Scholarly article on topic 'Worlds in the Making: Design, Management, and the Reform of Organizational Culture'

Worlds in the Making: Design, Management, and the Reform of Organizational Culture Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Richard Buchanan

Abstract The introduction of design and design thinking into the management of organizations is at an early stage. Most of the research and applications of design have focused on attitudes, skills, methods, and techniques. These have been applied to tactical issues of the development of products and services, issues of organizational operations, and issues of the vision and strategy of organizations. But there is a principle that distinguishes design as a practice of management from other schools of management over the past century. That principle focuses on the quality of experience for all of those served by organizations, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, or governmental organizations. The design movement in management aims at organizational culture reform. It is profitable for organizations, but it also serves a deeper purpose in enhancing the lives of individuals. At its best, the design movement seeks to bring innovations—sometimes radical innovations—to organizations that have to adapt to new circumstances of economic competition, social expectation, and cultural understanding. This is the challenge to design anticipated decades ago by the famous designer George Nelson, when the tactical uses of design in product development was the center of attention. The new extension of design deeper into organizational culture offers the possibility of significant consequences.

Academic research paper on topic "Worlds in the Making: Design, Management, and the Reform of Organizational Culture"

Richard Buchanan, Case Western Reserve University, USA

Worlds in the Making: Design, Management, and the Reform of Organizational Culture

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[Ja: «fei:] *

Abstract The introduction of design and design thinking into the management of organizations is at an early stage. Most of the research and applications of design have focused on attitudes, skills, methods, and techniques. These have been applied to tactical issues of the development of products and services, issues of organizational operations, and issues of the vision and strategy of organizations. But there is a principle that distinguishes design as a practice of management from other schools of management over the past century. That principle focuses on the quality of experience for all of those served by organizations, whether for-profit, not-for-profit, or governmental organizations. The design movement in management aims at organizational culture reform. It is profitable for organizations, but it also serves a deeper purpose in enhancing the lives of individuals. At its best, the design movement seeks to bring innovations - sometimes radical innovations - to organizations that have to adapt to new circumstances of economic competition, social expectation, and cultural understanding. This is the challenge to design anticipated decades ago by the famous designer George Nelson, when the tactical uses of design in product development was the center of attention. The new extension of design deeper into organizational culture offers the possibility of significant consequences.




Design thinking




Received August 1, 2015 Accepted August 13, 2015 Published xxx

Corresponding Author

Richard Buchanan

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1 George Nelson, Problems of Design (New York: Whitney Publications, 1957), 76.

2 Stanley Abercrombie, George Nelson: The Design of Modern Design (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 99.

3 For an account of the history of management, see Daniel A. Wren, The History of Management Thought (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2005). A useful account is also provided by Claude S. George, Jr., The History of Management Thought (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1968). See also Mauro F. Guillén, Models of Management: Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994). The latter is particularly important for its discussion of religions in management and organizations, pointing toward cultural values.

4 For a discussion of the relationship between management theories and design theories, see Richard Buchanan, "Interaction Pathways in Organizational Life," in Managing as Designing, ed. Richard J. Boland, Jr. and Fred Collopy (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004). This collection of essays is the first example of close collaboration between management scholars, design scholars, and designers imaginatively to explore a closer relationship between traditional management theory and new uses of design in organizations.

"The modern world — any world in its own time — is always complex. It contains not only material that is truly of the immediate moment, but also innumerable memories of past worlds. There is also a constantly developing sense of worlds still in the making."

— George Nelson, Problems of Design

In 1957, the noted designer George Nelson published an essay entitled "The Designer in the Modern World." Though ostensibly about the designer, he later remarked that it was actually an essay about people. Prescient as his writings were in so many areas of design, this essay too contained an acute observation about life in the twentieth century, an observation that more than fifty years later has emerged as one of the central problems and challenges that face design in the twenty-first century.

"One of the most significant facts of our time is the predominance of the organization. Quite possibly it is the most significant. It will take time to realize its full effects on the thinking and behavior of individuals. In this conditioning process, few escape its influence."1

At a meeting in the House of Commons in 1943, Winston Churchill famously remarked, "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us." In light of Nelson's observation, we might say it slightly differently: we shape our organizations, and then our organizations shape us. Put simply, the challenge for design is how to influence organizations not only to affect the thinking and behavior ofindividuals, but also to have a positive effect on human experience in an increasingly complex world. This was the challenge faced by Nelson, himself, when he worked for the Herman Miller Furniture Company. He brought together a team of leading designers that included individuals such as Charles and Ray Eames, Isamu Noguchi, Robert Propst, and textile designer Alexander Girard. Together, they created a series of products that elevated Herman Miller to a leading position among similar organizations and, ultimately, to a leadership position among a wide array of organizations that regard design as a key intellectual property woven into the DNA of the organization. The products created by this team remain icons of excellent design for the period, and they remain as examples of the best that product design can produce in any period. In essence, Herman Miller became a "design-centric" organization, with design thinking at the core of corporate vision. When Nelson spoke of the company philosophy, he identified five principles, one of which stands out in the context of our current discussion: "Design is an integral part of the business."2

Of course, some variation of Nelson's challenge has been faced by all management theories from the earliest historical times to the beginnings of management thinking in the twentieth century, when the discipline of management was established and developed in a series of important theories and schools.3 Beginning with Frederick Taylor's theory of "scientific management" and Henri Fayol's school of "management process," each school has identified and explored a different cause or principle to explain the efficiency and effectiveness of organizations, and they have employed the identified cause as the basis for recommending actions and behaviors of managers as they shape organizations. In essence, they have identified principles that serve as the basis for design action by managers and by the organization either through planning or through the execution of plans.4 The literature in the management discipline is rich and detailed in the diversity of recommendations. The "human relations" school turned toward the people who carry out the work of the organization. The school

8. Organizational Culture

Qualitative Research Methods Ethnography, Participant Observation

Karl Weick (shows that org culture perspective rejects both systems & structuralist assumptions)

9. Organizational Culture Reform Movement

TQM, Organizational Learning, Design thinking, etc.

