Rotman Design Tour

Every year, the Rotman School of Management leads a Study Tour for a select group of MBA students who are passionate about business design.  Follow us as we deep-dive into the world of design and innovation with some of New York's finest organizations!  Follow us on Twitter at #RotmanDT

#RotmanDT - Smart Design

Russell Blanchard, Associate Director - Industrial Design, and Kristi Candela, Senior Business Designer, at Smart Design, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

On the final day of the 2014 Rotman Design Tour we had the amazing opportunity to enjoy an inside look into Smart Design, a design consultancy headquartered in New York City.  Two “Smarties,” Russell Blanchard and Kristi Candela, explained that at Smart “design is about people, not things” and this value was seen throughout the case studies they shared with us.  One case in particular was their recent project with Under Armour.  While Smart is known for its award-winning product innovations, the Under Amour project brought to life just how engrained people are at the center of what they do.  For this project, it was not just about a new, better sports bra for women.  It was about every element of the experience from purchase to use of the bra, and how women wanted to feel wearing the bra. 

As a design consultancy, Smart focuses on bringing meaning to people.  What makes them unique is that they focus on delivering meaning to both users and their clients; “we try to make people fall in love with our clients.”  They also place a heavy emphasis on prototyping, which was a theme throughout the week in New York, that will stick with me throughout my career.  At Smart, they prototype to generate ideas, to allow people to form a point of view on ideas, and to stay inspired in their work.  While not everyone has a beautiful prototyping workshop like Smart, we can all leverage the power of making something for people to react to.  It is a clear way of communicating and a way of encouraging co-creations that I need to embrace more in my work.  Thank you Smart Design for showing us the value of prototyping and designing for people, for meaning. 

By Kristin Boer, Rotman MBA 2015 @BoerKristin

#RotmanDT - Thomson Reuters

Siddharth Shenoy, Senior Product Manager - Product Research at Thomson Reuters, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

Located in the heart of Times Square, our visit to Thomson Reuters was a wonderful way to start the final day of our tour.  With over 100 offices around the globe and over 50,000 employees, it was a sharp contrast to the startups we had visited the previous day.  Yet, despite its history and size, Thomson Reuters is able to cultivate a culture of innovation by adopting the approach of "acting like a start-up."  We saw how they employ the principles of Design Thinking that we have explored throughout the week in their customer based approach and by user experience testing prototypes at early stages of development.  By asking customers what they want and then building, showing and receiving feedback, new products reflect the needs of the customers.  "Build it live and breathing and show people," said Siddharth Shenoy, Senior Product Manager, Product and Research, which reflected another theme heard throughout the week, that is that processes can be a constraint and innovation requires people to push and not be afraid to fail. 

I come away from this visit, truly inspired by the power of this approach.  We had the wonderful opportunity to see first hand, innovation in data visualization on the Eikon platform created from the very practices we had been discussing.  The result was nothing short of awe inspiring.  By identifying a need to be able to visualize data in a new way in order to uncover insights amongst a deluge of information, Siddharth and the team at Thomson Reuters were able to create a tool that no doubt delights users and customers and will continue to do so for many years to come.

By Jane Park, Rotman MBA 2015

#RotmanDT - Ryan Jacoby

Ryan Jacoby with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

In Business Design, we speak of uncovering a customer's deep-seeded, underlying need.  We revel in finding insights that can disrupt traditional business models.  True to this notion, our visit with Ryan Jacoby, while thoughtful and inspiring, completely reversed the roles we played at our previous stops.  What transpired were a series of topics proposed by the Rotman group from which he expertly dissected our underlying questions with questions of his own: “Why does this topic matter to you as an individual?” “Tell me more,” “Give me an example?” questions.

The following are quotes and paraphrases from Ryan’s he (unconsciously) applies the basic principles of Business Design – Empathy, Prototyping, and Strategy to discuss the topics we raised:

On Getting a Project Started – Overcoming the barrier of inertia
It’s imperative that you start with an idea or hypothesis, no matter how rough.  You need a launching pad for your conversations.  To get the assumptions out of the way and to generate options and alternatives.  After that, keep asking yourself “What’s Next?”  From there, you can develop the processes and design the outcomes you desire.  “The best way to get approval is to not need it.”

