An exciting new direction.

After 8 wonderful years at the University of Calgary, I’ve recently made a change to a new academic home. I’ve joined Mount Royal University as an Assistant Professor of Marketing in the Department of Entrepreneurship, Marketing and Social Innovation at the Bissett School of Business and I can’t wait to get started.

With that said, I’ve learned so much from my colleagues at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning, and at the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation, so it is hard to say goodbye! Most difficult though is saying goodbye to the incredible Global Challenges students from our UNIV 201, 203 and 401 courses. I’m looking forward to continuing to collaborate with all of you on the design thinking research we’ve begun from my new home at MRU.

On that note, take a look at how incredible these students really are! The following video was made to promote the Global Challenges courses and aside from the awkwardness of seeing myself in there at the begining I could watch it a million times over. Well done UNIV students!

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That’s a good question – Using design thinking to support the development of divergent thinking practices in first-year students.

I recently had the chance to work with a colleague at the University of Calgary on the design of an experiential, inquiry-based and student led approach to learning for a new program opening up – one that used the real and proven innovation practices that are fostered through the use of a design mindset. It made me think more about the ways that our goals for student learning connect directly to the findings from my research: designers just aren’t doing this five step model any more than scientists are, or entrepreneurs are, or any one else for that matter…so why should we expect students to become designers after a few exercises? But they ARE using a series of heuristics and routines that form a mindset with which they approach their practice which tells us something really interesting about what kind of divergent questions and growth mindset they’ve put in action. Designers have found a way to embrace ambiguity and to re-synchronize, substitute and replace their formative practices in creative work using a mindset that others have identified as optimistic, experimental, human centered and collaborative. My research has shown how they use these four values to adopt a growth mindset when taking on ambiguous and uncertain challenges.

What might this look like in practice? And how might we assess the use of design thinking as a high impact practice (Kuh, 2008) for undergraduate students? I’ve submitted the following paper  – based on research conducted at the University of Calgary with the support of the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning – to a journal recently with the intent of exploring just what this might mean.

That’s a Good Question- Using Design Thinking to Support the Development of Divergent Thinking Practices in First Year Students

Doing Design Thinking: An Ethnography of the Digital Graphic Design Studio

I’ve finished my dissertation on the creative problem solving practices of designers (lovingly named Wanda so that I have someone to scream at when needed) and submitted it to the University of Calgary – I’m ALL DONE! Yay!

I’m sharing it here with you…prepare yourselves accordingly for a longish visit to theory town. But once you get into the ethnographic description of just how designers actually do what they do when they do what they do, I think you might find it interesting. Let me know! I’d love feedback, as I’m hoping to turn this into a design thinking textbook for undergraduate student learners in the future.

Mapping the un-mappable in design thinking

I’ve been having a really interesting conversation with a student recently about the shape and function of design thinking practices inside and outside the studio space. How does each camp (business folk, organizational studies researchers, designers) understand who has ownership over what? In trying to suss this out, I went back to some mapping.

Mapping Design Thinking in Design Studies

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I’m working through shaping this as a discourse, and examining what this effect this discourse might be having on the way that designers work in the latest draft of the dissertation  – looking forward to sharing it in the next few months as it moves into the real world! In the meantime, this map has become a bit of a touchstone to keep me oriented in this confusing and wooly space of thinking about how designers think about design thinking.

Untangling Design Thinking from Designing, Thinking, and Designing our Thinking.

In an effort to wrangle the term design thinking into submission, I’m trying to untangle design thinking from all the words…design, designing, thinking, and designing our thinking. As a model for change in the world of post secondary education, design thinking serves an important purpose: it is both a tool that can enhance learning for students, and it is a disruptive force in an arena that is ready for some change.

As a tool, design thinking can open the doors to how our students tackle wicked problems using empathy, collaboration, and a bias towards action. It can foster and support a comfort with the messiness of ambiguity within inquiry based learning, and it can nurture an increased fluency and flexibility in creating ideas geared towards innovation. It can build a practice of process in creative thinking, which is a pretty incredible thing.

And it is a disruptive force for the academy as an organization too. When an academic institution (especially one as large as a University) is ready to innovate with new ways of doing, sharing and celebrating research, new ways of teaching and new ways of learning – well using design thinking to develop and support the disruptions required to make those changes seems like a fabulous fit.

But using design thinking in post secondary education requires we move beyond the tip of the iceberg, and that we leave the sticky tabs and wacky ideation games behind to embrace the way we are designing our thinking. Because using design thinking as a tool for teaching and learning, OR as a tool for organizational disruption means more than just acting like we think a designer might act (and what is that ‘way’ anyways? Just lots of wearing black and complaining about fonts? General coolness?). It means using the ways that they actively design their thinking to approach the social and critical problems we tackle in the classroom and in the academic culture. It means designing our thinking deliberately to embrace ideation, ambiguity and prototyping in how we define our problem in the first place, and it means getting over the idea there even being a correct solution, and celebrating the thinking process itself.

When designers use design thinking, they aren’t replacing their practice with a model. Often (based on the conversations I’ve had as part of my research) they don’t even believe that the models that take their name represent their work at all. (Side note: this video is phenomenal…once Pentagram declares that they are ‘over’ design thinking, it is time to take a hard look at the models we rely on!) But what they are doing is deliberately approaching a problem by thinking about it in a way that they themselves have deliberately and strategically designed. And we can all learn from that.