Managing as Designing

8a. Managing Organizational Symbols

7. Power & Politics

(complex systems of Individuals & coalitions exerting Influence; rejecting both systems & structuralist assumptions)


3. Management of Human Relations

Organizational Behavior People & Interpersonal Environment

5. Management Through Structural Analysis Structural Analysis School Collective Social Behavior

Values & Purpose

People - Causes - Structure

Efficient Formal

Information & Resources


Bertaiianffy, wiener, etc. 6. Systems Theory

Science of Decision Making

Information & Material Resources

Simon, March, etc. 4. Administrative Science or Management Science

William Scott (Organization Theory)

Organizations as Social Systems

Katz & Kahn (Open & Closed Systems)

Operations Research or Analysis Information Logistics I Information Technology

(relying on computers to aid decision making)

Figure 1 Major schools of management & theories of organization.

of "administrative science" turned toward the science of decision-making and operations research, focusing on information and the logistics of business operations. The "structural analysis" school turned toward the social environment and the structural and functional aspects of organizations, focusing on the form of an organization. "Systems theory" treated organizations as social systems — open and closed — and with a focus on the interrelation of parts in a complex whole. The "power and politics" school returned to a focus on the people of the organization and their coalitions of influence. The school of "organizational culture" introduced qualitative research methods to examine leadership, adaptation to environment, and inter-subjective meanings. Most recently, there has been an "organizational culture reform" movement, less a single school and more a variety of individual leaders as diverse as Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Peter Senge, and Edward Deming, all concerned with reforming the culture of organizations with better understanding of cultural values and the purpose of the organization (fig. 1).

It is worth noting again that each of the major theories of management in the twentieth century can be regarded as a theory of design, explaining the actions that may be taken by managers in their work and the various states and kinds of organizations that have been created by the action (or inaction) of managers. The product to be designed is not an artifact or a customer service but the organization, itself. Each theory sought to make organizations that are efficient, effective and productive, with benefits for employees, shareholders, and stakeholders as well as individuals in society at large. The theories have been employed with varying degrees of practical success in creating and developing the for-profit, not-for-profit, and governmental organizations that surround us today, and we recognize many of the benefits of organizations that have yielded our social and cultural world. Yet, paradoxically, there is widespread dissatisfaction with organizations and what they do to affect the thought and behavior of human beings, as if the designs are flawed in one way or another. As Nelson suggests, we do not yet understand the full effect of organizations on our lives — and, increasingly, we are aware of negative effects on human experience. This leads to the central question of our present argument. What principle has been neglected in earlier design theories of management and how does new design thinking come forward with a different perspective on management, innovation and entrepreneurship?

To identify this principle, it is appropriate to consider what has begun to change in management and who the agents of change are. What has changed today is the engagement of designers working in the tradition of George Nelson and other leading designers of the twentieth century, individuals who have turned the concepts and methods of design, as we usually understand design, toward addressing the problems of organizational culture reform. These are individuals who began their education and careers working in areas such as graphic design, information design and communication design or industrial and product design or service design and interaction design. Though employing different approaches to design, they have worked toward a common purpose in creating products and services of high quality that advance the economic success of organizations and also provide satisfying experiences for individuals that benefit society at large. Along the way, however, they discovered that organizations, themselves, could benefit from the application of design thinking in ways that sometimes have been overlooked or ignored by traditional management.

It is significant that some of the most important figures of the organizational culture reform movement — individuals such as Peters, Drucker, and Senge — have

Evidence of whether a problem exists that merits inquiry

Subject & Problem

Thesis or Principle

Central Idea or Hypothesis

Development of the Idea

From Interest to Issue to Question to Problem

The Idea and Its Positioning Among Alternatives

Strategy & Method of Inquiry

Significance in Theory & Practical Action

The problem is stated in a paradox: The United States has added 40 million new jobs at a time when experts and ordinary people said that the economy was in a state of stagnation. How can this be?

The central idea of the book— the hypothesis—is that there is a new approach to management, based on purposeful innovation, otherwise what we should call "entrepreneurship."

Note that there are two alternative ideas about entrepreneurship:

(1) a practice or

(2) a personality trait.

Drucker argues that entrepreneurship is a practice. From this point forward, the task is to identify the essential features of a systematic discipline.

The strategy of inquiry is to explore the practice of entrepreneurship as a systematic discipline. The method of inquiry Is to identify the three components of that system.

(1) Sources of innovation (a copia of invention).

(2) How an innovation is developed by management within different kinds of organizations.

(3) Strategies by which the organization engages the external world—bringing forward the innovation in the marketplace through policies and practices.

The significance of the inquiry lies in two areas. First, it helps to explain how organizations have worked in the period under discussion. Second, it reveals the potential of an entire society focused on entrepreneurship in a full range of organizations and institutions—and in personal life.

The new discipline or art may be shared as a practice by the entire community—at a time when there is urgent need for new ideas and innovations.

Introduction Part I, Chapter 1

(1) Part I, Chapters 2-11 Conclusion

(2) Part II, Chapters 12-15

(3) Part III, Chapters 16-19

recognized the importance of design as a key element of cultural change. For example, Peter Drucker's seminal work, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, is easily read as a treatise on design thinking, seeking to establish a discipline of entrepreneurship that has all of the hallmarks of a significant design theory of the organization, including a clear statement of the significance of innovation and entrepreneurship for society at large.5 His book identifies the problem for inquiry and presents a compelling hypothesis for a new practice that has systematic discipline. To explain the elements or components of the discipline, he follows a strategy of inquiry that is characteristic of design. He identifies the sources of invention on which the discipline depends, how the discipline may be developed within different kinds of organizations, and, finally, the strategies by which the discipline engages the external world of users, bringing innovation through policies and practices. These are classic issues of design theory and practice: what do we design, how do we design, and why do we design? Reading Drucker's book, one may begin to see the sense in which entrepreneurship and design are names for the same enterprise (fig. 2).

