Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Managing as Designing: Richard J Boland

One of the main contributors to contemporary debates about the role of design within management and academia, Richard J Boland of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, gave a special lecture at Saïd Business School last week. Boland's workshop (2002), and later edited book "Managing as Designing" (2004), is the result of an ongoing dialogue with his colleague Fred Collopy, inspired by their experience of working with architect Frank Gehry as he and his team designed their new building (shown above).

The Managing as Designing project brought together many of the most interesting thinkers in contemporary management and design theory as well as people from design and the arts. That thinking has now lead them to rethink and redesign their MBA, with the involvement of Richard Buchanan, formerly head of the design school at Carnegie Mellon University. Insights from their work are described in Fred Collopy's blog on Fast Company.

In his talk, Boland introduced the fundamental ideas behind the "design attitude" which he and Collopy argue should be central to management practice. "In business school we teach the history of the recent past," he said. "Design gets us out of that and into the creation of something new." Drawing on the ideas of Herbert Simon and philosopher John Dewey, Boland argued that managers should be aware that they are creating artefacts - whether they are things we associate with designers, like sketches, or things like credit default swaps, that we don't.