Conference PaperPDF Available

Digital Leadership



Leadership is an important quality in organisations. Leadership is needed to introduce change and innovation. In our opinion, in architectural and design practices, the role of leadership has not yet been sufficiently studied, especially when it comes to the role of digital tools and media. With this paper we intend to initiate a discussion in the eCAADe community to reflect and develop ideas in order to develop digital leadership skills amongst the membership. This paper introduces some important aspects, which may be valuable to look into when developing digital leadership skills.
Digital Leadership
Tadeja Zupancic1, Johan Verbeke2, Henri Achten3,
Aulikki Herneoja4
1University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture 2KU Leuven, Faculty of Archi-
tecture Sint Lucas / Aarhus School of Architecture 3Czech Technical University in
Prague, Faculty of Architecture 4University of Oulu, Oulu School of Architecture
1 2
3 4
Leadership is an important quality in organisations. Leadership is needed to
introduce change and innovation. In our opinion, in architectural and design
practices, the role of leadership has not yet been sufficiently studied, especially
when it comes to the role of digital tools and media. With this paper we intend to
initiate a discussion in the eCAADe community to reflect and develop ideas in
order to develop digital leadership skills amongst the membership. This paper
introduces some important aspects, which may be valuable to look into when
developing digital leadership skills.
Keywords: digital leadership, research by design, creative practice, design
research, impact
Digital tools are part and parcel of contemporary
practice in architecture and in the academic envi-
ronment. Everyone is aware of the potential of
tools such as parametric design, Building Information
Modelling (BIM), generative design, and so on. High-
profile projects such as the British Museum Great
Court, Smithsonian Institution Courtyard roof, Bei-
jing New Airport Terminal Building, Arnhem Central
Transfer Hall, and so on could not have been realized
without such technologies. Characteristic for leading
offices that are pushing the envelope of architectural
design is that they have an integral view of the archi-
tectural design and the digital tools that enable such
design - we would call this "digital leadership."
In this position paper we outline a number of relevant
aspects related to "Digital leadership." Wehope to de -
rive from this a first attempt to define digital leader-
ship, but we are well aware that this very new con-
cept can only be developed through collaborative ef-
fort between academic and practice partners.
This section is focused to the digital leadership im-
pact potentials at diverse levels and scales. The lead-
ership position, when achieved, seeks for and offers
a high level of impact on the society - in its essence.
This impact includes a better transfer of knowledge
between sectors and disciplines, stronger networks.
Which leadership styles are most effective in this
Workshops - Volume 1 - eCAADe 34 |63
sense, appropriate for the contemporary society and
in diverse socio-cultural settings?
The shift from the creative applications of digi-
tal tools and communication interfaces towards lead-
ing the development of the digital initiative and sup-
port of the design process, from responding to driv-
ing, changes the impact flow essentially. The impact
from the digital is shifted to the impact on the dig-
ital realm - and far beyond. The digital realm may
become design-led but still and even more powerful.
The integrated power of the creative research/prac-
tices within the diverse digital domains seems to po-
tentially create an important impact on the society as
a whole.
The knowledge collected in a digital database is
highly specialized and still distributed (Kocaturk and
Medjdoub 2011) rather than integrated. How can
the idea of the digital leadership impact the essential
knowledge integration? It offers a wider view, miss-
ing in the last decades of architectural computing.
This wider view is also a potential for a wider impact.
To the communities of practice and research that we
cannot even imagine.
However, the identification of the potential and
actual impact of digital leadership is not as easy
as it seems on the first inspection. What is share-
able/transferrable from/to design research through
practice/practice based research (Rendell 2004, Os-
terle and Otto 2010, Koskinen 2011, Schaik
and Johnson 2011, Verbeke and Zupancic 2014) and
how? How/where can we find the initial and also the
longer-term evidence of the added value of what we
are doing for diverse communities? How to find and
monitor the evidence of the quality of the impact?
The shift to social science research is essential here.
We are far from the potentially misleading calcula-
tions of the 'impact factor' from the research dissem-
ination databases.
The initial questions to identify the (potential)
impact are: Who/how/with what do we want to ad-
dress? How can we develop the arguments about
the relevance of what we are doing, especially in the
case of a high level of research singularity? Where
and how do we seek recognition (Hatleskog 2015)?
How do we identify recognition in relation to the
topic discussed? How can we change the commu-
nity where we are able to identify recognition? How
is this related to the media we use for communica-
tion? Who can we address if we change the commu-
nication mode?
