Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

Business & Finance
Rotman Management

Rotman Management Winter 2009

Published in January, May and September by the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, Rotman Management explores themes of interest to leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs. Each issue features thought-provoking insights and problem-solving tools from leading global researchers and management practitioners. The magazine reflects Rotman’s role as a catalyst for transformative thinking that creates value for business and society.

Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
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$19.90(Incl. tax)
$52.45(Incl. tax)
3 Issues

in this issue

3 min.
wicked problems

IN NINE SHORT YEARS, it has become abundantly clear that the 21st century will overturn many of our basic assumptions about economic life. As business people – and human beings – the challenges we face are more complex than ever before: enabling constant innovation, protecting the environment and narrowing the gaps between rich and poor, to name a few. Varied as they are, these problems share some key characteristics: each is unique, difficult to define, and often inextricably linked to other issues. Unlike a math problem with a single answer that can be reached through careful reasoning, these puzzles have no ‘stopping rule’ and demand a different approach to problemsolving that recognizes the shifting nature of the problem. We have entered into the realm of what late design theorist Horst Rittel…

13 min.
the science and art of business

I WAS INSPIRED TO EXAMINE the inner workings of the science and art of business by two occurrences in April of 2007 that framed a tension that I felt needed to be explored. The first was a speech by Martin Baily, former chair of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors and at that time senior adviser to the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), which is the think tank of what most would agree is the world’s premier management consulting firm. The speech was on MGI’s annual Ten Trends to Watch, and Trend #9 was, “The rise of scientific management and its triumph over gut instinct and intuition.” Baily waxed eloquent about what an advance this represented for the world of business. Intrigued, the following day I went to the MGI website to…

13 min.
thought leader interview: michael spence

The Commission on Growth and Development recently released its inaugural study, The Growth Report: Strategies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Development. Of all the world’s wicked problems, why did you choose to focus on growth? The Commission was brought together by a belief that the world's challenges – poverty, the environment, misunderstandings between nations, vast differences in living standards within and across countries – are best met in conditions of rising prosperity and expanding economic opportunities. We focus on growth not because it is the final goal, but because it enables so many things that people care about: poverty reduction, productive employment, education, health and the opportunity to be creative. You really can’t reduce poverty or achieve any of the other Millennium Development Goals without growth, but we felt that it…

14 min.
building shared understanding of wicked problems

You believe that we are in the midst of a shift from the Age of Science to the Age of Design. Please explain. In the Age of Science, the job of Science was to describe the universe. Once we had created a good description of the natural world, we could begin to exercise control, and the path was opened for technology – the art of harnessing, controlling and transforming our world. In the last century, organizations have borrowed heavily from the ethos of Science and technology: the goals of ‘management science’ were to describe (or predict) the future and control it. In the Age of Science, facts legitimized decisions – indeed, they were the only acceptable basis for decisions and actions. The goal of problem solving was to find the right…

13 min.
confronting the world’s most important strategic challenges: the end of oil

WHILE MANY IMPORTANT TOPICS have been adequately addressed by the field of Strategic Management, we have yet to fully confront – in both our research and teaching – many of the most important strategic problems and opportunities of our time. Examples include credit pricing, financial-system capacity, military services, digital communications, poverty alleviation, drug-resistant disease and climate change. These phenomena are so significant and pervasive in their implications that they almost defy analysis – they are mind-boggling and far-reaching and difficult to take on, both analytically and practically. Each of these issues will not only fundamentally change the course of business over the next 50 years, they will also affect us personally, socially and culturally. These are the defining issues of this century, and our curriculum and research must address them if…

15 min.
strategy as a wicked problem

OVER THE PAST 15 YEARS, I have studied how companies create strategy – the single most important responsibility of senior executives. Many corporations, I find, have replaced the annual topdown planning ritual, based on macroeconomic forecasts, with more sophisticated processes. They crunch vast amounts of consumer data, hold planning sessions frequently, and use techniques such as ‘competency modeling’ and ‘real-options analysis’ to develop strategy. This type of approach is an improvement because it is customer- and capability-focused and enables companies to modify their strategies quickly, but it still misses the mark a lot of the time. Companies tend to ignore one complication along the way: they can’t develop models of the increasingly complex environment in which they operate, and as a result, contemporary strategic-planning processes don’t help them cope with the…