Roger Martin

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12 design thinking rules from David Burney


One of my business partners at New Kind, David Burney, is an exceptional facilitator of design thinking sessions. David introduced me to design thinking and the work of IDEO (where many of the concepts behind design thinking were developed and applied to the business world). David taught me everything I know about facilitating projects and sessions using a design thinking approach.

At the beginning of any design thinking project, David shares a set of rules that help get every participant on the same page. The rules apply to everyone (including executives) and help create an optimal environment for creativity. If you are planning to run a project using a design thinking approach, you might want to consider sharing these rules with your group before you get started. I’ve used this list many times, and I promise, it really helps keep things on track.

1. Avoid the devil’s advocate: The devil’s advocate is someone who (purposely or accidentally) shoots down the ideas of others without taking any personal responsibility for his actions. The devil’s advocate often begins his objection with the phrase “Let me be the devil’s advocate for a second…”. The devil’s advocate often intends to be helpful by pointing out flaws in an idea, but ultimately this focuses people’s attention on what won’t work rather than exploring unexpected ways that it might work.

2. Make agendas transparent: Every participant should make their personal agendas as clear as possible.

3. Leave titles at the door: No one person’s ideas are worth more than anyone else’s.

4. Generate as many ideas as possible: During ideation, you are not trying to generate the best ideas; you are trying to generate the most ideas.

5. Build on the ideas of others rather than judging them: If someone else has an idea you like, build on it. If you don’t like an idea, share another one rather than critiquing.

6. Stay on time: Don’t let your ideation session spiral out of control. Each ideation session should be timed and should have a clear ending point.

7. State the obvious: Sometimes things that can seem obvious reveal great insight from their simplicity.

8. Don’t sell or debate ideas: Selling and debating ideas takes time away from generating new ideas.

9. Stupid and wild ideas are good: Sometimes the craziest ideas lead to the best ideas.

10. DTA stands for death to acronyms: Avoid acronyms—they are exclusionary because people who don’t know what they stand for will quickly be lost. If you must use an acronym, write what it stands for somewhere everyone can see it. Keep a running list of all acronyms used during the project or session.

11. Always understand in which stage of the process you are: When you are ideating, you are not critiquing ideas. But when ideation is over and you begin the process of selecting the best ideas, you’ll need to discuss the merits of each idea in a more traditional, analytical way.

12. Play is good, have fun: The more fun you are having as a group, the more creative ideas you’ll generate.

If you’d like to learn more about design thinking and how you can use it in your projects, I recommend any of the following books.

From the amazing team at IDEO:

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley
Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley
Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation by Tim Brown

Other great books to consider:

The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage by Roger Martin
Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value by Thomas Lockwood

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Want people to embrace the open source way? Don’t talk, do.


The June issue of Harvard Business Review features an interesting article by Roger Martin (one of the leading management minds of our time and author of the just published book Fixing The Game). The article tells the story of how Scott Cook, founder and current Chairman of Intuit, kicked off an effort to reinvent Intuit as a design-driven company.

I’ll leave it to Roger and HBR to share the story of how this initiative played out (hint: a very good case study of how to embed design thinking in the corporate world), but one particular lesson stood out for me that I’d like to highlight here.

When Cook kicked off the initiative, he did so by hosting two-day offsite event for the company’s top 300 managers. As part of this event, Cook gave a five-hour (wow!) PowerPoint presentation, during which he “laid out the wonders of design and how it could entice Intuit’s customers.”

As you might expect, the PowerPoint marathon didn’t go so well. From the article:

“But although the main event fell flat, the one that followed did not. Cook had met a young consulting associate professor at Stanford named Alex Kazaks, whom he’d invited to present for an hour at the offsite. Like Cook, Kazaks began with a PowerPoint presentation, but he ended his after 10 minutes and used the rest of the time for a participatory exercise: The managers worked through a design challenge, creating prototypes, getting feedback, iterating, and refining.

The group was mesmerized…”

This story illustrates something I saw over and over during my time at Red Hat and in many of the projects I’ve worked on since:

No matter how eager you are to get people to embrace the open source way fully—running projects in an open, collaborative, meritocratic way—you’ll have more success convincing people to try doing things the open source way when you stop showing slides and instead get them to experience the benefits in action.

The best way to learn about collaboration is to collaborate.

The best way to learn how to operate openly is to participate in a project run openly.

And the best way to see the power of meritocracy is to participate in a project where the ideas actually do come from everywhere.

So before you spend two weeks preparing a detailed PowerPoint (or OpenOffice) presentation to convince your management team to embrace the open source way, stop and think.

Is there a way you could show the benefits of the open source way in action? Could you run a hands on-project the open source way and invite those you are attempting to sway to participate?

In my experience, people will nod their heads at a presentation espousing philosophy. But you won’t really have their minds until they’ve experienced the open source way in action, and you won’t have their hearts until they’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey as well.

[This post originally appeared on opensource.com]

Is the traditional business world at war with creativity?


