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Business Design Initiative

The Business Design Initiative at the Rotman School is an education centre that brings together students, researchers and industry to tackle real-world business challenges to advance innovation practice and learning.

Leaders need Business Design

Business Design helps you navigate and manage organizational innovation projects in response to changing environments. Leaders must be able to deal with uncertainty and motivate diverse teams of creative and critical thinkers to collaboratively solve complex business problems.

The greatest challenge organizations face is often identified as a lack of creative ideas. Yet those ideas can only be as good as the problems that have been defined and articulated. Business Design orients you to look beyond quantitative methods (spreadsheets and big data analysis) to deeply understand your customers and their challenges, so you can clearly articulate the problems you are attempting to solve. This human-centred focus is critical for the new breed of leader who must genuinely understand and balance the tensions between people, process and profit.

“The (Business Design) approach gave us a valuable perspective on our organization and generated solutions that were refreshing; not just more of the same.” 

Global Business Services, Proctor and Gamble Canada


A better solution

Rotman’s Business Design Method guides you to develop empathetic and strategic mindsets through the repeated use of design principles and anthropological methods alongside traditional business decision-making frameworks.

It aligns to the organizational innovation development process and offers four design-driven steps necessary to navigate innovation’s uncertain path:

  • Start (briefing)
  • Find (sensing)
  • Frame (sensemaking)
  • Solve (changemaking)

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As a human-centered approach to innovation management, the method effectively breaks down the siloes of typical business functions. It foregrounds the needs of all the stakeholders across the value chain, and can be applied to innovation projects across the organization at any level- from people to process, strategic planning to operational delivery. Active and reflective practice of this well-research methodology will help you develop the mindset of a contemporary business leader to shape future-forward, resilient organizations.

What sets Rotman apart

In Design Thinking, there is a ‘bias towards action’ - creative idea generation, prototyping and testing. In Business Design there is a bias towards strategic action. It looks across all  organizational innovation management stages, including contextual understanding before idea generation, and operational integration and implementation after prototyping and testing. This end-to-end focus helps you think and act more strategically and innovatively – transforming the impact you have on the world.

Rotman is the only place where design education lives in the heart of a business school and taught squarely inside its hallways. Over the past 15 years, we have been teaching, experimenting and evolving our Business Design methodology into a leadership development curriculum.

In most universities, the focus is on Design Thinking, typically associated with designers, and located in the engineering faculty, or a design school. None have powerfully connected the dots between design and its value to the boardroom. At Harvard, for example, design is taught at the school of architecture. Even in cases when Design Thinking is applied to business, it’s use tends to be limited to lower and middle management, and within areas that are typically design-focused such as service design, product design or product management teams.

Rotman is where, and Business Design is how next generation innovative leaders are crafted.