February 26, 2016

Design in Management: Thoughts and Reflections


Eeshan Srivastava is a candidate in the full-time MBA program.

There is a famous Chinese saying, “You must empty your cup so that it may be filled again.” This was with reference to a story about a brilliant student who was not able to understand his master because he had so much experience and opinions. Whatever the master tried to explain always struck against his notions of the way the world is and how it should be. It was then that the master said the above saying using the “tea cup” metaphor, where he kept pouring tea into a cup that was already full and whatever he poured in kept flowing out.

The above saying has been re-quoted time and time again in popular culture from Yoda to Bruce Lee, but if you think the essence of that thought is limited to Taoist stories or martial arts movies, then you’re wrong. If you’re taking the Design in Management (MIDS 420 A/B) course at Weatherhead, then you know exactly what I mean. I have been a student of this course since last semester and it has been one of the most unconventional b-school experiences for me so far. The class by Professor of Design & Innovation Richard Buchanan, PhD, and Michael Goldberg, assistant professor of Design & Innovation, is like a deep exploration into unknown waters. As I see it, it is a course on the philosophy of management from the perspective of the design discipline. Of course Richard Buchanan would be able to explain the true purpose of the course in much more detail.

We have looked at seemingly simple objects and places like maps, books, chairs, classrooms and so on. But we have looked at it from an entirely different perspective. Questions like, “What do you see in a map?” or “What do you see in this chair?” are not meant to ascertain just the visual aspects of those objects but rather the form, function and purpose of those objects from a humanistic and cultural point of view. It has been hard for students to dive so deep into such things. It has been exceptionally hard for me as well. But in this course we have also had the opportunity to work with real companies and real problems. We have had the opportunities to understand the vision and mission of these companies and also specific problems they are trying to solve.

The knowledge we obtain from this course is not a hard skill that can be used on the job in isolation, but rather a way of thinking that can be applied in any field to discover, define and solve problems. 

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