Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A year in designing for service: 2009

A Google search for “service design” is one way of indexing what is a growing field of practice and scholarly enquiry. On the basis of a search today (December 16, 2009), the term is resonant enough to have a long-ish entry in wikipedia (although it “provides insufficient context for those unfamiliar with the subject”). What comes next are links to two consultancies: Engine (based in London) and live|work (ditto). Practice leads theory, then. But although they are leading the field, they are extremely small – 20 people at the former, 13 people at the latter, according to their websites today.

This was a year in which service design began to move away from being the province of designers educated and practicing in the art school tradition to an activity in which designers have something important to contribute, but which is not necessarily owned by Design.

Conferences brought together practitioners leading and developing the field with researchers from universities involved in studying and teaching service design, management and marketing. These included the Service Design Network Conference in Madeira and the first Nordic Conference on Service Design and Service Innovation in Oslo. The line-up of speakers suggested a shift from the emphasis on designerly service design seen at earlier conferences such as the Emergence conferences hosted by Carnegie Mellon University (2006; 2007) and at Northumbria (2006), drawing in those interested in service design from outside design fields. However these conferences were still dominated by those of us from design school backgrounds (as far as I can tell from attending one, and reading the public material of the other). In contrast, the Frontiers of Service Conference in Hawaii included “service design” on its list of topics but the only person I know who went was a researcher rooted in academic HCI.

At the beginning of the year, anecdotal accounts of consultancies laying off staff suggested a despondency matching the world we found ourselves in characterised by financial and ecological crisis. But by the end of the year, I was hearing reports of new clients, new projects or at least things ticking over. New consultancies formed too – like Snook, whose public stance is evidence of a refreshing modesty and optimism among the design community.

New books explicitly mentioning service design and introducing it to a wider field included Tom Lockwood’s edited book republishing articles from the Design Management Journal by livework, IDEO and others. Satu Miettinen and Mikko Koivisto brought together many others to suggest how organizations can go about Designing Services with Innovative Methods. The #service design twitter community of designers involved in service design became a busy and valuable resource.

Roberta Tassi published her research undertaken for her graduation thesis as a fairly comprehensive list of service design tools. Daniela Sangiorgi from Lancaster and others founded a web resource called Service Design Research, a very readable way of getting a handle on different research perspectives. This aims to build an understanding and foster a dialogue on where ideas and concepts of Service Design have come from, how these evolved over the last two decades as well as report and review current research and service design practices.

The year ahead will no doubt create opportunities to build on these developments as what is still a diverse field continues to create ways of legitimising and authorising practice (eg professional qualifications), defining the boundaries of the field and drawing in other kinds of service practitioners and researchers. I hope that people involved in the field will continue to ask important questions, which should include

- Politics. How are service designers going to position themselves in relation to questions of power? As with Participatory Design, one way of understanding the introduction of new technologies sees them as increasing managerial control over service employees and indeed customers. When are designers going to become more reflective and critical of the politics involved in designing for service?
- Scope. Do service designers really want to focus mostly on the design of services (public or private) or scale up to policy issues? From the international arena - the United Nations, World Bank and so on – to national and regional services, a whole collection of serious problems face policy-makers, elected representatives and citizens. Whether called service or transformation design, or something else, in what ways can practitioners seize opportunities to move beyond the legacy of industrial design and articulate a vision of designing for service that moves beyond designing services (industrial outputs defined as what products are not, cf Vargo and Lusch 2004) to designing for service?
- Knowledge. What kinds of knowledge do service designers and managers need in order to design better services for and with others? What are the strengths and limits of the design-school approach to designing for service? What published and developing knowledge bases should those involved in designing services draw on? When will service designers start paying serious attention to established fields with literatures on which they can draw including Participatory Design, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, anthrodesign, services marketing, service operations, science and technology studies and feminism?

In next year’s Google search I hope to see some surprises. A service design consultancy with 100 people! The UN taking forward the work of the UNIDR (Derek Miller and Lisa Rudnick who spoke in London and Oxford in November) introducing service design and planning for field engagements in 50 countries! Oxford, Harvard, the Royal College of Art and MIT introducing new multidisciplinary service design and innovation masters courses! The new UK Conversative-Lib Dem government creating a Design Unit in the Cabinet Office to provide hands-on consultancy for government departments aiming to increase efficiency and innovate based on designing for service rooted in end user experiences and practices! Ten new books! Large consultancies such as Accenture and McKinsey training consultants in designerly methods and approaches! Oliver King or Joe Heapy or Lavrans Lovlie or Chris Downs or Ben Reason as keynote speaker at Frontiers of Service! Check back in a year and we’ll see.

Call for papers: Art of Management conference, Turkey, 2010

Track at Art of Management Conference, Turkey, 2010: ARTFUL ORGANIZATION DESIGN

Daved Barry & Stefan Meisiek, School of Economics and Management (FEUNL), Universidade Nova de Lisboa
Lucy Kimbell, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

This track focuses on ‘artful’ organization design, reflecting recent revisionist trends in organizational practices and the organization studies literature. In particular, there has been a significant rise in approaches that reflect more of an arts-based sensibility rather than the scientific/engineering mindset that has characterized organization design efforts since the late 1800’s. Representative works of this revisionist perspective include Boland and Collopy’s “Managing as Designing,” Mintzberg and Liedka’s “Strategy as Design,” Martin’s “Design Thinking,” and IDEO’s articles/videos on service and culture design, all of which focus on design-as-process. These approaches to organization design seek a meeting between art and science, and craft and technology in design practice. Importantly, they stress going beyond a sole focus on instrumentalism in design—great designs should not only deliver utilitarian outcomes but should also create delightful and meaningful ones. Thus, an organizational appraisal system designed from this new approach should not only result in useful appraisals, but should also be a pleasure to use and enrich the work life with a sense of possibility.

In this track, we push the arts-based approaches to the forefront. To do so, we will depart from the regular presentational track format and host a design studio where we work on live organizational issues.

Specifically, we will provide designers, artists, and organization scholars interested in our track with basic information about Garajistanbul (, an Istanbul-based performing arts organization. This organization and its presented issues will be our ‘design site’; the design brief appears below. Designers, artists, and organization scholars selected from those who apply to our track will be invited to develop either 1) an artful design exercise to take place during the conference; or 2) a design sketch or proposal engaging with organization’s issues, and to submit this to us. In place of the usual paper submission, this will be used to select participants to take part in the track. The form of the submission will be open and might include whatever activities submitters are familiar with or would like to experiment with (e.g., visual methods, role play, modeling methods, narrative techniques, philosophical inquiry, etc.).

