An investigation of design thinking as a business tool for innovation

Kitunka, Jean Luc
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The lack of innovation has been argued to contribute to the failure of many start-ups. Performance of companies in many instances is undermined due to their inability to successfully combine business strategies and innovation tools to address the current needs of customers and clients to ensure growth. The fourth industrial revolution requires advancements in thinking and application, where companies move beyond investing in technology towards a designedly way of thinking about business, which has been argued to contribute towards disruptive innovation, profitability and rapid growth. Against this context, this study sought to examine whether design thinking is a mechanism through which disruptive innovation can occur. The study examined the relationship and causal effects of design thinking strategies such as research, synthesis, ideation and implementation on disruptive and sustaining and efficient innovation, as well as business outcomes such as job creation and revenue. Organisational leadership and culture were part of the model, since design thinking, and innovation are intertwined and function in organisational environments. The study adopted a qualitative methodology and drew on secondary literature to address the research objective and questions. The qualitative descriptive analysis used assisted in mapping out the relationships between the following variables: behavioural economics research, the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), strategic drift, strategic fit, organisational ambidexterity, capital utilisation, jobs Creation, scrum, disruptive and efficient innovation, time, competition and revenue. The relationships between the variables were explored to establish causal effects between the design thinking strategies, innovation and business outcomes through the use of fuzzy cognitive maps. The results demonstrated that design thinking strategies had positive relationships with disruptive innovation. Sustainable innovation on the other hand, had only positive relationships with research and implementation and negative relationships with synthesis and ideation. Disruptive innovation also had stronger causal effects with synthesis, corporate culture and leadership as compared to sustaining innovation. Furthermore, the findings provided support for the idea that design thinking can play a critical role in improving business outcomes in both start-ups pursuing disruptive innovation and more established companies that adopt an ambidextrous strategy.
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Design Thinking, Innovation, SMMES, Start-Ups, Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping