Jan Schmiedgen
Author - Jan Schmiedgen

All too often service designers do not sufficiently emphasise, respectively convincingly showcase, the systemic connections of their strategy approaches to the most fundamental business questions of their clients. E.g. What is our market? Who is our customer? What business are we actually in? … to name but a few.

Nevertheless these days whole industries (are forced to) shift towards a service-centered mindset, radically redefining their market definitions and searching for the “right ways” to innovate strategically. We know that design would have a lot to contribute to that.

The problem however is, that the discussion on strategic innovation in the business sphere is cluttered into a variety of discourses in which the latter seldomly plays a major role. Therefore service designers are all too often confronted with a very narrow understanding of designs value contributions to high-level strategy making, neither are they able to explain and relate their own work to the parallely developing discourses in the business realm. The attached thesis tries to bring together some seemingly isolated research streams and provides an overview of their topical similarities and overlaps. It connects the dots by putting its focus on “value creation” (a term that most discourses culminate in) and “design’s” value contributions to strategic innovation. I share it in the hope for feedback, constructive critique and also as a possible starting point for further research of other SDN members.

Adapted from Sniukas 2010
Adapted from Sniukas 2010 - © Jan Schmiedgen


We live in a hyper-competitive world, where whole industries either shift towards services or become obsolete due to new market entrants, technologies or even social practices. A world, where permanent interactions with customers, fast time-to-market, and the ability to innovate »right« (e.g. the right thing or value) are the key to corporate success. On that score the business sphere isn’t getting tired of emphasising the need for strategic innovation (which means »creating superior customer value«, business model innovations or even the disruption and creation of new markets). This paper uncovers some of the often overlooked links of design (design thinking, design-driven innovation and service design) to strategic innovation through the lens of »customer value«. It will do so by …

  • Disenchanting the big corporate rhetoric on above claims by showing that prevailing and too one-sided understandings of strategy and innovation, rather reinforce than escape old industry paradigms.
  • Examining designs still undervalued contributions to strategy-making by approaching business challenges with a user/value-centric and radical service logic.
  • Showing that every dimension of strategic innovation culminates in the concept of perceived user value and meaning, which gets reviewed in detail (dimensions, forms, properties), especially with regards to constructing value propositions.
  • Arguing that the current service design and business model innovation discourses cannot be negotiated separately, as they may be good methodological complements.

So when speaking about the innovation of value for the customer, the paper argues, the above stated and seemingly separated fields intersect. Therefore their most apparent systemic connections and the facilitation of value creation by design are outlined and discussed.

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