At the Art of Management conference, then, our track participants will briefly introduce their artful design exercises or solutions, and then we will continue to work on, discuss, and explore possibilities in the design studio. We imagine a multistage process in which participants create designs for Garajistanbul, discuss them in plenary, receive feedback, and go into another design phase. There might be 3 or 4 phases in all, in which we aim to understand the participants’ design assumptions and methods in a hands-on way and to amplify these methods via feedback. Stakeholders from Garajistanbul will be invited to take part—either as ongoing commentators, or as a ‘review panel’ on the last day.

The resulting designs will be documented and may provide the basis for a special issue in Aesthesis, or a ‘thin book’ on artistic approaches to organizational design. Apart from a desire to discover and share new design approaches, a key aim of the track is to begin to build a network in which people interested in artful approaches to organizational design can meet one another, both at this Art of Man conference and also in the following years.

Design Brief:

The design site for our track at the Art of Management conference is Garajistanbul ( In their own words, Garajistanbul “is an international, non-profit, contemporary performing arts organization that owns a venue in Istanbul, Beyoglu; makes productions and publishes a magazine called "gist". Garajistanbulpro and 10+ are the two production units. Garajistanbul tours regularly abroad, especially Europe.”

Your task as a potential conference participant is to design either an exercise or sketch initial design proposition that could help Garajistanbul redesign its services and activities, organization design, corporate identity and culture, and/or strategy. If you develop a design exercise, it should be doable within the conference period. Members of Garajistanbul will share further materials online (organizational charts, rules and routines for organizing, photos of the site and people, etc) prior to the conference in September, which will allow you to prepare your sketch or exercise. They will also join us at the conference site, and, if time permits, we will visit the premises and see what they are doing.

Abstracts for papers should be approximately 500 words, but we will accept any form of media submission you feel appropriate. Your abstract should be sent to the stream conveners (dbarry AT; smeisiek AT; lucy.kimbell AT and copied to Jane Malabar at by 1st February 2010.

We look forward to your imaginings.
Daved, Stefan, and Lucy

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What if…? …..Report on Service Design Network conference 2009

Report on Service Design Network conference 2009

The conference archive including presentations is here.

My (short) conference paper is here, and a recent longer essay: Kimbell, L (2009) 'The Turn to Service Design' in Julier, G and Moor, L, 'Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice', Berg.

This is a partial and highly particular account of the Service Design Network conference, Madeira, which I attended a few weeks ago. It’s partial since I do not aim to give a full account of what the conference was trying to achieve (as I understood it), nor everything that went on, which others have been doing much better than I could. And it’s particular, because I attended and spoke at it in my current manifestation as a researcher and educator situated in a management school and involved in teaching on the MBA. My remarks below should be read as critical reflection that I hope will be of use to others, some of which I have already discussed with the organisers. I raise what I believe are important questions for an emerging community seeking not just to survive but also grow, as it thinks about how to create new institutions and ways of validating its knowledge.

While I have a background in interaction design practice and live art, now supplemented by a vast amount of reading in management fields, anthropology and design theory, I am concerned at present with the body of knowledge on which a service design profession or even discipline might rest. What do organisations, groups and societies need to know in order to design for service? How can they go about designing for service? Who should be involved in designing and why and what ethical concerns exist about co-design, participation and accountability in designing for service? What kinds of knowledge are relevant and what assumptions and world views are they based on? What happens to “service design” when “non-designers” (such as marketing consultancies and management consultancies) take on some of these practices, do them systematically and routinely and at scale, win the clients and do the projects? What are the strengths and weaknesses of a designerly approach to designing for service? The SDN conference was not a good place to go to get answers to these questions. This is not to say the event was not of value – I enjoyed hearing from Joe Heapy (Engine), Lavrans Lovlie (live|work), Ben Reason (live|work), Bas Raijmakers (STBY), Bruce Tether (Imperial College) and many others (although I didn't need to travel 1000km by air to meet them).

I will comment in detail on one talk, not in any way as a personal attack but rather as the most clear example illustrating my concerns, which apply to the event as a whole. In their presentation, Craig LaRosa and Jon Campbell from Continuum talked about employee motivation in service design. To me, a European, they came across as arrogant, an interesting counterpoint to the more modest presentations by UK/Nordic consultancies the day before. It was a very polished, enjoyable presentation – full marks for use of rhetorical devices – but I was left disappointed by the sense I got from the speakers that no one other than a Designer could produce useful knowledge in relation to the design of service. Perhaps that is the case - but I doubt it.

There were two examples from their talk where there is extant literature the speakers seemed unaware of. First, the idea that employees in service organisations play an important role in constituting a service – interesting, yes, but that’s what Bitner et al were looking at in their paper on critical incidents in the service encounter in 1990 and Solomon et al in 1985. That’s well over 20 years ago. Second, the speakers shared insights about the gap between expectations raised by service organisations in their advertising (such as United Airlines) and the actual service delivered. A great insight – and one that is captured in the 5 gaps model of service quality created by Parasuraman et al in 1985, again over 20 years ago. But there was no sense from these speakers that they felt they had any responsibility as designers to keep track of relevant literature or – even better – work out what new research was needed as part of efforts to design better services. If this view is true, and is one that is shared by other individual designers and consultancies, then the knowledge upon which a professional field of service design could rest is unlikely to develop significantly.

Some may argue that it’s not a designer’s job to go and read academic literature. However I believe that these days most designers, consultants and design educators would see research as part of design. For the practitioners spanning anthropology and design (eg the anthrodesign mailing list), research – which includes reviewing what is already published – is a very important part of their work. I am not going to suggest how individual designers or consultancies should go about their work, but I am interested in what an emerging field of professional practice thinks it is doing, how it understand its knowledge, practices and institutions in relation to those of adjacent fields and the rewards it gives to its leading figures. Earlier I asked questions about what was involved in designing for service. But in terms of a developing profession, there are also questions of what constitutes good service design practice and who is defining what ‘good’ means within the context of professional standards. One particular challenge faced by those involved in designing for service is how to understand the social - not something taught in many design schools, still hampered by a legacy of craft and objects.

On the plane home I sat with several other participants who also had to leave slightly early. I asked one of them – a leading figure – if he had learned anything from the conference. He said he had not. It seems to me that if a network such as this, however young and under-resourced, is not stretching its core community, then it may not survive.

This journey allowed us to digest and share our different experiences of the conference. I began to think about my impressions as a shortlist of if onlys which I have now translated to a list of what ifs, which serve as my benchmark for future service design conferences.

