Stop, look and design might become the new mantra for business managers. Instead of executives approaching problems by accepting the default alternatives and deciding among them, Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management Professors Richard J. Boland Jr. and Fred Collopy, the editors of the newly published book "Managing as Designing" (Stanford University Press), show how managers can design their way to new solutions.
"Managing as Designing" evolved from a workshop, organized by the book’s editors just days before the dedication of the new Frank Gehry-designed Peter B. Lewis Building, home of Case’s Weatherhead School of Management. The book’s 37 chapters are written by workshop participants—designers from such fields as architecture, art, business, dance, education, music and psychology, who discussed how they design and what managers can learn from the art of design.
“The premise of this book is that managers are designers as well as decision makers and that although the two are inextricably linked in management action, we have for too long emphasized the decision face of management over the design face,” said the Weatherhead professors.
The book also came from Boland’s four years of observing how Gehry, one of the world’s most renowned architects, and his design team transformed the concept for Case Weatherhead’s management school building from a line drawing of penciled curves of falling water into a functional building where curving hallways are designed to maximize the interaction of students and faculty crossing each other’s pathways.
Gehry’s management style was characterized by not being satisfied with the first solution said Boland and Collopy, who noted that the architect kept numerous models in different sizes and at different stages of development available to offer insights and perspectives into the building’s possibilities.
“Gehry was very reluctant to close the design process early,” said Collopy. According to Gehry, who contributed a chapter to the book and was a keynote speaker at the workshop, “Managers do not ask ‘why’ often enough. Why do we do things in the familiar way? Why isn’t there a better alternative?”
Introducing design thinking into management includes teaching management students to recognize and go beyond their “default” solutions and open up new possibilities with a design attitude.
A decision attitude dominates business and education today, Boland and Collopy argue, but decision-making does not generate inventions and create new value. “For all the power of analytic approaches to problem solving, they share a central weakness in that they take as given a set of alternative actions from which the manager is to choose,” the editors write. The decision attitude presupposes that good design work has already taken place, and that attitude, Boland and Collopy said, is “doomed to mediocrity in its organizational outcomes.”
“The higher order approach is the design attitude toward problem solving that allows us to step back from the decision-making techniques to ask “What is it that we want to accomplish?” and to search for better designs to accomplish it. The "Managing as Designing" editors point to the foundations set for design thinking in business by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon who asks for managers “to strive for a kind of design that has no final goals beyond that of leaving more possibilities open to future generations than we ourselves have inherited.”
An outgrowth of the original workshop and now the book from Collopy and Boland is the incorporation of both decision and design thinking into new models of management education at Case. Weatherhead students become action learners in class and spend a semester working on experiential education projects within corporations where they design business solutions for real world problems. A film of the workshop, sample chapters and additional material on "managing as designing" is available at design.case.edu.
Other contributors to the book are Hilary Bradbury, Weatherhead assistant professor of organizational behavior; Richard Buchanan, professor of design, Carnegie Mellon University; Bo Carlsson, William E. Umstattd Professor of Industrial Economics, Weatherhead; Po Chung, co-founder of DHL International Limited; Nicholas Cook, professor of music, University of Southhampton; Peter Coughlan and Ilya Prokopoff, coleaders of Transformation by Design of IDEO; Barbara Czarniawski, professor of management studies, Gothenburg Research Institute; Niels Dechow, Said School of Business, University of Oxford; Paul Eickmann, vice president emeritus, Cleveland Institute of Art; Yrjo Engestrom, professor of adult education, University of Helsinki; Jurgen Faust, professor of technology and integrated media, Cleveland Institute of Art; Kevin Gallagher, University of South Florida; Joseph A. Goguen, professor of computer science, University of California, San Diego; Julia Grant, associate professor of accountancy, Weatherhead; Keith Hoskin, professor of strategy and accounting, Warwick Business School; Marian Jelinek, Richard C. Kraemer Professor of Business, College of William and Mary; Sten Jonsson, professor, Goteborg Research Institute; Paul Kaiser, digital artist; John Leslie King, dean of the School of Information, University of Michigan; Alice Kolb, vice president of research and development of Experience Based Learning Systems and director of The Ohio Consortium on Artistic Learning’s outcome study on artistic learning; David Kolb, Weatherhead professor of organizational behavior and author of Experiential Learning; Miriam Levin, Case associate professor of history; Jeanne Liedtka, associate professor of business administration, Dardent School; Kalle Lyytinen, Weatherhead professor of information systems; Wanda J. Orlikowski, professor of information technologies and organization studies, MIT’s Sloan School of Management; Joseph A. Paradiso, MIT Media Laboratory; Alan Preston, former Second Commissioner of Taxation, Australian Taxation Office; Rikard Stankiewicz, professor of science and technology governance, European University Institute; Lucy Suchman, professor of anthropology of science and technology, Lancaster University; Alexander Tzonis, chair of architectural theory and design methods, University of Technology of Delft and director of Design Knowledge Systems; Betty Vandenbosh, Weatherhead associate dean for executive education; Ina Wagner, professor of multidisciplinary systems design and head of the Institute for Technology Assessment and Design at Technical University in Vienna; Karl E. Weick, the Rensis Likert Distinguished University Professor of Organizational Behavior and Psychology, University of Michigan; and Youngin Yoo, Weatherhead associate professor of information systems.