Towards Disruptive Innovation in Incumbents by Student Design Teams

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Managing disruptive innovation and exploitative innovation simultaneously seems to be a serious challenge since both activities require a different mindset and approach. Current methods, such as the Stage-Gate method, seem to favor exploitative innovation above explorative innovation resulting in the need to create better understanding on disruptive innovation and how to organize it in parallel to exploitative innovation. The field of design sciences seems to offer an interesting perspective regarding this issue. This paper reports on an exploratory study in which 8 teams of MSc design students hosted within the incumbents R&D department (FMCG) bring and demonstrate the value of design thinking in the early stages of NPD. Findings suggests that 1) design students are able to initiate awareness of what design can do; 2) student design teams are able to deliver promising and disruptive product-market combinations and associated prototypes; 3) the NPD-process of the students seems to reflect a full prototype run of the companies stage gate process, be it by passing the respective gates in a qualitative manner as opposed to the existing quantitative criteria. The prototype, the supporting reasoning and the fact that NPD employees have been witnessing its development seems to enable its acceptance for further development. In the next stage we will build on these fledgling findings by means of an action research project.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2015 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsJohn Humphreys
PublisherAcademy of Management
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe 2015 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Vancouver, Canada - New York
Duration: 7 Aug 201511 Aug 2015

Publication series

NameAcademy of Management Proceedings
ISSN (Print)0065-0668
ISSN (Electronic)2151-6561


ConferenceThe 2015 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Vancouver, Canada


  • Disruptive innovation
  • Design thinking
  • Intervention method
  • Innovation process.

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