Design capability in a software SME: Report from an embedded design innovation catalyst

Sjoerd Bastiaansen, Rebecca Price, Pascalle C.M. Govers, Tjeerd Machielsen

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Recent studies on the added value that design provides to firms has led to widespread interest amongst the business community to develop design. However, knowledge of how organizations of varying industry types actually make use of design to generate competitive advantages remains limited. This study investigates a small- to medium-sized enterprise (SME) software firm that had recently taken steps to develop design capability1. The Dutch firm, titled CM, identified a need to increase design capability as a source of added competitiveness. During a six-month period, a design innovation catalyst (DIC) was embedded in the firm to build and integrate design capability across the firm. During the study’s duration, the catalyst found the barriers to design capability to be a prevailing data-driven approach to value creation, reliance on self-referential knowledge rather than hypothesis testing with customers and users and a general low urgency to embrace design. The manner in which CM now leverages design as a value creation mechanism is shaped by addressing the opposing barriers to change that were encountered within the firm. This paper contributes practical knowledge on how design can be built quickly over six months and become a vehicle for a software firm to move from data-driven to user-centred solutions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of DRS 2018
EditorsC. Storni, K. Leahy, M. McMahon, P. Lloyd, E. Bohemia
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherDesign Research Society
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-1-912294-22-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventDRS 2018: Design as a catalyst for change - Limerick, Ireland
Duration: 25 Jun 201828 Jun 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings of DRS
PublisherDesign Research Society
ISSN (Print)2398-3132


ConferenceDRS 2018


  • design catalyst
  • user centred design
  • organizational learning
  • software

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