Earlier this week some colleagues and I attended a fantastic gathering of business and political leaders called the Emerging Issues Forum. The theme of the forum—interestingly enough for a bunch of business folks—was creativity, and speakers included some of my favorite thinkers/authors who analyze the future of business:

During their talks, I couldn’t help but notice all three touched on a similar thematic: the crucial role that inspiring creativity plays in driving innovation.

[Read the rest of this post over at opensource.com]

Reporting live from the front lines of the war on creativity


Today I spent a great day at the Emerging Issues Forum, where I’m proud to say my home state of North Carolina attracted some of the top business minds in the world (the Twitter stream is going crazy here). This morning featured two Dark Matter Matters all stars, Roger Martin and Tom Kelley (who I have written about previously here and here), but there was also an incredible lunch session where Charlie Rose interviewed husband and wife creative geniuses Nnenna Freelon (the 5-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist) and Philip Freelon (architect extraordinaire), and plenty of other enlightening stuff.

The theme of the conference is Creativity, Inc., and from what I can tell from many of the attendee and host comments, the theme of this year’s event is very different than years past. But the undercurrent of many of the comments from this morning seemed to take a clear point of view on this theme.

My interpretation? For years the business world has been waging a war against creativity… and creativity is beginning to fight back.

It’s about damn time.

Roger Martin is one of the most eloquent speakers in the world on the need for change in business. Some key points from his talk today:

Martin talked about two types of industries– clustered industries (where much of the industry is in one part of the world, Silicon Valley for high tech being one good example) and distributed industries (where the industry is dispersed all over, hair salons and pizza places being two examples).

Martin’s research shows that clustered industries have a higher percentage of the creative class of workers. The average salary for a creative worker in a clustered industry? About $70,000 per year. But for a creative worker in a dispersed industry? Only about $56,500 a year. Pretty big difference.

So what does it mean? According to Martin, income disparities will continue to grow unless we can figure out what to do with routine jobs in dispersed industries.

He calls this one of the greatest policy challenges of the 21st century: How can we increase the percentage of creativity we use in all jobs? How can we make use of the whole human being in work environments?

I love this thought of us figuring out how to use the whole human being– how many jobs do we see that leave tons of creative potential on the table, at the expense of not only innovation, but also employee happiness? Too many, in my experience. And at all levels in business, from executive on down.

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Roger Martin and the new liberal arts MBA


This morning’s New York Times had a great article entitled Multicultural Critical Theory. At Business School? highlighting the changes many business schools are making in the way they teach their students. Probably the most visible leader of this movement has been Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, who is prominently featured in the article (and will be speaking here in Raleigh next month at the Institute for Emerging Issues Forum).

(VIDEO: a recent Roger Martin talk)

What kind of changes are the schools making? From the article:

“While few [business schools] talk explicitly about taking a liberal arts approach to business, many of the changes are moving business schools into territory more traditionally associated with the liberal arts; multi-disciplinary approaches, an understanding of global and historical context and perspectives, a great focus on leadership and social responsibility and, yes, learning how to think critically.”

Why? Look around you. In business, we are currently experiencing a double crisis of ethics and innovation. Take the results of a recent Gallup poll on Honesty and Ethics of Professions. Americans now trust the ethics and honesty of businessmen less than lawyers. Ouch.

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Coming soon…three new design thinking books for your bookshelf


At Red Hat, we’ve been using the design thinking methodology as a catalyst for innovation since David Burney introduced us to the concept about five years ago. Here’s an interview with Burney from 2006 on the subject that appeared in Red Hat Magazine.

The design thinking conversation has been getting more and more mainstream, especially since BusinessWeek editor Bruce Nussbaum became one of it’s greatest advocates. Here’s a starting point for all of the BusinessWeek coverage of the past few years. So it comes as no surprise that the book publishing industry is now on the case, with three design thinking books coming out this fall.

designofbusinessThe one I’m most looking forward to is Roger Martin’s The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, to be published on November 9. Dark Matter Matters has discussed Roger Martin‘s work extensively here, here, and here, and I think he is one of the most relevant minds in business today. Can’t wait to see where he is taking this book, here’s what the preview copy says:

To innovate and win, companies need design thinking. This form of thinking is rooted in how knowledge advances from one stage to another-from mystery (something we can’t explain) to heuristic (a rule of thumb that guides us toward solution) to algorithm (a predictable formula for producing an answer) to code (when the formula becomes so predictable it can be fully automated). As knowledge advances across the stages, productivity grows and costs drop-creating massive value for companies.

Martin shows how leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, RIM, and others use design thinking to push knowledge through the stages in ways that produce breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.

changebydesignTim Brown, CEO of IDEO (the company often credited with defining design thinking) also has a design thinking book coming out this fall. His book is entitled Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation and is billed this way:

This is not a book by designers for designers; this is a blueprint for creative leaders seeking to infuse design thinking—an approach for creative problem solving—into all facets of their organizations, products, or services to discover new alternatives for business and society as a whole.

