Roger Martin is the leading proponent of design thinking at business schools. He doesn't mean merely teaching students about the importance of cool-looking stuff. He sees value in the designer's approach to solving problems -- the integrative way of thinking and problem-solving that can be applied to all components of business. Martin's take on the future of management is shooting through innovation circles: "Businesspeople will have to become more 'masters of heuristics' than 'managers of algorithms."' What does that jargon mean? Martin is saying that corporate managers will have to become flexible problem-solvers rather than sophisticated number-crunchers if they're to be creative and successful. "With the forces of competition today, it will make the difference between success and mediocrity," Martin predicts.
Martin launched his first design-based course in 2003 in partnership with Ontario College of Art & Design. It's an elective, but by the 2006-2007 school year, Martin plans to make design thinking a part of Rotman's core curriculum, which students will be required to take. Eventually, the dean would like to offer a rich design program that will lead to a new MBD degree -- Master of Business Design -- as an alternative to the standard MBA. In an era of vast change, the "administration" of business isn't enough. You have to design businesses. "Business education is too inclined to teach you to accept trade-offs," he says.
A Canadian native and graduate of Harvard Business School, the 48-year-old Martin left a position as co-head of a consulting firm to take the Rotman post. He's working with Patrick Whitney, director of the Institute of Design, and David Kelley, co-founder of design consultancy IDEO and head of the new Stanford Design School, to create a new design-based curriculum that can be used in business schools. Martin practices what he preaches: He advises Procter & Gamble Co. (PG ) chief A.G. Lafley, among other chief executives.
By Robert Berner in Chicago