I tackled a brief lit review of the world of design thinking from the perspective of the field of design studies last year – for what it is worth, here is what this oh-so-popular approach looks like from that perspective.

Saying the Unsayable: Intersections of Tacit Knowing and Explicit Knowledge
Within an Expanded Definition of Design Thinking.

Interest in design thinking as a tool for innovation, and as a mysteriously-applied art practiced by designers, has recently reached new heights within the field of design studies. But for all the attention paid to design thinking – from events such as the Design Thinkers 2016 conference in Toronto (Association of Registered Graphic Designers, 2016) to a list of over 1,500 publications since 2010 alone (Amazon, 2016), the practice of how designers come to know how, and what, to design remains hotly-contested. Throughout the history of design studies, design thinking has been understood as a knowledge practice unique to design culture. However, the location and definition of design thinking as either a tacit form of knowing, or an explicit form of visual knowledge has remained a point of debate throughout the movements in the field.

Design Thinking: Method, Process, Mindset and Practice Movements

Exactly how designers create innovative and surprising solutions to undefined and multifaceted material and social problems remains one of the major debates within the field of design studies. The designer’s process of imagining, proposing and creating change in our world is inspiring to many, but mysterious to most ­– including design practitioners and researchers. Over time, understandings of what it means to use ‘design thinking’ have shifted to reflect the changing understandings of the designer’s role and function within society, while continually focusing on examinations of design as a social act (Papanek, 1971), explorations of the creative thinking practices of designers (Cross, 2011) and the material enactment of design as conception and planning of the artificial (Buchanan, 1992; Margolin, 2002).[1]

To better understand their field, designers and design theorists alike rely on Simon’s distinction between design and the social sciences. In his oft-quoted passage from The Sciences of the Artificial (1969) Simon proposes design as a practice of action and change, undertaken by a wide variety of professionals:

Everyone designs who devises courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones. … Schools of engineering, as well as schools of architecture, business, education, law, and medicine, are all centrally concerned with the process of design (p. 55).

At the crossroads of design practice and creativity lays a field of research focused on design thinking as a form of knowledge and a way of knowing. First proposed by Archer in 1965, and popularized by Rowe in 1987, design thinking is understood to be a mode of inquiry: both a way of knowing and a form of knowledge. This proposal, as Kimbell explains, prompts examinations into “describing how designers do design, how they think, and what they know”, asking us “to examine our assumptions about what constitutes design; it forces us to define design itself” (2011, p. 299). As the dominant epistemological position within both contemporary and historical design studies, design thinking has long been understood to be the basis for all innovative, creative and cultural production conducted by designers (Cross, 2001).

A review of the relatively short history of design studies reveals four key movements or eras of focus in the discipline, each of which locates and defines design thinking in a different manner, repositioning the term through an expanding cycle culminating in our contemporary understanding of design thinking as a collaborative, socially-informed, creative process.

Design Thinking as a Method

Design thinking’s roots are planted at the beginning of design studies – an era marked by the “methods movement” (Margolin, 2002) that focused on developing a scientific approach to the practice of design. Beginning in the early 1960s, scholars such as Archer (1965), Simon (1969), De Bono (1968) and Osborn (1957) focused on systems, scientific analysis and use of pattern in creative thinking, outlining the concern at the time with the designer’s knowledge about methods and how to employ them in a scientific manner. Design thinking was understood at the time to encompass a unique knowledge of design methods, and though the term is often attributed to Rowe (1987), Archer’s Systematic Method for Designers (1965) serves as the true birthplace of “design thinking” as a unique description for a designer’s process. In his examination of industrial design, Archer defined a series of phases within design methods, proposing that:

“… there has been a world wide shift in emphasis from the sculptural to the technological. Ways had to be found to incorporate the knowledge of ergonomics, cybernetics, marketing and management science into design thinking” (p. 57).

The methods movement in design studies was further defined by Simon’s development of design thinking as a unique, methods based approach to a commonly defined and understood problem (Simon, 1969) and by Papanek’s (1971) call for sustainable design practice.[2] It was at the intersection between Simon’s scientific notion of design thinking as an attempt to shift the possible to the preferable, Archer’s identification and definition of design thinking as unique aspect of design practice and Papanek’s identification of the social role of designers that the modern approach to design thinking was initiated.

Design Thinking as a Mindset

The subsequent turn toward creative practice and ability as a mindset marked the second movement in design thinking. Initiated in the early 1980s, the process-movement within design studies developed out of examinations into what Cross termed “process-creativity” (1997, p. 427), and presented design thinking as a way of knowing: a general resource for design characterized by the cognitive aspects of design practice and creative process (Cross, 1982). Of particular note in this movement was Lawson’s study of design cognition in the context of architecture and urban planning (1979) which provided the vocabulary used by Cross in his proposal of “designerly ways of knowing” (1982). This idea that “there are things to know, ways of knowing them, and ways of finding out about them that are specific to the design area” (Cross, 1982, p. 22) situated design thinking as a cognitive practice firmly based in instinct and forms of intuition that are unique to designers.