In turn, Tom Peters is recognized as a strong advocate for design in organizational life. In a recent interview, for example, Peters remarks:

"Machines can automate a lot of things, but design is something humans do best. It's part of the way you play around with things — part of the relentless

Figure 2 Peter Drucker's Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Structure of the Inquiry.

5 Peter Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles (New York: Harper & Row, 1985).

Figure 3 Four areas of design problems.



Problems & Fields of Design



6 Tom Peters, "Tom Peters on Leading the 21st Century Organization," McKinsey Quarterly, (2014, No. 3), 91. See also Tom Peters, "Design Mindfulness," in The New Business of Design, ed. John Kao (New York: Allworth Press, 1996).

7 Peter M. Senge, The Firth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 299.

8 Senge, The Firth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, 341.

experimentation. You falter, you get back up, and eventually you figure things out. That's the design process.

'Design mindfulness' has got to be in everythingyou do — down to the littlest thing. Even the language you use in e-mails. There's a character to communications. There's a character to business. It's how you live in the world."6

Peter Senge is just as clear regarding the new place of design in management. In The Fifth Discipline, speaking of the leader-manager as a designer of the organization, Senge writes:

"The essence of the new role [of leaders], I believe, will be what we might call manager as researcher and designer. What does she or he research? Understanding the organization as a system and understanding the internal and external forces driving change. What does she or he design? The learning processes whereby managers throughout the organization come to understand these trends and forces."7

Pursuing the metaphor of the organization as a ship, he continues:

"The neglected leadership role is the designer of the ship. What good does it do for the captain to say, 'Turn starboard thirty degrees,' when the designers has built a rudder that will turn only to port, or which takes six hours to turn to starboard? It's fruitless to be the leader in an organization that is poorly designed. Isn't it interesting that so few managers think of the ship's designer when they think of the leader's role?"

The explicit recognition of management as a design discipline nearly parallels recognition by the general public of design as a significant practice of the twentieth century. As far back as the 1950s, Nobel Prize winner Herbert A. Simon, who began his career by working in a school of architecture, identified design as a key feature of management, focusing his explanation on the difference between analysis and synthesis.

"One of the deep sources of communication difficulty between the discipline-oriented and the practice-oriented members of a professional school faculty stems from the difference between science and art. The goal of the pure scientist is to explain phenomena in nature: the laws of physics, of physiology, or of consumer behavior, as the case may be. The goal of the practitioner is to devise actions, or processes, or physical structures that work — that serve some specified purpose.

The techniques the scientist uses toward his goals are usually called 'analytic.' To explain phenomena, he dissects them, pulls them apart into simpler, familiar

Spirit or Culture:

Innovation & Creativity in an Entire Organization

Figure 4 Pluralism of design thinking.

Imaginative Act: Seeing New Possibilities & Making Them a Concrete Reality

Design Thinking

Creative Inquiry:

Discipline & Practice of an Art of Asking and Answering Questions

Cognitive Processes in the Brain:

Gathering and Processing Information and Making Decisions

elements. The techniques of the practitioner are usually called 'synthetic.' He

designs by organizing known principles and devices into larger systems."

Important as the support of management scholars and theorists has been in advancing the application of design to organizations, the real work has often fallen to designers in the tradition of Nelson.10 Their ideas and methods form the core of a new "best practice" in management and perhaps ultimately as a new practice of management as a whole.

To understand the logic of the new design movement in the cultural reform of organizations, it is useful to consider the sequence of problems that designers have addressed in the past hundred years. This is evident in what is called the Four Orders of Design, a matrix of the arts of design thinking and the problems toward which those arts have been applied.11 The four orders demonstrate the evolution of the design professions from graphic and industrial design to interaction design and, then, to the design of systems, environments and organizations that is the hallmark of the current design movement.

Early in the twentieth century, designers were called upon to address the problems of mass communication, creating texts and images for print publications. This was the beginning of our modern understanding of graphic design, a profession that has evolved from graphics to visual communication and finally to communication design, with special emphasis on information design. At the same time, other designers were called upon to address the problems of mass production, creating the patterns, forms and mechanisms of all of the physical artifacts that were fabricated in factories around the world. This was the formal beginning of industrial design, often linked to engineering and evolving into what we call product design and then product development, with a growing emphasis on the close relationship among design, engineering, and marketing. Both professions found important places in organizations (See fig. 3.)

By the middle of the twentieth century, however, two other forms of design practice began to emerge. One focused on the interaction between human beings and the machines they create, with growing emphasis on the computing machinery that marks our entrance into a digital world. Beginning with interface design, focusing on the immediate interaction of a human being and the computer screen, this form of design quickly developed beyond the flat-land of the computer screen to address problems of designing a wide variety of human interactions with their surrounding environments. By the 1990s, the focus turned toward the design of services, whether in the offerings of businesses and corporations or in the

9 Herbert A. Simon, Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations (New York: Free Press, 1945), 353.

10 Boland and Collopy, eds., Managing As Designing.

11 The concept of the four orders was introduced in Richard Buchanan, "Wicked Problems in Design Thinking," Design Issues 8, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 5-21. It was reprinted in V. Margolin and R. Buchanan, eds., The Idea of Design (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995). Little has changed in the central premise of this concept, but examples and applications are extensive and continue to grow, In addition, professional work in the areas of Third and Fourth Order design has increased exponentially since the original publication.

