Identifying design thinking in Finnish startup innovation strategies

No Thumbnail Available
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
International Design Business Management
As the world faces great ambiguity through continuous change and development, organizations are trying to understand ways in which they can cope with the rapid shifts markets face through innovation. Game-changing and innovative startups are major players in expediting the rapid transformations by introducing new products, services and business models into the market while increasing the competition for incumbent organizations. Research suggests that design thinking is implemented within incumbent organizations to increase their innovation capabilities through an empathetic and customer-centric approach, yet research linking its presence in startup innovation strategies is scarce in comparison. Therefore, in this study, I interviewed six Finnish startups as I examined and analysed their innovation practices and strategies. The overarching goal of this empirical research was to understand the influence design thinking and its principles have on startup innovation strategies. In order to address the research problem, the following research question guided the study: What influence does design thinking have on Finnish startup innovation strategies? Furthermore, the following questions supported the positioning and direction of the study: What aspects and principles of design thinking can be identified in Finnish startup innovation strategies? and How is design thinking perceived within Finnish startups? To answer these research questions, the research followed a multiple case study methodology. Empirical data was collected through six semi-structured interviews with six interviewees from six different startups. The data was analysed with a thematic analysis, complemented with a literature review on entrepreneurial innovation, design thinking, and, for comparative context, lean startup. The findings of this research support that of existing literature in that there is a vague and mixed understanding of design thinking among startups, as there is little linkage of the term to resulting actions. Overarching themes of design thinking were present in the development of innovation strategies yet there is an indication of a general lack of understanding around the application of the design thinking process. The study provides new and supporting findings of the influence design thinking has on startup innovation strategies. The key related finding is that startups use a fragmented innovation model, drawing influence from various sources, including from models like design thinking and lean startup, as they mix-and-match principles from different methods to best suit their needs.
Thesis advisor
Eloranta, Ville
innovation, design thinking, startups, strategy, lean startup
Other note