Thursday, April 26, 2007

MBA Design Leadership elective - week 1: Design thinking/designerly ways of knowing

This is the second year Said Business School has offered this elective and once again 19 students have signed up (out of about 225 students and around 30 electives). As last year, it involves a combination of class-based teaching based on readings (drawing on design management, design research, innovation studies) and practical workshops. This year, the eight-week course includes a three-week project with MA Design Interactions students from the Royal College of Art in London – both institutions trying to find a way to create a meaningful educational experience from different contexts (design/the arts v social science/management) and limited time available.

Our first meeting was held in London where each group of students presented some of the work they had prepared. The MA students, who in the previous week had chosen an extreme organization to research and reflect on personal commitments, presented manifestos which will be the starting point for designing a product, service or product/service system. These often poetic and sometimes moving personal statements gave a flavour of one approach to designing (we cover user-centred design later). The business students presented their often witty MBA-style analyses of the organizations selected by the design students – giving a sense of the kinds of conceptual toolkits and language they use (eg Porter’s five forces) that designers are not generally familiar with.

Readings giving the MBAs resources for understanding how designers think included Cross on designerly ways of knowing, Buchanan on wicked problems and design thinking, and Heskett on significance and utility.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scenarios: designing probable, preferable and plausible futures

What do designers who make use of scenarios methods need to know about the history of this practice? In a recent talk, Angela Wilkinson, director of scenarios and futures research at the James Martin Institute, gave an overview of the history of scenarios – in her view not just limited to the 20th and 21st centuries but evident too in practices such as reading animal entrails and making maps. Wilkinson divided up scenarios into three schools: the US school emerging from military R&D trying to create probable scenarios to get policymakers to “think the unthinkable”; the French school aiming to envisage and design preferable futures; and the Shell school generating plausible scenarios – her own background – drawing on ideas of conversation, reperceiving and focus.

Other talks in this series include Rafael Ramirez (Said Business School) and BettySue Flowers (LB Johnson Presidential Library).My particular interest will be to see where the emergence in some design consultancies of making artefacts “from the future” as a way of exploring scenarios fits in.