Decision making in the software and product design and sustainable innovation: Introduction to the theory of decisions


Decisions seems to be the key not only to software and product design but to the prosperity of the whole nations. Why poor nations “get it wrong” was the questions that Robinson and Acemoğlu asked to explain the world inequality. They realised that economics needs “to understand how different types of policies and social arrangements affect economic incentives and behaviour”. Meaning that economics cannot assume that political problems are solved (2013: 68-69).

Marc Anderson, an investor with larger returns from investment in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Oculus VR (both sold to Facebook) and Skype (Forbes, 2016), has famously wrote an open editorial in the The Wall Street Journal in August 2011, claiming that software is eating the world (Wikipedia, 2016). But this is only business perspective, in the 1999 sci-fi film classic The Matrix, Leo – the main character decides to leave the current virtual existence and enter “the real one” instead.

While we do intent to stick mainly to the business and management perspective we are to examine the crossover of the software/product design and innovation with the decisions making in the process. This article will introduce the decisions theory, especially by using interdisciplinary approach as argued by Robinson and Acemoğlu and so trying to explain what was wrong in the new product and software design in several available cases from the past. This would enable us to set up the ground for the new research project where by design solution generation & screening we would design think a decision making support model in the software/product design.

To design we are referring by one of the definitions as solving problems activity, although we have no problem in acknowledging other definitions of design as + a creative activity, + a systemic activity, + an activity of coordination, and + an activity of coordination (Borja de Mozota, 2003). We refer to design management as engaging the design thinking in an organisations strategy. The practise of design management is evident across a range of disciplines, such as: + fashion, + architecture, + media, + entertainment, + advertising, and not least + software and games design (Best, 2006). Where design thinking is by definition the productive combination of the analytical and intuitive thinking (Martin, 2009). That is our connection with decision making theory. We intend to examine the supposedly theoretical agreement that intuitive (unconscious system 1) and rational (conscious system 2) processes, which result in either an intuition or rational arguments toward a decision alternative, complement each other in various tasks during new software and product design.

The research aims and objectives

Dumas and Minztberg have already in 1989 proposed two ways to manage design. Both ways should lead to infusion of design into the organisation. Mostly, because design as infusion works alongside, and especially within, other functions. “Design thus becomes a way of life in the organization.” (Dumas & Mintzberg, 1989).

Fast forward to 2016 and to one of most successful companies that is based on its software or if you wish is mainly internet based. In the annual letter to shareholders, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Amazon – Jeffrey P. Bezos has explained his view of the company as the invention machine and its sustainability and social invention. Bezos mentioned as a common pitfall for large organization a “one-size-fits-all” decision making. He explained Type 1 decisions as “consequential and irreversible or nearly irreversible – one-way doors – and these decisions must be made methodically, carefully, slowly, with great deliberation and consultation.”. There were also Type 2 decisions explained and argued that most of decisions are or rather should be of that type. Type 2 decisions are supposed to be changeable, reversible, in short they are two-way doors. Bezos goes further to explain that if “you’ve made a suboptimal Type 2 decision, you don’t have to live with the consequences for that long. You can reopen the door and go back through. Type 2 decisions can and should be made quickly by high judgement individuals or small groups.” (Bezos, 2016). What decisions have prevailed in the major innovations that have proved sustainable is the question we wish to explore in depth trough the introduction of the theory of decisions.

The software era allows for a different type of organization. Some authors have proposed new type of organizations, they call it the Responsive Organizations. The problem was supposed to be that all processes in current organisations are supporting the Type 1 decisions. Instead a responsive organization should “break down big decisions and jobs into smaller pieces that can be processed much more rapidly, replacing the illusion of top-down control over the future with real-time, active control over the present. It’s an organization where very few decisions are made for others, but many more decisions are being made in the open.” ( What does that mean for new product and software design to become and be sustainable innovations?

“Good design is good business” was said by Thomas J. Watson, Jr., who was IBM’s chairman and founded the company’s innovative Design Program (Kraus, 1989), as far back as in 1956. We intend to explain the decision theory behind in the new product and software design. Core insights will be presented at the conference.


Robinson, J. A. and Acemoğlu D. 2013, Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, Profile Books, London.

Forbes, 2016, Marc Andreessen profile,

Wikipedia, 2016, Marc Andreessen entry,

Bezos, Jeffrey P. 2016, 2016 Letter to shareholders,

Best, Kathryn. 2006, Design Management: Managing Design Strategy, Process and Implementation. AVA Book, Lausanne.

Martin, Roger L. 2009, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. Harvard Business Review Press, Boston.

Dumas, A., amd Mintzberg, H. 1989. Managing Design Designing Management. Design Management Journal, 1 (1), p. 37 – 43.

Borja de Mozota, B. 2003, Design management: using design to develop brand value and corporate innovation. Allworth Press, New York.

Kraus, W. (1989). Nurturing the Design Process. Design Management Journal, 1 (1), p. 44 – 48.

Parker, Jones C., 2016. Type 2 Organizations. Blog post:

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