Rotman on Design: A book review by Bob Morris

Rotman DesignRotman on Design: The Best on Design Thinking from Rotman Magazine
Roger Martin and Karen Christensen, Co-Editors
University of Toronto Press (2013)

The best on design thinking from Rotman Magazine: An abundance of valuable insights

Brilliantly co-edited by Roger Martin and Karen Christensen, the several dozen brief essays comprise the best single source for information, insights, and counsel on design thinking and then design doing of which I am aware. The material is carefully organized within three Parts:

1. The Foundation: Why Design? Why Now?
Introduction by John Maeda

2. How Design Fits into the Modern Organization
Introduction by Claudia Kotchka

3. A Skill Set Emerges
Introduction by Tim Brown

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of the book’s extensive coverage.

o Implications for Strategy as Design, Jeanne Liedtka (Pages 24-25)
o Characteristics of Design Thinking, Charles Owen (48-49)
o A few approaches to consider when effectiveness for “tribe” or brand is most important, Sohrab Vossoughi (57-59)
o “Open-Empathy” Initiatives, Dev Patnaik & Peter Mortensen (63-65)
o Some possible aspects of a more Darwinian approach to design, Tim Brown (68-71)
o The Validity vs. Reliability Battlefield, Roger Martin (88-91)
o Formulating an “Opportunity Map,” Alonzo Canada (94-97)
o “Sins & Lessons,” Jeanne Liedtka (106-109)
o Design vs. Design Thinking/Mindset & Methodology, Heather Fraser (118-121)
o The Designer’s Approach to Risk, Diego Rodriguez & Ryan Jacoby (129-133)
o Four Obstacles to Implementation of Creative Approaches, Robert Fabricant (148-151)
o Growing Influential Networks, Fred Dust & Ilya Prokopoff (155-157)
o Key components of fostering strategy as experienced in your organization, Jeanne Liedtka (161-163)
o Lessons from Breakthrough Engineering, Jeanne Liedtka & Robert Friedel (191-195)
o The importance of synthesis to design, Jon Kolko (215-219)
o How to Flip Orthodoxies, Bansi Nagli & Helen Walters (224-225)
o The Tools of Openness, Tim Leberecht (228-231)
o The Sustainable Shopping Experience: Store Interior, Steve Bishop & Dana Cho (235)
o Being: Design as a Mindset, and, Doing: Bringing Methods to the Madness, Heather Fraser (252-255)
o Using improvisation to Enhance Brainstorming Sessions, Elizabeth Gerber (258-260)

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, there is a Farmer’s Market at which some of the merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that same spirit, I show share a representative selection of excerpts that are representative of the material that originally appeared in Rotman Magazine.

“In the end, design is about [begin italics] shaping [end italics] a particular context, rather than [begin italics] taking [end italics] it as it is. Success today arises not from emulating others, but by evolving unique models, products and experiences — in short, creative solutions. That’s an end result we can all get behind, and design has already proven its value in achieving it.” Roger Martin (Page 9)

“Whether your task is to design a product or an interaction, a delivery system or a business model, design is about rethinking what you are doing. Make no mistake: it is not a route to easy answers. Rather than solving problems, design [begin italics] finds [end italics] problems, and rather than providing answers it [begin italics] asks questions [end italics]. And in our increasingly complex world, this is the stance we need to adopt.” Paola Antonelli (11)

“My hope is not that design will be everywhere, but that design will be [begin italics] where it is most needed [end italics], which is in creating new kinds of experiences and products, and addressing the challenges organizations are facing as they move from hierarchical to heterarchical entities. And from what I’ve seen, design is up to the task.” John Maeda (13)

“The late-great Peter Drucker once said, ‘The mission and purpose of every business is to satisfy the customer.’ In our complex and information-saturated world, we often lose sight of this. Leaders tend to focus on questions like, ‘What should we do next?’ rather than, ‘What does my customer need?’ The concept of design will bring you back to your customer, every single time. And if you want to create value these days, that is where you have to be.” Claudia Kotchka (73)

“Let’s face it: the evidence before us is that our world is not going to get any less complicated or volatile. As a result, organizations have to be more adaptable and more resilient that ever before. As today’s leading companies have shown, the key components of adaptation and resiliency are innovation, creativity, and design. Nature’s solution to change has always been to create and evolve, and in my view, the smartest organizations will embrace this stance going forward.” Tim Brown (165)

Roger Martin and Karen Christensen deserve most of the credit for the design thinking that selected and organized the material; they then supervised the design doing in a collaboration with others that made their shared vision a reality. Its production and aesthetic values are of very high quality, as are the text and illustrations. Ben Weeks, Stefanie Schram, and staff at Underline Studio, and Andora Graphics are among those who also deserve commendation. This is a volume that I hope you will soon hold in your hands.

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1 Comment

  1. Ben Weeks on October 16, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to review and share nice quotes from the book as well as mention Underline, Stefanie, Andora and my work.

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