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An Interview With Roger Martin

If you were thinking this post was about an interview I conducted with Roger Martin, well, sorry to have misled – though I’d certainly like that opportunity. But the folks at IdeaConnection.com did interview Martin. They produce the weekly Innovation Newsletter which features in depth reviews with many great thought leaders who share their insights into innovation, creativity, teamwork and much more. I subscribe to their weekly e-mail alert which helps me stay on top of the latest interviews. I was pleased to discover a new interview with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto. “Diving Into Mysteries” is an interview well worth reading even if you have previously read Martin’s books such as The Opposable Mind and the Design of Business.

The bulk of the interview focuses on the themes explored in The Design of Business. It all starts with the mystery. Martin states that “Innovation is taking out of a mystery some form of understanding that enables you to focus on some things rather than others…You extract out of a broad, mysterious cloud the things that help you make sense of what you are seeing. That’s a heuristic. Heuristics are ways of thinking about a mystery that helps us to better understand it…The best innovators recognize mysteries, and are brave enough to dive into them.” If you’ve read the Design of Business this interview will refresh you on the core concepts, and if you’ve not yet had an opportunity to do so it will introduce you to Martin’s perspective on design thinking and introduce you to the knowledge funnel.

Speaking of perspectives on design thinking, I recently attended – for the first time – a webcast sponsored by the Stanford School of Design. I was pleased to become aware of these free learning opportunities (even with the promos for the School’s online workshops – but it is still a great way to hear some excellent speakers). The program I attended was titled “Design Thinking and Peak Performance” (sponsored by the Innovation Masters Series: Design Thinking & the Art of Innovation). I’ve provided the link so you can take a look at the webcast. If you have been following the literature on design thinking most of this will sound familiar to you, but I picked up a few new ideas and thoughts about design thinking.

Given my recent reading of the Martin interview I asked the speakers what their perspective was on what I refer to as the “IDEO School of Thought” on design thinking versus the “Roger Martin School of Thought” on design thinking. While the presenters agreed they could see how one could point to these two different schools of thought, they thought that they actually both emerged from earlier perspectives on design thinking that came out of the Stanford engineering and design program. As the speakers said “There is no difference in the underlying philosophy of design thinking” you have coming out of IDEO or the Rotman School of Business. If there was any difference to which they could point it would be that Martin’s vision of design thinking is oriented more to the world of business. They said it “Reframes our design thinking ideas into business concepts for the folks in the boardroom.” I thought that was a pretty good way to describe the difference. I thought the speakers also provided an excellent description of how to introduce design thinking to your colleagues and implement it for a project for the first time (listen the the Q&A period at the last five minutes of the webcast).

Finally, I came across a new book on design thinking (not out quite yet) titled “Design Thinking: Understand – Improve – Apply.” Since it is possible to “look inside” at Amazon I reviewed the table of contents. It looks like a book I’ll want to at least explore. The surprise I discovered is that the book costs $137 at Amazon. I have to think about this one. If you buy a copy, let me know.

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