12 For a discussion of the origins of design, see R. Buchanan, "Rhetoric, Humanism, and Design," in Discovering Design: Explorations in Design Studies, ed. Richard Buchanan and Victor Margolin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

services provided by governments and non-governmental social service agencies. Service design is perhaps the most commonly recognized form of the new interaction design, but questions of user experience have come to surround us in our everyday lives, affecting our understanding of all forms of design, whether in communication or artifacts or in the processes in which humans are involved. Indeed, public sector design has also become a prominent concern in the twenty-first century.

At the same time that interaction design was taking shape as a professional practice, designers were also turning their attention to the design of systems, environments, and, most recently, organizations. Typically, this new form of practice drew heavily on the expertise of individuals from many professions and disciplines. The systems engineering of the 1940s and 1950s focused on the physical and material systems of complex products, but from this beginning came growing concern for the human systems that had to be integrated with complex material systems. If interaction design focused on actions, activities and services, the new form of system design focused on the largest wholes that human beings create. It focused on the thought that lies behind complex wholes: the organizing idea or principle that operates behind systems, organizations, and environments — behind collective interactions. In this sense, fourth order design addresses the fundamental question of how a collection of in-dependent parts becomes an inter-dependent whole (See fig. 4.)

Therefore, it is no surprise that management has become a logical extension of the new design thinking. Management is the element of an organization that brings a degree of unity and cohesiveness to every human undertaking. The manager or leader provides the appropriate environment that facilitates the performance of others as they work to accomplish an undertaking. The environment is both conceptual and physical. Conceptually, it is the framework of values and vision that serves to accomplish a collective objective or goal. It also helps individuals to achieve the personal goals of the participating individuals within and beyond the organization. Physically, the environment is the organization of resources needed to achieve goals and objectives. In general management theory, the functional aspects of management are: planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. These are the areas of the functional application of design thinking in organizations, bound within the traditions of management. Managers are responsible for designing the worlds we make in organizations and for the worlds that organizations make for others in the social life around us.

Before discussing the ways in which design influences organizations it is important to understand more precisely what we mean by "design thinking." The phrase has become vague and controversial in current discussions of design and innovation. It deserves to be clarified. The problem lies in the novelty as well as the ambiguity of the phrase. "Design thinking" is a relatively recent term, but in reality it represents the work of designing from the earliest times of the formation of the practice. Designers are thinkers, makers, and doers. "Design thinking" does not replace making and doing. It only points out that designers have the capacity to think before they make or do — something that everyone in organizations should keep in mind in their own work. Design thinking serves to focus the complex issues of design practice that have been the subject of reflection from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.12 At moments of historical significance, the pluralism of approaches to design has attracted debate and discussion, for example, in the debates of the so-called Design Methods Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That is, design, itself, has been as much an ambiguous term as design thinking. It has taken on a variety of divergent meanings in theory and practice,

creating the pluralism that constitutes the ecology ofdesign culture. Pluralism can be confusing at times, but the term "design thinking" remains useful as long as the different meanings of design are understood. All of the different meanings point toward something fundamental in the work of innovation and design synthesis that should not be lost if one is to understand what designers do within organizations.13

Design thinking has distinctly different meanings that are common in the work of designers and those who reflect on the practice. The pattern of meanings in the ecology of design culture is a useful guide in the new movement of cultural reform, because each meaning captures an important aspect of design in organizations and reflects an idea with strong roots in design theory as well as practice. In one meaning, "design thinking" refers to an Imaginative Act of the Mind. It is the designer's act of imagination in seeing a new possibility and working to make that possibility a concrete reality. This meaning is clearly expressed in the work of J. Christopher Jones when he distinguishes between logical, systematic methods and the work of imagination. His goal was to free the imagination from the details of analysis — recognizing that both are important but that imagination has creative priority.14 Many contemporary designers and design firms explore variations of this theme in their practice and in the explanations they provide for the character of their practice.

In a second meaning, "design thinking" refers to Cognitive Processes of the Brain of the Designer. This means how the human brain gathers, stores, and processes information and then how we make decisions about what can and cannot be created and how the creation may proceed in synthesis. This line of reflection on design is best expressed in the work of Herbert A. Simon, whose Sciences of the Artificial is widely recognized as the tap root of cognitive studies of design and designing, from which many and diverse writers have taken inspiration — though perhaps fewer professional designers. Nonetheless, this meaning has directly or indirectly provided insights into information processing and decision-making, and it has been a factor in practical design work when, for example, there is concern for the limits of the cognitive load of information that can be held by an individual, the need for redundancy in communication, or the statistical validation of decisions through the analysis of human behavior.

In another meaning, "design thinking" refers to a Spirit of Creativity and Value that may permeate an entire organization or, indeed, an entire culture. This is sometimes a challenging meaning, because it contrasts sharply with both the cognitive and the imaginative meanings of design thinking. Instead of beginning inside the imagination or the brain ofan individual, it begins in the qualities ofthe whole culture of an organization or a society. It locates qualities and values that permeate the whole and that are manifest even in the smallest parts of the whole. There are many examples in contemporary design practice, but it is worth focusing on one that has been too much neglected in discussions of design. This is Kenji Ekuan's The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox. Ekuan explains that he wrote the book "to demonstrate that there is a Japanese theory of design culture."15 He does this by building on the analogy of the lunchbox to broader examples of Japanese culture and the design and production of products. "The lunchbox is a device that induces creativity ... This same etiquette of production [of the Japanese lunchbox] has been unconsciously applied in the creation of the most up-to-date industrial consumer products. This 'Japanese way of making things' is embodied in the lunchbox."16 Naturally, this meaning of design thinking — often an unconscious participation in the values of the organization or the culture but also in the reinforcing practices and behaviors of skill and technique within the organization — can lead to a critique of cultural inconsistency and shortcomings.17 Ekuan observes

13 Richard Buchanan, "Thinking About Design: An Historical Perspective," Handbook of the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 9: Philosophy of Technology and the Engineering Sciences (Elsevier, 2009), 409-453.

