The influence of design agencies (as a form of inbound open innovation) on organisational learning

University essay from Lunds universitet/Företagsekonomiska institutionen

Abstract: This thesis investigates the under-researched relationship between open innovation (OI) and organisational learning (OL). It addresses questions on how design agencies (DAs) (as a form of inbound OI) influence their client company’s OL process. It also considers the main barriers companies face at each stage of the OL process and how these barriers impact OL. To start, the literature on OI, DAs (and relatedly design thinking [DT]) and OL is reviewed. Particular attention is paid to Crossan, Lane and White’s (1999) ‘4I Framework’ which outlines OL as a process and forms the foundation of this thesis. Studies that have used the ‘4I Framework’ to explore barriers to OL and the role of management consultancies in OL are reviewed. We conclude the literature review by examining the emerging field of research on the relationship between OI and OL. This thesis presents a qualitative, single case study on a Swedish retail bank that has worked with a DA for three years. The DA has provided user experience (UX) and design resources as well as trained the bank in DT. Mixed methods and a hybrid grounded theory approach is adopted, combining induction and deduction. Through our data collection and analysis we largely validated our assumption that the DA would have a large influence on the early, ideation stages of OL but a lesser influence on the later, implementation stages. This is because the DA provides individuals and teams with a method for generating and discussing new insights/ideas. However, it lacks a method for spreading new insights/ideas across the wider organisation and embedding them in the existing business. Simultaneously, as we move across the OL stages the barriers to OL become progressively larger and the DA struggles to overcome them. The dynamics between the DA’s learning activities, their influence on clients’ OL processes and the main barriers to OL were captured in a Grounded Theory Model. We also made some unexpected discoveries that challenged the ‘4I Framework’. Rather than being separate stages, intuiting and interpreting are interdependent, combining the DA’s learning activities at an individual and group level. With DAs, intuiting becomes an active search for inspiration rather than a preconscious activity.

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