Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Re-designing the Future

Rotman School dean Roger Martin has just published a new book on "The Design of Business." He believes all businesses must develop "design thinking" (a mixture of analytical and intuitive reasoning) to solve the challenges they face today - or else face irrelevance.

It's a great book, plus it's short and easy to read, with lots of examples, from Procter & Gamble to Target and Cirque du Soleil.

But my favorite part is the insights it contains on the development of Research in Motion and its renowned BlackBerry. RiM co-founder, co-CEO and chief engineer Mike Lazaridis gets due credit for his dogged research that ended up changing the way the world communicates.

Lazaridis jumped on the potential of digital signal processing before any of the big telcos. It's part of his philosophy of business, says Martin. "Product design has to push the envelope to the point where it seems like you're making a mistake," says Lazaridis. If you're going to beat the giants with an innovation, he says, "It has to be audacious from a technical point of view."

I also liked Lazaridis' quote about never resting on your laurels. "In a business, no matter how good the process is, no matter how much you've got it down pat, no matter how much money you're making, you have to always go back and say, 'Is there something fundamentally wrong with the way we're seeing the market? Are we dealing with incomplete information?'

"Because that's what's going to get you; it's not necessarily that some young whippersnapper's going to come up with some better idea than you. They're going to start from a different premise and they're going to come to a different conclusion that makes you irrelevant."

According to Lazaridis, "Motorola lost because it didn't embrace the future... It was too damn good at what it was doing."

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