The collaborative design of system solutions for wicked problems seems to follow a trajectory of goals, as the group’s understanding of the design progresses. The key to making (and evaluating) progress is understanding what triggers the changes in goal-direction.
From my research studies, it seems that goal changes are triggered by breakdowns in individual buy-in to the group’s consensus definition of the design vision. Both the breakdowns and the most important parts of the vision are concerned with how the design problem is structured and defined — not (as we usually assume) how the designed system will work. Of course, the solution is important: individual group members constantly test their understanding of the problem against the emerging solution, then realize that the design goals need to change. But it is the consensus problem-vision that drives design goals.
An important implication of this design model is how to manage design effectively. We need to keep influential decision-makers in the loop, when design goals are redefined, or they just see the start and end points. The natural response is “what took you so long?”. Managing external expectations is key to design success.

Design as a trajectory of goal-definitions
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3 thoughts on “Design as a trajectory of goal-definitions

  • October 31, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Latest application of this design model for me is the process of designing a research project (and, I suspect, implementing it)

  • September 1, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I recognize that diagram! On a related note, I wonder: remind me to ask you about leadership as a design problem.

  • August 28, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Nice article ..Looking forward to read the book


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