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Gary Bell, Isabel Dunckley, Kat Lovell, and Javier Andres Calderon Tellez

This paper introduces and presents an application of the “project design thinking” (PDT) methodology. Project management is becoming a broad discipline guided by the extended life-cycle model (i.e. front-ending, delivery, back-ending and termination). This engenders further complexities and uncertainties to be untangled, leads to new interdisciplinary developments and requires the support of broader skills for the profession. 

Responding to these needs, this paper argues for the connection of design research with project management practice. Following an overview of the interdisciplinary roots of the PDT methodology, we outline the mouldable systems thinking-based process model and connect associated methods and tools. This approach is illustrated using the case of improving sustainability for a university building. The aim of this project’s front-ending practice is to co-design, with identified actors, an imagined future sustainable system for the building by using Mind maps, Causal loop diagrams and Minecraft through group conversations. These visual models can support active learning and the shaping of mental models, which may inform management decision-making with respect to desirability, feasibility and viability dimensions and can lead to agreed group actions. 

The development and application of the PDT process model have led to the development of a broad model for social research (based on Peter Checkland’s work). This broad model is briefly described as it is used to guide a reflective discussion of the intervention findings and evolvement of the PDT methodology and associated framework of ideas. Moreover, this work tentatively suggests an emerging shift in the role of the professional towards a facilitator of learning for untangling complexities, which initiates imagined future sustainable systems and agreed project actions in order to achieve them.

KEYWORDS: action research, co-design, design thinking, project front-ending, sustainability, systems thinking. 

RSD TOPICS: Mapping & Modelling, Methods & Methodology, Cases & Practice

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Citation Data

Author(s): Gary Bell, Kat Lovell, Isabel Dunckley and Javier Ander Calderon Tellez
Year: 2023
Title: Evolving the Project Design Thinking Methodology Through Action Research
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
URL: https://rsdsymposium.org/project-design-thinking-methodology
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Washington DC, USA
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 30 September 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404
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