Designerly Ways of Knowing
In two previous posts I’ve suggested that many of the problems in improvement are planning and design problems [here and here]. If you buy my arguments, then skills and insights from designers and planners in different fields can inform our work as improvers.
Nigel Cross has summarized many years of thinking about design in his 2007 book Designerly Ways of Knowing.
Cross contends that designing is a unique human inclination and activity; in particular, designing differs from pure scientific inquiry and scientific problem-solving. While scientists seek to develop new knowledge, designers must come up with a solution that functions, typically under time and money constraints.
The architects, industrial designers, engineering designers, and urban planners whom Cross has studied typically generate designs of things; these designers rely on sketching to help them think about their design challenges and develop solutions.
When you try to improve work, it’s common to draw a picture of relationships, to create a value stream, or develop a detailed process map. But improvers have another method that appears to have a deeper connection to the designer’s sketch.
Tests as Sketches
Small-scale testing via Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles tries out a change idea in time and space, not constrained to the two dimensions of a sketch pad.
It seems to me you can substitute ‘small-scale test’ for ‘sketch’ in Cross’s presentation on pp 57-58 of Designerly Way of Knowing and get good advice to encourage testers and testing:
“….[designers] use the sketch to identify and then reflect upon critical details—details that they realise will hinder or somehow significantly influence the final implementation of the detailed design.”
Tests, like sketches, have practical power because they
- “…enable identification and recall of relevant knowledge…”
- “…assist problem structuring through solution attempts…”
- “…promote the recognition of emergent features and properties of the solution concept.”