14 J. Christopher Jones, "A Method of Systematic Design," in Developments in Design Methodology, ed. Nigel Cross (New York: Wiley, 1984), 9-32.

15 Kenji Ekuan, The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1998). Ekuan was Chairman of the GK Design Group, in its time the largest industrial design firm in the world, serving clients in Asia, Europe and the United States.

16 Ekuan, The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox, 177.

17 Kaoru Ishikawa's concept of the Quality Circle, established in 1962, is a good example of critique and design problem solving within organizations. Their successful adoption in the West came as a surprise to Deming and Juran, who thought that the Circles would be confined to Buddhist and Confucian cultures.

Figure 5 The four orders of Fields of Design Problems


Communication Construction Interaction Integration

Symbols Things Action Thought




Arts of ™n8s Design

Thinking Connecting Action

Integrating Thought

Symbols: Words & Images

Physical Objects

Activities, Services, Processes

Systems, Organizations, Environments

18 Ekuan's critique echoes the critique of industrial production by John Ruskin and William Morris in the late nineteenth century.

19 Plato, Phaedrus and Republic.

20 Lâszlo Moholy-Nagy, "Design Potentialities," in Moholy-Nagy: An Anthology, ed. Richard Kostelanetz (New York: Da Capo, 1970).

21 Bruce Archer, "Systematic Method for Designers," in Developments in Design Methodology, ed. Nigel Cross (New York: Wiley, 1984), 57-82.

22 An example is Donald A. Schon, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

23 John Dewey, Art As Experience (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1958), Moholy-Nagy employed Dewey's book as a foun-dational text at the New Bauhaus in Chicago. For a discussion of the influence of John Dewey and Herbert Simon on design and design methodology, see Buchanan, "Thinking About Design: An Historical Perspective," 418-426.

many of the weaknesses in contemporary life and the products by means of which we live.18 The progenitors of this approach to design thinking provided the earliest discussions of the nature of products in human culture, and the theme has continued to the present.19 It is not difficult to see the subtle connection between this approach to design thinking and many of the key figures in the organizational culture reform movement.

Finally, "design thinking" sometimes refers to Creative Inquiry, the discipline and practice of an intellectual and practical art: asking and answering central questions about the purpose, form, materials and efficient production of a desired result to reach a specified outcome. There are two moments in this art: analysis and synthesis. Both are well known to designers who follow the theme of creative inquiry, and the approach is well represented in the field of design by diverse designers and theorists. After a brief discussion of the problem faced by design in his time, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy begins his well-known essay, "Design Potentialities," with an analysis of the elements of design, explaining how new discoveries, theories and techniques have influenced our understanding of the function, materials, form, and manner of production in industrial design. Following this, he discusses the work of synthesis, focusing on the artist's role in combining logic and intuition (informed intuition) in reaching a resolution of a design problem.20 Another example is designer Bruce Archer's discussion in "Systematic Method for Designers." He observes that while there are ongoing changes in technology, systematic design involves three phases: the analytic phase, the creative phase, and the executive phase. The latter phase involves subsequent communication and implementation of the design solution.21 One of the most important examples, however, may be found in philosopher John Dewey's seminal discussion in "Having an Experience," a key chapter in Art As Experience. This is a highly influential discussion that found important application in a variety of forms of design practice, including the development of human-computer interaction and the development of interaction design in general. It continues to be highly influential in many areas of design.22 After a discussion of the problem of human experience, the chapter moves to a discussion of the materials of experience, the form of experience — natural and human made — and concludes with a discussion of the different purposes expressed in experiences.23 As the theme of creative inquiry continues to

unfold, it finds new expression in discussions of "design thinking" in the twenty-first century, often infused with rhetorical and dialectical themes, as in the discussion that will follow. The new variations are diverse, with different elements or components that support its application in new areas of design practice.

Each of these meanings of design thinking leads to a different strategy and process of designing, reflecting the pluralism of approaches that has been a central feature of design culture in the past and remains as a strength of design in the present. Given the diversity of meanings, it is no wonder that the ambiguity of "design thinking" has often led observers to retreat to the lowest common denominator in seeking to characterize design, typically making the work of designing a flat enterprise, indeed (See fig. 5.)

The meaning of design thinking that is advanced in this essay is that design thinking is an art of creative inquiry. It is an art comprised of four dialectical moments in the sequence of thought and action — moments of questioning and reflection as well as action. Each moment is concrete and specific in what must be accomplished as the work of design progresses.

The first moment is Invention. This is the creation of new ideas that depart from what is already established and accepted and that form the beginnings of innovation. There are many schemes or practices of invention in design, but they all seek what is different and potentially important in transforming a problematic situation that requires new ideas that break new ground in thought and action.

The second moment is Judgment. This is the task of assessing what is desirable, feasible, and viable among the ideas created by invention. Desirable means that the idea is suited to the community of use that will be served by the innovation, providing something that is potentially meaningful in meeting the needs and wishes of human beings. Feasible means that the idea can actually be given tangible or concrete form with the means that are available in technology, production, and the behaviors of people. Viable means that the idea, once it is given concrete form, can be sustained within the culture and capabilities ofthe organization and within the culture and social practices where it will be implemented. Design judgment in the matter of desirability, feasibility, and viability is a critical step toward turning a new idea into an innovation that benefits the organization and the people served by the organization. It requires imagination as well as a deep understanding of the circumstances of production and future use.

The third moment is Connection and Development. This is the task of connecting and developing the central themes of design in the essential features of products: what is useful in the workings ofproducts, what is usable in the fit ofa product to the capabilities ofhuman beings, and what is desirable for the emotional satisfaction of human beings. It is the task of development, building concrete prototypes, refining the idea, and bringing together all of the elements that are necessary for production or implementation. This moment of design is often regarded as the central task of design in making what is new, but it logically follows invention and judgment.

