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Is the Future of Management Design? A Pragmatist View

Conference contribution
Authors Anna Rylander
Mary Jo Hatch
Published in Journal of Management Studies special conference on The Future and Evolution of Management, St Annes College, Oxford, March 26-27
Publication year 2012
Published at Gothenburg Research Institute (GRI)
School of Design and Crafts
Graduate School (School of Business Economics and Law)
Language en
Keywords Design, pragmatism
Subject categories Business Administration, Theory of science, Design


Design is increasingly promoted in management studies as a perspective or an approach for addressing complex problems in a rapidly changing world. Whether directed to management practitioners (as in the literature on Design Thinking) or to management researchers (as in the literature on design science) these discourses tend to draw on pragmatism as the underlying epistemological notion, supporting a focus on “what might be” and reflective practice, but without examining the radical implications of a pragmatist stance. In this paper we begin a serious engagement with pragmatist principles and assess what they imply for management research. Building on the ideas of C. S. Peirce, William James and John Dewey we highlight the concepts of continuity, scientific attitude, imagination and experimentation. We seek to reintroduce the notion of embodied experience as central to all forms of inquiry, as outlined by the classical pragmatists, and elaborate on the implications for management research. We further argue that the empirical study of design practice as a form of inquiry allows for exploring designers’ “special aesthetic skills” in design thinking, paying particular attention to embodied interactions with sketches and prototypes as well as visualization practices. Given the centrality of aesthetic experience in any kind of inquiry, a better understanding of design as aesthetic practice could help us progress our understanding of the role of embodied experience in management research.

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