Jan Carlzon, the Scandinavian airline SAS’ CEO during the successful eighties, tells a little story in his recently written comment to the 2008 Swedish re-issue of his 1985 book “Moments of Truth” [Swedish title: “Riv pyramiderna!” (2008)]. Carlzon describes how NOKIA’s CEO in the early 2000’s had told him that they worked like dogs to fill their mobile phones with values people were willing to pay for in order to keep the margins required. A short time later the telecom company Ericsson had its annual shareholder meeting and during the meeting a young girl asked: “Why does not Ericsson make phones that people want?” The chairman ignored the question – according to Carlzon the only relevant question asked – and instead he talked about lowering costs.
Was there something that Ericsson had not understood at the time? Their phones’ technical functionality was good so why did not people want them? Roughly ten years later we would like to, somewhat simplified, say that Ericsson had not quite understood the need for beauty in their sophisticated high-tech products. They managed to integrate everything apart from a sense of beauty, i.e. the aesthetic and symbolic aspect that made the young girl and others prefer other brands. Even if Ericson had been aware, had they able to integrate beauty and knowledge about “beauty aspects” in their products? No doubt had Ericsson been able to integrate a number of more or less related, complementary technological knowledge bases, but can knowledge about aesthetic and symbolic aspects, what we call “beauty”, be dealt with in the same way?
The contemporary need for depth of knowledge leads to increasing specialization and subsequently companies’ need for increasingly sophisticated means for integration of knowledge has increased. This is reflected in the field of knowledge integration (KI) which empirically has explored integration of knowledge bases from a rather technical, rationalistic perspective, and outputs of KI processes have in earlier research been framed in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and innovation (Tell, 2011). This is a limitation it shares with strategic management research (Dalpiaz et al 2010). However, we argue that the complexity in today’s products and services may extend beyond what the KI field have hitherto acknowledged.
A future development of the KI field could be to explore the user perspective on, and role in, the value creation and appropriation system, and to include the aesthetic and symbolic nature of products and services. This paper aims to contribute to the KI field, by exploring some consequences of extending the scope of knowledge integration to include integration of and by Industrial design.
Industrial design is a practice and a field of knowledge that spans the divide between rationalistic problem-solving and the seeming irrationality of the aesthetic and the socio-cultural (Verganti 2003). Industrial design is interesting in this context both for its content, i.e. as a field of knowledge to be integrated, and because of its process view that may be seen as an approach on how to integrate. This paper thus aims to discuss integration of and by design in order to broaden the dominating technological empirical scope of KI. We will relate integration of and by design to previous understandings of KI as a way to explore the hierarchy of capabilities (Grant 1996a).
The coming section gives a very brief introduction to KI and its relative neglect of the increasingly important knowledge about what makes people want and desire things apart from their technical functionality or use value. Then follows a section on Design and especially Industrial design where we use Grant’s (1996a) characteristics of KI to discuss how industrial design can contribute to competitive advantage from a KI view. The following section “Integration of and by design” somewhat artificially separates the content of industrial design as a field of knowledge from the view that industrial design may be a leading function pushing the envelope of technological knowledge, and thus a way of integration knowledge(s). Finally there is a discussion summarizing our arguments and findings and proposing how to go on.
2013. , 18 p.