Design thinking, a well known topic of discussion in the design discourse, offers exciting innovative possibilities when applied in other disciplines. This paper explores the potential of design thinking in the seemingly disparate discipline of Operations Research/Management Science (OR/MS). OR/MS develops mathematical models for analysis based on quantitative logic as an answer to management or other real life problems. Design shares this concern with trying to improve current situations but approaches these problems differently, using ‘designerly ways of thinking’.
This paper begins by briefly introducing key problem areas within the discipline of OR/MS. It then discusses two aspects that are central to the problems experienced within the discipline, namely the theory versus practice dichotomy, and the relevance of OR/MS in the increasingly complex management environment. The next section explains design thinking characteristics, based on a selection of models found in literature written about the topic. This is followed by a conceptual exploration of the characteristics of design thinking concepts as a solution to some of the problems identified in OR/MS, and the implications for design education.