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A wide range of academic offerings in the field of Business Design allow Rotman students to hone their innovation skills in the classroom and beyond.

Business Design-oriented students at Rotman hone their innovation skills through coursework that is both theoretical and highly practical. Through classes in Business Design and the associated major, MBA students benefit from a transformative learning experience that immerses them in the complexities of real-world human-centred innovation work.

Business Design courses are also offered at the undergraduate level and in Rotman Executive Programs, allowing those interested in the field to gain expertise in the theory and practise of Business Design at any career stage.


The Business Design major teaches students how to find needs/define problems, frame and reframe problems, and solve real world business problems. The classroom experience combines lectures, studio/hands-on learning, online toolkits, and experiential live-case learning. Required courses provide foundational knowledge of the business innovation process and design methods to collect data, inform insights, and prototype ideas into innovations.


MBA: Business Design Fundamentals (RSM2523) Term 4 Elective and Summer Intensive terms

The Design Era has officially arrived. Over the past 15 years design has moved from product engineers, software developers and creative directors into the hands of strategic business leaders. This new core elective course introduces the most prolific design practices used in business decision-making and guides you to understand and practice using the 4-step Business Design Method on case-based challenges. This course is critical for understanding design’s role in business and sampling new ways of innovative thinking and managing. Students will:

  • Understand the diverse design practices inside organizations (e.g. strategic design, service design, customer experience design and employee experience design);
  • Appreciate the fundamental stages of innovation development and management through a 4-step Business Design Method;
  • Apply your learnings to multi-sector business cases focused on design-driven innovation; and,
  • Learn and practice human-centred design techniques that build your empathy, creativity and prototyping skills.

This foundational course is recommended to prepare students for RSM2524 Business Design Practicum (Corporate Consulting Challenge), RSM2516 Design Research and Data Storytelling, RSM2517 Futures Thinking, and RSM2518: Service Design, and for those intending to graduate with a Business Design Major. This course will challenge you to face and navigate uncertainty and ambiguity associated with design practices, vocabulary and methods, sample qualitative research techniques, and creatively propose innovative recommendations to a suite of case-based business challenges.


MBA: Business Design Practicum (RSM2524)

Offered in the Full-Time, Morning and Evening MBA programs, the Business Design Practicum (Corporate Consulting Challenge) focuses on solving a design-driven innovation challenge with a real industry sponsor, In consulting teams, students will apply an advanced version of the 4-step Business Design Method (introduced in RSM2523) supported by a playbook, workshop-like classes and mentorship engagements with instructor and industry partner. Students will actively engage in experiential learning activities, live client discussions, field-based research, qualitative data analysis, and implementation plan development. Similar to a capstone or case competition, students will co-create a highly valued design solution for their cv or portfolio.

The course is aimed at students interested in deep practice with business design relating to innovation development and management. Particularly those seeking a career in Business Design or Strategic Design, Innovation Design Consulting, Customer Experience Design, Product/Service Design Management.  The learning objectives span:

  • active practice of Business Design, using management frameworks, ethnographic methods and design techniques to find, frame and solve problems;
  • experience with sustained curiosity, empathy and creativity to reframe problems and offer customer-centred solutions;
  • design and conduct qualitative research in the field and online to gain insight; and,
  • articulate and offer a novel and relevant solution to the sponsored challenge.

Students will enjoy a combination of instructor and industry-partner led mentoring, peer-to-peer and team-based learning. This course will challenge you to navigate uncertainty and ambiguity, practice collecting and creating narrative data sets, craft insights, and creatively solve a real industry-sponsored business challenge.

MBA: Global Practicum: Design-Led Innovation (RSM2709)

Spanning major hubs of business innovation, this course is your opportunity to discover how Design Thinking and Business Design can lead to transformation within organizations globally. The emphasis is on corporate innovation, rather than startups, and includes sessions hosted by design studios and design-led organizations in different global ‘design-leading’ cities. It gives you a first-hand view of how they integrate design to drive their business transformation efforts and innovate new products, services and business models.


The practicum coursework blends online readings, in-class lectures and site visits to provide you with the knowledge of industry-leading design methods, models and practices for business innovation. The global cities may include NYC, Milan, Copenhagen and Singapore. This course will be available for the Winter 2022 term with specific regions identified.

MBA: Design Research and Data Storytelling (RSM2516)

This MBA course is premised on the belief that a deep understanding of people is fundamental to business success. Design research is a sub-set of qualitative research methods that focuses on studying people through rigorous observation, in-depth interviewing and collaborative design.

  • Understand and practice the fundamental principles of design research for business innovation
  • Design, plan and executive a field-based qualitative research study
  • Apply ethnography (observation, interviews and analysis) to a real business challenge
  • Use visual analytics techniques to synthesize data into powerful narratives
  • Learn how to collect data, discover patterns and develop insights and strategies
  • Practice ethnography to develop compelling insights, and visual analytics to tell data-rich stories.