- What if the conference brought together those interested in designing for service, broadly conceived, rather than mostly service designers educated and practising professionally within Design?
- What if that definition included those from services marketing, management, innovation, information systems and adjacent fields?
- What if the people present, speakers and participants, did not assume that the social worlds which they are involved in designing for, and which their designs create, were not just givens but were things to be researched and interpreted?
- What if there was no underlying but unpsoken assumption that “design” is owned collectively by researchers, practitioners and educators rooted in design schools?
- What if the keynote speakers came from outside the core field, to help articulate the boundaries between it and other fields?
- What if members of this community actively took responsibility to extend their knowledge by reading literature from diverse fields? (see Jeff Howard’s blog as a generous example of someone digesting existing literature for others)
- What if members of this community began to think seriously about the underlying assumptions about knowledge and what constitutes “the social”?
- What if practitioners who are close to action began to identify and share where they see gaps for further research, whether through practice or academia?

Image: £20 note showing moral philosopherAdam Smith, a foundational figure in economics whose work underpins the idea of exchange value, now being challenged by scholars such as Vargo and Lusch (2004; 2008) who suggest we attend to value-in-use in order to understand the transition from a goods-dominant logic to the emerging service-dominant logic

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Report: Oxford seminar on Managing as Designing: What next?

Notes from a workshop held on Friday 30 October at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. Attended by about 40 people.


It’s 40 years since Herbert Simon published The Sciences of the Artificial in which he wrote the now much-quoted phrase “Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones” (1996:111). While Rittel and Webber (1973) and many others have questioned the rather top-down, technocratic view of design that Simon seemed to be arguing for, he did make a distinction between the purposes of the social sciences and of design that many scholars and practitioners are still finding useful today.

But now, 40 years later, things are quite different. There has been around four decades of research within design and engineering schools mostly into established fields such as industrial design, architecture and engineering design, generating descriptions of design activity. Alongside this, there has been research in management fields including New Product Development and innovation studies and more recently organization design. Science and technology studies have contributed a perspective on how innovations emerge that challenges the individualist accounts of some management scholars.

Simon’s insight was not really seriously taken up until Boland and Collopy’s workshop in 2002 and subsequent book titled Managing as Designing (2004), which brought several of these approaches together staging a wider conversation about the role of aesthetics and the arts more generally in organisational life. Boland and Collopy brought to management attention the idea not just that some abstract notion of design was important, but rather that design in the arts-based tradition offered something important to management practitioners and scholars – what they call a “design attitude”.

The value of designers’ practices educated in this tradition is what some people call “design thinking”. This autumn, three books are being published that have design thinking in the title, by Roger Martin, dead of the Rotman School of Business; Tom Lockwood, president of the Design Management Institute; and Tim Brown, who leads the design innovation consultancy IDEO. Alex Ostwerwalder has just published a book on the design of business models. Other new books based on academic research include Roberto Verganti’s book on design-driven innovation, and a forthcoming book by Armand Hatchuel and Benoit Weil. If you read Business Week you will have noted its latest ranking of top design schools which includes many business schools which are now teaching design in the MBA– though so far, very few teach design in the arts-tradition in the core curriculum.

To discuss these developments, we invited leading scholars within management, organization and design to share their thoughts on what is going on at the moment and what happens next.

Please note that what follows are slightly edited notes taken by hand while I was chairing the workshop. Any mistakes are mine. If you quote from this blog, please add this disclaimer.


Richard J Boland, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
What am I for?
- Valuing the existential moment
- Appreciating action (Dewey) as the basis of enquiry, all knowing and creation of knowledge comes from acting in the world.
What am I against?
- Assuming a ‘presented’ world.
- Thinking that an acceptable conclusion is that everything is socially constructed – that is the starting point.
- Design and use of representations, how people make meaning, use metaphors, perspective making and taking, distributed cognition, representing temporality.
- Visual representation did a better job of representing financial data than numbers in predicting bankruptcy (Zhao et al)
- 10 years with Gehry, design attitude, digitisation
- Systems of gestures, discourse practices and representational forms that will enhance team learning in healthcare
- – causal reasoning for children

Blanche Segrestin, Ecole des Mines
- Why do we need a new theory of design?
- Context: a shift in innovation, not just improving products and services but rather the changing identities of objects. Organisations don’t know what competences they need.
- Existing theories of design are problem solving (Simon) and systematic design (Pahl and Beitz). Existing theories of creativity focus on cognition (Torrance, Guilford). But we need to understand how to combine planning and evaluation with imagination and deviance. This is what C-K theory (Hatchuel and Weil) provides, which helps companies structure exploratory processes which generate new concepts and new knowledge.
- A brief may be clear but it is asking for something that is unknown. We need to produce knowledge for design, which involves working on unknown and partly undecidable objects.

Ken Starkey and Sue Tempest, Nottingham University Business School
- Business schools champion expertise masquerading as science, which leads to functional incompetence. In the search for technical competence (which has proved to be illusory) business schools have lost their capacity for reflexivity.
- MBA courses focus on personal advantage at the expense of public purpose, with a narrow curriculum focussed on analytics.
- The market logic has subverted the logic of professionalism (Khurana)
- “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what stories do I find myself a part?’” (McIntyre)
- Foucault offers an emphasis on power and knowledge, ethics and technologies of the self
- How do we develop a narrative imagination using the arts and humanities to think about new design spaces?
(See their forthcoming paper, “The Winter of Our Discontent: The Design Challenge for Business Schools” in Academy of Management Journal of Learning and Education 8(4))

Bruce Tether, Imperial College/Design London
- MBA students want to know what’s the takeway? What can they use on Monday morning? Design is difficult because it’s harder for them to reflect that they may have changed their way of thinking.
- How does design in a business school environment achieve legitimacy?
- Is design a fad? Can we really deliver?

Rafael Ramirez, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society/Saïd Business School
- How do changes in context change what to design and what is good design?
- How do turbulent environments change the context for business design? How do you plan when you can’t predict?
- How to create enclaves of productive possibilities, using scenarios to design value constellations to push back the turbulence?


Jennifer Whyte, University of Reading/ Design Innovation Research Centre
- Talking about both managing and designing involves talking about a large space
- Questions of micro and macro – how do you design a financial system
- A danger of romanticising design


Boland: Design truly is a practice. At Weatherhead we try to implement a more studio-based approach to MBA education. They work on a project as a design project, developing an ability to engage in a practice in a particular way and giving them an orientation that they are involved in shaping the world that other people are going to live in.

