Unraveling reflections of the organization

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Design has to update itself constantly and borrow from a variety of disciplines to retain and evolve it’s shifting identity. Design interventions likewise seek unpredictable spaces for its growth and several companies have been raising their interest in design thinking lately. Some of these interventions can create new opportunities, such as helping organizations to share learning and knowledge more effectively, both within themselves and between other organizations. At the same time organizations are full of very contradictory forces that stagnate their progress and often lead to great uncertainty and inability to react critically to a changing environment. In corporate organizations, themes like growth and profit take precedence over social and cultural tensions that get amplified. On the other hand design is flexible and can choose unique social science structures like Activity Theory to make unique interventions that can . The dynamism and unpredictability of design combined with a robust framework of social science might lead to interesting new opportunities for both fields. The thesis explores the opportunities and challenges of such a combined method toward a more ‘reflecting organization’. I explore some these approaches with outcomes from a real case study. Between November 2012 to March 2013, I worked on a project for the Innovation Think Tank Group of a Strategy & Innovation section of a Multinational Corporation in the area of knowledge management. My task was to make a proposal of ideas for ongoing transformation of their organization into a common knowledge platform, where common information needs would be met. During the project, new concepts for communication and interaction in knowledge sharing were introduced through a design document, called “ReMediations” as well as presentations. Out of the “ReMediations”, one concept was chosen quite enthusiastically from the project stakeholders. This was based on a de-sign thinking mindset as well as literature research in various related areas of the individual design concepts. This thesis is an attempt to revisit this case study with more systematic research methods that help an organization to learn through reflection. For the analysis, the ideas and frameworks from the field of Activity Theory are applied. These include the fundamental ideas that contribute to the field in the works by Lev Vygotsky and Aleksei Leontiev. In particular, Yrjö Engeström’s third generation Activity Theory framework is used to trace and analyze how the case study moves toward deeper collective reflection during the design process.
Kauffman, Richard
Thesis advisor
Kauffman, Richard
organization design, activity theory, mediation, reflexivity
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