Design Management Capability and Product Innovation in SMEs

Anabel Fernández-Mesa, Joaquín Alegre, Ricardo Chiva and Antonio Gutiérrez-Grácia
Management Decision

Purpose - The aim of this paper is to present design management as a dynamic capability and to analyze its mediating role between organizational learning capability and product innovation performance in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Design/methodology/approach - Structural equation modeling is used to test the research hypotheses based on data from the Italian and Spanish ceramic tile industries. The data are derived from the responses of 182 companies (50% of the target population) to a questionnaire addressed to Product Development Managers and Human Resource Managers.

Findings - The results suggest that organizational learning capability enhances product innovation through the mediation of design management capability. We find an interesting interplay between organizational learning, design management capability and product innovation that can be very useful to better understand how to improve innovation performance. This finding shows that design management, as a dynamic capability, emerges from learning and allows the firm to adapt to environmental changes.

Originality/value - Several works have studied dynamic capabilities but without specifying the nature of these capabilities. More recent empirically-based studies conceptualize and refer to specific dynamic capabilities. In this paper, we present design management as a dynamic capability. This study aims also to develop a better understanding of how organizational learning capability impacts on the product innovation performance of SMEs and how this relationship is mediated by design management capability.