Managing the unknown – Design theory and methods for innovation

picto digital innovation Digital & Innovation

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Domaines de compétences visés


This 30-hour face-to-face course, held during PSL Week in November 2024 (25/11 to 29/11), is an in-depth introduction to managing the unknown with the support of design theory. Contemporary issues of managing transitions (climate, energy, mobility, digital…) and managing crisis (pandemia, inflation, energy prices, war…) call for a capacity to organize collective action in the unknown – this capacity is expected from all kinds of managers, and in particular scientists, engineers, and designers. The capacity is today more easily acquired thanks to the advances in design theory: the theory of design (C-K theory) unifies theories of creativity and theories of knowledge and allows the development of methods and organizations adapted to the collective and constructive exploration of the unknown. Design theory brings solid foundation for designing transition and designing resilient solutions to face contemporary crises. These approaches are essential today for those who wish to train in the management of innovation, scientific entrepreneurship, and the management of contemporary transitions.

The course alternates between theoretical lessons in the morning and practical workshops in the afternoon. Practicing designers will also be invited to speak about their experience of design in various areas (business, science, art).

The course begins with a presentation of the challenges posed by reasoning in the unknown and design theory. From this theoretical basis, we will discuss changes in the organization of design, particularly in companies (history of R&D, recent development of « innovation » functions, etc.). We will deepen the question of expertise and knowledge structures adapted to generativity (in engineering, science, design). We will then deal with cognitive aspects (fixations, defixations) and the resulting leadership issues. We will then study the questions of evaluation and economic management and the forms of risk management in the unknown. Finally, we will address the issues of governance and management at the level of innovation ecosystems (« entreprise à mission », architects and colleges of the unknown).


In the end of the course, participants should have acquired the following capacities:

  • On design reasoning: capacity to build a simple C-K; capacity to evaluate a C-K (based on the acquisition of the notions: C-space, K-space, operators, double expansion
  • On knowledge for generativity: capacity to learn and develop knowledge for generativity (based on the acquisition of the notions: independent knowledge, splitting knowledge)
  • On leadership for defixation: capacity to give relevant input to help team members to overcome their own fixation, ie capacity to act as a defixating leader (based on the acquisition of the notions: fixations, defixation)
  • On economic evaluation in design: capacity to rely on economics criteria for improved exploration (based on the acquisition of the notions of design of decision, design in front of sacrificial dilemmas, design for genericity, the value of knowledge in design activity)
  • On organization of collective design: capacity to rely on and make relevant use of R&D capacities in companies, capacity to organize innovative design processes (based on the acquisition of the notions: organization principles of rule-based and innovative design, dominant design, value management / design space, KCP processes)
  • On design and ecosystems: introduction to “double impact” research and “mission-driven” companies.


Monday, November 25 : Design Theory

Pedagogical goal :

Acquire basic competences in design reasoning in the perspective of managing the unknown

Program (and external speakers/lecturers) :

  • Course: Introduction: managing in the unknown
  • Course: design theory
  • Innovative design workshop 1: recognize/propose a concept, first partition, dichotomy, de-partition

Tuesday, November 26 : Design-oriented organization – from R&D to RID

Pedagogical goal :

Acquire competences on organizing to face the unknown in companies (rule-based design and innovative design organizations)

Program (and external speakers/lecturers) :

  • Course: History of R&D – rule-based design, dominant design
  • Course : design oriented organizations in companies – Conference by D. Laousse, Innovation Department SNCF
  • Innovative design workshop 2: C-K on dominant design

Wednesday, November 27 : Formal foundations of design theory and the generativity of knowledge

Pedagogical goal :

Acquire competences on defixating leadership

Program (and external speakers/lecturers) :

  • Course: formal foundations of design theory: forcing and generative processes – conference by A. Hatchuel, Academy of Technologies
  • Course: design & art – teaching splitting knowledge at Bauhaus
  • Innovative design workshop 3: splitting a knowledge model

Thursday, November 28 : Design cognition and designing decision in the unknown

Pedagogical goal :

Acquire competences on knowledge for generativity

Program (and external speakers/lecturers) :

  • Course: design and cognition – conf. by Marine Agogué, HEC Montréal
  • Course: design and decision
  • Innovative design workshop 4 : defixation, design decisions
  • Conference by Jan Dick (Friedrich Alexander University – Microelectronics Bauhaus): a design-oriented training of microelectronics engineers and scientists: the initiative of Microeletronics Bauhaus at Friedrich Alexander University and Fraunhofer IISB

Friday, November 29 : Design in science, design in firm’s governance

Pedagogical goal :

Acquire competences on design and contemporary industrial ecosystems

Program (and external speakers/lecturers) :

  • Course: design & science (Models with two interdependent designers – design ecosystems) – conf by Alexandre Azoulay, Mines Paris
  • Course: governance of the innovative firm – conf by Kevin Levillain, Mines Paris, chair of governance and theory of the firm


Target audience :

Courses of PSL week, open to practitioners who want to learn on how to manage the unknown relying on recent scientific advances in design theory.

Other participants to the course: PhD Students +Master students (M1 / M2 or 2A & 3A) – note that the course is also open to EELISA students

Prre-requisite :

No particular prerequisite unless:

  • Curiosity for creation and exploration in the unknown
  • An experience of model building (logical reasoning + empirical confrontation)
  • An experience of multi-disciplinarity
  • A taste for logic and rigor, even in the unknown (math background is not indispensable ; but mathematical rigor can help for practicing generativity!)


This is a 5 day course in one week, open to a multi-disciplinary audience. The diversity of participants is a strong asset in the pedagogy, which relies on active participation and interaction


Courses (occasionally taking the form of a conference given by expert speaker) in the morning

Workshop in the afternoon (in small group, supporting rich interactions between participants)

Participants are supposed to read one paper to prepare each course. Complementary readings are provided for each course.


Written exam at the end of the 5th day, composed of two main parts:

  • Quiz (simple questions) to check the acquisition of basic notions
  • Exercises to check the acquisition of basic competences


EXED : Certificate of training completion


Readings are distributed well in advance

Courses support are available in the end of each course

# 5 jours

# 3150 HT (3780 ttc)


Du 25 au 29 novembre 2024

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      Pics Le Masson Pascal

      Pascal Le Masson

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