Co-designing business models: Engaging emergence through design games

Sune Klok Gudiksen

Research output: PhD thesis


Co-design and the related direction of design games have a history of being successfully applied in system, product and, recently, service design as a way to engage participants, create situations for mutual learning and explore future scenarios. The focus in these fields is on the value in a system, product or service for a particular end-user. In this dissertation, co-design and design games enter a new frontier - business models - and move towards being a part of a broader innovation agenda. The research deals with a double concern: First, the transfer of co-design and the subfield design games into business model experimentation to investigate how this might be useful in this new application domain. Second, investigate what can be added to the transferring field co-design, hereunder especially design games.
The research into this double concern is conducted through an approach assembled by design-based action research and a design experiential and experimental programmatic type of inquiry. As well, design game interventions are at the core of the activities, which epistemologically is called participative ludic constructionism in the research. Concretely, a number of design exemplars of business cases and games are investigated through video interaction analysis, observations during the activities, and evaluation rounds.
Central to the first concern in this research is that in innovation studies and in business practises the notion of business model experimentation is becoming increasingly important. Business models deal with both creating value for customers and value for the company, as well as how both can be delivered. Business models affect such diverse areas as product/service design, marketing, cost and revenue, resources, and delivery and partnerships, which could potentially bring a cross-disciplinary circle of stakeholders to the table. However, managers who rely on causal reasoning perhaps best used for optimising, have traditionally had the sole responsibility of developing business models. Furthermore, little knowledge exists on the ways to experiment with business models, although it can be argued that this is a vital issue since markets are increasingly characterised by such issues as competition coming from unexpected areas, rapid changes and, in general, uncertain situations. This research demonstrates how design games through application of rules, procedures, feedback techniques, game materials, analogies and participation can do the following in business model co-design situations: create the conditions for mutual learning, shared communication, assumption testing, expand domain knowledge, reframe issues, initiate design moves, and in general, elicit surprises and engage emergence rather than dismiss it – all with the purpose of moving dialogues in innovative directions. Additionally, it is suggested that rather than a manager has the task of designing the business model alone, business model experimentation can be seen as a temporary gathering of people from diverse departments and external participants meeting to view the business holistically and design tomorrow’s business models.
In the second concern this research also investigates how co-design and design games research can be further expanded through these business model co-design situations. Previous research on design games in co-design and participatory design have mostly been concerned with materials, stories, metaphors and participation issues, however the ludic dimension and the formal elements – rules, procedures, feedback techniques – remains largely underexplored in this research. In an effort to further expand on co-design and design games, this research draws inspiration from diverse fields of studies including creative-problem solving, research-through-design, facilitation and other types of game studies, in order to both explore how to create design game interventions and how to be able to explain incidents in the business model co-design situations. Related to the making of games this research contribute to design game research by suggesting a component framework for the making of design games, including a facilitator instrument line suggesting ways to constrain and deconstrain during the play of the games to enable specific effects. This component framework is supported by a model of fundamental underlying game principles, through which it is demonstrated that design games can benefit from incorporating principles from art (random elements, forced connections etc.) and creativity research (also chance and reversal of perspectives).
This research ends by initially concluding and discussing first the nature of the conflicts in the situations and then possible future co-designer roles. In relation to conflicts in business model co-design these are those that arise when people with diverse perspectives internally (managers, marketers, designer etc.) and externally (potential end-users/customers, potential partners and experts on special issues) meet in order to collaboratively design business models, and what might be gained and be problematic about such a situation. In regards to the future co-designer role, this research suggests four potential roles: the co-designer as continued specialised form-giver in the co-design activities, the co-designer as shaper of the co-design situations, the co-designer as facilitator of the situations, and the co-designer as shaper of form in transitions.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAalborg
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2015


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