Starkey: How do we design an education system to equip people to handle things like the financial crisis?

Segrestin: How do we teach something that will be obsolete in a few years? More important is how to apprehend change.

Boland: We need to challenge business schools. They are historians of the recent past and gear students up to reproduce it. One possibility is challenging the business schools, waking them up. Another is to take design and business schools and morph into another kind of school so that organisational leaders become more broad-based.

Ramirez: The MBA is a locked-in standard. Exec ed and doctoral students are the research lab for management education.

Boland: The thing that intrigues me about design is its relentless commitment to inquiry.

Boland: I’m always surprised at the opposition set up between management and design. The world of the manager is addressing the unknown and designing collective action.

Segrestin: The models of the firm we have are 19th century models based on commercial activity. We lack a model of collective design activities that are not just commercial activities. We need to go back to look at the designing firm.

Whyte: Inquiry is central to design and to reflective management practice. …When you are creating businesses, you are creating social and material domains. But we should be wary of transplanting ideas from one to another simplistically.

Starkey: In Europe, for business schools, the student isn’t the customer, the customer is society.

Thanks to the Design Council who supported the refreshments during the event.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coming up: The limits of design: Designing for Security and Sustainable Development

For over a decade, design professionals have been extending their remit from the design of objects and buildings to the design of services, systems and environments. Their "design thinking" is now being imported to business school curricula. Magazines such as Business Week are promoting design-led innovation as essential for business. But businesses are not the only contexts that designers are now working in. In the most recent developments, a UN agency has worked with service innovation and design consultancy live|work. International design and innovation consultancy IDEO has produced a Human-Centred Design Toolkit for NGOs. Public service design group Participle has co-designed solutions to the challenges of ageing with older people themselves. One of them is a new social enterprise called Southwark Circle, now up and running and supported by Southwark Council. The NHS is bringing experience-based design to its service design and development. At a time when design thinking is reaching way beyond the design profession, it's time to take stock and ask: Is design thinking the way forward for solving complex "wicked" problems such as security and development? Can designers really design anything they turn their hands to? Are there limits to design thinking and, if so, what are they?

Speakers + panel
- Derek B Miller and Lisa Rudnick, Security Needs Assessment Protocol, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
- Daniel Dickens, Southwark Circle
- Jeff Masters, Commission Secretary, Commission on 2020 Public Services
- Joseph Harrington, Engine Group
- Alison Prendiville, London College of Communications
- Lucy Kimbell, Saïd Business School

Organised by Saïd Business School and London College of Communications
Graphic by Tony Pritchard

The limits of design: Designing for security and sustainable development
Weds 11 November 7-9pm
London College of Communications
Elephant and Castle, London SE1

To attend, please contact with subject line 'Limits of Design'
We think we'll be able to create a podcast for distribution after the event

Monday, October 12, 2009

Coming up: Managing as Designing - What next? Seminar in Oxford

Seminar on Managing as Designing: What next?

Friday 30 October 3-5.30pm
Said Business School, University of Oxford

Scholars and educators have been revisiting Simon's (1969) claim that design is concerned with what should be, making it central to professional education in management. Since Boland and Collopy's "Managing as Designing" workshop (2002) at Case Western Reserve University, several other schools of management have started paying attention to design approaches, whether conceived of as a "design attitude" (Boland and Collopy 2004) or "design thinking" (Dunne and Martin 2006). Some oganisation scholars argue that management is a design science and that design should be brought to established disciplines such as organization design (eg van Aken 2005; Bate and Robert 2007; Jelinek et al 2008; Starkey et al 2009) and that design - rather than Simon's problem-solving - is central to innovation (eg Hatchuel 2001; Hatchuel and Weil 2009). This seminar asks: What are the key ideas that underpin these developments? What do they mean for management education and research?

Richard J Boland, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
Blanche Segrestin, Ecole des Mines, Paris
Ken Starkey
, Nottingham University Business School
Bruce Tether, Design London, Imperial College

Jenny Whyte, University of Reading

Chair and organizer
Lucy Kimbell, Said Business School

If you want to attend please email Esther Vicente to reserve a place at References will be available on the InSIS website shortly:

Centre de Gestion Scientifique, Ecole des Mines
Design Innovation Research Centre
Design London
Ken Starkey
Weatherhead School of Management
Jennifer Whyte

Saïd Business School
University of Oxford
Park End Street
Oxford OX1 1HP

Bate, P. and Robert, G. (2007) Bringing user experience to healthcare improvement: The concepts, methods and practices of experience based design. Oxford: Radcliffe.
Boland, R., and Collopy, F. (2004). Design matters for management. In R. Boland, R. and F. Collopy (Eds.), Managing as designing (pp. 3-18). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Dunne, D., & Martin, R. (2006). Design thinking and how it will change management education: An interview and discussion. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 5(4), 512–523.
Elmquist, M. and Segrestin, B. (2009) Sustainable development through innovative design: Lessons from the KCP method experimented with an automotive firm. Int. J. Automotive Technology and Management, 9 ( 2), 229-244.
Ewenstein, B. and Whyte, J. (2009) Knowledge practices in design: The role of visual representations as epistemic objects, Organization Studies, 30, 1, 7-30.
Hatchuel, A. (2001) Towards design theory and expandable rationality: The unfinished programme of Herbert Simon. Journal of Management and Governance, 5 (3-4) 260-273
Hatchuel, A. and Weil, B. (2009) C-K design theory: An advanced formulation. Research in Engineering Design, 19, 181-192.
Jelinek, M., Romme, G., and Boland, R. (2008). Introduction to the special issue: Organization studies as a science for design: Creating collaborative artifacts and research. Organization Studies, 29(3), 317-329.
Starkey, K. Hatchuel, A. Tempest, S. (2009) Management research and the new logics of discovery and engagement. Journal of Management Studies, 46 (3), 547 -558.
van Aken, J. E. (2005). Management research as a design science: Articulating the research products of Mode 2 knowledge production. British Journal of Management, 16, 19-36.
Yoo, Y., Boland, R, Lyttinen, K. (2006) From Organization Design to Organization Designing, Organization Science, 17 (2), 215-229.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Managing as designing: Does it actually work?

In 2002 Dick Boland and Fred Collopy of the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, organised a workshop with the title "Managing as Designing", drawing on their experience of working with Frank Gehry as his practice designed their new Peter B Lewis building. The event brought together practitioners and academics working in art and design, music, architecture, the social sciences and management. The book they edited (2004) resulting from contributions to the workshop (including from Frank Gehry, Karl Weick, Wanda Orlikowski, Lucy Suchman, Peter Coughlan and many others) was probably the first major development in the increasingly fashionable exploration in management research of Herbert Simon's idea that management is a kind of design activity.

