Barriers affecting incremental innovation in design-led SMEs in China's Greater Bay Area
Authors: Xiuxiu Wu, Kin Wai Michael Siu, Joern Buehring
Abstract: In this study, we review and explore the critical barriers affecting design-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Greater Bay Area (GBA) of China. Eight in-depth interviews are conducted with key decision-makers in the innovation process, representing a range of SMEs. The results show that collectivism, hierarchy, and market factors are unique barriers to SMEs in the GBA. Collectivist culture is the fundamental and macro factor that hinders innovation. It results in employers possessing most of the decision-making power in firms, whereas employees at lower levels can only provide basic skills to accomplish tasks without the motivation to innovate. The middle-level leaders in these enterprises are essential for internal knowledge creation and smoothing the information flow between members, thereby stimulating innovation. Moreover, under collectivism and hierarchy, design has become a rigid process linked to achieving key performance indicators (KPIs) instead of acting as a creative endeavor for designers. Instead of motivating employees to work creatively, KPIs force them to achieve only minimal goals at work. In addition, collectivism leads to a more extreme design strategy in which employers and designers tend to imitate existing products on the market, rather than taking risks to develop novel products and services that generally require a large amount of time to generate any commercial value.
Keywords: Design-led SMEs, Greater Bay Area, Innovation barriers, Collectivist culture, Design management
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