As Buchanan suggested, this positioned design thinking as a “neoteric art” – a new systemic discipline of practical reasoning and argumentation (1992, p. 22). Suggesting that design thinking was indeed ‘designerly’ shaped understandings of the methodology as both an explicit process in which creative practice could be vocalized and shared (Bucciarelli, 1984; Schön, 1983) and as an intuitive and tacit way of knowing based on an extension of visual thinking (McKim, 1972), ambidextrous thinking (Faste, 1994) and creative practices of leaping and bridge building (Cross, 1997). As Kimbell suggests, this era of design thinking focused on “what designers do, think and know, implying that this is different to what non-designers do” (2011, p. 298). The mindset movement also introduced a new understanding of design problems – positioning them as “swampy lowlands” (Schön, 1983, p. 42), or the widely-used “wicked problems” (Buchanan, 1992, originally proposed in Rittell & Webber, 1973). With the redefinition of design thinking as a mindset, and a methodological response to the wicked problems presented in practice, conceptions of design thinking as a way of knowing specific to designers began to evolve into a ‘process’ approach to innovative problem-solving that focused more clearly on the teachable and transferable aspects of the practice.

Design Thinking as Process

The third movement of design studies presented design thinking as a process, defined by researchers who grounded logic and criteria in studies of innovation from inside and outside the design studio. This shift of perspectives, marked in the early 2000s by the adoption of design thinking as a marketable skill set by innovation and management studies (T. Brown, 2009; T. Kelley, 2005; Martin, 2009; Pink, 2006) positioned design thinking as a “way of looking” (D. Kelley, 2013) rather than an ability or “designerly way of knowing” (Cross, 1982). Suggesting that a design thinker is one who knows there is never a right answer to a problem, researchers such as Tim Brown proposed that by following a proprietary, non-linear and iterative process that he called “inspiration, ideation and implementation”, the design process itself can convert problems into opportunities (T. Brown, 2009). Design thinking was increasingly held ransom by theorists focused on its application outside of the studio, despite desperate calls for its return from theorists focused on the epistemic modes within design process (Bauer & Eagan, 2008). The positioning of design thinking as a resource for organizations – an inherently empathetic and innovative act, distanced from the culture, education or community context of design practice and useful for anyone willing to adopt the theoretical approach – resulted in a call for the death of the term itself with Nussbaum’s declaration of design thinking as a failed experiment (2011).

Design Thinking as Practice

In what can be seen as a rejection of design thinking’s movement towards applied innovation,[3] new understandings of design thinking have re-positioned the term as a form of embodied, socially and materially informed practice (Kimbell, 2012; Shove, Watson, Hand, & Ingram, 2007). This latest movement within studies of design thinking studies has sensitized theorists to

“the embodied nature of professional design work, how designers and stakeholders involved in design processes move, what they think, what they do and how it feels” (Kimbell, 2009, p. 12)

This opened the door to considerations of the role of organizations and social context in design thinking practice, and redefined design thinking as a service-oriented, human-centered, user-focused and participatory approach within the work of designers (Rodgers & Yee, 2015). As Julier has noted, this turn from design as problem-solving activity to design as problem-processing activity mirrors the shifts in design practice from multi-disciplinary approaches to interdisciplinary approaches (2000). A contemporary definition of design thinking encompasses the practices through which designers examine and understand what people do in their daily life, as well as the social implications of the designer’s impact on material culture and the people with which they are engaged (Murphy, 2015; Yaneva, 2013). In this way, design thinking has been reframed to include not only the methods, mindset and process of creative practice, but also the co-production of knowledge and material experience through participation and collaboration.

[1] Valuable contributions to design studies are also found in examinations of the material world. Design theorists have variously found it helpful to reduce design to its product of “things with attitude” (Attfield, 1989) in order to position the output of design practice as the link between the economic and the cultural (Bourdieu, 1984), as a demonstration of a specific logic or language practiced in the design community (Chaney, 1996), or as cultural reconstruction for the meaning of what is consumed (Fine & Leopold, 1993).

[2] The design methods movement of the decades following 1960, and its focus on design as a unique, nearly scientific practice is reflected the human-centered, user-focused and sustainable design movements that define the field today.

[3] In fact, design theorists such as Shove challenge the association of design thinking with “thinking” at all (Shove, Watson, Hand, & Ingram, 2007).

Design Thinking’s moment in the University classroom.

So it would seem that design thinking is having a moment. I know, I know. This is not news. After all, once something has hit the twittersphere with the force that design thinking seems to have (#designthinking), the moment may actually be almost over. But this is exciting for me, because it means that the methods of problem solving that I am seeing designers engage in the studio space as a part of the Doing Design Thinking study are starting to break through into the ‘real world’ in more than just a business-book-of-the-day way. So maybe design thinking is having a moment.

But what is more interesting to me than the buzz word of design thinking, which has been tasked with fixing itself, and destroying itself, and replacing itself too (the poor term has a lot on it’s shoulders!) is how we can use it as a tool set to develop innovation, and how we can share it in a post-secondary setting to help students and researchers meet the challenges of the future.

Innovation is at the heart of all of what we do, especially at the Mount Royal University: it is our key to improving our competitiveness, to evolving how we look at existing problems and how we spot opportunities for change in our world. You can learn more about that part here, in a new essay series by the Centre for International Governance Innovation. We can think of innovation as the successful exploitation of new ideas, and as the vehicle for carrying those new ideas through to new products, new services, new solutions for challenges. Sustained success, especially in a research and teaching driven space like MRU – increasingly depends on our ability to innovate: to nurture, grow and share new ideas and new opportunities. I’m just so excited that the opportunities for our students to learn together with this approach is here, and that undergraduate students from across disciplines are coming together as a cohort to connect with these exciting ideas. Maybe design thinking innovation is having a moment after all.