Finally, the fourth moment is Integration and Evaluation. The final and true dialectical task of design is evaluating the worth of an innovation in the product to be produced or implemented. Designers are concerned with evaluating the objective worth of products by criteria drawn from the interests and vision of an organization, the needs and desires of individual communities of use, and society at large. There is an obvious and significant ethical as well as political dimension to the task of evaluation.24 A discussion of the ethical and political aspects of design reminds us of Aristotle's insight into their relationship. As the noted philosopher Richard McKeon observes in his analysis of Aristotle's philosophy, "ethics and

24 See Richard Buchanan, "Design Ethics," Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005).

25 Richard McKeon, The Basic Works of Aristotle (New York: Random House, 1941), xxvi. "The Nicomachean ethics and the Politics, therefore, do not develop separate sciences of independent subject matters, but rather supplement each other by treating a common field according to different aspects." See also, R. McKeon, "The Philosophy of Aristotle" (unpublished manuscript, University of Chicago, 1941), 62.

26 See Tim Brown and Roger Martin, "Design for Action: How To Use Design Thinking To Make Great Things Actually Happen," Harvard Business Review (September, 2015), Another article in this issue focuses on design at Samsung Electronics. See Youngjin Yoo and Kyung-mook Kim, "How Samsung Became a Design Powerhouse," Harvard Business Review (September, 2015).

27 Michael Westcott, Steve Sato, Deb Mrazek, Rob Wallace, Surya Vanka, Carole Bilson, and Diane Hardin, "The DMI Design Value Scorecard: A New Design Measurement and Management Model," dmi:Journal (Winter, 2013). See also Jeneanne Rae, "What is the Real Value of Design?" dmi:Review 24, no. 4 (February, 2014).

28 John Heskett, "Creating Economic Value by Design," International Journal of Design 3, no.1 (2008): 71-84.

29 The UK Design Council, the Danish Design Center, and the Design Forum Finland have all produced reports on the value of design to businesses, tending to focus on tactical design of goods and services.

30 An exception is the UK Design Council's "Leading Business by Design," 2013, a qualitative study which focused on the strategic use of design at senior levels of UK and global businesses.

31 UK Design Council, "The Value of Design Factfinder," 2007.

politics are not separate sciences treating of independent subject matters but rather dialectically distinct approaches to common problems."25

The four moments of design thinking are the elements of design in management practice. They are the arts of innovation and entrepreneurship that can and should become a best practice in management. But how do they emerge in organizations? How does design become a regular part of organizational life? Typically, it emerges gradually, beginning with the tactical problems of designing products and services. Then, it is turned inward, toward organizational problems of operations. Finally, it is elevated to address the problems of vision and strategy that are at the guiding core of organizations, relating the organization to the external world. The progression of design within organizations is receiving more attention in the business literature. A recent issue of the Harvard Business Review (in the typical style of titling its articles, breathlessly enthusiastic) is devoted to the new uses of design thinking and the progression from industrial and artifact design to other broader uses of design within organizations. The theme of the issue is "Spotlight on the Evolution of Design Thinking."26

If the Harvard Business Review publishes on topical themes after they enter wide consciousness, the Design Management Institute, a professional group, was already at work to explore the theme. In material published in 2013, the DMI expresses a similar progression to what has been described. It has yielded a workable model of design within organizations. DMI calls their model a "Design Value Scorecard." This device provides a map "to assess design's impact and importance" in organizations. It maps "best practice methods and metrics for measuring and managing design investments" within an organization. In addition to identifying the uses of design in an organization, the scorecard also identifies levels of organizational maturity in adopting design (fig. 6).27

It is not difficult to see the four orders of design in the DMI Scorecard. The Scorecard is a system diagram, a fourth order diagram of the system of design within an organization. It offers a system perspective on all of the problems that designers have faced in the twentieth century — from graphic communication and industrial design to interaction design and organizational and systems design — but seen from the point-of-view of the organization.

What adds further interest in the model, however, is the question of the economic value of design, the return on design investment (RODI).28 While the design community has been slow to investigate the financial benefit of investing in design, there are studies that begin to fill in that picture.29 There are clear benefits that come from investment in design in various countries. The problem from our perspective is that some of these studies have focused more on the traditional areas of industrial design and related tactical practices rather than on the overall benefit of making design a central feature of management that ranges from goods and services, to operations, to vision and strategy — that is, the uses of design in "design-centric" organizations.30 To address this, the Design Management Institute has assessed the overall market value of stocks in organizations that have taken the most advantage ofdesign across the range ofbusiness practices. This is reported as the DMI Index, a comparison between fifteen for-profit organizations identified as decidedly "design centric" (for example, Apple, Coca-Cola, Ford, IBM, Intuit, Procter & Gamble, Herman Miller, and Whirlpool) and the general Standard & Poor's Index. What the comparison shows is that the "design-centric" organizations outperformed the Standard & Poor's Index by more than 200% over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013. The UK Design Council reported a similar result of 200% in a study published in 2007.31 There may be reasonable questions about how deeply design has been adopted with the fifteen organizations identified in the Design Management Institute study — certainly, none are perfect embodiments of


Design Used for

Development & Delivery Organizational Operations Vision & Strategy

Organizational Attributes Aesthetics Functionality Connector Integrator Strategy &

Maturity in Design Business Models

Level 5 Optimized

Level 4 Managed

Level 3 Defined

Level 2 Repeatable

Level 1

Initial & Ad Hoc

Processes Proactively & Continuously Improved

Processes Modified or Varied Based on Feedback

Processes Standardized

Basic Project Management

Heroic Efforts

/N S 08

Broader Influence & Impact on the Organization

design thinking at the corporate level — but there is no reason to doubt that design has played a more significant role in these than in many other organizations. If the studies do not fully resolve questions about the value of design, they do begin to point toward the economic advantage of the use of design as a management practice.

