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The future of management as design: a thought experiment

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Purpose ‐ Management practices and education are presently in a stage of reappraisal and a growing number of scholars and experts are suggesting that managers should be taught and adopt the approach and methodologies of designers. The purpose of this paper is to imagine the impact of this move and to try and foresee whether "management as design" is an inescapable evolution or just another management fad. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Once the notion of management as design is defined, a thought experiment is proposed to the reader under the guise of a forged business case whose various implications are progressively exposed and discussed. Findings ‐ The adoption of a design approach holds profound transformative potential for the positioning, offer, value chain and processes of firms but it also implies a substantial re-arranging of the relations between co-workers, and between managers and subordinates. Beyond the initial shock that the introduction of a radically different approach inevitably entails, management as design is exposed to three perils: the reduction of design approaches and methods to a mere set of tools in the hands of self-appointed experts; the rejection of its open-ended and inclusive methods on account of their lengthy and time-consuming nature; the inherently hard-to-manage relations between traditional managers, on the one hand, and managers as designers, on the other. Originality/value ‐ The article uses the power of a fictional narrative to explore and draw some of the firm-level and individual-level implications of the adoption of "management as design" approaches and methodologies by a hypothetical company.
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Keywords: Business administration; Business administration education; Crisis; Design; Design approach; Fictional narrative; Management; Thought experiment

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 18, 2012

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