Connecting Innovation and Creativity in teaching and learning: Design thinking goes to University.

One of the questions I ask designers in my field research is “how did you learn to solve problems”? I get all sorts of answers, but after more than a few jokes about the boot camp that is design school and the battle field of client work, most of the designers I interview talk about learning by doing – learning design thinking by doing design thinking.

If we accept that creativity and innovation are basic to both social and economic growth in our world (and it sure seems like we have), then we must take a closer look at how we are incorporating these skills into our classrooms through the learning opportunities we present to students. Design thinking is something you must learn by doing: the designers I interview and observe as part of the Doing Design Thinking study have certainly taught me that. And design thinking represents an essential skill set for the future. So how can I integrate design thinking practices in my work as an educator at the University of Calgary – what does this do to my understanding of what and how I teach at a post-secondary level, in a non-design area?

After all, being part of an academic community is all about learning to explore, to research and to connect ideas to the future – sounds a lot like design thinking in action no? There are a lot of fascinating ways that the problem solving practices of designers are being incorporated into K-12 education, into post-secondary curriculum redesign and into other creative arts disciplines but there is less work out there linking design thinking methods, and learning strategies within the post-secondary education classroom.

So what would this look like? How would we integrate ‘connective creativity’ – something the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (a US based coalition of educators, business leaders and policy makers) call “a core 21st century skill” – into the learning environment? As Tim Brown (link) and Jocelyn Wyatt (link) explain:

“Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional”. (Brown and Wyatt, 2010, p.12).

Nurturing this ability to connect the emotional and the functional meanings of ideas in the post-secondary learning space relies on our willingness to embrace problem or project based learning – what many are calling inquiry based learning methods. I can’t tell you how hard I nerd out to the academic literature on inquiry based learning – it is more than a little embarrassing.

But back to the point: to see how students learn, we must plant the flag of traditional models of design thinking practices in what we like to think are non-creative territories. We need to apply the methods designers embrace in their practice outside the studio space, in STEM labs and lecture theatres and tutorial classrooms. Using design thinking models as the foundation of our pedagogical approach can do more than just help us solve a predefined problem (which can be fascinating), they can help us grow and nurture our student’s creative thinking abilities – they can help us foster and enable innovation in the classroom by showing us how students learn to think critically, collaboratively, in a manner that increases interdisciplinary and integrating problem solving methods.

What I see designers doing in the studio can both define what we teach and how we teach.

And by integrating this model of complex problem solving into the classroom, we not only help students prepare for a career that relies on being able to connect ideas through creativity (see this excellent article by Rotherham & Willingham, 2010) but we open doors for students to improve their critical thinking skills, and their own ‘connective creativity’ processes. There are so many projects out there that are touching on this – one of the ones I’m really excited about his happening in the post-secondary space and I would love to see how we can integrate formal design thinking models and practices in  classrooms and labs as well.

The World Economic Forum tells us that by 2020, one-third of all jobs will require complex problem solving skills like ‘design thinking’. This is in three years. THREE YEARS! This means that students already enrolled in PSE will need these skills well in hand before they graduate if they want to take their place as leaders in the Canada of the future.

We have a lot to do everyone. I’m certainly looking forward to putting some of the findings from this @SSHRC_CRSH study into play in the University classroom and seeing just what the impact of integrating design thinking within learning in my field might be.


Connecting Creativity and Innovation – researching our #cdninnovation future

Innovation. We’re hearing this word a lot these days – in our federal budget, our businesses and especially in our research work.

The use of design thinking as a method to generate innovation in spaces outside the design studio is something that I believe we should all celebrate. If, as the meme-verse tells us, creativity is intelligence having fun, then design thinking seems to be traditional innovation strategies at a rave. Design thinking and innovation. Together, the terms ring with power and potential. Their pervasive use in the business literature and in our collective hive-twitter-mind suggests the melding of strategic, creative and analytical approaches to understanding some of the most complicated and important problems of today.

But all is not as it appears to be: generating innovation through design thinking is not just sticky tabs and prototyping. Using ‘design thinking’ to solve the problems of the future cannot be solely the application of magical fairy dust  – it is a social practice informed by a culture and a community that is shared, evolved and adapted every day by designers across Canada. It is connecting creativity and innovation in action.

Our new federal budget has created an opportunity for developing an actionable and evidence based innovation strategy that integrates what I see designers doing in the studio everyday into programs and services across our country. It is so exciting to see the discussion about design thinking and innovation move beyond the myth of creative magic, and into our larger narrative about what it means to be Canadian.

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I’m excited to see the ways in which the Canadian government is focusing our attention on the critical role innovation plays in the issues facing Canadians today. I’ve been lucky to be part of round table discussions held by Startup Canada, SSHRC & CRSH and Google where they asked participants from across Canada “How do YOU define a creative and entrepreneurial Canada?” You can download the full report about the initiative here (it really is worth the read!).

Hearing from Canadians involved in creative, startup, venture and not for profit communities at those round table discussions about what they see to be the most important conditions required for building an innovative and #creativeCanada was fascinating. The type of problem solving work that I see happening in the design studio as designers tackle wicked and complex social problems is something that I think should be reflected in the research mandate of any great University.

