Balancing Intuition with Analysis

Interview – Roger Martin of “The Design of Business”

Balancing Intuition with Analysis - Roger MartinI had the opportunity to interview Roger Martin, the author of “The Design of Business” about the challenges companies face when they fail to balance analytical thinking with intuitive thinking. We also discuss a variety of other innovation topics including: barriers to innovation, education, and risk taking.

Roger Martin has served as Dean of the Rotman School of Management since 1998. He is an advisor on strategy to the CEO’s of several major global corporations. He writes extensively on design and is a regular columnist for’s Innovation and Design Channel. He is also a regular contributor to Washington Post’s On Leadership blog and to Financial Times’ Judgment Call column. He has published several books, including: “The Design of Business” and “The Opposable Mind”.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. When it comes to innovation, what is the biggest challenge that you see organizations facing?

It is the dominance of analytical thinking which holds that unless something can be proven by way of deductive or inductive logic, it is not worthy of consideration or investment. No new idea in the world has been proven before being tried. So as long as analytical thinking is allowed to dominate, innovation is deeply and profoundly challenged.

2. Why is it so important that organizations teach their leaders to be design thinkers?

Design thinkers are capable of balancing the inductive and deductive logic of analytical thinking with the abductive logic of intuitive thinking. So they are capable of both honing and refining the past and inventing the future. Thus they can overcome the innovation challenge. Without design thinking leaders, an organization is likely to slowly but surely stultify – like most large corporations over time.

3. Why is it so hard for hard for managers to take valid risks?

Two main reasons. First, they live in cultures that value only analytical thinking. And second, they get Stockholm syndrome and begin to believe that is right. First they get dissuaded from innovating by others, then they dissuade themselves.

4. What most impedes the risk-taking necessary for innovation?

The problem is processes that imbed requirements for proof through inductive or deductive logic. And then the culture that this breeds.

5. Since the book was published, have you come across other leaders that have transformed their organizations to take more of a design approach?

Leaders from two of the world’s largest companies read the book and both have asked me to help them transform their organizations to take a design thinking approach. So far, so good. They are very committed.

6. People often talk about not having time to innovate. How can people find the time for themselves or their employees?

That is a lame argument. People have time to do anything for which they are passionate. People blame lack of time for every single thing that they think they would like to do but lack the sufficient passion for. Innovators innovate regardless of their environment. Some get fired for it and go somewhere else and start over again. A leader can make it harder or easier for employees to innovate. But the innovators innovate regardless and the non-innovators complain about the difficulty finding the time to innovate – regardless.

7. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

They need to nurture their originality. Very few people in life are good at anything without practice. If you practice mastery all your life, you will be masterful. If you practice originality, you will get good at innovation. Most managers spend their time deepening their mastery and not nurturing their originality. Over time, they become fearful of innovation.

8. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation workforce of tomorrow, what would it be?

Make art a required subject for as long as we make math a required subject. We send a powerful signal to students that analytics are important and artistry is not. Artistry is the foundation of innovation. Most technologists will never innovate a single thing because their training drove out any artistry from them.

My book review of “The Design of Business” can be found here.

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  1. Pingback: Book Review and Innovation Summary – “The Design of Business” | Human-Centered Change and Innovation

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