How do we communicate the design ideas with our-
selves and with others? Who are these others - in the
case of digital leadership? How can we achieve the
leadership position in relation to the flexible and re-
sponsive media use and development?
The studies of design media have already shifted
from the obsession with the digital to more hetero-
geneous inclusiveness of the diverse analog options.
On one side the development of the BIM modeling
(intended for professional collaboration) and the po-
tential of rapid prototyping both clearly lead to the
sculptural way of thinking about architecture. Archi-
tecture becomes a pure object, a sculpture, a mon-
ument. The dimensions of the spatial contextualisa-
tion often move to other areas, to landscape architec-
ture, to painting. This is the consequence in the cases
where the cognitive visualisation is used more for the
discussion with clients and general public (in urban
design) than for the self-reflection within the design
process. How can we overcome these tendencies?
Some further questions: How the use of media
influences the design thinking? How do we choose
and develop the media in relation to the way we
think? What drives the main media flows, what are
the triggers of the changes (Holder 2015)? How can
we start the leading position in this process, being
aware of the potential shifts within the design think-
ing, that originate from or lead to the media devel-
opment? How can we lead the public behaviour of
creative practices through the media development?
Based on the work of Henk Borgdorff (2010), EAAE
produced the following definition of research by de-
64 |eCAADe 34 - Workshops - Volume 1
"In architecture, design is the essential feature.
Any kind of inquiry in which design is a substan-
tial constituent of the research process is referred to
as research by design.In research by design, the ar-
chitectural design process forms a pathway through
which new insights, knowledge, practices or prod-
ucts come into being. It generates critical inquiry
through design work. Therefore research results are
obtained by, and consistent with experience in prac-
Following the Frascati manual, research and ex-
perimental development is creative work undertaken
systematically to increase the stock of knowledge-
including knowledge of humanity, culture, and
society-and the use of this stock of knowledge to de-
vise new applications (OECD).
The crucial aspect is that knowledge can be
emerging or produced through designing. This is
in line with the work of Donald Schön (1983) who
stimulated practitioners (including but beyond de-
sign) to actively reflect on their activities (design or
other) and to consolidate these reflections into more
explicit knowledge. There reflections can be on two
levels: a) on the use of digital tools and environments
to contribute to a better design and b) on digital tools
to support the development and sharing of design
Within digital leadership, it seems beneficial that
digital leaders act on three levels: a) stimulate mem-
bers of the organization to consolidate knowledge
from their individual activities; b) consolidate and
share knowledge within the team or group to de-
velop a deeper understanding and c) brokerage
knowledge between members of the organization
but also bring external knowledge into the organiza-
The main questions, which are then arising, in-
clude the following: which (digital) tools can help
members of the organization to develop and share
knowledge? Which knowledge processes need to
be facilitated and stimulated in order to learn from
the use of digital tools for designing? Which Which
knowledge processes need to be facilitated and stim-
ulated in order to develop knowledge form the de-
sign activities? Which skills and competencies are
needed for a digital leader?
As described in Verbeke (2013) it is explained there
are many forms of knowledge which are all important
for our actions and understanding of the world. In
Verbeke and Glanville (2006) it is stated that knowl-
edge is much more than the traditional understand-
ing of explicit written-down knowledge. Tacit knowl-
edge is discussed since Polanyi (1966). The distinc-
tion between mode 1 and mode 2 knowledge was in-
troduced in Gibbons et al. (1994). Effable, embedded
and embodied knowledge are frequently used to in-
dicate specific types of knowledge.
Integrative knowledge is developed while iden-
tifying, connecting, synthesizing and demonstrating
knowledge and skills that are gaining from all areas of
life, in our case more specifically in the field of digital
technology and architectural design.
In Peet et al. (2011) it is concluded that focus
on integrative knowledge leads to increased capac-
ity to: 1. identify, demonstrate and adapt knowledge
gained within/across different contexts; 2. adapt to
differences (i.e. in people and situations) in order to
create solutions; 3. understand and direct oneself as
a learner; 4. become a reflexive, accountable, and re-
lational learner; 5. identify and discern one's own and
others' perspectives; and 6. develop a professional
digital identity.
While designing and while directing develop-
ments, it is crucial to combine and integrated dif-
ferent types of knowledge. It is well known that
a field developed when implicit and explicit knowl-
edge both develops and interact with each other.
For a digital leader, it then becomes important
to be able to manage these different types of knowl-
edge and to be able to integrate them in activities,
innovation and development. But, how to do this?
Are there heuristics? Are there specific ways for doing
this? For facilitating that knowledge get integrated.