This study is helping me learn more about how designers work – how they connect innovation and creativity on a daily basis – and I’m excited share that with researchers from across my own academic home and from across Canada at SSHRC Congress this May. After all, creativity and innovation are key calls to action in the our research agendas and in our government’s focus on the Canada of tomorrow.

What does it mean to connect innovation and creativity through design thinking?

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.22.31 AM.pngI’m so thrilled and honoured to be a part of the SSHRC Storytellers Top 25 Competition this year – I really believe that developing a better understanding of the ways that designers solve complex and critical problems will help us connect creativity and innovation in Canada’s future, and I’m so excited to share the research work I’ve been doing with all of Congress 2017 as part of this event.

My research explores what designers can tell us about problem solving and innovation, and what we can learn from them about applying their creative process to some of the challenges that lie ahead for Canada.

As a country, we’re known for our exciting cultural industries, and our spirit of innovation, but we face challenges in connecting the two. Creativity and innovation are becoming critical terms in how we understand Canada’s future – how we understand our competitiveness, how we look at existing problems and how we spot opportunities for change in our world. Sustained success, regardless of sector – increasingly depends on our ability to innovate: to exploit new ideas and new opportunities. But to do that, we have to somehow connect with creativity and with our creative community.
I believe that it is design that connects these two, and that Canada’s entrepreneurial and innovative future depends on how we integrate design thinking into the boardrooms and offices of our high tech industries, our resource community, our policy development, our scientific base and our educational facilities.
We can think of creativity as the generation of new ideas – either new ways of looking at existing problems, or of seeing new opportunities, new ways of thinking. But how do we harness it, how can we connect it with change in our industries or our policy or our markets?
And we can think of innovation as the successful exploitation of new ideas. Innovation is what carries those new ideas through to new products, new services, new solutions for challenges. But how do we move forward into an adjacent possible – how do we make sure we aren’t reinventing the success of the present?
What connects these two is design: research from many different fields really design thinking and the unique ways that designers work as the link between creativity and innovation. Design is the shaping of ideas –it is the force and power of creativity deployed to a specific end. By integrating design thinking as a way of problem solving, we can mobilize the force of creativity toward true innovation.
But here is the thing: we don’t have a very good picture of just what design thinking is – or even how designers do what they do. We have an idea…it’s all white boards and brain storms and magic and “creativity”! Designers have something unique to offer: the way that they work opens doors and introduces new ways of changing the world. And we need to know more about their unique practices: According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020, one-third of all jobs will require complex problem solving skills of this type. But the challenge that we are facing is that we don’t have a full picture of just what the practices of designers are. The terms ‘design thinking’ and ‘creativity’ get thrown around a lot: we know that designers of all kinds have a unique way of solving some of the most difficult and tangled problems out there, but there is a gap in our understanding of just what designers do on an every-day basis.
This is the question I am trying to answer in my research work: What steps do designers take in problem solving activities that allow them to bridge creativity and innovation in such a powerful way? How are they making decisions, how are they solving problems – how are they acting as agents of change? What can we learn from designers about how they work, what they do, and what they know about problem solving that they could teach the rest of us?
To understand how designers solve problems we need to keep asking questions about what it means to design, to be a designer, to do design thinking. We need to ask designers how they learn to do what they do, how they see their creative process, and how they learn to work in new ways.
I think that the people who are best equipped to tell us how to make this crucial connection are the designers themselves. I’ve been interviewing designers from around the world to hear more about how they see the world and what their creative process is in designing products, services and communications. And to get a better understanding of the Canadian context, I’ve been observing designers at work in an international design studio with offices here in Calgary. And here is the part that I think is really important: the designers that I am interviewing are sharing stories about how they no longer make things – now they make experiences, services, they are not designing ‘things’ for today, they are forecasting the future. They are working with a whole new way of thinking. This is what we need to understand if we are going to forge that connection between entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in Canada’s future – because once we have a clear understanding of how designers work, how they bring creativity and ‘design thinking’ to problem solving, and how they use new and creative practices to forecast that future, I know that we’ll be able to harness the power of creativity and the unique practices of designers to build a more innovative Canada.
#SSHRCStorytellers Top 25, here I come! Can’t wait to hear more about the exciting and important research being done by other finalists from across Canada! #PHDChat #cdnpse #creativecanada #cdninnovation

A little light reading: Practice Theory edition

From the candidacy vault: a list of practice theory sources and inspirations, with a special focus on organizational dynamics, and the process of learning, changing and evolving practice forms.

Barab, S., & Duffy. (2011). From practice fields to communities of practice. In D. Jonassen & S. Land. (Eds.), Theoretical foundations of learning environments. New York, NY: Routledge.


Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Cambridge, UK: Polity.


Bourdieu, P. (1998). Practical reason: on the theory of action. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.


Bräuchler, B., & Postill, J. (2010). Theorizing media and practice. New York, NY: Berghahn Books.


Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational learning and communities of practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1), 40 – 57.


Chaiklin, S., & Lave, J. (1993). Understanding practice: Perspectives on activity and context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Contu, A., & Willmott, H. (2000). Comment on Wenger and Yanow. Knowing in practice: A delicate flower in the organizational learning field. Organization, 7(2), 283-97.


de Certeau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.