Since then, Dick and Fred, now joined by design theorist Dick Buchanan (previously at Carnegie Mellon University), have begun to integrate their ideas into the MBA at Weatherhead, one of few management schools to put managing as designing into the core teaching programme. But the question facing all of us teaching this stuff is - what impact does it really have? We don't yet know. We need to explore and test the ideas.

As part of their ongoing enquiry, Fred and Dick invited me to join them and other colleagues Kalle Lyytinen and Youngjin Yoo (Temple University) to organise a workshop that aimed to use art and design techniques to enable a group of people from different organisations to think about their futures. They invited 40+ people from Cleveland cultural and educational institutions to join us for a day and half. As workshop designer and facilitator, I helped design and deliver the experience of the event. We used techniques to get participants to explore and visually assemble defined stakeholders' experiences of the eight institutions and their boundaries in the present (what is) as a way of imagining them in the future (what could be). Case's website will post more details of what we did. But for now, here are a few of my observations.

- Dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty about what to do and how to do it is the central challenge facing those involved in organisational futures.

- Design techniques such as personas and customer journey scenarios are powerful methods even for first-time users that help ground their ideas and facilitate temporary, cross-institutional teams.

- Small groups working on individual ideas within a larger ecology produce platforms for others to work with, resulting in the emergence of new concepts that are unlikely to have been imagined and so could not have been intentionally designed.

- The creation of new concepts creates new barriers.

Fred, Dick and their colleagues are in an ongoing enquiry about the way these concepts might develop in these institutions - not just as a piece of research but as stakeholders in the city of Cleveland. As researchers and educators in this emerging field, we are all interested in how this way of approaching organisational questions about the future shapes the way individuals and organisations act.

Asking if managing as designing "works" is of course an overly simple question. But one way of thinking about how to explore what it does is to bring together people from diverse organizations to experience what it could be. I got people to play on the floor and make things with each other - testing Fred and Dick's own tolerance of uncertainty and ambiguity in our workshop design. What we saw was people making important new connections with each other as they went through a shared experience, the results of which I believe will impact (positively) on the city of Cleveland in the weeks, months and years to come.

>>>> See Youngin's blog post here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yes, even the toilets too

For a while I have been saying that the thing about service designers is that they attend to the mundane details of the service, everything from the design of posters to websites to text messages to physical environments to interactions with people - all of these are to be designed along with the orchestration of the end-user's encounters with them.

I recently had a chance to go visit a design project two friends were involved in. On the way back from a trip to Dorset, a couple of us dropped off at the redesigned Little Chef restaurant, which UK readers will probably remember as a slightly greasy but comforting roadside chain of restaurants. Now, they've been rebranded (I guess) and redesigned, or at least the one at Popham has. And the one we visited was even on TV - with conceptual chef Heston Blumenthal involved in redesigning the menu. And yes, the food was pretty good, still within the realm of fast-ish, roadside drop in eateries, but more locally-sourced, and a bit more for the vegetarians.

But what excited us even more was the re-design of the space by Ab Rogers Design, which included attention to details such as the conventional ones - layout, colour and materials for the restaurant but also the menus, employee uniforms, little comments on the tilling, little plastic flies on the ceiling which is covered with blue skies, and - the best bit - especially since I know the brilliant people who did it - the music in the loos. Tim Olden is a genius at picking bits of quirky and cheeky music, which plays as you enter the loo at the Little Chef in Popham and Dom Robson is a genius about making the technology work. I can't wait to go back.

Ab Rogers Design mostly do exhibition design, and are not particularly visible in the service-design world. But their reconceiving of the Little Chef brand and its service - not just its restaurant - communicates a similar attention to the detail of the visitor/customer/stakeholder experience. Yes - even in the toilets too - but in this case, it's especially the toilets.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Object Practices in Design: CRESC conference, Manchester

With Nina Wakeford (Goldsmiths, London) and Laurene Vaughan (RMIT, Melbourne), I organised a panel for the annual conference (1-4 September) of the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change, in Manchester. The conference title - "Objects - What Matters? Technology, Value and Social Change" - offered, we thought, an opportunity to consider the transition in design theory and practice away from objects at a time when social science is increasingly paying attention to them.

Panel: Object Practices in Design

This panel addresses two moves: the shift within design from attending almost exclusively to objects, towards users and stakeholders in their engagements with objects; and the shift within social theory away from societies and people towards objects. Attending to objects, in particular their form, has been central to design theory and practice since the emergence of a modern discipline of design. For Alexander (1962), designers were makers of form. Designers were concerned with how to create the right form balancing form and function and his contribution was to propose a systematic rational method to get to the right form. Then, discourse about design moved from a focus on the outputs of design to a generalisable "design thinking" (Buchanan 1992) which could be applied to nearly anything. For Buchanan, designers' problems were ill-structured or "wicked" (Rittel and Webber 1973) and their solutions could take form as signs, objects, environments or systems. The emergence of design problems at the intersection of humans and digital technologies spawned new ways of thinking about design especially an increasing focus on "users". User-centred design, interaction design and experience design all decentred the object in design with ethnographic and participatory practices entering design discourse - even if activities in many design studios and design schools looked and sounded remarkably stuck on the forms of the new digital objects. Krippendorff's (2006) recasting of design as human-centred formalized a theory of design as being about stakeholders and the meanings they create through interacting with objects, even as social theories were paying increasing attention to objects and less to meaning.


Beyond design thinking: Design-as-practice and Designs-in-practice
Lucy Kimbell, Said Business School, University of Oxford

Recent publications by scholars, practitioners and government bodies claim that design, or rather design thinking, has the power to stimulate or drive innovation and transform organizations and even societies. But the term “design thinking” is confused and the literature on which it is based is contradictory. This paper contributes to understanding design activity and its effects by reviewing literature and identifying problems with the concept drawing on theories of practice in sociology, science and technology studies and organization studies. It proposes an alternative way of conceiving of design activity, without privileging the work done by designers, by attending to the practices of others involved in constituting design outcomes. Introducing a pair of concepts – design-as-practice and designs-in-practice – to replace design thinking solves a number of problems facing researchers in design and management. The paper’s contribution is to make an explicit link between design and social science in order to advance understanding about designers’ work and value creation.

