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  • 2015Hwangbo.H PhD

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Examining design management in the era of digitalization from eastern and western perspectives

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Hyunwook Hwangbo
Publication date2015
Number of pages433
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • RADMA - Research and Development Management
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This thesis investigates how approaches to managing design differ nationally in new product development and design for digital technology-embedded product and service. The main aim of this thesis is, first, to understand different approaches to managing design in terms of Eastern and Western organizational cultures: second, how these differences affect actual design practices and design outcomes in increasingly complicated digital technology-embedded product development and design. Currently, design principles for digital products and services are shifting towards incrementally uncertain complexities and the role of design is becoming broader in the era of digitalization. New approaches to design management in organizations are considered in this context: more specifically, design for digital technology-embedded products and services entails generative design practices as these digital artefacts as a whole are accomplished by devising both a physical materiality and immaterial objects such as services and software with multiple design participants. Through the design process, meanings of the digital artefacts are constantly generated and recreated. For that reason, the design practices are considered about holistic approaches to embrace such generativity. In relation to this, the organizational environment needed to deal with this requires many different approaches in order to embrace the new design practices. This is concerned with enabling rather than controlling, as has been done in traditional organization environments. However, looking at actual organizational vocabularies used in design practices, there is significant inertia with organizational cultures that can harness or enable these approaches.
Taking into account cross-cultural perspectives, the features of organizational vocabularies probably differ in different organizational cultures in East Asia (South Korea, Japan, and Chinese cultural background countries) and those of the West (US, UK, Finland and Netherlands) . East Asian organizations’ features are characterized as control and governance in tightly coupled and hierarchical organizational cultures, whereas Western organizations are more likely to feature enabling or even indulgence in loosely coupled cultures. These can affect actual approaches to design management in the implementation of digital innovation.
A qualitative dominant-mixed method research approach is used in this research for multiple case studies: 29 design professionals, ranging from engineering and marketing to design, from across the globe participated in expert interviews in two phases of this research. Quantitative secondary data sources were investigated in support of the qualitative data sources (+150 secondary data sources: corporate documents – earnings and annual reports; and public reports on national creativity, innovation and industry ecosystems).
The research findings illustrate different approaches to managing design in the East and West due to their organizational cultures: namely, the East is characterised as inflexible approaches towards completed design output, whereas the West prioritizes a flexible journey expecting design outcomes. This however causes dilemmatic conflicts in carrying out the generative design practices for creating new digital products and services within those organizations.
This thesis suggests a matrix of organizational cultures for managing design and the two design management paradigms in the implementation of digital innovation in organizations: the ‘design of management’ vs. the ‘management through design’. This study provides an understanding of emergent issues about organizational environments with regards to approaches to managing design in digitalization from international and cross-cultural perspectives and will clarify the concept of the new approaches to design in digital innovation: designing. It will make a contribution to development of design management as a rigorous discipline, which can be applied to design practices for innovative organizations in the era of digitalization.