What the analysis at the Design Management Institute does not explain is the principle that distinguishes the new approach to design from earlier design theories in management. It is too easy to regard design as a set of tools or skills that may be employed without reflection, imagining that only by applying a few techniques or methods an organization can achieve the innovations and entrepreneurial spirit of a "design centric" culture. What distinguishes the new design approach to management and organizational culture is not a set of skills or techniques but a principle shared by many, if not all, in the design community working in the tradition of great designers such as George Nelson.

The principle of design that stands behind the organizational culture reform movement in which design thinking is central is grounded in the quality of experience for all of those served by the organization. This includes the individuals who directly use the products and services of the organization, but it also includes those who are affected by the internal and external operations of the organization and by those in society at large who are ultimately affected by the vision and strategies of the organization. The search for such a principle is a dialectical task, and discussions among designers and others show the traits of dialectical inquiry: the subject matter is determined by starting with what men and women think it to be and, then, inquiring into the conditions of its existence. This kind of dialectical inquiry is common in design conferences, and it was evident, for example, in a recent conference held in Wuxi, China, organized by the School of Design at

Figure 6 From Michael West-cott, et al. "The DMI Design Value Scorecard."

32 "Re-designing Design Education (IV): Emerging Common Ground: Experience, Strategy, Wellness." This is the fourth in a five-year series of international conferences aimed at reforming Chinese design education, organized by the School of Design, Jiangnan University, Wuxi, China, May 22-May 25, 2015.

33 John Dewey, Art As Experience, 36. The influence of Dewey's philosophy on the present argument should be evident.

Jiangnan University.32 The theme of the conference was "Experience, Strategy, and Wellness." By the end of the first day, the participants had a wide variety of examples of professional and academic projects that focused on human experience and the creation of design solutions intended affect the thought and behavior of human beings. But in the panel discussion at the end of the day, the discussants struggled to explain what was meant by "experience," to characterize the conditions of experience, and to identify the principle that was shared by most if not all of the presentations. This is common in conferences, where different perspectives on the common ground of the meeting jostle together without full resolution in a shared expression. But what often makes a conference valuable is the reflection that it engenders afterward among the participants, whatever their perspective in the pluralism of design thinking. This is one of the outcomes of the Wuxi conference in the context of design education in China but also in a broader international context.

The problem is what we mean by "experience" and what we mean by the quality of such experience. In the common and ordinary meaning of the term, experience is simply the accumulation of sensations and perceptions that fill our moments of engagement with products and services. Experience is something that occurs within an individual, and design seeks to control the sensations and perceptions that happen to affect the individual. Upon reflection, however, the ordinary meaning of experience fails to capture the deeper significance of experience that most designers seek. What if experience is not something that happens inside a human being? Though provocative by the standards of ordinary usage, the alternative we should consider is that experience is not something that occurs inside an individual. Rather, experience is found in the unity of the individual with his or her environment. Experience is found in a relationship of interaction with the environment, not in an internal process.

The implications of this idea reveal layers of meaning that explain the significance of the principle of new design thinking in organizations. The first layer concerns what we mean by an environment in design. In common usage, an environment simply means all of the things that surround us in our lives. This is the vast range of objects and activities, signs and symbols in which we are immersed in daily life. The range is unlimited and, to some extent, unmanageable, if not thoroughly confusing. This is what John Dewey means by the "inchoate" world around us, a world of partly and imperfectly formed encounters.33 With more precision, however, an environment takes shape when the surroundings of the individual are transformed by the intent of the individual to act in the world. An environment exists or comes into existence when the intent of an individual leads to engagement and interaction with the surroundings. The intent is a unifying quality that selects some elements of the surroundings and ignores others that are not relevant to the individual's purpose.

The role of design in our lives is to create the environments within which human intent can move forward in interaction, forming human meaning in the reach toward satisfaction and fulfillment of the original intent. The environment may be an artifact that we employ in daily life. It may be a clear communication and sharing of information. It may be a service or other planned activity in which we are engaged for pleasure or practical purposes. And, decisively for our present study, it may be an organization or a system that is designed to fulfill one or another human purpose. Indeed, the four orders of design point toward all of the problems that designers address in creating the environments of our lives, including organizations. The DMI Design Value Scorecard points toward all of the uses of design thinking within an organization, whether in the crafting of a strategy and vision for the future of the organization, crafting the operations of the

organization, or creating the products and services that have immediate impact on people's lives.

If the purpose of design thinking is to create the environments within which we live, the purpose is also to make possible the unity of the individual with the environments that human beings create. That is, the deeper purpose ofdesign is to create the possibility of true experience in our lives. For the designer, three things can break the unity of the individual and their particular environment. One is the issue of practical action: all of the simple, overt physical gestures that one performs in using or gaining access to a product. When doors do not open, the control surfaces of machines and computers require awkward movements of the hand or eye, or when access to a company office is blocked, then the flow of an interaction is interrupted or disrupted, leading to disjointed and dissatisfying experience and, sometimes, to an unfulfilled human purpose. Two is the issue of intellectual understanding: all of the information and instructions, the sequence of a service, or any other obstacle to cognitive and intelligent understanding of action. When a service is disjointed, information and instructions are confusing and the logical rationale for a process is missing, then the easy and coordinated flow of mind and body is broken with fits and starts that sometimes prevent reaching an intended goal. Three is the issue of emotional engagement: the human feelings that arise in the interaction one has with an environment. When there are feelings of anxiety, fear, confusion, or disappointment, then the felt unity of an experience is broken, trust and confidence are diminished, and human satisfaction in the fulfillment of reaching a goal is lost. AH of these aspects or dimensions of experience are woven together, reinforcing and clarifying each other.