Design and Affect
Laurene Vaughan, RMIT University, Melbourne

This paper will discuss the relationship between design, the object and affect. Typically, but not always, objects are designed to exist in the world of human habitation. Objects are designed, modified, adapted and adopted by people as part of the everyday experience of living; and just as objects are “designed” by people, it can also be said that people are designed by the objects of their world. Through a particular discussion of the phenomenon of dress the intimate relationship between people and material culture will be explored.

The Model and the Object
Nina Wakeford, Goldsmiths, University of London

Based on research amongst experience designers, this paper discusses the origins and use of the ‘experience model’ in design practice. Often a graphical representation, the experience model is understood as a way by which knowledge can be passed between user-centred researchers and the designers. Drawing on theories of the work of visual representations in Science and Technology Studies (e.g. Henderson’s On Line and On Paper, 1998) this paper discusses the way in which the model might be said to constitute an object within design practice, rather than an intermediary stage in reaching the object. Looking back at the history of one design consultancy which pioneered such models, the paper also reflects on the ways in which models work as aesthetic objects, and the challenges this poses to STS thinking about visual representations.

Discussant: Guy Julier (Leeds Metropolitan University)

When I have the other papers, I'll post them here.

About the image: A photo of architectural models taken with permission at the marvellous 4-d modelshop in London E1

Monday, August 10, 2009

(Re)Introducing experience-based service design

When you are a researcher, you are supposed to know your field which in practice means something like knowing the history and origins of the field; understanding key concepts, theories, methods and tools; and keeping up to date with leading practitioners and other researchers. So this is your job. And you have your tricks for accessing the leading thinking and practice most likely combining the institutional (libraries, journals, databases, academic conferences, professional meetings, magazines) and the more informal (blogs, twitter, facebook, personal communications and oh yes – gossip). And then every now and then something comes along and makes you realise that your tricks have failed you. Something you really should have known about, but you didn’t, illustrates just how partial your research is.

This has recently happened to me. In the process of putting together a proposal about design for service in healthcare, I came across important work that was not on my radar. It really should have been (especially since I had downloaded the journal paper but never read it and trawl through service design blogs where the work was mentioned). But it was not.

I publish this confession here to point other researchers and practitioners interested in service design and design-led innovation to work that makes a valuable contribution to research and teaching by describing and analysing the application of design-based approaches based in attending to experience to innovation in healthcare services. Bate and Robert’s book (see below) draws in detail on a pilot study involving London-based consultancy Think Public using what Bate and Robert call “experience-based design” approaches and methods with head and neck cancer patients, carers and staff as a way to improve services in an English hospital. Bate and Robert’s discussion of the roots of experience design (or service design rooted in stakeholder experience) in phenomenology, ethnography and narrative offers managers an intelligent but digestible analysis of what this approach does, how, and why it matters. It's on my MBA reading list for next year for sure.

Bate, Paul and Robert, Glenn (2007) Bringing User Experience to Healthcare Improvement: The Concepts, Methods and Practices of Experience-Based Design, Oxford: Radcliffe.
Some of the book is available to read here.

Web resources
Think Public
The NHS Institute of Innovation and Improvement has synthesized this study and presents an overview of experience-based design. People working inside the NHS can order a toolkit and access other resources.

Academic paper
Bate, Paul and Robert, Glenn (2007) "Toward More User-Centric OD: Lessons From the Field of Experience-Based Design and a Case Study." Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 43; 41

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

From Scale to Scalography - international workshop

Ahead of tomorrow's workshop entitled Scalography, organised by my colleagues in the Oxford Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, I've just finished adding my scalar interferences to the lecture theatre where it is taking place. When Steve Woolgar first started telling me about this event, I found myself imagining rather grand (to my mind, architectural) interventions to the room. But instead what we've done (helped by Linsey McGoey, Noortje Marres, and Tanja Schneider, is make some modest additions to the lecture theatre as the photo shows.

I hope to write up the event. In the meantime use the link to view the programme for the day and links to papers, including the provocation piece by Woolgar et al.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Social networking site, 1691

Lloyd's coffee house v2. See wikipedia.

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 8

Managing as designing

This final class engaged with Boland and Collopy’s proposal that managing is designing and Roger Martin’s call that managers be more like designers. Developing further Herbert Simon’s distinction between the sciences (exploring what is) and design (what could be), these educators have begun to change management education in theory and in practice. Armand Hatchuel's further development of Simon's ideas provides an important way forward for theories of design and their relevance to managing and organising, beyond problem-solving.

To test some of these ideas, the class undertook a short practical exercise in which they applied design frameworks to business models. Inspired by the example of Alex Osterwalder, whose blog and forthcoming book describe how his firm applies design to business modelling, the class first sketched a business model known to them; discussed it; and then selected other frameworks to apply, such as mapping stakeholders; analysing it for usefulness, usability and desirability; and creating stakeholder journeys. What all the groups found was that the (apparently simple) activity of drawing a diagram helped the group reach understanding and agreement about what they were talking about. Some groups learnt nothing new by drawing the business model of the organisation they were discussing; they found they had to find new ways to represent the organisation visually in order to generate ideas. Others found that combining the business model diagram with the stakeholder map helped them generate new concepts that could potentially reframe the core business. One group acted out their understanding of the difference between the company’s core offering and how competitors might respond to customer needs, illustrating how human-scale stories offer decision-makers meaningful accounts that highlight opportunities for change.

At a time when people all over the world are facing huge challenges, both business education and design’s role in creating unsustainable consumption are being criticised. Meanwhile design schools are beginning to offer MBAs (like at CCA, led by Nathan Shedroff, interviewed here) and b-schools are teaching design practice as part of MBA electives (like mine) or in their core curriculum (like at Imperial College, or Case Western Reserve). But it’s too early to tell what impact these educational developments will have and indeed, whether these new institutional arrangements will last. This elective I have designed and taught will continue to exist at Said Business School for one more year (since my current fellowship will end in September 2010). I’m grateful to the students with whom I have had an opportunity to learn through prototyping these ideas over the past four years.

Further reading

Boland, R. and Collopy, F. (eds) (2004) Managing as Designing, Stanford Business Books
"Managing is Designing? A conversation with Fred Collopy & Richard J. Boland Jr.", Next Design Leadership Institute Journal, 8.1
Dunne, D. and Martin. R (2006) “Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education: An Interview and Discussion”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, (5) 4, pp. 512–523.
Hatchuel, A. (2001) "Towards Design Theory and Expandable Rationality: The Unfinished Programme of Herbert Simon", Journal of Management and Governance, 5: 3-4, pp. 260-273
Martin, R. (2006) “Designing in Hostile Territory”, Rotman magazine, Spring/Summer pp. 4-9
Martin, R. (2003) “The Design of Business”, Rotman magazine, Winter pp 7-10
Starkey, K., Hatchuel, A. and Tempest, S. (2004) “Rethinking the Business School”, Journal of Management Studies, 41:8, December, 1521-1531

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Coming up: Tactical Play, July 1

I'm looking forward to this event, organised by curator Sophie Hope and Elaine Speight, taking place at Birkbeck in London on July 1. More details on their blog here. Most of the speakers are artists and social scientists who use playful enquiry as a tactic for research.

