Issue 156 - 02 | Ding Dong the Witch is Dead! The Fall of Homo Economicus and the Rise of Design Thinking

By Jeanne Liedtka
Published Sept. 20, 2017 12:00 p.m.
“It is hard to think of a more flawed theory that has had as much of an impact on organizational life as that of the ‘rational man’ of neoclassical economics: an unfeeling automaton, driven by analytic assessments of economic utility and the pursuit of self-interest. […]

But it’s not only economists who retreat to abstraction and analytics for comfort—organizational leaders often have the same inclinations. This creates especially dramatic problems when we are trying to accomplish change—because change is about human beings, first and foremost. The ‘messiness’ our management approaches so often try to avoid is, essentially, our humanness. In our desire for predictability, control and simplicity, we eliminate consideration of the reality of the human experience. Our behavior reflects our emotions as well as our presumed ‘rationality’—we inhabit realities that are subjectively interpreted through our own unique backgrounds and experiences. Ultimately, change requires that a particular set of human beings behave in new ways. Without encouraging and supporting different choices that make sense to those particular human beings, investment in change is wasted.”

About Jeanne Liedtka | Jeanne Liedtka is a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia. Her Columbia University Press books include Solving Problems with Design Thinking (2013), Designing for Growth (2011), and The Designing for Growth Field Book (2013), all from Columbia University Press. Her new book is Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector.

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