Designers need to develop systems thinking an ability

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Designers need to develop systems thinking an ability to think broadly about the design problem for two reasons. True empathy with users is only possible if one understands the user s context of use: not merely the usage situation, but the
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user s personal perspective based cultural, linguistic, and emotional factors (Mariampolski 2006). The second reason is that effective design is not limited to products alone but provides value to users from the integration of resources (Carr 1999). Thus effective design requires the designer to understand both the user s context and that of the business. In understanding the context, user-centred designers consider the entire system of use: for example, the design of an office chair needs to take into account other elements in the office, such as the desk and table; the user s own physical needs and the type of work that will be conducted. At a broader level, the designer needs to consider the user s relationships with other users and his or her level of physical activity. Because the design of a chair affects, and is affected by, its context, the designer needs to think about the relationships between the elements of a system. Russell Ackoff (1999) argued that humanity was leaving the Machine Age , which had been characterized by analytical, reductionist, and deterministic thinking: the idea that there exist clear, independent cause effect relationships between phenomena that can be identified by breaking down the relationship into small pieces and testing their effects. In the Systems Age , by contrast, problems are more complex: interdependent 134 New Educatio nal Perspectives for Designers and Manag ers variables together combine to form a system, defined as a set of interrelated elements that loses some of its essential properties when it is taken apart. Systems thinking has two components: analysis and synthesis (Allio 2003). Analysis takes a system apart to reveal how it works but, because the system loses its essential nature when taken apart, analysis alone is not capable of understanding the system as a whole. Synthesis reveals why the system works as it does. S ystems thinking integrates analysis and synthesis to understand the system. In systems thinking, the problem solver attempts to understand the nature of the system and frame the problem accordingly. Since designers (and managers) are boundedly rational (Simon 1996), the problem frame chosen will restrict the set of solutions available. Using Donald Sch n s classic example, Boland and Collopy (2004: 9) � � express this as follows: If we think of an urban neighborhood as a blight, it evokes a particular problem space where certain types of design intervention are seen as most appropriate (cutting out the blight, curing the sick, bringing in a fresh form of life) . . . if we look at the same situation as a folk community, we may instead not see it as a problem but as an opportunity, and develop plans to support its fragile infrastructure.
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