Becoming more innovative and creative are new strategic imperatives that face organizations (Burger-Helmchen et al, 2016). In recent years, some companies internalized design competence (Lockwood & Papke, 2018). But these organizations, which used to externalize creative activity, seem to struggle in deploying appropriately these new resources within their historical organization.
Resource-based theory aims at understanding how a company is able to generate value by focusing on the specificity of its resources and its capabilities to use and deploy them (Barney, 1991; Wernerfelt, 1984). In order to (re)gain competitive advantage (Porter, 1985) organizations develop dynamic capabilities by acquiring and developing new strategic resources (Teece et al., 1997). Maritan & Peteraf (2011) show how the acquisition of resources generates heterogeneity within the organization, highlighting the need for managers to think about effective resources orchestration (Sirmon et al, 2011) and appropriate resources governance (Zahra et al, 2009). In the case of value generation through integrated design (Lockwood, 2011; 2008; Borja de Mozota, 2003), the way creative resources are organized (Paris, 2013, Oakley, 1984) is decisive to achieve efficiency and innovation imperatives of the firm (Abecassis & Benghozi, 2012).
Crossing Resource-based View and Design Management, this paper aims at exploring the creative resource absorptive capability of an organization by seeking to establish the specificities of the integration of creative resources and the qualification of these resources to better understand the differences between internal and external creation models.
This paper tries to answer two questions: (1) what are the specificities of creative resources? (2) Does the absorptive capability of an organization mean capability? More specifically to our case, is the integration of design resources enough to make an organization, a creative company?
A qualitative and empirical research was adopted to fully explore and understand the dimensions of the organizational phenomenon studied (Giroux, 2003). This research is based on an in-depth longitudinal case study (Dumez, 2016) in an actions-research set-up (David, 2000) within a major mass retailer, Carrefour Group.
Carrefour integrated its first design resource in the late 2009. The Carrefour design entity has gradually developed and structured design resources into five areas of design application: (1) trends, colors, materials and finished, (2) branding and visual identity, (3) product design, (4) packaging and (5) retail design. Almost ten years after the integration and development of these creative resources, the company is still wondering about the most appropriate way to mobilize these creative resources to generate value, and how this design activity can fit into the overall strategy, processes and structure of the organization.
Three main data sets were collected through (1) semi-structured interviews, (2) participant-observation: one of the author is fully part of the design department and can easily observe and take part in special management meeting, project life cycle and informal talks; (3) archival documents as projects dashboards and project outputs.
Data were analyzed through a descriptive narrative strategy (Langley, 1999) to provide a detailed case study of the five design applications and through a mapping of current design activity based on the overall design projects.
The results of the study explain the acquisition and development process of design resources and the associated paradoxes of in-house design management. The collected data allowed us to identify (1) design resources, (2) the way they are integrated, deployed and mobilized within the organization’s strategy, process and structure (both historical and current view), and (3) the related tensions encountered and their management.
Contribution to Scholarship
This study contributes to the emerging dynamic perspective of the Research-based View literature and consolidates the strategic design management field by understanding by which processes an organization is able to acquire and develop new strategic design resources.
Contribution to Practice
The managerial results highlight the impacts of the integration and development of design resources upon organizational strategy, process and structure and the associated in-house design management paradoxes to take in count.
This paper is related to the overall conference theme by bridging both theoretical and practical issues. Resources-based view theory has its roots on theoretical foundations, often challenged for its lack of direct utility for practitioners, while they are looking for recommendations to manage new creative strategic resources.
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