Thursday, June 11, 2009

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

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