Workshops - Volume 1 - eCAADe 34 |65
That knowledge form different fields and disciplines
gets combined and integrated into new ideas and de-
signs? What skills are needed to facilitate such pro-
cesses? Which role can a digital leader play in archi-
tectural offices? And how can the variety of experi-
ences by brought together to develop a deeper un-
derstanding and contribute to better designs?
Leadership in design originates from a keen under-
standing of all aspects of design. Digital leadership
is not different in this respect. The complex nature of
design makes it impossible that any advanced level of
design can be obtained through digital means only.
Therefore, a "digital leader" not only has knowledge
and mastery of digital techniques, but also of pro-
cess management, materials, analogue techniques,
and so on that we can find in design leaders as well.
What stresses the "digital" in digital leadership how-
ever, is an acute understanding how "digital" can be
a unifying set of methodologies and technologies to
bring skills and knowledge together.
Computers have been used in architecture for
about six decades. Throughout this period there
have been a lot of developments, not only in com-
puter aided architectural design itself, but also in ar-
chitecture (the application area of CAAD), informa-
tion & communication technology (the base tech-
nology for CAAD), and society itself (the context in
which architecture unfolds). Major advances have
occurred in Human-Computer Interface (the ease by
which architects can use CAAD), visualization, com-
plexity and size (the degree to which comprehensive
models can be built), data exchange (to support in-
formation exchange between experts), reality cap-
ture, adapting software (through scripting languages
like Grasshopper) and output to reality (rapid proto-
typing and design-to-production pipelines).
Despite these advances there are also still areas
where progress is lacking. Architects are still slow to
pick up simulation technology in design; the concep-
tual design process and hence it's support remains
largely unclear; the same applies for collaborative de-
sign; BIM has yet to reach maturity; reliable costing
is still far way; and sustainable and safe designs and
processes have not yet been reached.
The most dominant technology to integrate de-
sign in a comprehensive format is Building Informa-
tion Model. BIM is based on the long-standing vi-
sion of a shared data and process model formulated
as early as the 1970'ies (Eastman 1980, Kalay 2004,
66-68). Whereas early visions included all phases of
the design process, BIM today is geared towards pro-
duction of final phase documentation - a task which
is of high complexity but occurs after most design
work has been carried out. Pushing design and dig-
ital technologies forward then, does not rely solely
on BIM but on a wide range of additional software
and techniques. It is in particular in the selection of
relevant techniques within a proper framing (Schön
1983) that the most interesting advances are made.
Within Schön's understanding of design as a se-
ries of naming - framing - moving - evaluating, the de-
sign process takes on a guided bottom-up approach.
By naming the architect sets the boundaries of the
current issue in design; framing sets the actual prob-
lem and way of thinking of the problem - these two
steps influence the choice of (digital) design technol-
ogy. By moving the architects creates one or more
design solutions - with creating also meaning gener-
ating through some digital tool if necessary, followed
by evaluation to check whether the process is going
in the right direction. This process is not completely
bottom-up as this would imply ad-hoc reaction to
problems as they become apparent, but it fueled by
experience and top-down set goals.
There is not one single selection of digital do-
mains that gets the job done. The skill of the digital
leader lies in a confident and fluent command of sev-
eral design techniques (digital or not) that best fit the
current and overall design strategy.
Leadership is a term that originates mainly from or-
ganizational sciences. There is a great amount of re-
search on the aspect how leadership is compounded
66 |eCAADe 34 - Workshops - Volume 1
of interpersonal skills and managerial skills (de Vries
et al. 2010), but the amount of research on leadership
in a design context is almost non-existent. Pahl's et
al. (1999) review of 12 years interdisciplinary empiri-
cal studies of engineering design in Germany shows
that leadership in design is not well understood.
Leadership is often viewed as a negative thing,
where a person is perceived as dominating and set-
ting a course without consideration of others. In de-
sign, where often results are achieved through team-
work, such attitudes may have an adverse effect on
the quality. Lee and Cassidy (2007) discuss leader-
ship in industrial design - they identify among oth-
ers "the leader as a catalyst of organization change"
which seems to be the closest to a "digital leader."
The list of good leadership traits at the end however,
includes mostly interpersonal skills (personal char-
acteristics, maintain friendship, attitudes and values,
leading styles, and proper roles). This list stresses the
team player aspect of good leadership.
Adams et al. (2011) stress strategic leadership
in particular in cross-disciplinary team. More specifi-
cally, among others they identify the ability to "mak-
ing or enabling conceptual connections" and "fa-
cilitating systems-oriented strategies or frameworks
that leverage diverse perspectives" as important fac-
tors for leadership success. It is precisely in this area
of speculative and multi-facetted work that digital
leadership operates as well.