Duguid, P. (2007). The art of knowing: Social and tacit dimensions of knowledge and the limits of the community of practice. The Information Society: An International Journal, 21. 109 – 118.


Feldman, M. (2000). Organizational routines as a source of continuous change. Organization Science, 11(6) 611 – 629.


Feldman, M., & Orlikowski, W. (2011). Theorizing practice and practicing theory. Organization Science, 22(5). 1240 – 1253.


Feldman, M., & Pentland. (2008). Routine dynamics. In D. Barry, H. Hansen (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of new approaches in management and organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Gherardi, S. (2006). Organizational knowledge: The texture of workplace learning. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing.


Gherardi, S., & Nicolini, D. (2002). Learning the trade: A culture of safety in practice. Organization, 9(2), 191-223.


Jarzabkowski, P. (2005). Strategy as Practice. London, UK: Sage.

Chapters Introduction, 1 and 2


Jarzabkowski, P., Balogun, J., & Seidl, D. (2007). Strategizing: The challenges of a practice perspective. Human Relations, 60(5)

Lau, R. W. K. (2004). Habitus and the practical logic of practice: An interpretation. Sociology, 38(2) 369-86.


Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Lave.J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Nicolini, D. (2012). Pratice theory, work & organization. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.


Nicolini, D., Gherardi, S., & Yannow, D. (2003). Knowing in Organizations: a practice based approach. Armonk, NY: M.E Sharpe. Chapters 1 – 4 (p. 1 – 96), 9 (p. 213 – 240)


Orlikowski, W. J. (2000). Using technology and constituting structures: a practice lens for studying technology in organizations. Organization Science, 11(4). 404 – 28.


Orlikowski, W. J. (2002) Knowing in practice: Enacting a collective capability in distributed organizing. Organization Science, 13(3). 249 – 73.


Orlikowsky, W. J. & Yates, J. (1994). Genre repertoire: the structuring of communicative practices in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 39(4). 541 – 574.


Ortner, S.B. (2006). Anthropology and social theory: Culture, power and the acting subject. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Reckwitz, A. (2002). Toward a theory of social practices. A development in culturalist theorizing. European Journal of Social Theory, 5(2). 243-263.


Schatzki, T. (2012). A  primer on practices: Theory and research. In Higgs, J. et al (Eds.). Practice-based education: Perspectives and strategies. Rotterdam, Sense Publishers. pp. 13-26.


Schatzki, T., Knorr Cetina,K., & von Savigny, E. (Eds.). 2001. The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. London, UK: Routledge.


Schatzki, T.R. (1996). Social practices: a Wittengesteinian approach to human activity and the social. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Schatzki, T.R. (2005). Peripheral Vision: The sites of organizations. Organization Studies, 26, 465-84.


Shove, E. (2003). Comfort, cleanliness and convenience. The social organization of normality. Oxford, UK: Berg.


Shove, E., & Pantzar, M. (2005). Consumers, producers and practices: Understanding the invention and reinvention of nordic walking. Journal of Consumer Culture, 5, 43.


Shove, E., et al. (2007). The Design of Everyday Life. Oxford, UK: Berg.


Warde, A. (2005). Consumption and theories of practice.  Journal of Consumer Culture, 5, 131-53.


Weick, K. E., & Roberts, K. H. (1993). Collective mind in organizations: Heedful interrelating on flight decks. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38(3), 357 – 381.


Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Wittington, R. (2006). Completing the Practice turn in strategy research. Organization Studies, 27(5), 613 – 634.


A little light reading: Ethnography edition

More from last year’s candidacy, in case it is of help to others who suffer so: a brief listing of readings from the world of ethnography with a special focus on cultural production studies and organizational ethnographic studies.

Alcoff, Linda (1992). The Problem of Speaking for Others. Cultural Critique, 20, 5-32.

Atkinson, P., Coffey, A., Delamont, S., Lofland, J., & Lofland, L. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of ethnography. London: Sage.

Atkinson, P., Coffey, A., & Delamont. S. (1999). Ethnography: Post, Past and Present.Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28(5).

Barley, S., & Kunda, G. (2001). Bringing work back in. Organization Science 12(1), 76 – 95

Brettell, C. (Ed). (1996). When they read what we write: The politics of ethnography. Westport: Bergin & Garvey.

Collins, J., & Lutz, C. (1993). Reading National Geographic. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Conquergood, D. (1991). Rethinking ethnography: toward a critical cultural politics. Communication Monographs, 58, 179 – 194.

Conquergood, D. (2013). Performance as a moral act. Ethical Dimensions of the Ethnography of Performance. In Cultural struggles: performance, ethnography, praxis. D.

Conquergood, (Ed)Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Culyba, R., Heimer, C., & Coleman Petty, J. (2004). The ethnographic turn: Fact, fashion or fiction? Qualitative Sociology, 27(4), 365 – 389.

Cunliffe, A. (2010). Retelling tales of the field. In search of organizational ethnography 20 years on. Organizational Research Methods, 13(2), 224 – 239.

Davis, A. (2008). Investigating cultural producers. In M. Pickering (Ed.), Research methods for cultural studies. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. pp.53

Denzin, N. K. (2011) The SAGE handbook of qualitative research. (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chapters: 17, 18, 28

Dornfeld, B. (1998). Producing public television, producing public culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Down, S. (2012). A historiographical account of workplace and organizational ethnography. Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 1(1), 72-82.

