Definition of design attitude

The design attitude contrasts with or compliments a decision attitude. The decision attitude operates from the assumption that, in managing, the difficult task to be performed is to select among alternatives. A design attitude assumes, instead, that the real challenge is often to generate better alternatives.

In an analysis of designers, Kamil Michlewski identified the qualities associated with a design attitude. They included empathy, a willingness to embrace ambiguity, the desire to engage and use one’s senses to learn, explore and express oneself, an appreciation for the way that complex things have qualities that go beyond their parts, and an interest in actually making things. His results were published in the 2008 Organizations Studies article Uncovering Design Attitude: Inside the Culture of Designers.


The shift from a decision to a design attitude can be seen in the treatment of the classic inventory control problem. This is the process of ensuring that the amount of raw materials and finished products are being managed efficiently to meet demand. To solve the inventory problem, the decision-oriented approach would create buffers so that at any given point there would be a surplus of supply to meet the most likely levels of demand. For thirty years, research and teaching extended and refined this model.

As a consequence, we were blinded for decades to the possibility that inventories (unsold goods and raw materials) could be minimised by other means, such as rethinking the design of the production system, such as using just-in-time (JIT) inventories (having the right goods in stock just before they are required to reduce storage costs). [1]

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