There are many other implications of the principle of design that we have advanced in this essay — for example, the meaning of health and wellness for the designer — but perhaps the most important for the present argument is the meaning of culture. Culture is a highly ambiguous term with many meanings in the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences. However, one may argue that for the designer and those who explore the uses of design thinking in organizations the term "culture" takes on a specific and focused meaning. Culture is found in our experience of all of the environments created by human beings, whether in local, regional, or international and worldwide engagements. Design thinking is the way we shape our organizations, their internal operations, and all of their goods and services by chance or deliberation, by careful thought or by our reaction to the force of circumstances that are the conditions of our lives.

Why has design and design thinking emerged as an important part of the organizational culture reform movement at this time? Though it may seem counterintuitive, organizations are sometimes trapped by their success. They are trapped in what has been successful in the past but is no longer well suited to new circumstances of the marketplace or of society. A respected and influential scholar of innovation, Gerard Tellis, calls this "the curse of incumbency." He writes, "Success is empowering. But success is also enthralling and embeds the seeds of failure. Incumbent firms that dominate their markets often fail to maintain that domination for long, despite all the advantages they enjoy of market leadership."34 In his study of innovation, he argues that research over a period of two decades suggests that the most important driver of a firm's innovation is the internal culture of the organization. He identifies three traits and three practices within the culture of an organization that promote innovation and, sometimes, radical innovation.

34 Gerard J. Tellis, Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2013), 1.

"The traits are a willingness to cannibalize current (successful) products, embracing risk, and focusing on future markets. These three traits overcome

35 Tellis, Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance, 8.

36 Chester I. Barnard, The Functions of the Executive (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938 and 1968), 154.

37 Raymond Williams, "Dominant, Residual, and Emergent," Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).

38 Kamil Michlewski, Design Attitude (Farnham, UK: Gower, 2015). An important example of new research into the professional culture of design with useful implications for managers and their organizations, based on a careful study of designers and managers. This work builds on an idea first introduced at a conference held at the Weath-erhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. See Boland and Collopy, "Design Matters for Management," in Managing as Designing.

the incumbent's curse. The three practices are empowering innovation champions, providing incentives for enterprise, and fostering internal


To build on Tellis' observations and conclusions, the designer would argue that the culture of an organization is comprised of many environments, each nested within another and another, stretching all of the way from the goods and services provided to the customer to the top of organizational leadership. The environments shape and reinforce the values, traits, and practices of the organization. To reform organizational culture, it is necessary to create organizational environments that strengthen the traits and practices identified by Tellis. Our argument is that design thinking and the principle of design found in the quality of experience for all of those served by the organization offers the best way to reform organizational culture for the benefit of all of the individuals served by the organization.

In recent decades there has been a tendency to regard profit as the purpose and goal of all types of organizations, including hospitals, universities, and other organizations that we may not immediately see in terms of profit and loss. This is a distortion of the nature of organizations recognized even in the early decades of the twentieth century.36 The purpose of an organization is to provide goods and services in society. Profit and economic gain is best understood as a necessary element to sustain the organization and strengthen its ability to innovate in changing circumstances. Designers have often promoted their work by the evidence of profitability, and this is the line of argument by the Design Management Institute and embodied in the Design Value Scorecard and in the Design Value Index. But the value of design thinking for the organization is revealed only partly by profitability. In a deeper sense, the true value of design is its ability to focus the attention of organizations on all of the people served by the organization. Through user research and a host of other ways of looking carefully at the experience of human beings in our communities, design may begin to meet the challenge identified by George Nelson in his humanistic vision.

Despite the enthusiasm expressed in recent books and articles that are marketed to the business community (and also used in business schools as they attempt to introduce a course or a workshop or a lecture on design thinking for their students), it is good to remember that the introduction of design thinking into the management of organizations is at an early stage. In the 1990s design thinking as a practice in management was somewhat a novelty, but since 2000 it has become an emergent practice, in the sense that Raymond Williams speaks of "emergent" in his brilliant discussion of the process of cultural change.37 Some efforts to promote design thinking in organizations may lead down unsustainable pathways that, in the long run, could undermine the new design movement. Excessive emphasis on methods, skills, and techniques sometimes makes it appear that design thinking is an easy practice that anyone can master. To truly make design thinking a best practice in management, there is a need for more careful research and thoughtful development of theory.38 It is no simple matter to reform organizational culture. Indeed, it will be easy to co-opt the practices of design without recognizing the deeper principles on which design thinking rests. Even in the design community, there is often a tendency to reduce the first principles of design on which the work is ultimately grounded and justified to mere principles of the methods and techniques that are employed. The major tenet of new design thinking is the central place of human beings in our work.

"In the language of our field, we call this "human centered design." Unfortunately, we often forget the force and meaning of the phrase — and the first

principle which it expresses. This happens, for example, when we reduce

considerations of human-centered design to matters of sheer usability.... but the principles that guide our work are not exhausted when we have finished our ergonomic, psychological, sociological, and anthropological studies of what fits the human body and mind. Human-centered design is fundamentally an affirmation of human dignity. It is an ongoing search for what can be done to support and strengthen the dignity of human beings as they act out their lives in variety social, economic, political, and cultural circumstances.

Can design shape organizational culture so that the organization positively affects the thought and behavior of individuals? The true test will be the degree to which our efforts to introduce design thinking into the management of organizations embodies the fundamental principle of design.

39 Richard Buchanan, "Human Dignity and Human Rights: Thoughts on the Principles of Human-Centered Design," Design Issues 17, no. 3 (Summer 2001).

Richard Buchanan is Professor of Design, Management and Innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. He is the former Head of the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University and a former president of the Design Research Society, an international association based in the United Kingdom. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Montreal. He is Co-Editor of the journal Design Issues: History, Theory, Criticism published by the MIT Press. Most recently, he has also been appointed Chair Professor of Design Theory, Practice, and Entrepreneurship in the College of Design and Innovation at Tongji University in Shanghai.