Design Your Life

Think like a designer.

Roger Martin

Roger Martin

Dean of the Rotman School of Management

Design Your Life
  • Overview
  • Episodes
  • Recommended for you


What is design thinking, and how can we apply this mindset to different areas in life? Learn from mathematicians, designers, VPs of Innovation, and more about how design thinking can not only maximize your business strategy or your customer service model, but improve your personal life.

What You'll Learn

  • How to solve problems from the foundation up

  • How to balance intuitive and analytical thinking

  • How to improve your customer service

  • To design your life

Anne Marie Morris's image was originally posted by Richard Townshend and the image has been changed. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


6 Episodes

1. Organize By Design: How to Think Like a Designer


Employee resistance is a leading cause of failure for change management initiatives. Managers need to set up change programs for success by designing structures that create ownership for everyone on their team.David Butler, co-author of Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too), is a master of leveraging design in pursuit of innovation across all arenas – from product development to organizational change. In this video, he explains how to empower everyone on your team to think like a designer.Design on purposeEverything is designed.Everyone is a designer.Design is about connection.Build a culture by designKnow where you are and where you want to go.Communicate design in culturally appropriate ways.Engage everyone.Get tractionStart where people are most familiar.Focus on fixed elements that must change to show traction.Adjust flexible elements as needed.Evaluate your successIs there measurable change?Is there widespread embrace?

2. Ask the Cleanest Question: Design Solutions Like a Mathematician


Those who find higher mathematics difficult to grasp are often stymied by its “abstraction”—the fact that its symbols and concepts exist in an unearthly realm of the mind. But abstract thinking has powerful applications in the real world. It allows us to distill problems down to their essential elements, solving them from the foundation up. This approach, in almost any sphere of human activity, can save you a great deal of time, money, and trouble.Abstracting in TheoryWhen approaching a problem, focus first on what actually matters. What are the main drivers? What will cause success? What are the biggest impact factors? How can we most optimally address those components?Ideally, your solution will address the parts of the problem in order of importance.

3. Scale Innovation: How to Bring Design Thinking to Your Organization


Classically, “design thinking” refers to the process of applying design principles such as iteration (developing a series of steadily improving prototypes of any new product) to business challenges that aren’t necessarily design-related.Roger Martin thinks about design thinking more broadly, calling it the intersection of analytical and intuitive thinking: the “sweet spot” that enables a company to exploit its existing resources thoroughly and reliably while at the same time inventing the future of its business.Design thinking is the combination of analytical and intuitive thinking that enables one to exploit what currently exists while exploring new things to invent the future. The desired outcome is reliability and validity.The Skunkworks DilemmaShould you attempt radical innovation in the mainstream part of your organization or should it be detached, in a “protected” skunkworks division?The theoretical protection afforded by skunkworks can backfire. Mainstream employees ma...

4. Design for Growth: Identify Your Growth Stage


Large companies often struggle with agility while small companies often struggle to scale. In this lesson, David Butler, VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company, and long time designer, talks about the ways that design can be a fundamental part of a company achieving its goals, no matter where it is in its life cycle.Design for scaleSimplify, standardize, and integrate the core elements of your business so that you can execute with efficiency.Design for agilityUnderstand which parts of your business are fixed–and cannot change–and which are flexible.Make your business more adaptable by combining fixed and flexible elements.

5. Service Oriented Design Thinking: A Case Study


In a business that’s doing customer service brilliantly, is “the customer always right?” Not necessarily, say Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, co authors of Uncommon Service and consultants on organizational excellence. To research their book, they conducted a study of companies large and small around the world. The number one obstacle that organizations were coming up against time and time again? Trying to be great at everything at once.“In our worldview,” says Frei, “excellence equals design times culture.” Designing a great customer-oriented business, she observes, means deciding strategically what to do well and what to do badly. Assessing what matters most to your customers and will give you a competitive advantage, and focusing your resources on that alone.Culture, on the other hand, is the company-wide set of values that helps people decide what to do (and what not to do) when the complexity of the business and the unpredictability of customers takes them outside the emp...

6. Sneak Up on the Future: Approach Your Life's Journey Like a Designer


How should you approach the design problem of your life? Because it is a design problem, in the sense of human-centered “design thinking”. You have a set of talents, skills, dreams, and goals. These create many opportunities for you, but which should you pursue?To begin with, says Dave Evans, design thinkers follow their curiosity, and assume that there’s an interesting solution to be found at the end of a series of prototypes. By contrast, many people make the mistake of approaching the landscape, assuming the negative so as not to look foolish. This can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, foreclosing on opportunities before you’ve even begun to explore them.Design Prototyping for Your LifeAn engineering prototype is best for solving tame problems with clear, repeatable solutions.Whereas an engineering prototype starts with a conclusion, a design prototype starts with a curiosity. It’s the empirical, embodied experience of going out and trying things.In life prototyping, you test d...

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