Monday, October 12, 2009

The Design of Business

My most recent read was The Design of Business - Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by my friend Dr. Roger Martin (he sits on the RIM board with me).

Dr. Martin is Dean of the Rotman School of Business. One of his previous books was Opposable Minds: Winning Through Integrative Thinking. The theory of that book was that the ability to hold 2 opposing thoughts in mind often lead to a third superior view. The Design of Business has some of this "opposable" view thinking.

From The Design of Business book:

"What is Design Thinking Anyway?

Design thinking, as a concept, has been slowly evolving and coalescing over the past decade. One popular definition is that design thinking means thinking as as designer would, which is about as circular as a definition can be. More concretely, Tim Brown of IDEO has written that design thinking is "a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity." A person or organization instilled with that discipline is constantly seeking a fruitful balance between reliability and validity, between art and science, between intuition and analytics, and between exploration and exploitation. The design-thinking organization applies the designer's most crucial tool to the problems of business. That tool is abuctive reasoning."

Dr. Martin is a big advocate of strategy. I have found that good strategy in business can make successful business almost look easy. Of course you need good tacticians to execute but it is the strategy that takes a company to the next level. We had a lot of that phenomenon at SYNNEX. Good strategy with excellent underlying execution.

Design of Business suggests that we do not use enough intuition in business. The book advocates using intuition combined with analytical thinking to devise strategy. (The opposable - intuition and analytics can co-exist to the better good)

My experience is that people are more comfortable with neat and tidy analytics but often the more messy intuitive strategy and design works better. Successful business is a bit messy.

Martin suggests that Design Thinking can be learned, fostered and developed which is indeed a hopeful thought.

I found the book interesting because it uses RIM as an example (among others) and I am close to that one so can see exactly where Martin is saying when he says Design Thinking yields competitive advantage.

Dr. Martin argues that time bias - short term thinking (often caused by the public markets) can kill good decision making. I heartily agree. Long term thinking is key.

Good book. Well done Roger.


At 6:41 PM, Anonymous kevin. said...

Hi Jim,

I agree with that. The long term thinking of W.L Gore on the lattice concept for business is something that I think makes alot of sense.
what are your thoughts on that?


At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Design thinking is certainly getting a lot of attention. I wonder about all the "failures" not discussed that are associated with intuition. I hope that design thinking does not become the hot (new) way of justifiying every wild idea that can be created!?


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