Thursday, May 30, 2019

Design Thinking: Slow and Fast

The book "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman presented a model of human cognition that became extraordinary popular a few years ago. His ideas have been influential in many areas and have led to 'applications' of different kinds.

The work by design theorist John Gero has also for some time been influential. His FBS ontology established a foundational model of designing as a cognitive process.

In a new article, John Gero in collaboration with Udo Kennengiesser proposes a framework for applying Kahneman's model to designing based on Gero's model.

This is an ambitious enterprise and not easy to do successfully. I am not here to comment on how well they do it or the value of it, but I do find that the effort should be praised for at least two reasons.

First of all, it is an attempt to theoretically work across disciplines, not only by 'borrowing' a theory from another field to apply it. Here we see real ambition to work across theoretical areas.

Secondly, we see here an attempt at developing theory based on existing theory. Often theories like these are seen as competitors and they are compared and measured against each other to see which one is the 'best'. In this paper, the authors are trying to combine two advanced theories with the purpose of improving them. They explore if they can be combined, how they overlap, and if they open up new aspects of each other.

I wish we could see more theory work like this.


Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.

Kannengiesser, Udo & Gero, John. (2019). Design Thinking, Fast and Slow: A Framework for Kahneman's Dual-System Theory in Design. 10.1017/dsj.2019.9. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Professional Practice and Higher Education

In a wonderful article from 1995 "Knowing-in-Action: The New Scholarship Requires a New Epistemology" Donald A. Schön discusses what he saw as one of the more serious problems with higher education. I think it is fair to say that the problems he saw around 25 years ago are still here today, maybe even more severe.

Schön uses a wonderful article by Edward Shils (reference below) to set the stage. Shils describes how the idea of a research university came to the USA. Today it may be difficult to understand the transformation of higher education that took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The idea that research and science would be the dominant foundation for higher education spread during this time and soon became the new normal.

As Schön argues, this shift created serious problems for professional practice. He writes "Most of the knowledge essential to professional practice is not what the research university calls fundamental knowledge, and practitioners are not. as a rule, either scientists or scholars."

So Schön makes a strong argument for a new form of scholarship, based on a new epistemology suited for supporting professional practice. Some of what he is arguing has been adopted in certain areas of higher education but most of it has not.

This is a great read for anyone who believes there is a gap between research and practice, or who wants to develop knowledge in support of professional practice, or is involved in teaching professionals.

Schön, D. A. (1995). Knowing-in-action: The new scholarship requires a new epistemology. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning27(6), 27-34.

Shils, E. (1978). The order of learning in the United States from 1865 to 1920: The ascendancy of the universities. Minerva16(2), 159-195.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

One-on-one Design Thinking and Leadership Mentoring

Having done researched and worked with professional designers continuously since the early 80s I have learned a lot. I have been able to formulate insights on what works and what doesn't work through my writings, teaching, and advising of students and professionals. It is time to share this with others.

I offer one-on-one personalized mentorship on design thinking and leadership. I will challenge your way of thinking and acting as a designer. The mentoring is aimed at helping you explore your strengths and weaknesses as a designer and to develop your ability to take the next step as a designer and leader.

One package includes
-      8 one-hour face-to-face skype sessions (during a three months’ period),
-    advice on career moves, 
-    advice on work situations and problems,
-       everyday email exchange,
-       suggested readings,
-       exercises (if relevant),
-       feedback on writings and work.

Each package is personalized based on your background, experience, and expectations.

I only have two mentorship possibilities open at the moment.

If you are interested, contact me for cost and availability at

A certificate will be provided. A more formal description can be provided if your employer is interested in paying.

If you are interested in something similar but for a group/team or organization, let me know.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

One-on-one Design Thinking and Leadership Mentoring

Please go to

The growing need for systems thinking in design

As a phd student I was primarily trained in systems theory, systems philosophy, and systems practice. I read "general systems theory" by Ludwig von Bertalanffy. I also read a range of systems thinkers such as Russell Ackoff, Béla H. Bánáthy, Gregory Bateson, Anthony Stafford Beer, Peter Checkland, Fritjof Capra,  Kenneth E. Boulding, and many more. They all present different perspectives on systems and how to think about them and approach them.

I was mostly influenced by the writings of C. West Churchman. I still today go back to some of his writings. Then things changed. I slowly shifted my interest to design theory and the study of the design process. I devoted most of my research to understanding design as a practical process to achieve intentional change in the world. This type of research gain traction in these last decades and has impacted the world in ways that I think no one would have guessed.

Today it seems obvious that designing as an approach to intentional change is in real need of systems thinking. I constantly see designers and design students being overwhelmed by the richness and complexity of the systems they are supposed to investigate and improve. The infusion of computation into all kinds of things has led to a formidable explosion of connectivity. We are entering an age where what we define as a system is becoming even more challenging than before.

The evolution of design as an approach to change has been amazing. Now it is time to see a similar development when it comes to systems thinking. And then the challenge will be to combine the two. There is a need to develop ways of thinking and acting that support designers who want to make a difference in the real work by influencing real systems despite their complexity. One person who best manifests such a combined approach is Harold Nelson who I have been happy to work with for many years.

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