Designing Toys, Gifts and Games: Learning through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Designing Toys, Gifts and Games: Learning through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Friedemann Schaber, Vicki Thomas, Randle Turner
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-617-9.ch026
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Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is a program in the United Kingdom (UK), administrated on behalf of the Technology Strategy Board, a Government Agency, where academics give their expertise to provide a solution for a particular problem, helping organisations to improve their competitiveness and productivity. The academic partners at universities, colleges or research institutes bring their knowledge, skill and technology. In return, KTP enhances the business relevance of their research and teaching, in particular, deepening their expertise of ‘real life’ projects. This investigation exemplifies some of the strengths and pitfalls of this type of knowledge transfer in the context of the global toy, games and gift markets, through case studies of the design and prototype development process for a range of toys, giftware and seasonal products.
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Theoretically, this chapter is about the concept of knowledge transfer and how it has been used as a way to encourage firms to invest in product design. Knowledge transfer is an idea that has been developed in management theory. Nonaka & Takeuchi (1995), Blackler (1995), Collins (1996), Davenport & Prusak (1998) discuss types of knowledge. For the past three decades the KTP initiative, along with its predecessor, the Teaching Company Scheme (T.C.S.), established in the mid-1970s by the Science & Engineering Research Council (T.C.S., 2009), has given British firms access to new methodologies, via the “knowledge bases” (the term used in the initiative for universities). KTP assumes the notion of knowledge at its core, but is it just management trend? Do our case studies confirm the continuing relevance of the approach?

The transfers of knowledge are between different networks; some are structured organizations like the education system, or complex social ones like, Chinese culture in the twenty-first century and others are short-lived networks just “alive” for one project. Actor network theory outlined by Latour and others (Law & Hassard, 1999) has been found to be useful by many, when exploring the relationship between technology and society. In this chapter’s case studies, the Associates are the key actors working as a catalyst and transferring knowledge between many of the networks. But there are other actors; the traders, supervisors, retail buyers and most importantly, the models, drawings and products themselves. Does seeing the experience of KTP in network terms help us understand better how the knowledge is being transferred?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emotional Engagement: By the user is considered as important as having them enthusiastic about the functional benefits of a product: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that a changing social climate is now demanding brands be assessed by their integrity and genuine commitment to communicating honestly about who they are, what they do, and what they represent.” (Simmons, 2007)

Cross-Cultural Design: Is growing in importance because of the global market place. Products are designed in one country, manufactured in another and sold worldwide. Designers have to have the skills to make them understood and have a wide range of cultural knowledge as well as design knowledge.

Rapid Prototyping: Allows for computer-generated geometries of models and prototypes, with realization through a 3D printer, such as a fused deposition modeler, producing accurate forms in a polymer.

Added Value: Refers in this study to the additional value design brings of a product over the cost of materials and production.

Live Projects: Are student assignments that are not textbook exercises, but projects linked to real clients from business or the community. The results may or not go into production and the students gain valuable experience in dealing with real design problems, access to production processes and feedback from marketing teams and sales staff.

Trends: A way of describing how things (designs, fashions, colors and ideas) tend to move together. They are used to predict changes in the society and particularly markets. Trends can be set, manipulated and followed. They are used by designers to lead us, by retailers to be back up their buying decisions and could be said to narrow the consumers’ choice at point of sale.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Is a UK program where academics provide business solutions while putting research into practice. A recent graduate, called Associate, is placed within the knowledge seeking company to research, plan and implement new methodologies, supported throughout the project time by an academic and his university, the knowledge base.

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