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Research business design thinking innovation 2
Leading Organizational Transformation
Business Design & Innovation
CREDO, Creatief (door)starten

Business Design & Innovation

CREDO, Creatief (door)starten

In this project we investigate the (need for) support for creative entrepreneurs.

Type project ESF, innovatie door exploratie
Duration November 01, 2017 - June 02, 2018
Contact person Sofie Jacobs, PhD

This research project was established with the support of the European Social Fund.


To designers, the labor market is a challenge. Starting out as a designer, making sure your venture remains profitable and eventually bringing about growth, etc., is not self-evident in the sector. With this project, we want to conduct an exploratory study into what the various challenges are for designers and, beyond that, to find out which roads will eventually lead them to success. In this process, the meaning of ‘success’ is also up for discussion. After all, for many creative entrepreneurs, success is not the same as economic growth or economic sustainability. It also means maintaining a healthy work-life balance, practicing your profession from a strong intrinsic drive and other lifestyle-related reasons (Jacobs, 2017[1]). With good reason the expression “art for art’s sake” (Caves, 2000[2]) is strongly represented in the creative sector: the constant dilemma for creatives is whether they should create products that are important to them personally, or produce products responding to market demand.

I Stock 519400890 designer

Facilitating creative industry growth

In brief, this project’s aim is to formulate an answer to the following questions in Phase 1, and then to develop a concrete service provision that can help the creative industry to grow and stay relevant in Phase 2.

  • What are the various challenges designers have to meet to become and remain successful?
  • What does success mean to designers? What are the various forms of success?
  • How can designers be and stay successful?
  • What does the service provision for designers ideally look like if it is to facilitate them on their road to success?

Through a Design Thinking process to concrete service

We work with a Design Thinking process, in which we first try to establish insight into the moments when support would (have) be(en) relevant for the creative entrepreneurs. We do this with joint workshops and one-on-one interviews. This way we establish a concrete problem definition. After that, we work together with the creatives to establish and test an ideal service provision. We design the service provision with LEGO® Serious Play® and assess it with quick and dirty prototypes.

For an innovative and creative Flanders

Well-developed and thriving creative sectors move Flanders forward. Research shows that creative companies provide valuable input for the economy and the community (Rutten et al., 2014[3]), and are a source of employment opportunities. In Flanders, no less than 2.7 % of the gross domestic product is represented by the creative sectors, accounting for 12.9 % of the total number of self-employed people and 2.4 % of the total number of employees (van Andel en Schramme, 2015[4]). Furthermore, creative companies have a high growth rate: employment in the European creative industries between 2000 and 2007 grew at a yearly average of 3.5% (European Commission, 2010).

Additionally, Dutch research (Rutten et al, 2011)[5] shows that spillover effects are a condition for innovation: “The economy of cities with the biggest stock of that ‘creative capital’, situated among other places in creative industry corporations, experiences the most growth because of those knowledge spillovers. Productivity in those cities is higher and, generally speaking, higher wages are paid (Rauch, 1993). Furthermore, the highly productive employment potential attracts new companies, leading to employment opportunities increasing more than in locations with less skills (Glaeser & Saiz, 2003).”

It is, then, of the highest importance that every region holding innovation in high esteem invests in their creative talents and supports them so spillover effects can occur.

In Flanders too, innovation is put forward: in the “Vision 2050” text by the Flemish Government (version March 10, 2016[6]) innovation is mentioned 163 times. These elements show that the creative industry can, on the one hand, have a great impact on innovation within the Flemish industry and that, on the other hand, innovation is a central priority to the Flemish administration. Antwerp Management School and Flanders DC Knowledge Center in 2013[7] particularly studied how the creative industry has and can generate spillover effects.

Project result

Finally, this project will culminate in a service provision by different partners directed at creative entrepreneurs.

[1] Jacobs, S. (2017). Een configurationeel perspectief op succes bij kleinschalige creatieve organisaties. Doctoraatsthesis Universiteit Antwerpen.

[2] Caves, R. (2000). Creative industries: Contracts between art and commerce. Harvard University Press.

[3] Rutten, P. (2014). Kracht van de verbeelding. Hogeschool Rotterdam.

[4] van Andel, W., & Schramme, A. (2015). Creatieve industrieën in Vlaanderen: Mapping en bedrijfseconomische analyse. Antwerpen: AMS-FDC Kenniscentrum.

[5] Rutten, P., Marlet, G., van Oort, F. (2011). Creatieve Industrie als vliegwiel. Creative Cities Amsterdam Area.

[6] https://www.vlaanderen.be/nl/vlaamse-regering/visie-2050

[7] Jacobs, S., Demol, M., van Andel, W., & Schramme, A. (2013). Bijdrage van de creatieve industrieën tot een innovatief Vlaanderen. AMS-FDC Kenniscentrum.

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Jacobs Sofie

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Function Associate professor HRM & Talent Development, Academic Director Global Leadership Program, Academic Mentor Executive PhD Program
Jacobs Sofie

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