Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Design of Business

I just finished reading Roger Martin's new book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. Martin, the Dean of Toronto's Rotman School of Business, has become a thought leader in the area of how design thinking can be applied to business, and I enjoyed his prior work on the "opposable mind." I think this book does a nice job of highlighting the power of what Martin calls "abductive thinking" - while also exposing the dangers of over-emphasizing reliability in organizations at the expense of exploratory, creative work. The book, however, has one substantial weakness. Martin fails to actually take the time to explain to the reader how designers do their work. As a result, the discussion of design thinking remains rather abstract and conceptual. It would have been helpful to walk the reader through the design process, and THEN show how that process has application to the broader field of business.


Unknown said...


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Andrew said...

Hi Michael,

I've read elsewhere that the book might be overly academic. I won't argue, but submit that the reasoning Rotman's Martin provides for WHY businesses should consider Design Thinking is compelling and necessary for making the case among cognitively wired executives.

Couple it with something like Berger's "Glimmer", and you're a little closer to understanding the process. IDEO provides the best frameworks I have seen, and Tim Brown's recent book is a must read.


Michael Roberto said...

Tim Brown's book is next on my list to purchase and read. I've read Kelley's book and many other case studies and articles about IDEO, a firm about which I love to teach.

Andrew said...

In that case, check this out:

I hope the self-serving link doesn't put me in the same category as the shameless commentor above.

I still recommend Glimmer as an intro to the designer's approach. I could send you my copy when I'm done, if you like.

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Unknown said...

Hi Michael,

(Your blog was referred to me by a student/fan of yours.) Interesting stuff! I was particularly drawn to this post,"The Design of Business", because it sounds a lot like Dan Pink's ideas. I've recently watched his TED talk which compelled me to read his book, "Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World". Being a 'Creative' in the business world myself, I would agree with the underlying idea. However, I do question why so-called revolutionary ideas need to be almost retaught to us? I've found that often times creativity = common sense. It's taking what we inherently know and applying it to the world around us. This takes us to the idea of the "servant leader", which we again see the same trend only this time its morals and values = common sense, taking what we already know and were raised with and applying that to the world around us. For some reason, it seems these things are lost at a certain point in the business world and need to be retaught. Can we not think for ourselves? The whole concept just seems crazy to me! haha : ) Then again, I suppose everyone's definition of 'common sense' is different...

Thanks for allowing me my 2 cents. I think your blog is great!