Free issue of British Journal of Management, relevance of design science #oldsmooc #mtw3 #mosocoop

I have been doing some more study of design science. I got so far online then realised I needed an academic library, and then discovered the main article was part of a special issue that is free online anyway. (It was worth the visit for the recent comments)

Not Simply Returning to the Same Answer Over and Over Again: Reframing Relevance (pages 355–369)
Gerard P. Hodgkinson and Ken Starkey
Article first published online: 19 AUG 2011

I found this through trying to find something on design science from a critique viewpoint. Hugh Wilmott has written a reply to this for the December 2012 issue and their is a reply to this also.

Reframing Relevance as ‘Social Usefulness’: A Comment on Hodgkinson and Starkey's ‘Not Simply Returning to the Same Answer Over and Over Again’ (pages 598–604)
Hugh Willmott
Article first published online: 10 AUG 2012

Extending the Foundations and Reach of Design Science: Further Reflections on the Role of Critical Realism (pages 605–610)
Gerard P. Hodgkinson and Ken Starkey
Article first published online: 31 OCT 2012 |

Hodgkinson and Starkey start with a summary of some history on relevance in previous articles. It turns out that "design science" is the latest description for making a link between theory and practice. More below on why I find it surprising it took me so long to find this.

Since you can find the original online anyway I am not going to repeat much from my notes. They refer to Pandza and Thorpe (2010) and a distinction between "explanatory based and prescriptive based social sciences". I think I come across a distinction between social science and design science, maybe this is from people more convinced about design science. This could be an issue for social science, if it is defined as not relevant to practice.

They accept much of the critique of business school content so far, remembering that Sir Fred Goodwin of the Royal Bank of Scotland was once presented as a "model of leadership". But they accept Senge being cited by AACSB as an example of well presented research. There is also a UK line on Senge as a fad for managers.

There are some remarks about journal publishing thatI'm not sure what to make of. Do French academics really have to publish in the USA "to prove they are world class"?


Hugh Wilmott approves the original article for proposing that business schools " become stronger schools of social science rather than pursuing a professional school idea." I'm not sure this was actually their balance but I will read it again later.

Wilmott points out that some design science is based on empirical realism, not critical realism as supported by Hodgkinson and Starkey. There are so many links for this to other articles that I can't get into this anytime soon. Comment welcome.

His concerns come across in this quote-
"It is high time to raise the sights of business schools beyond a myopic notion of 'relevance' fixated upon a narrow range of topics and perspectives that are considered important to (existing or aspiring) executives, or at least pose no threat to their worldview, to business school beneficiaries or to the students who aspire to become tomorrow's business leaders"

I don't think you have to get rid of relevance as part of this. Design might be part of making the case.

Wilmott also references Chris Grey who responded to an earlier article on relevance. Grey spoke at the first Management Theory at Work conference wher I first became aware of this discussion. As memory serves he argued that universities had a more secure role as critics rather than claiming to offer anything useful in practice. This went down well with the academics and the practice issues remain unresolved.


The reply from Hodgkinson and Starkey indicates where design science ideas could be refined since Simon's The Sciences of the Artificial in 1969. Simons early work could be seen as "narrowly positivist" and "we could have been more critical of Romme". They come back to Pandza and Thorpe and their description of design that is not determinist in intention. Path dependent and path creation approaches are possible. But from a quick look at their article these are derived from reading Simon's later work.I did not have enough time in the library to get into any detail. Pandza and Thorpe introduce a fair anmount of critique of design science even though Hodgkinson and Starkey credit them as a source. So again, comments and clues are welcome. There may be comparisons with Learning Design as discussed in the OLDS MOOC #oldsmooc

There is one remark -
"We remain concerned that too much critical management scholarship is preoccupied with deconstruction and critique."

Their conclusion is still supportive of design science, concentrating on the general "engineering problem of design - how to create organisations and systems of management and economy that are better fit for purpose than those we have currently."

Part of my interest is to understand quality management so "fit for purpose" suggests some common ground. #mosocoop


Whether the concern is critique or relevance or social usefulness I still find it starnge that I took so long to find this free issue of the British Journal of Management. I have been looking for anything about design science since reading Teaching as a design Science by Diana Laurillard, probably about six months ago. I search Google and Google blogsearch quite often. Is it possible that there are blog posts about the original article? If not, what is going on? Do the people who read this just naturally wait three months for the next issue to arrive? And if Wiley agrees there can be a free issue every so often, what is done to promote this? There may be some relevant content, but journal publishing is an issue in itself. 

Thanks of course to the librarians who helped me find the walk in PC and cope with the two sets of id and password.


Here is a video found through the Leicester website as suggested by Hugh Wilmott. I am not suggesting this is a style he would approve. 33 views is not a lot over six months. Woulkd it be an idea to look at other ways to raise these issues on YouTube or would this be a dangerous turn to "performativity"?