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 - 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