I'm going to be talking about my rat project and showing (at long last) a short film I made about the event I organised at Camden Arts Centre back in 2005 attended by about 40-50 rats and 400 people and which showcased the world premier of the "Is Your Rat an Artist?" drawing competition for human-rat-software assemblages.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 7

Emerging practices in design

For this class, the MBA students travelled to London. First we visited the Hub at Kings Cross to meet Inderpaul Johar of architecture practice 00:, who designed it. Then we went to see the newly-opened show SuperContemporary at the Design Museum, followed by a visit to service design consultancy Engine. Together, these encounters offered a rich set of experiences illuminating some of the current conversations within design practice.

The Hub is a fast growing enterprise offering members desk space at convenient locations in major cities. Unlike other such offerings, The Hub is designed around a shared ethos with a particular focus on social entrepreneurs. Involved in designing both the physical space and the way it operates in practice, Indy explained how the design of the social architecture is critical to the success of the operation – for example, having a strong gatekeeping function, and employing a “host” who helps people connect with one another. We also saw how the physical arrangement of space, combined with these practices, resulted in a viable and profitable social enterprise with much higher use of space than similar ventures. Indy talked more broadly about his firm's practice and the ways they aim to design sustainable institutions, not just physical assets.

Later, we visited Engine Group, one the leading service design consultancies, where Aviv Katz and Gavin Maguire talked us through two projects - one public sector and one commercial. In their work for Kent County Council, Engine have helped create the Social Innovation Lab for Kent (SILK). This work has resulted in the council's own teams learning design approaches and methods and developing new tools to help use design to lead to innovation in council services. (See this video). We also heard Engine's experience of working with Virgin Atlantic on the design of the terminal within a terminal in London's Heathrow, where insight gathering was used to generate service principles on which to base the design of the customer experience delivered through various touchpoints.

I hope to do a separate post about SuperContemporary, the new show curated by Daniel Charny at the Design Museum open until October 4, but if I run out of time, I’ve included a few images here including a visionary garden hanging over London's Trafalagar Square by El Ultimo Grito with Urban Salon.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 6

Users, stakeholders, customers: People!

This class was an opportunity to get messy through design. I asked the students to use two design methods - following "extreme users" and "experience prototyping" - to analyse the stakeholder experience at the train station, come up with improvements, and quickly prototype the improved experience to share their ideas.

Like von Hippel’s lead users, the idea of extreme users offers to way to understand the service by looking at the margins of the stakeholder group (eg people who do not speak or read English). By looking at the service through the experience of extreme users, the students uncovered some surprising assumptions built into it. Analysing these may offer easy ways to improve the service experience from the point of view of many other kinds of stakeholder.

Having been to the station following one of the members of the team (the extreme user - see the photo in which the student presents a piece of paper to the customer service rep saying he doesn't speak English) and documenting this through photography, video and sketching, the teams generated ideas to solve the problems they identified. The next task was to mock up, using whatever means seemed appropriate, the experience of part of the service, as a way of making tangible and testing some of the improvements they came up with. Finally, we invited someone to walk through these prototypes.

The reading for this week drew on recent work on the boundaries of ethnography and design ("anthrodesign"), participatory and inclusive design, and the notion of wicked problems. Once multiple stakeholders with very different ways of understanding the world are asked to frame problems, design methods which serve to create visual and experiential representations can play an important role in tackling such problems.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 5

Design management + design leadership

This class looked at how design is managed within large organisations and the things that managers of design processes, strategies and the design function need to consider.

First, we used a video case I'm developing of Joe Ferry, head of design at Virgin Atlantic Airways, and his colleague Angus Struthers, lead service designer. Joe and his team are responsible for several innovations in their industry including the first fully flat bed in business class; Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouses; and the "terminal within a terminal" at London Heathrow's Terminal 3, including the proposition that passengers can get "from the limo to the lounge in 10 minutes". Prompted by material from my interviews with Joe and Angus, the class engaged with a number of issues, including:
- the strategy for design: styling or differentation
- interfacing between the design function and the rest of the organisation eg engineering, marketing and operations
- evaluating the contribution design makes to organisational effectiveness

Then, our guest speaker Les Wynn from Xerox, gave us an analytical lecture drawing on his 8+ years with the organisation, during a transition from a technology-led manufacturer of photocopies, to a market-led supplier of services. Hearing this detailed account of the change in the role of design and and how design is managed raised several questions similar to the Virgin case.

Think-and-make-tank for Soul of Africa: Video

A think-and-make-tank for Soul of Africa: MBA students collaborate with designers from Lucy Kimbell on Vimeo.

Over one day, the MBAs and designers used visual methods to frame and tackle problems facing the organisation. Soul of Africa employs women to make shoes which are sold around the world, while a percentage of the profits goes back to help communities in South Africa affected by AIDS. Mixed teams worked on strategy, operations, marketing and design combining creative and analytical approaches to generate recommendations for Soul of Africa. This short film gives an overview of what happened on the day.

The MBA students then carried on working on the project as part of their assessed work. Their documents were shared with Soul of Africa, who may take some of the ideas forward.

Organised as part of the MBA Design Leadership elective, Said Business School, University of Oxford in April 2009.

For more information about Soul of Africa visit

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Design Thinking track at EURAM 2009

At last week's European Academy of Management in Liverpool, a gathering of organisation and management academics mostly but not only from Europe, I was delighted to spend time with some scholars paying serious attention to questions of designing and it relation to managing. The track on Design Thinking, Management and Innovation was co-chaired by Armand Hatchuel, from Ecole des Mines and Rachel Cooper, Lancaster. Hatchuel and Weil's C-K (Concept Knowledge) theory is an important contribution to the study of management, via engineering design theory, and formal logic. Not that this was being presented at EURAM on this occasion...Hatchuel's chairing encouraged speakers and those listening or asking questions to take seriously the claims we were making, whether rooted in economics, sociology or by way of Foucault.

