The Manager as a Designer

Back in 1974 I was a research assistant at North East London Polytechnic (now East London University). I was attached to a working party developing a multidisciplinary design degree, under the direction of Richard Fletcher. Richard had written a paper, “The Manager as a Designer”, which argued, among other things, that many key design decisions were taken by managers rather than designers.
So, some thirty years later, I was intrigued to read this on the Fast Company site, “It rare that I find something of interest in a business school alumni magazine. But there’s a remarkably thoughtful essay on design in the latest issue of the University of Toronto’s School of Management alumni mag. It’s written, no less, by the dean of the Rotman School of Management, Roger Martin. He convincingly argues that business people don’t just need to understand designers better — they need to become designers.”
And then to download the PDF of the original article and read this:
“I would argue that to be successful in the future, businesspeople will have to become more like designers – more ‘masters of heuristics’ than ‘managers of algorithms’. For much of the 20th century, they moved ahead by demonstrating the latter capability. This shift creates a huge challenge, as it will require entirely new kinds of education and training, since until now, design skills have not been explicitly valued in business. The truth is, highly-skilled designers are currently heading-up many of the world’s top organizations – they just don’t know they are designers, because they were never trained as such.”

Network Logic

Last year, I wrote a longish piece, ?It?s hard to predict?. In it I wrote, ?…the strongest advice I could give to any individual or business is to become sensitive to where you fit in your networks, learn to think in terms of nodes and connections and the complex interactions and feedback between them, and be conscious of the dynamics of your patterns of connection. Whether you are aware of it or not, your success or failure is going to bound up in how well or not you identify, create and navigate your networks.?
One organisation that has embraced this truth (no thanks to me) is Demos. They have made all their publications freely available on-line and have clearly taken on board the notion of network thinking in a serious way.
One output from this is their book “Network Logic”, edited by Helen McCarthy, Paul Miller and Paul Skidmore with contributions from Perri 6, Mark Buchanan, Fritjof Capra, Manuel Castells, Diane Coyle, Alison Gilchrist David Hargreaves, Ann Lieberman, Geoff Mulgan, Howard Rheingold, Robert Sampson, Karen Stephenson, John Taylor. You can download the whole book or individual chapters in PDF format from their catalogue or buy it from here and, I guess soon, from

A bit of housekeeping

Today’s entries are all a bit of housekeeping. When Ben Copsey set up this site for me a year or so ago, one of my motives was to put up a work in progress, “Purposive Drift”. I did put up the “Prologue”, but wanted to keep the rest of it separate from the blog entries. My attempts to find an elegant solution, that I could implement, failed, so for a long time there has been a kind of hole at the heart of this site.
The other night I had an epiphany, “When in doubt, bodge”. So this is my bodge to get what has been done on “Purposive Drift” so far up on to this site. It’s not elegant, but it seems to work.

Trying on difference

These are strange days. If you follow the news it would appear that we live in a world dominated by people who live in a Manichaean universe. The categories are very simple – good vs evil, for us or against us, believer vs infidel, black or white and definitely no greys.
But, under the surface, there is something else going on too.
Flicking through a series of links (Matt Jones to Z+ Partners) I came to an essay by Grant McCracken that lifted my spirits as he pointed to that something else going on too.
Early in the essay he says:
“We have long been accustomed to stuffing the social world into a handful of categories. We used to say such things as, “basically, there are two kinds of people in the world,” or to bundle the world into a typology: social classes, psychological types, birth signs, genders, generations, or lifestyles. But increasingly, the world won’t go along with our attempts to reduce it. Where once there was simplicity and limitation, everywhere there is now social difference, and that difference proliferates into ever more diversity, variety, heterogeneity.”

Continue reading Trying on difference

Truly Rich

Some weeks ago I put together a short piece composed of three quotations and three links and called it, “What do we need to thrive?” Looking at some stuff recently, that I intend to write about later, I was reminded of the author of the last quote, Rich Gold. His quote, “We should be careful to make a world we actually want to live in.”, taken from a friend, Stu Card, was a good one. But the link just goes to the last page of his on-line book, The Plentitude, and I’m not sure how many people would have taken the trouble to explore his site further.
If they didn’t this would be a pity. Rich Gold, who sadly died last year, was someone who really lived up to his name. His site is rich with nuggets of pure gold. A good place to start is Plentitude, published in PDF format. This is one book I really would like to see in print as well as on-line. It’s the kind of book you want to savour, to hold in your hand, linger over, to think about.
He writes and draws in a deceptively simple style, but there is much to reflect upon in what is there. He covers an extraordinary range of subjects including how to use PowerPoint effectively, the nature of creativity, ubiquitous computing, the fecundity of nature, to mention a few. A truly rich read, well worth a visit.