Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Review: The Design Of Business

Book Title: The Design of Business
Author: Roger Martin
Year of publication: 2009
Reviewer: Lindsay Brauer, CRS 625, Spring 2010

“The Design of Business” written by Roger Martin is a great source of collective data on various businesses that have adapted and used design thinking as a means to better their business.

Martin discusses the aspects of design thinking in the business world. Martin coins the term “knowledge funnel” and describes it as a path a business takes to create a successful product or service. The funnel is described as a great tool to help aid in the funneling in of details, implications, individual thinking processes, group thinking process and all other ideas that exist.

Martin discusses the two different parts of business; analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. Martin describes analytical thinking as:

“…Harnesses two forms of logic- deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning….the goal of this thinking is mastery through rigorous, continuously repeated analytical processes. Judgment, bias, and variation are the enemies.” (Martin, pg.5)

and describes intuitive thinking as “the art of knowing without reasoning”. Martin believes a business needs an equal amount of analytical and intuitive thinking for success. (Martin, pg. 6) The belief in the two forms of thinking is shared by Leron & Hazzan who believe that “analytical thinking is respectable by peers while intuitive is declared as illegitimate” (Leron & Hazzan, pg. 266)

The earlier definitions of design thinking was focused around the idea that it is a process for practical, creative resolution of problems or issues that looks for important future results (Simon, 1969). Stepping into the present, design thinking relays on reliability vs. validity according to Martin (pg. 26). Tim Brown from IDEO says design thinking is “a discipline, that uses the designers 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” (pg 62).

Martin brings in examples of businesses we all can relate to and are familiar with, and in some cases, felt the failure and then the recovery due to design thinking. Apple, IBM, Colgate, McDonalds and Procter and Gamble are just a few of the detailed experiences each business went through prior to implementing design thinking and after.

Being able to read the background stories of some of the most popular and well-known businesses is a great motivator to prove that a business if given the right direction, can be successful. The more recent stories such as Procter and Gamble allow readers who may have been affected by the crash in stocks, to have an understanding as to what occurred and why it took so long to recover and get back on track. The reader is given the details as to what steps they took, who they went to and why.

Martin discusses for every business mentioned that when they began to recover from failure the businesses were creating an equal balance between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. Diego Uribe’s belief in dynamic balance plays an important role in developing a successful business he states: “Dynamic balance is a state of equilibrium that emerges from the interaction between two or more forces” (Uribe, 2010).

Martin goes further with his research and discusses how exploration vs. exploitation are also factors that need to be known in order to have a successful design of business. “Quality Exploitation deals with the quality management practices that aim to control the known problems and processes…while quality exploration includes quality management practices that aim to explore the unknown and to identify and purse novel ideas/solutions” (Zhang, 2010). Martin’s concept of exploration vs. exploitation agrees with Zhang. Martin breaks down the concept each into seven parts that easily explain the purpose and the effect of each in the business world of design.

Martin speaks about the development of your own personal knowledge system, how we acquire and knowledge. He also discusses how your own personal knowledge system can be turned in to a successful business knowledge system. The importance of understanding personal knowledge system or any knowledge system is seen in research by David Chen, where his results then introduced a new concept to schools that focused on human nature and the nature of their knowledge (Chen, 2010).

The strengths of this book revolve around all the great examples of popular and well-known businesses. Not only does it allow you to see what occurred within the company before adopting design thinking, but it also gives you details of how they came about bringing design thinking to life in their business. Many of us watched on the news as some of these businesses crashed over the last few years and this book provides excellent insider information as to the business failure due to lack of design and the rebirth of the business including design. It clearly shows evidence and proof that creative thinking in a business is needed to be successful. The more businesses adapt this type of thinking and this type of creativity, the more successful they will become and the more creative and innovating products will be born.
The book lacks the instructional part of design thinking, or the step by steps as to what it is and how to successfully adopt it to any business. Although the examples were great, and had great detail as to how design thinking helped them, the book still lacked a formal review of the steps needed to successful adapt and maintain design thinking in a business. The book provides you with examples of success, but without the actual breakdown and steps needed to implement design thinking, the idea of creativity advancing seems slim without those steps being elaborated on or more clearly expressed.

Chen, D. (2010). Schooling as a Knowledge System: Lessons from Cramim Experimental School. Mind, Brain and Education, 4, 8.

Uribe, D. (Director) (2010, February 22). Harvesting Dynamic Balance for a Better World.. TEDx Tampa Bay. Lecture conducted from TEDx, Tampa Bay.

Leron, U., & Hazzan, O. (2009). Intuitive vs Analytical Thinking: Four Perspectives. Springer Science + Business Media, 1, 1-15.

Martin, R. (2009). The Design of Business. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

Simon, H. (1969). The Sciences of the Artificial. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Zhang, D. (2010). Quality exploitation versus quality exploration: measurements,
antecedents and performance implications. Industrial & Organizational Psychology, 70, 2616.

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