Akapan Thienthaworn


The integration of design thinking into strategic management leading to design business success is an emerging debate within design research. Design thinking is crucial to the creative economy but its implementation is prone to unpredictable changes, particularly in an organisation's external or internal environments. This can have a measurable effect upon the performance of small and medium sized design businesses (SME’s).

Whilst research into design thinking into SMEs design business environments is well recognized there is a lack dearth of literature based on discussing how design thinking can influence a businesses innovation strategy for supporting SMEs design businesses development. The proposed research will aid the understanding of the design business innovation process across various SMEs design focused businesses with a focus on businesses located in Thailand and in the United Kingdom (UK). This study will highlight the potential critical success factors that contribute towards design business innovation. By undertaking case studies with SMEs design businesses in the UK and Thailand, a comparison can be made regarding geographical location, economic conditions, creative cultures and success factors allowing a comparison to be made between a country with a substantial history of design practice and one which can be considered to be an emerging marketplace for design practice.

The purpose is to investigate design thinking within businesses in these selected countries to evaluate the key success factors in implementing design thinking for business management and innovation strategy. This will allow an identification and exploration of the key differences between UK and Thai design companies in applying design thinking for business management; developing new conceptual business models and toolkits; and integrating design thinking into SMEs design business strategy.

Mixed research methods have been employed to explore the core research questions which include case studies, semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. These were undertaken with a range of stakeholders within design associations and agencies, which conform to the UK classification of SMEs (i.e. between 5 and 249 employees). The research aims to explore and evaluate how and why design businesses implement development processes and the apply design thinking methods within a broader business context.

As such, the research will focus on identifying design thinking as a cross-disciplinary process and will evaluate how it can be implemented between the design and business environments as well as exploring the key success factors. Through this research it is anticipated that an appropriate management innovation strategy will be identified that can be used in SMEs design businesses, especially in Thailand, to gain sustainable competitive advantages to company and client.

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