their organisation. Data triangulation was also used to validate findings with a third party expert. The research contributes to knowledge by confirming the conditions for design to act as a leading functional discipline. It shows that design cannot be the only functional lead for a multinational organisation. It identifies the major reason for this as the difference between thinkers trying to find viable options for the future and practitioners trying to defend the core business in their organisation, resulting in a gap between strategy and operation. The research further elaborates on the reasons for the gap to exist through qualitative conceptual relationships between designer behaviour and organisational culture in the different innovation cycles that exist in the organisation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Apr 2013
EventCrafting The Future: 10th European Academy of Design - Gothenburg
Duration: 16 Apr 2013 → …


ConferenceCrafting The Future: 10th European Academy of Design
Period16/04/13 → …
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