I particularly enjoyed papers by
- Le Masson, P., Hatchuel A. and Weil, B, on new design strategies;
- Starkey, K, on Foucault and the history of the business school;
- Bejean, M, Segrestin, B. and Hatchuel, A. on art-based firms, and
- Stigliani I. and Ravasi, D. on how organisations collaborate with external consultancies
(written in pseudo citation format for any readers searching for references).
I was left with a sense that the work being done in North America by Boland and Collopy, and by Roger Martin, and others, is in an important dialogue with these ideas, whether they are familiar with these scholars or not.

Some references

Hatchuel A., 2002. Towards design theory and expandable rationality : The unfinished program of Herbert Simon. Journal of Management and Governance 5:3-4
Hatchuel A., 2001. The two pillars of new management research, British Journal of Management, Vol.12, special issue, (S33-S39)
Hatchuel A, Weil B. 2003. A new approach of innovative design: an introduction to C-K theory. In: Proceedings of the international
conference on engineering design (ICED’03), Stockholm, Sweden, pp 109–124
Hachuel, A., Weil, B. 2009. C-K design theory: an advanced formulation, Research in Engineering Design, Volume 19, Number 4 / January
Starkey, K.; Hatchuel, A.; Tempest, S. 2009. "Management research and the new logics of discovery and engagement", Journal of Management Studies, 46 (3), pp. 547 -558.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ahead of my visit to Liverpool next week (and Tate Liverpool and, even better, FACT...) here is my paper I'm giving at the European Academy of Management (see . I've already had loads of useful criticism including from journal editors (within management/org studies). I'm posting it here in the expectation of reworking the paper after EURAM and welcome other feedback from readers.

Design practices in design thinking

Management and organization scholars interested in design typically draw on Simon’s (1969/1996) distinction between science and design. Scholars, educators and practitioners proposing that managers adopt “design thinking” often describe the practices of professional designers, but neglect the studies of designers’ activities in design studies. For its part, that tradition has paid little attention to the practice turn in contemporary social theory and the role of non-designers in constituting designs during consumption. This paper contributes to discussions about the value of the ways designers do things by using the practice perspective to attend to what constitutes design practice. Drawing together these traditions – studies of what designers do within design studies, and practice theory within organization studies – a pair of concepts is proposed: “design-as-practice” and “designs-in-practice”. Using this pair offers a way to move beyond discussions of individual designers and acknowledge the work done by others in constituting designs.

Key words
Design thinking, design, practice, design-as-practice, designs-in-practice

Download the paper from here

Thursday, May 07, 2009

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 3

In this class we undertook a “crit” (critique) of design at Said Business School and began to generate a vocabulary for talking about the success or failure of design outcomes. I asked MBAs to identify two examples of ‘good’ design at SBS and two examples of ‘bad’ design based on their own criteria, and bring them to class. Examples included service and process design, product and furniture design, web/interface design, graphic and communication design, interior design and architecture.

Through this discussion of what makes good or bad design we attended to the practices of people who uses the outcomes of design processes, whether they have been designed by professional designers or not - designs-in-practice. Our discussion of criteria for good and bad design drew on different ways of making judgements about design such as Vitruvius: firmness, commodity and delight; Sanders (1992): useful, usable and desirable; and IDEO's framework of desirable, feasible and viable.

Our second activity was to write briefs based on these criteria for design improvements in the school. Students took one of the issues they had identified, mapped the stakeholders connected to this issue, prioritised one, and then defined criteria from that point of view for a re-design.

MBA Design Leadership elective - session 2

After the 'think and make tank' collaborative workshop with designers the previous week, this session offered the MBAs a chance to consider and discuss what is distinctive about what designers do, how they do it, and the sorts of artefact they create along the way – what is sometimes called “design thinking” or “designerly ways of knowing”. Studying the research into designers’ work demystifies the creative design process and offer students insights about what to expect when products and services are designed by or with professional designers.

But the term “design thinking” has limitations – although people using it may claim to be user-centred, it nonetheless privileges the designer as the key agent in design, ignoring decades of work in anthropology and sociology. Introducing the terms “design-as-practice” and “designs-in-practice”, the elective offers students a way to understand that design is not just about what designers do (or how they think), but also about what stakeholders, users and artefacts themselves do in constituting design.

In this class we watched the well-known ABC TV segment in which the product design and innovation consultancy IDEO re-designs a shopping cart in just five days. A second viewing gave students a chance to analyze in detail the process the designers use to come up with their innovative re-design and identify when there was divergent and convergent thinking and use of methods such as ethnographically-inspired research, visualisation, brainstorming, and prototyping. Attending to the design or management of the process was identified as an important skill.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

MBA elective: Think-and-make-tank for Soul of Africa

During a one-day workshop, 37 MBA students worked with 11 designers from different disciplines to help frame and tackle some of the current challenges facing Soul of Africa, which employs women hand-stitching shoes which are sold internationally, with the profits going back to support AIDS-affected communities in South Africa.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Think-and-make-tank for Soul of Africa

Tomorrow, the 36 or so MBAs taking my Design Leadership elective will be joined by 12 designers and three representatives from Soul of Africa, for a one-day workshop.  The aim of the event is to bring together the ways of problem framing and solving typically used by MBAs with designers from different disciplines, to help Soul of Africa engage with some of the challenges it is faced with. From Soul of Africa, we will be joined by co-founder Lance Clark, Galahad Clark of Terraplana, Franziska Amaral, and Martin Foley. Soul of Africa was originally started with £30,000 and has raised over $2m which has been invested into South African communities affected by AIDS. Women handstitch shoes which are then shipped to the UK and US, and sold in major retail outlets such as Clarks and Next. 

The designers - selected from an open call to participate to which over 75 people responded - are from backgrounds in textiles and fashion, graphics, industrial design, design management, interaction design. They are: Titi Abiola, Stephanie Chen, Jason Coop, Rachel Manning, Dejan Mitrovic, Kathryn Moores, Olive Ntkula, Lars Rosengren, Pammi Sinha, Tom Tobia and Rachel Turner. 

To help facilitate the day, my colleagues and others helping are: Marc Ventresca, university lecturer in innovation at the school; Sarabajaya Kumar, Skoll Centre for Social Entpreneurship; Trudi Lang, DPhil candidate, InSIS; Meng Zhao, DPhil candidateCaroline Norman, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, course leader MA Design Management; and Hermeet Gill, MBA alumnus who did my elective last year. We'll also be joined for some of the day by Pamela Hartigan, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entpreneurship. I'm grateful for their support and for our internal admin team for making this happen. 

In a week or two I'll be posting a short film showing some of the day's activities and some the approaches we are using. Right now, however, I need to go and make some props.