A Design Thinking Framework for Circular Business Model Innovation among South African SMEs

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Economics and Management, Da Vinci Institute of Management, South Africa.

2 Department of Information and Science, Mpumalanga University, South Africa.


There could be immense advantages in the use of circular business model innovation (CBMI) among Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); however, the implementation of business transiting to circular business models (CBM) is still ambiguous to potential playmakers. The process of transitioning these SMEs to CBMI still has gaps to be filled and tools for its support are largely missing. This study is purposed to fill the transition gap by proposing a framework for CBMI based on a design thinking perception, which can support the CBMI process. Multiple case studies are used in the derivation of the CBMI framework. Four South African case firms are selected to create circular business models in partnership with the researchers. A prospective study (three to six months) was designed in which the CBMI processes are monitored from their onset in the circular economy and circular business models in the firms. Essentially, three innovation environments constitute the design thinking protocol, the exploratory, ideation, and archetyping & testing environment. However, from the findings of this study, two more environments are revealed, that is, the introductory (preliminary) and alignment (configuration) environments, for CBMI. The four case firm results indicate that the proposed framework together with its tools and mechanisms are essential for CBMI.


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