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David McGaw

An article on this topic by Roger Martin, posted on the Business Week website last November, can be found here: http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/nov2005/id20051116_109051.htm

Carol Coletta

Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, took as his theme, “Designing in Hostile Territory.” Why does designing feel hostile when business leaders are talking innovation, innovation, innovation.

What is at the root of the problem? It is the fundamental tension between two features of life: reliability vs. validity.

Reliability is the production of consistent, replicable outcomes. Substantiation is based on past data, use a limited number of objective variables, judgment is minimized and the possibility of bias is avoided.

Validity is the production of outcome that meets objective. Substantiation is based on future events. You use a broader number of diverse variables and integrate judgment. Bias is acknowledged.

Both are good to have. But the fundamental problem is that past a certain point, you can’t get more of both reliability and validity.

When judging reliability, we can use inductive and deductive logic. When judging validity, we can use inductive (what is), deductive (what should be) and abductive logic. Abductive logic is the logic of what might be, substantiated by future events.

Business people want reliability. They want to chop down the variables as far as they need to assure replicability, even if the solution is mediocre. Designers want validity, even if they are the only validators.

Roger had these recommendations for designers operating in hostile territory:

· Take design unfriendliness as a design challenge. “I don’t know too many designers who get jazzed about figuring out how to get something done in this organization.”

· Empathize with the design unfriendly elements. The most effective designers are the ones who don’t think of the design unfriendly elements as the Neanderthals we just have to live with, but asks, “What is it about these people who causes them to occupy this head space?” Deep user understanding is key, including those users who are making your life miserable.

· Speak with the language of reliability. “Regression, proof, deployment.” Assume “cool” is a foreign language.

· Use analogies and stories. The reliability-oriented person is going to be in the proof game. People process stories better than any other kind of information. Analogies help them imagine success.

· Bite off as little a piece as possible to generate proof. Think of the venture capital industry. They invest money in small dollops to give entrepreneurs a chance to prove their concept.

The CEO must become the chief validity officer of the corporation.

Nate Burgos

This topic echoes a heated, even hostile, discussion provoked by Design Observer entry called "Innovation is the New Black":

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