Design Thinking, Enterprise and Innovation: Strategies for stimulating creative hubs and making an impact on city regeneration

Michele Rusk

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This paper examines the role of design in change management, economic development and urban regeneration. Based on the premise that traditional business models no longer fit our time, the paper describes an experimental journey into ways of finding new route maps for creative venturing. In doing so it examines the evolutionary pattern of an emergent strategic design community of inquiry, learning and practice and its role in socio- economic problem solving and value creation.The research methodology focuses on the delivery of a Design Direction Practice Project that employs design attitudes for navigating complexity. The project is concerned with the creation of a social innovation hub where designers and non designers work in concert on envisioning solutions to complex problems; international research partners act as mentors and local stakeholders provide context and steer the project in an advisory capacity. The research concentrates specifically on the formation of a creative city hub. It employs a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to the application of design sensibilities for stimulating community innovation. It also initiates leadership that galvanises partnerships; combining academic, economic, social, and industrial and professional groups for social action.The key findings of the research demonstrate design as a principle source of innovation, the basis for new approaches to socio- economic sustainability and renewal. The study establishes design as a metaskill, the enabler that makes tangible the possible, while differentiating design thinking as the cognitive aid to dealing with the flux of events and adapting accordingly. The research describes an ecosystem where design is central to setting directions that result in original strategies. It identifies critical factors that facilitate design led leadership skills including the ability to appreciate the ‘big picture’ and articulate the architecture of multifaceted problems from the outset. In doing so it interrogates the role of design in generating alternatives and providing integrated solutions. Consequently the study arrives at a conceptual model that describes the relationship between creativity, design and innovation, with particular reference to the role of design thinking in cultivating entrepreneurship within a cultural context.The main implication of the research is the uncovering of a rich, still largely untapped, mine of inquiry as to the use of design in response to the challenge of galvanising knowledge sharing, learning and change so as to stimulate dynamic innovation in its broadest sense. Design Direction is an action research project that sets out to chart a creative journey in order to gain new insights that will lead, in time, to the formation of principles to guide strategic design practice. So far the findings are that critical to addressing a big problem is a collaborative approach and the ability to assemble manage and lead interdisciplinary communities. However this is still an ongoing exploration that seeks to redefine design sensibility, to go beyond the conventional sense of design thinking and practice, to encompass change and synthesise new knowledge from different domains so as to better tackle 21st century complexity. Published conference paper from the Tsignhua – DMI International Design Management Symposium, Hong Kong, December 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDesign Management: Toward A New Era of Innovation
    EditorsJun Cai, Jikun Liu, Gabriel Y.L. Tong, Anthony K.C. IP
    Place of PublicationHong Kong
    PublisherInnovation and Design Management Association
    ISBN (Print)978-988-15984-1-7
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2011

    Bibliographical note

    Reference text: BusinessWeek. 2005. Special Report: Building Innovative Companies, available at:
    BusinessWeek. 2006. October 9, 2006, available at:
    Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review. June 2008, 1-11.
    Bucci, A. 1997. Innovation for Strategy. Lecture delivered at the Design Directorate, Design for Business Lecture Series, Belfast, May 1997.
    Cross, N. 1982. Designerly Ways of Knowing, Design Studies, 3(4): 221-227.
    Cox, G. 2005. Cox Review of Creativity in Business: Building on the UK’s Strengths. HMTreasury, UK.
    Hamel, G. 2007.The Future of Management. Boston: Harvard Business Press
    Lave, J. and Wenger, E. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Matychak, X. and Morgan D. 2010. Enlightened Innovation: 5 keys to promoting thoughtful design leadership in education. Retrieved from 10 June 2010.
    Martin, R. 2009. The Design of Business. Boston: Harvard Business Press
    Regional Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland 2008-2011. 2008. Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
    Rusk, M.1993. Integration for Innovation: Design as a Strategic Tool. Proceedings of the 23rd European Small Business Seminar on International Markets - European Foundation for Management Development. 15-17 September 1993, 871-887.
    Rusk, M. 2003. Meeting the Challenges of a Changing World. Paper presented at the 5rd Association for Business Communication European Convention, Lugano, Switzerland, May 2003.
    Rusk, M. In press. Designing a Design Research, Enterprise and Innovation Agenda, Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal 5.
    Wenger, E. 1998. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Wenger, E. and Snyder, W.M. 2000. Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier. Harvard Business Review, January-February 2000, 139-145.


    • Design Innovation
    • Design Strategy
    • Design Entrepreneurship
    • Design- Thinking
    • Design Business


    Dive into the research topics of 'Design Thinking, Enterprise and Innovation: Strategies for stimulating creative hubs and making an impact on city regeneration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this