The Absorption of Design Management Capabilities in SMEs with Little or No Prior Design Experience

Claudia Acklin


In the past, design support programmes for companies with little or no design experience have focused on match-making between designers and SMEs. In addition, it has been recognised that design support should be about the business and leadership role of design and about promoting design tools as well as design management methods. However, a sustainable introduction of new design knowledge involves a process of organisational learning on the side of the SME. How exactly companies absorb new design knowledge has been underinvestigated. There is also a lack of a tool to analyse or guide such a learning process. Based on the Absorptive Capacity and the Dynamic Capability constructs, this article proposes a Design Management Absorption Model to measure the progression of new design knowledge absorption. This model, which connects the three streams of innovation, strategic management and design studies, makes a contribution to practitioners from national design support programmes, to the design practice working with SMEs as well as to companies themselves. It represents a blueprint and an instrument for the analysis of a learning journey to introduce design management capabilities in companies with little or no design experience.


Design Management and Absorptive Capacity; design management capabilities; design management as a dynamic capability

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