Overcoming the Valley of Death: A Design Innovation Perspective

Joannes Barend Klitsie, Rebecca Anne Price, Christine de Lille

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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In large organisations, innovation activities are often located in separate departments, centres or studios. These departments aim to produce prototypes of solutions to the problems of operational business owners. However, too often these concepts remain in the prototype stage: they never cross the valley of death to become implemented.
A design approach to innovation is presented as a solution to the problem. However, practice shows that teams that use this approach nevertheless encounter this problem due to the larger infrastructure of the organisation they are part of. This research aims to explore which factors contribute to the valley of death for design innovation. Additionally, this paper presents first insights into how design practices help to mitigate this phenomenon.
An embedded multiple case study at a large heritage airline is used to study this phenomenon. A thematic analysis of the data finds that organisational design, departmental silo’s and dissimilar innovation strategies contribute to the valley of death. The issues with resource-assignment that result from these factors are displayed. Last, materialization, user-centeredness and holistic problem-framing are indicated as practices that help to mitigate this problem.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNext Wave
Subtitle of host publicationThe 21st dmi: Academic Design Management Conference Proceedings
PublisherDesign Management Institute
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventThe 21st DMI: Academic Design Management Conference
Next Wave
- London, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Aug 20182 Aug 2018
Conference number: 21st


ConferenceThe 21st DMI: Academic Design Management Conference
Next Wave
Abbreviated titleADMC 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • organisational infrastructure
  • implementation
  • innovation department

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