Emerson, R., Fretz, R., & Shaw, L. (2011). Writing ethnographic field notes. (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Fine, G., & Morrill, C. (1997). Ethnographic contributions to organizational sociology. Sociological Methods & Research, 25(4).

Fine, G.; Morrill, C. &  Surianarian, S. (2009). Ethnography in Organizational Settings In D. Buchanan, A. Bryman, The SAGE handbook of organizational research methods. London, UK: SAGE. pp. 603

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures: Selected essays. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Geertz, C. (1976). From the native’s point of view. In P. Rabinow, & W.M. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: a reader. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Gill, R. (2011). The shadow in organizational ethnography: moving beyond shadowing to spect-acting. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: an International Journal, 6(2). 115 – 133.

Hatch, M.J. (1996). The role of the researcher. An analysis of narrative position in organization theory. Journal of Management Inquiry, 5(4), 359 – 374.

Kunda, G. (2006). Engineering culture: Control and commitment in a high-tech corporation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press

Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. New York, NY: Routledge.

Mahon, M. (2000). The visible evidence of cultural producers. Annual Review of Anthropology, 29, 467 – 492.

McRobbie, A. (1998). British fashion design: Rag trade or image industry. London, UK: Routledge.

Moeran, B. (1996). A Japanese advertising agency: An anthropology of media and markets. Honolulu, HA: University of Hawai’i Press.

Morisawa, T. (2015). Managing the unmanageable: Emotional labour and creative hierarchy in the Japanese animation industry. Ethnography 16 (2), 262 – 284

Myerhoff, B., & Ruby, J. (Eds.) (1982) The cracked mirror: Reflexive perspectives in anthropology. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Negus, K. (1999). Music genres and corporate cultures. London: Routledge.

Negus, K. (2000). Identities and industries: The cultural formation of aesthetic economies. In P. Du Gay, & M. Pryke (Eds.), Cultural economy. London, UK: Sage.

Neyland, D. (2008). Organizational ethnography. London, UK: Sage.
Orr, J. (1996). Talking about machines: An ethnography of a modern job. Ithica, NY: ILR Press.

Radway, J. (1989). Ethnography among elites: Comparing discourses of power. Journal of Communication Inquiry 13(2), 3 – 11.

Rosen, M. (2000). Coming to terms with the field: Understanding and doing organizational ethnography. In (Ed), Michael Rosen, Turning words Spinning Worlds. London, UK: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Schwartzman, H. (1993). Ethnography in organizations. London, UK: Sage.

Seale, C. (1999). Quality in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry 5(4), 456-478.

Suchman, Blomberg, Orr, & Trigg. (1999). Reconstituting technologies as social practices. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(3). 392 – 408.

Watson, T. (2012). Ethnography, reality and truth: the vital need for studies of ‘how things work’ in organizations and management. Journal of Management Studies, 48(1).

Wolcott, H.F. (1999). Ethnography: A way of seeing. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press.

Ybema, S. (Ed). (2009). Organizational ethnography: studying the complexities of everyday life. London, UK: Sage.

Zickar, M.; Carter, N. (2010). Reconnecting with the spirit of workplace ethnography: A historical review. Organizational Research Methods, 13, 304.

A little light reading: Cultural Production Studies edition

For what it is worth: a brief listing of readings from the world of  Cultural Production Studies with a special focus on the world of design.

Banks, M., Gill, R., & Taylor, S. (Eds.). (2014). Theorizing cultural work: Labour, continuity and change in the cultural and creative industries. Florence, KY: Taylor and Francis.

Becker, H. (1974).  Art as collective action. American Sociological Review, 39(6), 767 – 776.

Bennett, A., & Heller, S. (2006). Design studies: Theory and research in graphic design. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgment of taste. Cambridge, UK: Harvard University Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Brody, D., Clark, H. (Eds.). (2009). Design studies: A reader. London, UK: Berg. pp 68 – 115 (Section 2: Design thinking).


Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5 – 21.
Cross, N. (1997). Descriptive models of creative design: application to an example. Design Studies, 18, 427.
Cross, N. (2004). Expertise in design: an overview. Design Studies, 25(5), 427-441.
Cross, N. (2011). Design thinking: Understanding how designers think and work. Oxford, UK: Berg.
Crouch, & Pearce, C. (2012). Doing research in design. London, England: Berg.
Dorst, K. (2011). The core of ‘design thinking’ and its application. Design Studies, 32(6), 521-532.
du Gay (1998). Production of culture/cultures of production. London, UK: Sage.
du Gay, P., Hall, S., Janes, L., Mackay, H., & Negus, K. (1997). Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman. London, UK: Sage.


Grand, S., & Jonas, W. (Eds). (2012). Mapping Design Research. Basel, Switzerland: Birkhauser.

Gregg, M. (2009). Learning to (love) labour: Production cultures and the affective turn. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 6(2), 209 – 214.
Gunn, W., Otto, T., & Charlotte Smith, R. (Eds.). (2013). Design anthropology. theory and practice. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
Jahnke, M. (2012). Revisiting design as a hermeneutic practice: An investigation of Paul Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics. Design Issues, 28(2), 30 – 40.
Julier, G. (2000). The culture of design. London, UK: Sage.
Julier, G. (2007). Design practice within a theory of practice. Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, 1(2). 43 – 50.
Laurel, B. (Ed.). (2003). Design research, methods and perspectives. Boston, MA: MIT Press.
Maguire, J. S. (Ed.). (2014). The cultural intermediaries reader. London, UK: Sage.