Tim Brown’s book comes out on September 29.

designthinkingFinally, Thomas Lockwood, President of the Design Management Institute has a book called Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value coming out on November 10. It sounds like he is serving as an editor for a bunch of experts writing on the subject. From the preview copy:

Featuring 30 articles, written by industry experts, that show how to build a solid brand foundation, solve problems with simplified thinking, anticipate and capitalize on trends, figure out what consumers want before they do, and align mission, vision, and strategy with a corporate brand, this is a must-have reference for anyone wanting to increase their businesses productivity.

I’ll bring the reviews as soon as the books come out!

An open letter to Seth Godin


Dear Seth,

I just finished reading your new book Tribes. Normally when I read a book that relates to the Dark Matter Matters subjects (and Tribes talks about leadership and community and all kinds of good stuff), I write a review and post it here. I’m not going to do that this time. I think the reviews on Amazon pretty well cover it, so I’ll just point people there.

tribecalledsethSeth, I have something a bit more personal I’d like to discuss with you. If I may be so bold.

I’ve read most of your books over the years, liars, and purple cows, and dips and whatnot, and I’ve got to tell you, I think you are one smart dude. I’ve learned a lot from you.

I thought the alternative MBA program you just finished was a stroke of genius. I was totally jealous– that would have been a great way to spend six months.

But, honestly, I always get this weird, hollow feeling after reading a book of yours. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I finished this one.

OK, let me just spit it out. I think your books can be kind of superficial and tend to preach to the choir a lot.

There. I said it. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be a hater.

You even call out haters in this book. Said that you shouldn’t let people like that get you down. So please don’t get down, like I said, I really respect your work, it’s just I think you might be limiting your audience. You could be bigger.

So in the hope that I’m being a heretic (in the way you talk about in the book), rather than a hater, I’d humbly suggest some constructive ideas.

Seth, I’d like you to write a book that will do more than rally the tribe that thinks like you. I think you have a book in you that will educate those that don’t think like you. They need your help.

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Summer reading list for Dark Matter Matters


Ah, vacation… the time when the work shuts down for a few days and the Dark Matter Matters blog comes out of hibernation… 3 posts in 3 days!

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A few months ago I wrote a post where I highlighted the top ten books behind Dark Matter Matters. In that post I promised to create a list of the books that didn’t make the top 10 cut, but are still pretty awesome.

So here, to celebrate the long holiday weekend, are some more books that have inspired Dark Matter Matters.

Books about how large-scale collaboration is pretty much the deal:

Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Braffman and Rod Beckstrom

In the open source world, there’s a legendary quote attributed to Linus Torvalds (yes, he is the guy that Linux is named after) “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.” The first two of these books are the extended dance remix of this quote. Each has a unique take, but both show how mass collaboration is changing everything about our society and the way we solve problems. The Starfish and the Spider is a interesting look at leaderless organizations and is a nice book for anyone trying to understand how the open source movement (and other leaderless organizations) work, and why open source is so hard to compete against. It is also a nice complement to the Mintzberg article I wrote about in my previous post.

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Are you a creative in a corporate world? You are not alone.


Last weekend I read a book that Jonathan Opp recommended called In-House Design in Practice. It’s a bible for people who work as part of an internal creative agency within a larger corporation, which is one of the key roles of our Brand Communications + Design group at Red Hat.

inhousedesign

In some ways, this a self help book, maybe even a support group, for creative types. I learned many things about what others in internal agency roles go through, but if I was to sum it up, I’d say I learned that I am not alone. There are others out there operating in internal agencies at corporations all around the world, and they have the same issues and opportunities we have. While the book is focused on graphic design, many of the lessons apply to other internal agency roles– editorial, web, video, you name it.

The book starts with what the authors call a “jaded” definition of an in-house designer:

…a creative person who finds him- or herself–by choice or circumstance– in an alien world ruled by left-brain-thinkers who undervalue, misunderstand, and in general, do not take full advantage of the benefit design can bring to business.

Ok, I’m listening…

As a creative person lodged firmly in a business world, you are a unique character. It can be a lonely post, but you have exactly the same goal as the people who so often disrespect, misunderstand, or step all over your work; you all want the larger organization to succeed.

Yes! (maybe ratchet down the empathy a bit though, people.)

And then comes the key theme of the book:

Chances are… you are never going to transform those people into the same kind of creative person that you are. But you can transform yourself into the kind of businessperson who can very adeptly speak their language.

What a perfect way to start a book about creative work! With some humility.

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Cutting cubes out of clouds: The Designful Company


Promised a while back that I’d write a review of Marty Neumeier’s new book The Designful Company once i’d finished it, so here goes.

designfulcompany1As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Neumeier’s work– especially The Brand Gap, which has been a key bit of inspiration for the Brand Communications + Design group at Red Hat. The Designful Company is subtitled “How to build a culture of nonstop innovation,” and there are some pretty great ideas within on how to do exactly that.

It is clear that Neumeier is well read and well traveled in the right circles. He draws upon ideas from many current innovation thought leaders, including Gary Hamel, Roger Martin, Sam Lucente, Steve Jobs, and more. In fact, the recommended reading list in the back of the book is worth the price of the book itself.

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Hey, I Wrote a Book!

The Ad-Free Brand: Secrets to Building Successful Brands in a Digital World

Available now in print and electronic versions.

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