Combining Exploration/Exploitation with Domain Theory: A two-dimensional categorization of design research and product development.

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: McMahon, Chris (1); Eckert, Claudia (2)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: University of Bristol; 2: The Open University
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 0977-0986
DOI number:


This viewpoint paper uses two established classifications – March’s distinction between exploration and exploitation and Andreasen’s Domain Theory – to develop a classification matrix to map industrial challenges and design research topics. Exploration/exploitation and the organ, part and activity domains of Domain Theory are respectively the two dimensions of this classification matrix. Examples are given of the fit of design research and industrial innovation topics into each cell of this matrix, and the need for change in industrial emphasis towards exploration across the range of domains to meet current challenges is discussed. We show how design research covers all categories in the matrix, and argue that using a simple classification may assist the research community in explaining its activities to a wider world, and in organising and directing these activities. We conclude by making suggestions for topics for debate in the design research community.

Keywords: Design theory, Organisation of product development, New product development, Exploration/Exploitation, Domain Theory

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