The last few months have taken me on a fascinating journey into design thinking.  Books like The Design of Business by Roger Martin, Tim Brown’s Change by Design, and Design-Driven Innovation by Robert Verganti have given me a language and a way of thinking about organizational design.

The latest step in the journey?  Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value.  Edited by Thomas Lockwood, Design Thinking is a collection of articles mapping the development of the discipline.  Very interesting and packed with ideas.

Although I find design cool and interesting in its own right, its really the design of organizations that I’m drawn to.  And it turns out it makes sense.  According to Richard Buckman, there are four orders of design:

  • Communication: the creation of signs and symbols to be used in mass communication (we’re all at least at this level)
  • Construction: the creation of objects via traditional industrial design
  • Interaction: the actions and behaviors of people, as affected by design (many of us are working this edge as we try to design experiences that are conducive to interaction)
  • Organization: design considerations in the context of organizations, environments, systems and cultures (this is the piece that is lacking for many of us)

I love Lockwood’s take on the fourth order of design, calling it:

“the sweet spot–the point at which the organization can involve design more integrative and holistic, building design methods into some of the internal systems and processes, and moving design towards a core competency.  This is the desired end state because the real value of design is in discovering and solving all manner of problems (p. 82).”

I’m intrigued by the possibilities of organizational design.  What if all of us learned to be more purposeful about the way our organizations were put together; the way our systems were designed?  Think it might make a difference in outcomes?  Want to come along?  You can pick up your copy of Design Thinking right here.

Design Thinking
  • Hi Mark,

    Really love that you’re exploring design and the shaping of organizations. This is the core of my work.

    Hope we get to talk about this face to face some day!

    Are you in Chicago yet?

    Keep creating…and co-creating,

  • Mark Howell

    Thanks Mike! Design is the big ticket. Organizations that get it at what Buckman referred to as the fourth level…they are on a winning path. And in the words of Andy Stanley, “Path, not intent, determines destination.” Good times!

    We are in Chicagoland…and it would be awesome to meet up one day.