Home > Business Design, Design Thinking > Architect Frank Gehry inspires Management Theory – the intersection of Business and Design

Architect Frank Gehry inspires Management Theory – the intersection of Business and Design

My reading of Business Model Generation continues to bear fruit. First, I posted at length on my very favorable impressions of the book.

The book also, however, put me onto the subject of Design Thinking, upon which I crafted to additional posts shortly thereafter: The Design of Business, and Roger Martin and More on Design Thinking – IDEO CEO Tim Brown.

Now, as I begin the Prototyping section of the book, I am introduced to a fascinating story involving the legendary Canadian-born architecture Frank Gehry. Here’s the story, taken from the book:

With a look bordering on panic, Weatherhead School of Management Professor Richard Boland Jr. watched as Matt Fineout, an architect with Gehry & Associates, casually tore up plans for a new school building … Boland and Fineout had been struggling for two full days to remove some 5,500 square feet from the floor plan designed by star architect Frank Gehry, while leaving room needed for meeting spaces and office equipment.

At the end of the marathon planning session, Boland had breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s finally done,” he thought. But at that very moment, Fineout rose from this chair, ripped the document apart, and tossed the scraps into a trash bin, not bothering to retain a single trace of the pair’s hard labor. He responded to Professor Boland’s shocked expression with a gentle shrug and a soft remark. “We’ve shown we can do it; now we need to think of how we want to do it.”

Looking back, Boland describes the incident as an extreme example of the relentless approach to inquiry he experienced while working with the Gehry group on the new Weatherhead building. During the design phase, Gehry and his team made hundreds of models with different materials and of varying sizes, simply to explore new directions. Boland explains that the goal of this prototyping activity was far more than the mere testing or proving of ideas. It was a methodology for exploring different possibilities until a truly good one emerged. He points out that prototyping, as practiced by the Gehry group, is a central part of an inquiry process that helps participants gain a better sense of what is missing in the initial understanding of the situation. This leads to completely new possibilities, among which the right one can be identified.

For Professor Boland, the experience with Gehry & Associates was transformative. … Together with fellow professor Fred Collopy and other colleagues, Boland is now spearheading the concept of Manage by Design: the integration of design thinking, skills, and experiences into Weatherhead’s MBA cirriculum.

Well, motivated by this experience, in June 2002, 60 managers, designers and scholars gathered at the Weatherhead School of Management in the Frank Gehry design Peter B. Lewis building to consider the topic Managing as Designing. And, they made a video about this experience. It’s available on YouTube in seven parts. Part 1, the Introduction, can be viewed below:

The remaining six segments of the Managing as Designing video can be viewed at the following links:

Bloody fascinating! BTW, for a wonderful glimpse into the mind and world of Frank Gehry, check out the DVD Sketches of Frank Gehry.


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