DesignThinking offers the next big advantage for business

Roger Martin at DesignThinkers 2010

Roger Martin on Design Thinking

Businesses say they want to innovate – yet most make the mistake of relying exclusively on analytical thinking when it comes to decision-making and strategy, says Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management.


His advice to businesses today?

Incorporate design thinking into your approach and create a critical new balance between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking.

“Businesses today are struggling with innovation. Analytical thinking is designed to produce reliable consistent outcomes,” Martin, author of the book The Design of Business: Why DesignThinking is the Next Big Advantage, told his audience at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre’s John Bassett Theatre. “Businesses get stuck on ‘proving’ things – and I say good luck ‘proving’ an idea in advance. The words ‘prove it’ are the two most dangerous words in the English language when it comes to innovation.”

Martin said he sees a paradox at work in today’s business community – businesses find it hard to innovate, yet designers who can help drive innovation typically find the business environment a hostile one in which to work.

He outlined his “Five Productive Steps” for anyone designing in “hostile territory” today:

1. Take design unfriendliness as a design challenge. Adopt a positive view and use design challenges for inspiration.

2. Empathize with the design unfriendly elements raised. Address fears and concerns and views that the business side brings up, with the goal of finding a solution through collaboration.

3. Speak the language of reliability as much as possible to make a connection. Decision makers in business want to hear that – not statements like “This is going to be awesome” or “this will knock your socks off!”

4. Use analogies and stories as potential proof points. Give examples that will create new levels of confidence in what you are trying to achieve.

5. Bite off as little as possible to generate proof. Don’t go too far into the future. Take it a step at a time. As Martin noted: “The best designers figure out how to turn the future into the past” so as to provide more immediate insights into what is possible.

“There has never been a better time for businesses to adopt more innovation,” Martin concluded.

MARK NUSCA for ADOBE PR in Canada.


About rgddesignthinkers

The Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD) is the professional body for graphic designers in Ontario. RGD grants graphic designers who qualify the right to use the designations Registered Graphic Designer and R.G.D., a quality signal of standards of professional practice. RGD has approximately 2800 members. Attracting over 1,000 participants and a full line-up of fascinating speakers, DesignThinkers is Canada’s largest, most important graphic design event. It’s an occasion to listen, learn and interact with peers from across the country.
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