Sunday, July 22, 2007

KaosPilot: A business school that teaches design? Are there lessons in this for India?

The most exciting business school that teaches management using design principles – KaosPilot – has established itself over the past 14 years and it is now expanding to other locations in Scandinavia and the rest of the World. The first school was located in Aarhus Denmark, founded by the visionary and tireless Uffe Elbaek, and it has now been expanded to new programmes in Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands and plans are afoot to set up ‘outposts” in San Francisco and Durban, South Africa. What are the principles of their success and what are the lessons for India?

Traditional business schools teach using the “Case Method”
KaosPilot teaches using the “Immersive Method”.
see the KaosPilot Homepage KaosPilot Website

The products from the school, its students – the KaosPilots – are Creative, Self aware and Disciplined and are ready to address the needs and challenges of the “Social Entrepreneurship Sector” in the words of the founder, which is the fourth sector that is achieving prominence when compared to the other three sectors namely the government supported public sector, the corporate and private sector and the not-for profit voluntary sectors, all of which aim to do good for their respective stake-holders, but have come in for intense criticism from a number of sources in recent times. The KaosPilot story is now well documented in the book available in English titled “KaosPilot A – Z” which can be obtained from their website as well as from Amazon. Further the KaosPilot website itself is full of information and insights from the project work done by the students over the years, all documented in the “Flight Navigator” a Journal produced regularly by the school available from this link below.

Uffe Elbaek and the KaosPilots have discovered that design works best when used to address the needs of the ‘fourth sector’ – a new space where the boundaries between the Public sector (district, state and national), the Private sector (companies and corporations) and the Voluntary sector (the not-for-profit organizations) have blurred and become less distinct – and can now be dubbed the “new social arena” and the “for-benefit” sector, all in the public interest but managed in a professional and accountable manner by individuals, organizations, institutions and companies using the “triple bottom-line approach” to judge their performance. Organisations that are characterized by being self-financing as well as being social, ethical and environmental in their sense of responsibility and actions.

The KaosPilot curriculum is therefore derived from the need to be entrepreneurial in orientation; located in an arena that lies between the disciplines of arts, culture and business; using the approaches of being playful, real-worldly and street-wise with risk-taking that is balanced and compassionate; all of which sets the aims and goals that are larger that the self – in a three year programme that is divided into basics, specialization and innovation years. Real situations and challenges are addressed by students working in teams and in live contact with stake-holders to develop empathy and reality contact that are rooted in the personal mastery of the unique competency model that is the hallmark of the KaosPilot programme. The five fold competency model includes Professional, Social, Change, Action and Sense-making competencies all integrated into their creative project and business design assignments. Yes, business design. They are in the field of designing new businesses and not just in managing business as the MBA’s do in their traditional programmes around the world. This is where design principles get integrated into the process of creating great managers, young entrepreneurs capable of building great new businesses that are located squarely in the ‘fourth sector ideology’ for a rapidly changing and increasingly transparent world order.

Model of the Emerging Designer

Does India need this kind of shift – from managing to designing – looking at design opportunities rather than at problems and problem-solving, kindling a new mind-set and a new capability to bring imagination into our actions across the various sectors and regions? I am convinced that it does. Somehow for me the efforts of the KaosPilots in distant Denmark echoes the ethos and values that NID has been advocating and applying inside our own curriculum and project based education programmes over the past forty years. The value systems that have been cherished and the work culture that had been instilled in our NID undergraduate programmes during the past four decades too need to be examined and discussed in detail in the manner in which the KaosPilot story has been articulated in the Kaospilot A-Z book. We may need to move as a nation from – specification following tendering process – with the why-reinvent-the-wheel-attitude of our administration, to an innovation-driven and opportunity-seeking government action in the enormous area of social and public design action that could be supported by the huge investments taking place in the 230 sectors of our economy today that are in desperately in need of design. All this can be facilitated by our new National Design Policy and be made into a reality for our people. This is perhaps what we can take away from the KaosPilot story, how it can perhaps be done by trained “design managers” and not just by designers alone. What do you think? Are our management schools listening?

Links and References for download:
KaosPilot Homepage
KaosPilot Homepage
The fourth sector pdf file 222kb
The fourth sector
KaosPilot Publications link
Internal and external links for downloads about KaosPilot

The authors home page can be viewed at this link Prof Ranjan's website


  1. Hi Ranjan.
    Its wonderful to see the blog and documentation of your works. I am glad and will keep visiting the blog.

    Rit Mishra

  2. Helle Rajan, Thanks for your great blog, and your interest in the Kaospilots. Looking forward to read further posts on KaosPiloting in wonderful India.

    Very best regards,
    Katja Cappelen

  3. Hello Ranjan!
    My name is Andrea and I am a Kaospilot (team 1) in Malmö, Sweden. Me and my class are going to Mumbai for our outpost in March through May. Right now we are looking for contacts and projects for us to work on during this time.
    I would very much like to know more about what you do and learn more about what you think we could do for Mumbai as Kaospilots!
    My e-mail is:

    Best regards/


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