Teaching Design Theory to Entrepreneurs: An Effectual Use of Design
Other conference contribution, 2014

To date, there is very little documented evidence around entrepreneurs applying design theory into their creation of new product and ventures. This is remarkable given the wide-spread view that many entrepreneurs are innovative designers of new products, services and ventures. One explanation to this lack of understanding is that both entrepreneurship and design thinking has been biased towards a more predictive and causal logic, missing out on more generative and effectual aspects of entrepreneurial behaviour. This study is a first attempt to study how entrepreneurship students behave and reflect when introduced to a design theory – C-K theory – that stands out in enabling both the generation of new concept and knowledge as well as ways to also converge upon preferred concepts. C-K theory is thus not biased towards either causation or effectuation and thus offers a tool for studying entrepreneurial behaviours as well as entrepreneurial perceptions. The results show that, in the application of C-K theory principles, the entrepreneurs illustrate use of effectual logic, allowing for expansive and robust mapping of different pathways. However, in their own interpretation of the use of C-K theory, they interpret their applied logic in a more causal frame, associating the path development to an initially set goal. This indicates that effectual capabilities are developed in action, whereas such behaviours end up being interpreted in more causal terms when reflected upon in hindsight. Conclusions are drawn around how C-K design theory can be used and further explored in entrepreneurship education. Furthermore, design theory is also argued to offer improved study of entrepreneurial behaviour and identity.


teaching design theory



Marine Agogúe

Mats Lundqvist

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Entrepreneurship and Strategy

Karen Williams Middleton

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Entrepreneurship and Strategy

7th SIG Design Theory Conference, January 27-28, Paris, France


Subject Categories

Educational Sciences


Driving Forces

Innovation and entrepreneurship

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