What is Design Science?

Initially conceptualized by Herbert Simon (1996), the design science paradigm “is fundamentally a problem solving paradigm, [which] seeks to create innovations that define the ideas, practices, technical capabilities, and products through which the analysis, design, implementation and management and use of… systems can be effectively and efficiently accomplished.” (Hevner, 2004) The aim of design science is to produce new artifacts that can be used to enable different modes of problem solving, or to solve emerging problem categories. The framework for the design science paradigm establishes innovation as an outcome that results from the design process.

This field is interesting and important to quality researchers because applying the philosophy can help us more rigorously design, develop and validate new quality systems and new tools for quality improvement.

I’m particularly intrigued by this paradigm because it embraces learning-by-doing: “In the design science paradigm knowledge and understanding of a problem domain and its solution are achieved in the building and application of the designed artifact.” To understand it, you build it. Software developers understand this instinctively, but the tools used by project managers can’t handle the uncertainty. Can we use the philosophical approach of design science to build and validate new tools to improve the project management process itself?

Hevner, A., March, S.T., Park, J. & Ram, S. (2004). Design science in information systems research. MIS Quarterly, 28(1), March 2004, pp. 75-105.
Simon, H. (1996). The sciences of the artificial, 3rd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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