Mahon, M. (2000). The visible evidence of cultural producers. Annual Review of Anthropology, 29, 467 – 492.
Mareis, C. (2012). The epistemology of the unspoken: On the concept of tacit knowledge in contemporary design research. Design Issues, 28(2), 61-71.
Margolin, V. (2002). The politics of the artificial: Essays on design and design studies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mayer, V., Banks, M.J., Caldwell, J. (Eds.). (2009). Production studies. Cultural studies of media industries. New York, NY: Routledge.
McCracken, G. D. (2008). Transformations: Identity construction in contemporary culture. Indiana: Indiana University Press.
McFall, L. (2002). What about the old cultural intermediaries? An historical review of advertising producers. Cultural Studies, 16, 532 – 552.
Negus, K. (2002). The work of cultural intermediaries and the enduring distinction between production and consumption. Cultural Studies, 16(4) 501-515.
Nixon, S. (2002). Who needs the cultural intermediaries? Cultural Studies, 17(4)
Oak, A. (2013). As you said to me I said to them: Reported speech and the multi-vocal nature of collaborative design practice. Design Studies, 34, 34 – 56.
Oxman, R. (1999). Educating the designerly thinker. Design Studies 20, 105 – 122.
Papanek, V. J. (1971). Design for the real world: Human ecology and social change. New York: Pantheon Books.
Rodgers, P., Yee, J. (Eds.). (2015). The Routledge companion to design research.  New York, NY: Routledge.
Rowe, P. (1987). Design thinking. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Salvador, T., Bell, G. & Anderson, K. (1999). Design Ethnography. Design Management Journal 10(4), 35-41.
Schön, D. (1983) The reflective practitioner. How professionals think in action. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Smith Maguire, J., Matthews, J. (2012). Are we all cultural intermediaries now? An introduction to cultural intermediaries in context. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 15(5), 551 – 562.
Strickler, Z. (1999). Elicitation methods in experimental design research. Design Issues, 15, 27 – 39.

Suri, J. F., & Hendrix, R. M. (2010). Developing design sensibilities. Rotman
58 – 63.
Wasson, C. (2000). Ethnography in the field of design. Human Organization, 59(4). 377.

What form should Canada’s national design policy take?

Designing Innovation: A Proposal For Future Policy Direction (Dorland, 2012) builds off of the initial discussions started in 2010 about the need for a Canadian National Design Policy. This working paper explores various forms of creative policies using case studies from Europe, the USA and England, and suggests that a hybrid of innovation, creative industries and design policy models would best serve Canada’s goal of aligning and enlisting the power of the design sector with the growth of innovation in our economy.

As this paper was written before the publication of State of Design: The Canadian Report (Government of Canada, 2010), it reflects the call for a national design policy and not the further discussion in the field.

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How is the practice of participatory design embedded, adapted and shared in the studio?

Practice Theory in the Studio: The Dynamics of Change in Innovative Design Methodologies (Dorland, 2016) locates and maps the field of practice-based approaches, suggesting that the practice turn identified by Warde (2005) has moved into a third wave of empirical study. It then explores how three key scholars from the second wave of practice theory (Schatzki, Warde and Shove) conceptualize the emergence, reproduction and innovation of social practices, and examines case studies of specific situated design methodologies proposed by Simonsen et al. as examples of the mechanics of change in the practice of designing. It concludes with an application of Warde and Shove’s particular theories of practice change, proposing that both the collectively understood meaning of the ‘user’ in design practice and the adaptation of new institutionalised structures that normalize the competencies and conventions associated with ‘designing’ can together serve as points of leverage to guide design practice towards practice-oriented and situated methodological ends, suggesting that the use of change-oriented methods from sustainable policy design can be of value in this effort.

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How can we understand design thinking as a conversion between tacit and explicit forms of knowledge?

Saying the Unsayable: Intersections of Tacit Knowing and Explicit Knowledge Within an Expanded Definition of Design Thinking (Dorland, 2016) explores the origins of the term “design thinking” and proposes that the term can be best understood as a method of knowledge conversion, rather than as either a tacit, or an explicit way of knowing. This paper (submitted in partial fulfillment of my candidacy examinations) examines how conceptions of ‘knowledge conversion’ as a way of transferring design thinking between creative workers, and outside of the studio, can help us understand the link between design thinking and design doing.

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How can we use ethnography to study the work of cultural producers?

Design Ethnography and Ethnographies of Designers: An Embedded and Collaborative Approach to the Study of Cultural Producers (Dorland, 2016) investigates the challenges and possibilities presented when conducting ethnographic research among cultural producers – especially among designers who themselves conduct ethnographic research work. In this paper, I claim that despite the barriers to ethnographic methods presented by the designer’s location within a community of guarded elites, and their use of designer-adapted observational research practices, an ethnographic study approach to the study of the design community is not only feasible but also valuable in the field of cultural production studies. The challenges presented by the use of ethnographic methods in the study of cultural producers can be mitigated in three ways: by using an embedded approach to ethnographic research, by mobilizing the researchers’ insider status within the community, and by applying designer-led approaches to observational and visual research methods in a collaborative fashion.

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