Design as Communication in Microstrategy: strategic sensemaking and sensegiving mediated through designed artifacts
This article explores how designers’ output can play a role in organisational microstrategy (strategy as practice seen from an activity-based view, Johnson et al 2003). The received view of the typical design process has designers responding to a brief or problem statement which attempts to define the requirements of the output. A large body of research has established descriptive theories and models around this complex process. Work also examines the artefact’s role as a communication medium between designer and consumer (summarised by Crilly et al 2008). This article complements those approaches, focusing on the symbolic function (Searle 1995, Crilly 2010) internal to organisations. It extends the insights of Stevens REF Output 1 by examining this function through the concepts of sensemaking and sensegiving.
Semistructured interviews were conducted with designers, product managers, and others in senior design related roles in seventeen UK firms. The evidence of reported practices was then related to key concepts of strategic cognition, postulating design as a key producer of boundary objects (Star and Griesemer 1989). Through these, exchanges are mediated at senior level which may have powerful and far-reaching influence but were not previously well documented. Stevens’ research clarifies the value and contribution made by this less-publicised design role, defining a clear form of ‘design thinking’ in strategic management. The conceptual connection between design practice and strategic cognition theory is intended to inform business leaders and managers involved with innovation, design management and strategic decisions. The findings suggest that sensemaking activities by designers generate innovative future concepts with far-reaching strategic implications; designed artefacts aid sensemaking and sensegiving by management in exploring new business opportunities and directions.
A version of this article was presented at Proceedings of the Design Management Institute
2012 International Research Conference, Boston, MA, in August 2012.