strategy in
digital design studios

A research project investigating #strategy #decision-making #culture in #digitaldesign studios

About


This page provides a summary of my research efforts. I am currently doing a PhD in strategic management at the University of the Arts London in collaboration with Westminster Business School, supported by the RADMA Association. In my research, I study how identity and culture influence strategic decision-making in digital design firms. My study is based on data gathered from 14 medium- to large-sized digital design businesses in Germany, UK, Netherlands, Denmark and the US.
Scroll down a more detailed description of my research.

Get in touch via e-mail:
[ antonius (at) this URL ] or follow me @antoniusvdbroek.

Antonius

Research outline


In this research, I study how business strategy emerges in creative and technological intense organizations, delineated as digital design studios. By digital design studios, I mean those companies that develop digital products and services embedded in mobile ‘apps’, websites and other digital platforms.

With the digitalization of economies, the digital design industry is growing fast. While the industry grows, there is still limited understanding how these innovative organizations develop their own business strategy.

Although strategy processes are described at length in the strategy literature, organizing for competitiveness in knowledge-based, service economies, such as digital design studios, received far less attention.
It can be argued that the lack of attention stems from the mismatch between traditional strategic management theories and the way innovative organizations operate. The need to continuously innovate, the short strategic horizons due to constant technological change, the need for informal “management”, make traditional theories of strategic management challenging to implement.

One of the key challenges in studying strategy in these highly creative contexts is the locus of strategy development. The flat and informal organizational structure restricts top-down strategy control and instead strategy emerges from the activities and innovations throughout and external to the organization. There is no single actor that controls the organization's direction, but strategy is continuously shaped by a wide variety of actors that act together as a coherent “strategic system”.

Therefore, this study conceives strategy not as a structure or a plan that is designed and implemented top-down, but as the result of the making and breaking of coalitions. Drawing from actor-network theory, strategy is conceptualized as ‘networks of relations’.
This conceptualization, overcomes traditional notions of centralized control and power, and perceives strategy as “immanent” the organization. As such, strategy is about how autonomous individuals work together in a coherent strategic system without formal hierarchies of subordination. The key in understanding strategy in these contexts is about revealing the underlying power “structures” that hold the actors together.

This conceptual framework was operationalized by a quasi-ethnographic approach. Over a period of two year I traced strategic decision-episodes. This allowed me to reveal translation processes of actor-networks, that shaped decision-making episodes. The method of tracing is illustrated in the animated diagram above.

What I found was that, even though these companies promote to have an equalitarian structure, certain actors gained significant influence by making coalitions. The preconditions of these coalitions are defined by “obligatory passage points”. These are points through which all actors have to go, to achieve their goals. These obligatory passage points are the result of the materialisation of identity, in objects and discourse. Therefore, this thesis illustrates how identity and objects are key conceptualisations to understand how strategy emerges.

Conference Papers



van den Broek, A. H. & Rieple, A. (2017) Using actor-network theory to reveal strategy processes in design firms. Paper presented at the Design Management Academy, Hong Kong

van den Broek, A. H. & Rieple, A. (2016) Distributed power and alignment in a digital design studio. Paper presented at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS), Napoli, Italy


van den Broek, A. H. (2015) Studying strategy in a pluralistic context: the applicability of actor-network theory. Paper presented at the British Academy of Management Conference, Portsmouth, UK


van den Broek, A. H. (2013) Strategy development in a creative context: the case of digital design studios. Paper presented at the Doktorandenkolloquium Managementforschung, Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany


van den Broek, A. H. (2013) Strategic decision-making in digital design studios. Paper presented at the 3rd Interreg Conference: Creative industries: think tanks for innovative practices in management, strategy and organization?, Deauville, France


van den Broek, A. H. (2013) Strategy development in the creative industries: the case of digital design studios. Paper presented at the PREBEM Conference, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands


van den Broek, A. H. (2012) Strategy development in the design sector: a theoretical perspective. Paper presented at the International Design Management Research Conference, Boston, USA



Talks




(2016) Strategy in creative contexts. Seminar at Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice, Cass Business School, London, UK


(2016) Strategy in creative contexts. Seminar at MA Innovation Management, Central Saint Martins, London, UK


(2015) Digital Design studios: Networks of Engagement. Presentation at Creative Management, Branding and Enterprise Research Hub Summer Symposium, London College of Fashion, London, UK


(2015) Digital Design studios: Networks of Engagement. Presentation at IDEaS research hub meeting, Westminster Business School, London, UK


(2015) Digital Design studios: Networks of Engagement. Poster presentation at Blue Skies Above, Solid Ground Below: innovation and sustainability in digital arts & humanities Conference, King’s College, London, UK


(2015) Digital Design studios: Networks of Engagement. Presentation at Cultures in Disarray Conference, King’s College, London, UK


(2015) Digital Design studios: Hierarchies and Power. Presentation at Research Fortnight, London College of Communication, London, UK


(2014) Strategy development in digital design studios. Presentation at the RNUAL Spring Research Symposium, London, UK


(2013) Strategy processes in the creative industries. Presentation at the RNUAL Summer Research Symposium, London, UK


(2012) Strategy in the creative industries: Strategy processes in Digital, Multimedia, Communication Design studios. Presentation at the RNUAL Summer Research Symposium, UAL London, UK


Contact


e-mail: antonius [a] this URL