Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Design Thinking: An Interview with Roger Martin: Roger Martin Talks with Jim Euchner about the Need to Include Intuitive Thinking in the Innovation Process

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Design Thinking: An Interview with Roger Martin: Roger Martin Talks with Jim Euchner about the Need to Include Intuitive Thinking in the Innovation Process

Article excerpt

Roger Martin has been studying what it takes to create breakthrough innovation for many years. In that time, he has become frustrated by the increasingly heavy reliance on analytics in most businesses, which crowds out intuitive thinking. For Martin, both analytics and intuitive insight are necessary to create successful breakthroughs; he calls this productive synthesis "design thinking." In his books The Opposable Mind: Winning through Integrative Thinking and The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, he explores design thinking and its importance in making the truly important decisions. 1 talked with him about design thinking and how it can be nurtured into today's analytical businesses.

JIM EUCHNER [JE]: You have written extensively about the importance of design thinking in business. How do you define "design thinking"?

ROGER MARTIN [RM]: I consider design thinking to be the productive mix of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. I call it a productive mix because you need both kinds of thinking if you're going to analyze the past, project what you can from it, and create futures that go beyond an extrapolation of the past. If you use analytical thinking alone, you will just extrapolate from the past, which will work for you if you are willing to accept a future that is no different from the past. If you use intuitive thinking alone, you won't take advantage in a rigorous way of the data that's available. Both of them are needed. Analytical thinking tends to miss new different things that change the environment. And intuitive thinking tends to be just plain wrong too many times. What you want and need is a combination of the two.

JE: Analytical thinking has dominated and still dominates business, and it's been fairly successful. Why is there a need now for more design thinking?

RM: I'm not sure it has been successful. It's credited with lots of success. Science and the scientific method have made a notable difference in the world. But what's happened in the business world is that we've gotten too analytical, to the point where analysis is relied on too much. And what that does is calcify companies. You have to ask yourself, "Why is it that big companies keep getting beaten up by little companies?" Old companies get beaten up by little, new companies. How can that be?

I'd say the answer is that big, old companies get totally analytical, and they focus on honing and refining what it is that they're currently doing. The little companies come along and challenge that which now exists, and they blow the big, old companies completely out of the water. I think that phenomenon is a direct function of the predominance of analytical thinking in these big companies. The problem is less about the world having changed; it is more about the intensity of analytical thinking.

JE: That's very interesting. You don't attribute disruption to faster movement of technology and shorter cycle times for products, but rather to the reification of analytical thinking in business.

RM: More so. I can't believe that there is a lot of truth to the pace of technology explanation. Henry Mintzberg gave a talk at a conference 20 or 25 years ago where he put up a slide with a quote about how things are moving so fast, technological advances are happening as never before, etc. It's the greatest we've ever seen in history. And he froze the slide and he asked, "Where's that from?" And everybody thought it was from last month's Wired or something. But it was from Scientific American. In 1868. And so it's stuck in my mind that we have to be careful saying how much the world has changed, when much of it hasn't changed at all.

There is an insight of this wacky but brilliant twentieth-century American analytical philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce. He was a contemporary of William James and John Dewey, but his thinking was ahead of many people. …

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