On Getting Buy-In – Engaging your team
Try to figure out what do your team members value.  Tell them why they should care about your idea by finding something that will get them excited.  Make their success and happiness your priority and your goals will also be met.

On Working with Difficult Clients 
There are no sh*ty projects or dumb clients, because you always have the option to choose who you work with.  When you’re in small company, you can make choices a lot, and every choice is your choice.  Work with those who align with the vision of your work.  Minimize all the rest.

On Getting Over Fear
Think to yourself, “What’s the worse can happen?”  The Antidote to fear is curiosity and learning.  Typically, the largest fear is that of failure.  Counter this anxiety by responding to all critical feedback with “Thank You” and then grow from that experience. 

On Dealing with Risk
You don’t mitigate the risk, you mitigate the cost of failure.  At Machine, I think of it has having money on the table with a lighted fuse.  I’m willing to let it blow, but ideally we’ll find the right solution to our problem, allowing us to cut the fuse before that happens.  To be innovative is to be risk seeking.  To be risk seeking is to court variance.  Your goal is to “be the cheaper risk taker.”

On Finding Resources – Especially when stuck in a rut
It’s not enough to read articles and op-eds.  Everyone has access to those.  You need get out and experience things.  When a new app is available, immediately download and play with it.  Talk to people who do interesting things and be curious.  Put yourself in situations you don’t understand.

As our visit came to an end, Ryan asked several of us what we took away from this session.  Our replies were as varied as our backgrounds, but meaningful in the same unique way as we should expect from our future clients and customers.  It was a deep and impactful visit as I saw how Ryan not only practices what he preaches in his work, but also in life and educational situations.  As “customers” of his knowledge and experience, Ryan began by “empathizing” with us through asking why.  He followed that by rapidly giving his opinions and referencing books, quotes, or talks by other thought leaders to find “prototypical” answer that satisfies our need.  Finally, he concluded with an example or insight, providing a “strategy” for us to continue our learning.

Ryan has shown us that Business Design can not only work in creative industries, but also in all factors of life.

By Patrick Suen, Rotman MBA 2015 @suenpatrick

#RotmanDT - Ayse Birsel

Ayse Birsel with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

Meeting Ayse Birsel was such a treat!  We started off the morning with a lovely walk to the New York School of Visual Arts.  The beautiful weather was a prelude to the amazing insights and soul searching that awaited us.  At the School, Ayse shared with us her work, her values, her inspirations and her very own design process,  Decontruction:Reconstruction. She then guided us through a workshop based on this process, through which we were able to think deeply, and define and redefine the way we think about our work, our careers, and our future. What an experience!

We only spent a few short hours with Ayse and yet, her warmth and openness allowed us to connect with her at a much deeper level.

By Priya Kumar, Rotman MBA 2015

#RotmanDT - JWT

Carly Wengrover, Public Relations Manager at JWT New York, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

Carly Wengrover, Public Relations Manager at JWT New York, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

On day two of the Rotman Design Tour, the class visited JWT New York - one of the largest and oldest ad agencies in the world.  Carly Wengrover, Public Relations Manager of JWT NY gave us a brief introduction to JWT, and allowed us to tour their amazing workspace - open offices, in-house bars, game rooms and an abundance of collaborative spaces create an environment that fosters the creativity and collaboration that enables the design process to really flourish. 

After the office tour, Carly shared some of JWT’s fantastic work that stemmed from their ability to act like a start-up.  Start ups are agile, creative and risk takers, which are characteristics that JWT felt were needed to allow them to be successful.  One case study was an Illinois tourism campaign; JWT’s idea was to have a miniature Abraham Lincoln character screaming while visiting key landmarks in Illinois.  Mini-Abe was initially met with criticism internally and did not have full buy-in, however, the team was enabled to take risks and was supported in their creative approach - as a result, the video went viral and eventually led to significant increases in tourism to Illinois.  

One of the key take-aways from JWT was to have courage.  Courage to take risks, be persistent and not be afraid to fail.