The course is aimed at students with prior experience or coursework with business design and/or marketing research. You will acquire tools and methodologies used extensively in management consulting, product and service design, marketing strategy, sustainability, communications, and organizational development.

MBA: Creativity and Business Innovation (RSM2530)

Research in experimental psychology suggests that creativity can be developed and refined with effort and practice. This MBA course provides a variety of methods and experiences that focus on fostering each student’s own creative abilities and how to apply them in teams and as a leader.

  • Demonstrate your creative potential, how to unlock it, express it and foster it.
  • Recognize that creativity is a process, not a flash of insight
  • Understand and practice divergent and convergent thinking
  • Gain experience using creative thinking tools to solve business problems and create new product, service or process innovations

The course is aimed at students who are interested in understanding how creativity is learned, developed and applied to business innovation activities. You will learn new ways to define problems and opportunities, and develop unexpected solutions through a combination of lectures, field trips and immersive in-class activities.

MBA: Service Design: Innovating Service-based Organizations (RSM2518)

The Services sector is growing at an exponential rate as evidenced by the list of Fortune 500 companies that now contains more service companies and fewer manufacturers than in previous decades. This experimental course provides the fundamentals, context, and attributes of services; in-depth understanding about the “what” and “how” of innovation for services; the most practiced methods of Service Design and how to use this process as a manager to facilitate innovation; how to examine different service sectors; and, an understanding of the different risks, costs, and issues of innovation in those sectors.

The course comprises real life examples and cases of applied service innovation including A.I. and omni-channel service innovations. Public sector organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs) and healthcare agencies will be featured.

UNDERGRADUATE (Rotman Commerce): Business Design (RSM459)

This course introduces and applies business design techniques to a real-world challenge. Business Design is a human-centred approach to improving or transforming business activities (aka business innovation). The course provides key design-thinking methods, practical frameworks and techniques, and an industry challenge sponsor. It will challenge you to develop a mindset, skillset and toolset necessary to design new or better products, services, processes, strategies or business models. The diverse topics aim to help you develop empathy for users/customers/stakeholders, question your assumptions and reframe your problem statement and solutions over many cycles.

  • Learn the fundamental principles and practices of Business Design (design thinking for business): using design methods and techniques to find, frame and solve business problems.
  • Explore how empathy, creativity, prototyping and strategic thinking informs your thinking and practice.
  • Learn how to work effectively in teams to conduct: ethnographic research, product and service design, business strategy and/or modelling on a real-world challenge.
  • This class offers a studio-learning experience with lectures, hands-on activities, discussions and field work. It involves a combination of instructor-led, peer-to-peer and team-based learning and industry-sponsor knowledge exchange.

UNDERGRADUATE (Rotman Commerce): Creativity for Business Innovation (RSM414)

Offered by Rotman Commerce, Creativity for Business Innovation encourages students to combine their thinking, knowledge, skills and values in imaginative ways to solve complex business problems. Students are challenged to develop personal and professional creativity, clearly frame problems and spot opportunities, and develop solutions unseen by others.

  • Develop your creative skills and apply them in teams and inside organizations
  • Recognize that creativity is a process that requires active practice • Understand and practice divergent, convergent and reflective thinking
  • Gain experience using creative thinking tools to solve business problems and create new product, service or process innovations

The course is active and experiential, and consists of a combination of lectures, immersive in-class and in-field activities, and online tutorials. Students contribute to in-class discussions, host presentations and engage in self-directed learning.

EXECUTIVE PROGRAMS: Business Design Fundamentals

This intensive two-day program immerses you in the fundamentals of Design Thinking for business. Through user-centered design research, prototyping and storytelling methods, you will gain a design mindset, discover an understanding of what customers need and how meeting those needs can uncover new opportunities.

By the end of the two days you will be able to:

  • Use design methods and techniques to find, frame and solve problems
  • Think differently about needs, problems and solutions and
  • Understand how empathy, creativity, prototyping and storytelling are critical for business innovation

Take on a real-world innovation challenge and learn to build a business case for design.


EXECUTIVE PROGRAMS: Advanced Business Design Facilitation

Offered over three days, this intensive program combines the best practices in higher education with design thinking for business to help you confidently facilitate and train design thinkers in your organization. The program is also suitable for executive education teachers and sessional lecturers.

  • Develop and measure design competencies in corporate environments.
  • Gain a unique trainer guide with extensive templates.
  • Teacher-trainer toolbox: active learning and studio practice fundamentals
  • Business design pedagogy, competencies and curriculum design
  • Apply insights from the classroom to boardroom: mini-lesson plans, design and delivery
  • Enjoy hands-on learning through practicum and reflective teaching-training strategies

Acquire the critical and creative instructional and learning foundations, combined with studio-teaching practices, to train and facilitate design thinking in your organization.