In a managerial context the only example we can
find is described in Buhse (2012). Buhse stresses agile
management as an important building block for suc-
cessful Enterprise 2.0 business model, including as-
pects like team-based formulation of agenda, goals,
and strategies. He sees the digital leader as mod-
erator, bridge builder, and network organizer rather
than classical top-down manager.
We define in our workshop "digital leadership"
on two levels: (a) a particular skill set of a designer
that allows him or her to push the frontiers of design
- therefore on the individual level - being a digital
leader by example; (b) a particular skill set of a per-
son to advance game-changing technologies in a de-
sign team or organization - therefore on the organi-
zational level - being a digital leader by team effort.
This paper initiates a discussion on the role of digital
leadership in current architectural practice and de-
sign. It introduces 6 key elements: impact, media, re-
search by design, integrative knowledge, digital do-
mains and leadership itself. These elements should
be seen as a start of further research on skill, compe-
tences related to digital leadership and how we can
understand and use these skills in practice.
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68 |eCAADe 34 - Workshops - Volume 1
The aim of this study is to investigate the moderator effect of Digital Leadership on the relationship between employees' perceptions of digital literacy and their motivation to access digital technologies. For this purpose, data was collected on white-collar employees through questionnaires and related analyzes were made. In the research, reliability analyzes, exploratory and confirmatory factor analyzes, correlation analyzes, simple regression analyzes and hierarchical regression analyzes were performed. As a result of the analyzes, it has been found that digital leadership has a moderator effect on the relationship between employees' digital literacy perceptions and their motivation to access digital technologies. Based on the results of the literature review, it was seen that no similar study was conducted. Therefore, the research reveals original results. However, it also points to important results for practitioners.
Full-text available
Wie digitaal wil, zijn moet leiden. Deze scriptie betreft een kwalitatief gebruiksonderzoek naar de attitude en verwachtingen ten aanzien van de betekenis, karakteristieken, rol en noodzaak van leiderschap tijdens de digitale transformatie van organisaties in België. In het bijzonder is de studie een exploratie, beschrijving en profilering van digitaal leiderschap. Uit de resultaten blijkt dat de attitude van leiders ten aanzien van het gebruik van digitale technologie en de wijze waarop leiders omgaan met verandering het succes van digitale transformatie in organisaties kan beïnvloeden. (Digitaal) leiders hebben een ondersteunende rol in het promoten en verspreiden van het digitale idee in organisaties. Het wordt aangeraden dat (digitaal) leiders een inclusieve visie en strategie opstellen teneinde alle organisatieleden te motiveren om digitale vaardigheden en competenties te ontwikkelen. Via het aanbieden van 25 fiches over het profiel van digitaal leiders hoopt de onderzoeker de dialoog omtrent digitaal leiderschap in België aan te scherpen.
Full-text available
This paper presents results from a study which tested the validity of a conceptual model which proposes six dimensions of integrative knowledge and learning that result from students engaging in the core activities associated with the Integrative Knowledge Portfolio Process and Generative Knowledge Interviewing. These methods facilitate learning experiences that help students to identify, connect, synthesize and demonstrate knowledge and skills they are gaining from all areas of life. Six hundred and twenty students (both traditional and non-traditional) from 14 different learning environments across two campuses responded to pre/post surveys before and after they engaged with these methods. Results showed that students made significant gains on all six dimensions of integrative knowledge and learning which resulted in their increased capacity to: 1. identify, demonstrate and adapt knowledge gained within/across different contexts; 2. adapt to differences (i.e. in people and situations) in order to create solutions; 3. understand and direct oneself as a learner; 4. become a reflexive, accountable, and relational learner; 5. identify and discern one???s own and others' perspectives; and 6. develop a professional digital identity. Students??? gains on these dimensions were significant regardless of their academic discipline, race/ethnicity, gender, year in school or the type of learning environment in which they engaged with the Integrative Knowledge Portfolio Process.
Full-text available
This paper presents three lenses for interpreting design thinking: a framework on learning to become professionals, and two interpretations of this framework that speak broadly to aspects of 'design thinking'. The first lens draws on a framework for an embodied understanding of professional practice' and provides a way to describe how professionals form and organize their knowledge and skills into a particular 'professional-way-of-being'. The second and third lenses provide examples of using this framework to interpret existing results from phenomenographic studies on ways of experiencing design and ways of experiencing cross-disciplinary practice. We conclude with a discussion of how these three lenses contribute to a working synthesis of design thinking and learning.
