How to determine objectives for knowledge production

Design is all about knowledge. Designers who are better at producing knowledge generally perform better. Therefore, it is worthwhile to streamline the production of design knowl­edge. This article explains how to determine objectives for knowledge production.

Steps

To determine an objective for specific knowledge, do the following:

  1. Find out what this knowl­edge means to your design practice.
  2. Determine an objective for the production of this knowledge.
  3. Extra: Set the priority for streamlining the production of this knowledge.

Find out what this knowledge means

For your design practice, seven sorts of knowledge are relevant. You can find out as follows what specific knowl­edge means to your design practice:

  • Is it essential? This is the case when designers in your practice must have this knowledge.
  • Is it scarce? This is the case when too few designers in your practice have this knowledge.
  • Is it unique? This is the case when other designers outside your practice do not have this knowledge.

A solution is easiest when the knowledge is neither essential, nor scarce, nor unique. But the downside is that this knowl­edge most likely does not make a difference. A solution is most difficult when the knowl­edge is essential, scarce, and unique. But the upside is that this knowledge most likely does make a difference.

Determine an objective

When you know what specific knowledge means to your design practice, you can determine an objective for its production as follows:

  • Reduce if the knowledge is not essential.
  • Maintain if the knowledge is essential, but not scarce.
  • Attract if the knowledge is essential and scarce, but not unique.
  • Extend if the knowledge is essential, scarce, and unique.

Extra: Set the priority

How to determine objectives for knowledge production indicates how to set priorities for streamlining the production. For instance, you can do this as follows:

  • No priority if the objective is to reduce.
  • Low priority if the objective is to maintain.
  • Medium priority if the objective is to attract.
  • High priority if the objective is to extend.
Objectives for the production of knowledge
Posted by Pieter van Langen in Handbook

Tunnel design

Problem

Coordination of multi-disciplinary tunnel design is ad hoc. This leads to errors, which take time and are costly to repair.

Assessment

Knowledge how partial designs of different disciplines relate to each other is essential, scarce, and unique. It is possible to make this knowledge explicit.

Solution

Of the possible solutions, the one chosen in this case is to support the production of knowledge by means of a model repository for designs:

  1. Elicit the meta-model of multi-disciplinary tunnel design.
  2. Implement this meta-model in a repository.
  3. Train designers in capturing, storing, finding, and editing design models in this repository.

Result

Coordination is structured.

Tunnel design
Posted by Pieter van Langen in Casebook

Plant re-design

Problem

Learning how to re-design a chemical plant goes slow.

Assessment

  • Knowledge of the strategy for plant re-design and the way of working is essential, scarce, and unique. It might be possible to make this knowledge explicit.
  • The capability to ‘sell’ a design to a customer is also essential and scarce, but not unique. It cannot be learned, it is an innate skill.

Solution

Of the possible solutions, the one chosen in this case is to direct and support the production of knowledge:

  • Regulate. Attract designers capable of ‘selling’ a design to a customer.
  • Support. Elicit the strategy and the way of working in design, and share with designers.

Result

Learning goes faster.

Posted by Pieter van Langen in Casebook

Aircraft design

Problem

It is not known how to design a new aircraft as a successor of an earlier aircraft.

Assessment

  • Strategies to design successor aircraft are essential, scarce, and unique. It might be possible to make these strategies explicit.
  • Knowledge of how designers make use of rationale captured in the designs of earlier aircraft is essential, scarce, and unique. It might be possible to make this knowledge explicit.

Solution

Of the possible solutions, the one chosen in this case is to support the production of knowledge by elicitation:

  • Elicit design strategies from experienced designers. Share these strategies with other designers.
  • Make explicit how these designers make use of rationale captured in the designs of earlier aircraft. Share this with other designers.

Result

It is now known how to design a new aircraft as a successor of an earlier aircraft.

Background research

Frances Brazier, Pieter van Langen, and Jan Treur (1997). A compositional approach to modelling design rationale. AIEDAM 11, 125-139.

Aircraft design
Posted by Pieter van Langen in Casebook

Sorts of design knowledge

In a rapidly changing world, an organisatie has to innovate, create value, and adapt. To this end, design is indispensable. And design is all about knowledge. In this post, I distinguish seven sorts of design knowledge.

Seven sorts

Designers continually create, share, and use knowledge. They do this together with customers, commissioners, users, fellow designers, partners, and other stakeholders. The following figure shows different sorts of design knowledge:


Knowledge framework
  • Strategy. What is the plan of designers to accomplish design goals?
  • Structure. How is design managed and what are the responsibilities of designers?
  • Systems. What are the processes and procedures of design? (These form the basis of daily activities that designers execute and indicate how they make design decisions.)
  • Style. What is the example that leaders give and how do they approach design?
  • Specialisms. What are the specialisms of designers and their management?
  • Skills. What are the talents and capabilities of designers and their management?
  • Shared values. What are the accepted values, norms, and standards for designers and their management?

These seven sorts almost fully correspond with the seven internal factors in the McKinsey 7S Model. Other points of departure are conceivable. But the McKinsey 7S Model turns out to be well applicable in practice. Furthermore, it is known among many managers. For a brief introduction to this model, see for instance Strategic Management Insight or Investopedia.

Framework

Together, the seven sorts of design knowledge form a framework. It provides a structure for analysing a design practice and advising how to streamline the production of design knowledge. Using this framework leads to better decisions and a larger chance of achieving the desired result.

On the basis of this framework, I draw three conclusions:

  • For designing, multiple sorts of knowledge are of interest.
  • These sorts of knowledge are mutually related and interdependent.
  • It may be necessary to streamline the production of multiple sorts of knowledge simultaneously.
Posted by Pieter van Langen in Research

Member of the Ooa

On behalf of Design Impulse, Pieter van Langen has become a member of the Ooa (the Dutch Order of Organisation experts and advisors). In this way, we express that our customers can count on consultancy that is knowledgeable, professional, and challenging.

The Ooa is a knowledge platform for members. It organises meetings, knowledge exchange, and certification. The Ooa is a member of the International Council of Management Consultancy Institutes (ICMCI). See the website of the Ooa for more information (in Dutch).

Member of the Ooa
Posted by Pieter van Langen in News

Design Impulse has started

Design Impulse has started as a management consultancy firm, serving design leaders of medium to large organisations.

If your design practice does well, then so does your organisation. Design Impulse helps design leaders to develop a well-performing design practice. The directional, managerial, and operational activities of a design practice determine its performance. We offer solutions to make changes to these activities to the benefit of the performance of the design practice. We provide these solutions through a number of services.

We are happy to help customers boost their design practices and by doing so, improve the performance of their organisations.

Design Impulse has started
Posted by Pieter van Langen in News