Towards an understanding of Rapid Design Interventions outcomes on participants and organisations

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This study explores Rapid Design Interventions and their outcomes on participants and organisations. Rapid Design Interventions (RDI) involve high-paced and intense workshops delivered by design facilitators according to design principles, using design methods and tools, in a hands-on fashion. It differentiates Rapid Design-Driven Interventions (RDDI) from Rapid Design-Led Interventions (RDLI). The former are aiming at the development or betterment of a product, service, or system; the latter, exploration of potential futures for an organisation aiming at the creation of a strategy to achieve preferred future(s).

Although numerous studies highlight the business value of design, most are interested in quantifiable results - the outputs. As such, there is still limited knowledge about the softer change that occurs as a result of design, the outcomes, and specifically as a result of Rapid Design Interventions. This study addresses this gap.

This study addresses the research question ‘How do organisations and individuals recognise and sustain the outcomes of RDI and what are the influencers of these outcomes?’ through a Constructivist Grounded Theory (CGT) approach. It draws on data gathered from participants of RDI, design facilitators and design thinkers, as well as leaders of organisations using RDI in the United Kingdom, Armenia and the United States. In line with the principles of CGT, the author was embedded in the research situation as a practitioner-researcher.

The findings from this study indicate that RDI deliver three main outcomes. They help the participants develop an enhanced (1) entrepreneurial agency and creative confidence and (2) a strategic understanding of their organisation. Further, the participants start to integrate a design innovation approach into their day-to-day practice and their teams’, leading their organisations (3) towards a Design Innovation culture.

The theory developed from this study contextualises these outcomes as being influenced by interactions between the DFs and their designerly approach, and the RDI participants, their organisational context and the external environment within which the organisation sits. Further, it identifies factors supporting the sustainment of these outcomes, from a supportive organisational culture, to a regular Design Innovation practice and exposure as well as the establishment of long-term relationships between participants and Design Facilitators.

The study contributes to the understanding of Design Facilitation as a practice by identifying the phenomenon of Design Listening, which the author proposes as a key skill in enabling the creation of outcomes. Further, by focusing on the outcomes of Rapid Design Interventions, the research demonstrates that Design Facilitation aids in better understanding of the role of such activities in relation to the innovation readiness of an organisation as well as the role of RDI participants as key catalysts for innovation.

Finally, the contribution of this research is significant to academics interested in the field of design facilitation, to practitioners and design facilitators to enable a more purposeful design and deployment of RDI and to organisations in developing the potential power of design practice and directing their resources towards it. To this end, RDI stakeholder recommendations based on the study’s findings are offered.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Design
  • Bailey, Mark, Supervisor
  • Spencer, Nick, Supervisor
Award date24 May 2023
Place of PublicationNewcastle upon Tyne
Publication statusSubmitted - 16 Dec 2022

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