Full-text available
Design-oriented research in the Information Systems (IS) domain aims at delivering results which are both of scientific rigor and of relevance for practitioners. Today, however, academic researchers are facing the challenge of gaining access to and capturing knowledge from the practitioner community. Against this background, the paper proposes a method for Consortium Research, which is supposed to facilitate multilateral collaboration of researchers and practitioners during the research process. The method’s design is based on a self-evaluating design process which was carried out over a period of 20 years. The paper’s contribution is twofold. First, it addresses the science of design, since it proposes guidance to researchers for practitioner collaboration during the process of artifact design. Second, the method is an artifact itself, hence, the result of a design-oriented research process.
Full-text available
Purpose The purpose of this study was to investigate the relations between leaders’ communication styles and charismatic leadership, human-oriented leadership (leader’s consideration), task-oriented leadership (leader’s initiating structure), and leadership outcomes. Methodology A survey was conducted among 279 employees of a governmental organization. The following six main communication styles were operationalized: verbal aggressiveness, expressiveness, preciseness, assuredness, supportiveness, and argumentativeness. Regression analyses were employed to test three main hypotheses. Findings In line with expectations, the study showed that charismatic and human-oriented leadership are mainly communicative, while task-oriented leadership is significantly less communicative. The communication styles were strongly and differentially related to knowledge sharing behaviors, perceived leader performance, satisfaction with the leader, and subordinate’s team commitment. Multiple regression analyses showed that the leadership styles mediated the relations between the communication styles and leadership outcomes. However, leader’s preciseness explained variance in perceived leader performance and satisfaction with the leader above and beyond the leadership style variables. Implications This study offers potentially invaluable input for leadership training programs by showing the importance of leader’s supportiveness, assuredness, and preciseness when communicating with subordinates. Originality/value Although one of the core elements of leadership is interpersonal communication, this study is one of the first to use a comprehensive communication styles instrument in the study of leadership.
The book contains the papers developed from the presentations at the Distributed Intelligence in Design Symposium, held in Salford in May 2009. In this context, Distributed Intelligence refers to the interdisciplinary knowledge of a range of different individuals in different organisations, with different backgrounds and experience, and the symposium discussed the media, technologies and behaviours required to support their successful collaboration. The book focusses on: how parametric and generative design media can be coupled with and managed alongside Building Information Modelling tools and systems how the cross-disciplinary knowledge is distributed and coordinated across different software, participants and organizations the characteristics of the evolving creative and collaborative practices how built environment education should be adapted to this digitally-networked practice and highly distributed intelligence in design The chapters address a range of innovative developments, methodologies, applications, research work and theoretical arguments, to present current experience and expectations as collaborative practice becomes critical in the design of future built environments.
There are at present considerable concerns with how architectural research will be assessed in the Research Assessment Exercise ( RAE ) of 2008. In RAE 2001, most architectural research was submitted to one of three Units of Assessment (UoA): 33 Built Environment , 60 History of Art, Architecture and Design , and 64 Art and Design . There were subtle, but important, differences in output definition and assessment criteria between UoA 33 and UoA 64 with respect to practice-led research. Most importantly, in UoA 33 practice-led outputs were accepted by the panel, but only as publications, whereas UoA 64 assessed practice-led research outputs accompanied by a 300-word statement that clarified the contributions of that particular research to the development of original knowledge in the field. The diversity of methods and complexity of output types, combined with the composition of UoA 33, led to results that many feel did not properly reflect the strengths of architectural design, particularly practice-led research. This methodology essentially disenfranchised a significant part of the community from the rae process to the detriment not only of the community, but to the credibility of the process itself.
Although team leadership and its relationship with creative performance has attracted significant attention recently from academia and practicing managers, its implications on the creativity of industrial design teams have not been explored systematically. To avoid unfounded generalisations, this paper is aimed at identifying the main factors which may influence creative enhancement specifically in the context of industrial design leadership in Taiwan, a research tool suitable for this, and for similar investigations under different cultural conditions, is presented.
In this résumé we summarise the most important empirical results we achieved during the 12 years interdisciplinary research of psychologists and engineers. In the first part, general strategies during the design process and their impact on the result are presented. The second part discusses personal characteristics as prerequisites of individual designers influencing the process and the result, e.g. methodological training, heuristic competence or experience. The group and its various influences are discussed in part three. Unsolved questions and some issues as a scope for further research complete this paper.This conclusion was updated and modified by the editors based on elements of a paper by Gerhard Pahl[1].