strategy in
digital design studios

A research project investigating how business strategy is shaped in digital design studios

About


This webpage is an exposition 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 digital design firms shape their future. In particular I focus on how social relations influence strategic decision-making. My study is based on data gathered from 16 medium- to large sized digital design businesses in Germany, UK, Netherlands, Denmark and the US. Scroll down a more detailed description of my research.

I always like to hear from people with similar interests. Get in touch via e-mail:
[ antonius (at) this URL ] or follow me @antoniusvdbroek.

Antonius

Research outline


Digital design studios are at the centre of the digital economy. By developing digital products and services embedded in mobile ‘apps’, websites and other digital platforms, they contribute to the exploitation and innovation of products and services of a wide variety of industries. Whilst the exponential growth of the digital economy in the last decade enabled many digital design studios to start up and grow, the digital market is gradually saturating. This market saturation contests digital design studios in their ability to develop a competitive advantage.


Although competitiveness is described at length in the strategy literature, organizing for competitiveness in digital design studios or related sectors received far less attention.


With short strategic horizons, distribution of decision power, informal and flat organizational structures, and dependence on technological innovation, these businesses operate with limited long-term, strategic intent. Therefore, the locus of business strategy development is difficult to pin down and is better understood as an on-going process of strategic direction setting which is ‘shaped’ by multiple actors with different agendas. To address this fluidity in strategic direction setting, this study goes beyond the notion of strategy that is enacted by a formally aligned group of actors (top management team), and suggests instead that strategic direction is the result of networks of associations.

Drawing from actor-network theory, strategy is seen as ‘networks of relations’ among actors that are continuously made and remade. This perspective enables to address the distribution of power, the informality of organizing- and organizational structure, and the entanglement of socio-materiality. Especially the visual and technology have a prominent function in organizing in design and technological driven organizations.

Such a relational perspective gives insight in how and why powerful (or better: well-connected) actors with different agendas, work together as a coherent strategic system. Indeed, it is exactly the mechanics of these networks that is of interest in this research.
Studying these mechanics enables to understand better what brings and holds these varied actors together and enables an alternative understanding of strategy as a distributed activity enacted by a chain of relations in which materiality plays a stabilizing (or destabilizing) role.


In summary, this study aims to contribute to an understanding of strategy as an emergent and continual process of shaping and re-shaping of strategic direction of organizations in a highly dynamic market and pluralistic organizational setting.
 


Conference Papers



van den Broek, A. H. & A. Rieple (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