Introduction to the special issue: Organization studies as a science for design: Creating collaborative artifacts and research

Organization research has recently started to reach beyond the antagonisms of positivism versus its postmodernist and critical counterparts, which have dominated the discourse in organization studies over the last 20 years. A promising approach instead involves positioning organization studies as a science for design. While the natural sciences seek description, explanation or prediction of what is, design scientists ask what could be, seeking betterment of the human condition. Inspired by Simon’s (1969) The Sciences of the Artificial, an organization science for design seriously addresses the need for scholars and managers alike for better organizational forms and processes. Organization design science is still very early in its development: different, even conflicting theories about organization design and development abound; laboratories for organizational experiments are largely absent; and little knowledge on management and organization is systematically codified — too much remains anecdotal and dependent on context. As a result, the current state of a science for organization design is fragmented and immature. Previous academic research on organization design focussed primarily on questions of theoretical relevance. A science-for-design perspective differs from previous treatments of organization design in two ways. First, it can bridge the worlds of theoretical and practical significance. Without theory, organizational practice is uninformed; without practice, organization theory is moribund. Second, the enormous diversity in organization research and theory is merely confusing without an adequate epistemology, particularly in view of the need to connect to practice. A design science approach can facilitate an integrative framework that acknowledges the unique role and contribution of key epistemological traditions in organization studies (including positivism, constructivism and pragmatism). The call for papers for this Special Issue invited submissions from scholars who view organization and management research as a pluralist discipline that draws on (at least) two key modes of engaging in research: science and design. According to Simon (1969), science views existing organizational systems as empirical objects from an outsider perspective, while design envisions systems that do not yet exist — either completely new systems or new states of existing systems. Science raises the question ‘is this proposition valid or true?’, while article title Organization Studies 29(03): 317–329 ISSN 0170–8406 Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications (Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore) Mariann Jelinek College of William & Mary, Virginia, USA A. Georges L. Romme Eindhoven University of Technology, The Netherlands Richard J. Boland Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA DOI: 10.1177/0170840607088016 design asks ‘will it work better?’ Simon foresaw that a design science approach could help overcome the isolation of specialists by providing a common ground for bringing our diverse interests together in a search for more desirable states of (organizational) affairs. This Special Issue is therefore dedicated to exploring the interface between organization science and design. As such, it extends and fundamentally differs from previous work, for example published in the special issue on organization design in Organization Science (Dunbar and Starbuck 2006) as well as the special issue on organization development in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science (Bate 2007).

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Mariann Jelinek
Georges Romme
Richard J Boland
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