The importance of the design and innovation function for business

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Innovation is a core activity in business that is linked to the survival of the organisation and the growth of national economies. It is integral in the use of differentiation as a generic strategy for enhancing competitive management (Hall & Needle 2015:324). For an organisation, innovation facilitates the achievement of higher and sustainable profits. Also, this function gives an organisation the ability to challenge competition and to offer added value to the consumer regarding quality, reduced price and greater choice (Hall & Needle 2015:324). Design and innovation have a distinctive function in organisations. They are a key ingredient for survival in a competitive market. For example, in industries where the life cycle has reduced, such as the electronics industry, innovation has a distinctive function of enhancing the firm’s competitiveness (Hall & Needle 2015:325). Innovation is also a function of business as it is linked to entrepreneurship. The distinctiveness of the design and innovation functions is related to the open systems model. According to the model, management can enhance expansion and growth through innovation, adaptation, growth and the acquisition of resources (Boddy 2014).

There are four main qualities that top professionals need to develop by 2025, on design and innovation. One of these qualities is leadership. The intensive competition in the market has resulted in the need to innovate so as to enhance the firm’s competitiveness. However, organisations are facing the challenge of implementing the functions, and facilitating the development of an innovative organisation culture that will promote innovation and design. Leadership and innovation are not new concepts in research. For example, in a study by (Barsh et al. 2008:36), the authors posit that leadership is an essential determinant that affects an organisation as well as an individual’s innovation. There is a gap between organisation’s desire to innovate and their ability to execute. To stimulate innovation, top professionals will have to develop leadership qualities.

The second quality that top-professionals need to develop is inter-cultural communication competence. As the world continues to integrate as a result of globalisation and reduction of trade barriers, professionals will have to extend their products and services to the diverse global marketplace. Furthermore, labour force is becoming more and more diverse and top professionals will have to exchange ideas, information and digital materials with people on the other end of the earth. As a consequence, developing inter-cultural communication competence will enhance innovation and design in the firm (Getto & Amant 2015:25). Third, top professionals will require a high level of networking capabilities. This entails developing a circle of influence of interconnected positive relationships. In a study by, Nieto and Santamaría (2007:367), the development of collaboration and establishment of collaborative networks are of critical importance in facilitating innovation. The fourth quality is critical thinking. Critical thinking encompasses the generation of, or the process of finding solutions. This quality plays a significant role in the development of new and innovative ideas. In the future, top professionals will have to develop their critical thinking competencies so as to enhance creativity (Jing & Baiyin 2015:1217). There is a link between critical thinking and an individual’s creativity. Therefore, by developing this capability, top professionals will be able to develop a culture of innovation in the firm.

The other function that I believe will be detrimental to the success of innovation and design is the leadership function. Leaders are required to motivate and direct the organisation towards change. They identify an issue and come up with effective solutions that will enhance the competitiveness of the firm, or their survival in the market. Leadership is required to stimulate innovation in the firm (Baesh et al., 2008). Innovation is associated with change. Also, innovation and design can take attention and resources away from the achievement of performance goals. As a consequence, there is the need for a leader who will promote innovation.

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  1. Barsh, J., Capozzi, M.M. & Davidson, J. (2008) Leadership and innovation, McKinsey Quarterly, vol. 1, p. 36.
  2. Getto, G. & Amant, K.S. (2015) Designing globally, working locally: Using personas to develop online communication products for international users, Communication Design Quarterly Review, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 24-46.
  3. Jing, J. & Baiyin, Y. (2015) Roles of creative process engagement and leader–member exchange in critical thinking and employee creativity, Social Behaviour & Personality: An International Journal, vol. 43, no. 7, pp. 1217-1231,
  4. Nieto, M.J. & Santamaría, L. (2007) The importance of diverse collaborative networks for the novelty of product innovation, Technovation, 27(6), pp. 367-377.
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