Design knowledge management

Prof. Paola Bertola, Politecnico of Milano, Italy

In her contribution professor Paola Bertola, teaching at the Politecnico di Milano University, relates design management to knowledge management. Point of departure is the question how design as a source of knowledge management can support innovation in small and medium-sized companies. After all, these companies often have to find a way to translate their informal contact with design into a formal attitude.
The first part of her account deals with the relationship between design management and knowledge management. In the second part she discusses design's contribution in a number of contexts (30 case studies). At the end of her account professor Bertola unfolds one case study (an action research case study): how design was introduced into the Mangiameli family business, a small company with which the Politecnico collaborated.

Knowledge is a field in which designers and managers can find each other. This is why knowledge - in all its appearances the source for innovation - is such a good starting-point for analysing design's contribution to business.
More than in the past, companies focus on the impact of knowledge. Companies now `recognize' knowledge and think in terms of immaterial rather than material sources. When companies organize their knowledge, when they organize skills to build up know-how, knowledge becomes a production factor. For small and medium-sized companies, where knowledge often exists in an informal and implicit way, it is quite important to introduce such an explicitly formulated knowledge.
Typical of knowledge is that it works as a process, so companies should try to introduce new elements of organisation at the same time as learning from them. During this process of learning, design can play its own part as a source for knowledge and innovation. In new business models knowledge is a `competitive' factor, is a product itself - in other words, knowledge qualifies workers at any level of the process. This is why we can pose the question: Are designers knowledge workers?

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Design Management
VIZO Workshop

“Design makes the Difference”
Brussels, Belgium - 29/30 November 2002

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