Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education: An Interview and Discussion

Topics: Design, Management, Harvard Business School Pages: 25 (8677 words) Published: October 14, 2012
Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2006, Vol. 5, No. 4, 512–523.


Design Thinking and How It Will Change Management Education: An Interview and Discussion DAVID DUNNE ROGER MARTIN Joseph L. Rotman School of Management Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, is interviewed on the subject of “design thinking”—approaching managerial problems as designers approach design problems—and its potential impact on management education. Under a design-thinking paradigm, students would be encouraged to think broadly about problems, develop a deep understanding of users, and recognize the value in the contributions of others. In Martin’s view, the concept of design thinking can potentially address many of the criticisms currently being leveled at MBA programs. The interview is followed by a discussion and critique of the themes Martin raises.

........................................................................................................................................................................ INTRODUCTION The design of products and services is a critical component of business competitiveness, to the extent that major companies such as Procter and Gamble have committed themselves to becoming design leaders. Beyond product and service design, however, design thinking—approaching management problems as designers approach design problems—may have important implications for management, an emerging prospect that has begun to gain recognition in both academic literature and the business press. In The Sciences of the Artificial (1996), Herbert Simon calls for the establishment of a rigorous body of knowledge about the design process as a means of approaching managerial problems. In Managing as Designing (Boland & Collopy, 2004), several authors from the fields of design and management comment on the parallels between the two domains and explore the intellectual foundations for approaching managing as designing. The management press has also latched onto the potential of design as a way of approaching management. Publications such as Fortune and BusinessWeek regularly showcase design successes and comment on the relevance of design for managers. Nussbaum (2005b), for example, discusses the importance of innovation and how managers are being schooled in these approaches. 512

Nevertheless, the idea of applying design approaches to management is new and, as yet, largely undeveloped. Even as managers are adopting these approaches, academics and practitioners are attempting to define them. What has implications for managers ultimately will affect business schools. As managers become more interested in design methods, business students will need to develop competency and business schools will, in turn, be expected to provide courses in these approaches. At the same time, business schools are under intense criticism and, in the view of some, have reached a point of crisis. Both academics and management practitioners criticize MBA programs for their lack of relevance to practitioners, the values they impart to students, and their teaching methods (e.g., Bennis & O’Toole, 2005; Ghoshal, 2005; Mintzberg, 2004; Pfeffer & Fong 2004). My purpose in this interview is to explore the extent to which design thinking can address the problems afflicting business schools. As one of the leading proponents of design thinking in business, Roger Martin is an ideal choice of interviewee, as he gives us a window on understanding the scope of the concept and its potential for improving business education. Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto since 1998, Roger Martin


Dunne and Martin


is a former consultant and founding partner of Monitor Company. Martin has been at the forefront of...

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