The challenges facing project managers and real estate practitioners are increasingly characterised by their high degree of complexity, involving unexpected, uncertain, unstable or unique situations. Sustainable projects increase this complexity due to the need to integrate an even wider range of criteria and stakeholders. It is therefore necessary that students are trained to deal with these problems. For many years these skills are taught through The Management Game. Groups of students are assigned complex problems which require a multi-disciplinary design approach. The Game has evolved through time, and is now taught in different forms at both BSc and Master’s levels. The intention is to provide students with an opportunity to apply design thinking and managerial knowledge to contemporary complex urban problems, and to learn from their own experience in dealing with them. This paper re-establishes theoretical foundations for the game in contemporary theories of design, reflection and learning.

A conceptual framework is developed to explicate the design process. The 5 contributing elements are distinguished:

  • generic elements in the design process,
  • concepts of reflection-in-action,
  • design-thinking
  • managing as designing
  • policy gaming

The management game not only bridges design and built environment management education, but also exemplifies the advantage teaching built environment management in an architectural context. Students learn to develop solutions for the contemporary complex challenges facing obsolescent and unsustainable urban areas, for which a proper understandings of building design and the market are essential.

The education of managers of building projects should focus in increasing the effectiveness of individual actors within the broader social context. This focus on personal awareness, design, performance and reflection makes the approach ideal for the education of students and professionals. By focusing on the higher level actions we avoid losing ourselves in chasing the ever changing body of management tools and techniques which will face anyone in the field, and concentrate on those cognitive and social skills that will be required for making sustainability in building projects possible.

The Management Game is a highly valued element in our curriculum. By making this design approach more explicit, and providing a contemporary theoretical framework, we intend to make the course more valuable to the academic community at large.