Learning design, design mind-set and practice

design mosaic

Design – its many fields and framing within firms

There are numerous publications and commentators that define, interpret and evaluate ‘Design’; and propose how these can be utilised by organisations. One such proposal gaining some prominence in the business and management literature is that of ‘design thinking’. For example, there are arguments for design (or rather ‘design thinking’) as a management problem-solving approach; that is, an ‘abductive’ form of reasoning that will serve as an ‘antidote’ and contrast to inductive and deductive forms of reasoning. Or, a ‘solutions-oriented’ way of thinking through ‘wicked’ problems – problems that are complex, unwieldy and un-yielding to the typical management ways of planning, organising, structuring and delivering. 

Another example is the debates on the value of human or user-centred design, focusing on user experience, in product development as well as talent, management and leadership development. Note that these debates include criticisms of the limits of these forms of individual-centred ways of thinking and designing; as well as criticisms of defining and implementing ‘design’ as a cognitive and management problem-solving process. Thus, we find suggestions of the need for ‘universal design’.

Perhaps we to get our moorings we first need to differentiate the many fields of design and then understand how these have been framed, shaped and continue to evolve within organisations.

The below info-graphic provides a guide of the fields of design to help cut through the conceptual ‘thicket’ and jargon and navigate the complexities and contestations. It lays out the different fields of design and helps to get an overview of these fields, including how we could situate ‘design thinking’. The visual above portrays in images the many design fields and the way the design process is framed.

The info-graphic is drawn from Ajay Jivan’s doctoral thesis on the design, integration and management of leadership development. It helps reflect on how we understand, shape and formalise the design of leadership development and consider ways to improve and innovate it.



The below illustration can serve as a frame of reference and toolkit for developing the context and space for undertaking the design task and to guide the actual design process…

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Learning design

In the case of learning design we need to explore our mind-set and mental models on curriculum and instructional design as well as strategies. Here is an example of an e-learning module that showcases the principles of instructional design and learning design, including that of neuro- and cognitive science, levels of learning, blended learning, modularity and the blending of proprietary and open resources. The module addresses the following topics: (1) fourth industrial revolution, (2) types of innovation and (3) disruptive innovation. (link to module)