By Jason Lam, Rotman MBA 2015 @jlam83

#RotmanDT - Arup

Francesca Birks (Americas Foresight + Research + Innovation Lead), Josh Treuhaft (Foresight & Innovation Strategic Designer), and Adam Friedberg (Associate with the Sustainability Team) at Arup, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

Our visit at Arup was such an inspiring visit!  We got to see some of the structural projects that the company worked on over the years.  The company showed a lot of their focus on design with a purpose.  Their designs aren’t just about making buildings look nicer, but instead, to solve certain structural problems through design.  This makes the resulting architecture very practical and eye-pleasing at the same time.  The team at Arup were a group of talented individuals who knew how to work in teams to generate wild and innovative ideas.  They emphasized that innovation is really a process of collaboration and that a single person wouldn’t have figured out the solutions that they came up with.  My biggest takeaway of the day was teamwork.  At Arup and Pepsico, there were meetings around every corner!  Everyone was sharing their ideas and refining their ideas in pairs or in teams.  The scene was very inspiring to me.  I’d love to work in an environment like this.

By Edmond Chan, Rotman MBA 2015

#RotmanDT - Estée Lauder Companies

Mark Polson (Vice President, Creativity and Business Innovation, Global Management Strategies) and Shruti Padilla (Manager, Creativity & Business Innovation) at the Estée Lauder Companies, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

For the first day of our Design Tour in New York City, it was very nice meeting with Estée Lauder Companies' Creativity & Innovation team - Mark Polson and Shruti Padilla - and Christina Treadway from the Global Leadership Development program.  We were attracted by the beautiful sight of Manhattan from Estée Lauder Companies' office.  Beyond that, I was surprised by the great effort that the Estée Lauder Companies did for innovation.  From the company history, I was deeply touched by Mrs. Estée Lauder's strong passion for the beauty industry and the development of the family business.  The "High-Touch" marketing approach, created by Mrs. Estée Lauder, is the guiding principle across the whole corporation.  From the presentation by Mark and Shruti, I was inspired by how the Estée Lauder Companies keeps delivering design thinking to its people across the organization.  The Creativity & Business Innovation team is spreading the idea that "Solving Problems = Creativity" to the whole corporation, and encouraging everyone from the company to share their ideas and feedback to improve the products or business models.  Although there are some challenges in front of the innovation, the team keeps inspiring other people and is brave to let people make mistakes, which is the spirit I admire so much.  It was interesting to build connections between Rotman's Business Design Club and the Estée Lauder Companies, and I believe this fantastic start is a very positive sign of the Rotman Design Tour 2014. 

By Katherine Fan, Rotman MBA 2015

#RotmanDT - PepsiCo Design & Innovation Center

Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, with the participants of the Rotman Design Tour 2014

Today we travelled the all-encompassing NYC to visit three firms doing leading edge work in Design and Innovation.  Mauro Porcini, Chief Design Officer of PepsiCo, started our morning by sharing his thoughts on finding human centred insights: everyone can come to insights, "the real difference is how you filter them."  He was referring to the importance of people and culture; at the end of the day, it is the people and the culture of the company that shape what insights are deemed relevant.  His words could not have described day 1 of our Rotman Design Tour better.  PepsiCo, Arup, and Estée Lauder are three vastly different companies using the design process in conjunction with their areas of expertise to make the most out of insights. 

Porcini detailed how to inject Design Thinking into company culture.  He warned that the "organization will protect the status quo" and that having protection from the C-Suite and finding "co-conspirators" throughout the organization to advocate for design is key.  This June, I will graduate from the Rotman School of Management, where I relished any discussion about organizational change in the context of design.  Today was one of those magical meetings of theory and practice: what I learned at school shows up at the PepsiCo Design & Innovation Center everyday.  The Center is a space for Design Thinking to happen, and many efforts are many to integrate the teams in the Center with the broader PepsiCo.

I can't wait to see where Mauro Porcini and his team of innovators take PepsiCo.  What makes PepsiCo's venture into Design Thinking so authentic is that is underpinned by an organizational commitment to creating a design capability: a commitment that is supported by the CEO and has been communicated to shareholders as a strategic priority.  Having Porcini as the Chief Design Officer and creating a Design & Innovation Center creates the advocacy, space, and support for Design Thinking to be woven into PepsiCo's fabric.  With its meaningful focus on human centred design, PepsiCo is sure to come up with products and experiences that delight its users, consumers, and customers.

By Terri Block, Rotman MBA 2014 @TerriMKC