News

Arts and business news from around the country.

RSS

What Both MBAs And MFAs Get Wrong About Solving Business Problems

Posted by Timarie Harrigan
0 Comments
What Both MBAs And MFAs Get Wrong About Solving Business Problems

Author: Melissa Quinn

What Both MBAs and MFAs Get Wrong About Solving Business Problems was originally posted on Co.DESIGN

 

Numbers and bullet points aren’t the only things driving executive decision making. And pretty pictures won’t get you there either. Both designers and MBAs have a lot to learn.

 

This year marks the third anniversary of the Rotman Design Challenge. It started out as a commendable experiment by the school’s Business Design Club to expose MBAs at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management to the value of design methods in business problem solving. This year, the competition drew teams from a few other MBA schools and some of the best design schools in North America. As a final-round judge, I had a front-row seat to the five best solutions to the competition’s challenge: To help TD Bank foster lifelong customer relationships with students and recent graduates while encouraging healthy financial behaviors.

 

Both this year and last--the two years that Rotman invited other schools to participate--business school students were slaughtered by the design school students. Of the 12 Rotman teams this year, not one of them made the final round. And while only seven of the 23 competing teams were from design schools (including California College of Arts, Ontario College of Art and Design, and the University of Cincinnati), design teams scooped the top three places in the competition, doing significantly better than their MBA counterparts. So what does this tell us?

 

It might tell us that MBAs significantly underestimate the skill and expertise a designer brings to the table. After all, about 80 MBA students volunteered their evenings and weekends, believing they had a chance of winning a design competition with minimal, if any, design training. Would you go toe-to-toe with even a purple belt in jiu jitsu having never taken a lesson? While the typical design-school competitor has (at the least) studied the design process in depth for several semesters and practiced it in co-ops and internships, for many MBA students, this was their very first exposure to the discipline. So while we should applaud the organizers’ efforts to open MBA eyes to the importance and value of design in solving business problems, it seems that even its most forward-thinking students may not have fully digested that design is a serious pursuit that requires serious training.

 

The competition outcome might also tell us that designers have reason to be encouraged. With only 15 minutes to convince a skeptical panel of experienced professionals about a new idea that doesn’t exist in the world today, they fared significantly better than their MBA counterparts. Why? Because they shared real user insights to engage us emotionally, used narrative and stories to compel us, drew sketches and visualizations to inspire us, and simplified the complex to focus us. It’s proof positive that numbers and bullet points, while important, aren’t necessarily what drive executive decision making.

 

Finally, it tells us that we still have a long way to go to develop business professionals who both appreciate and can engage the tools of design effectively. Rotman gets kudos for taking a step in the right direction. But a few workshops and an extracurricular competition won’t produce business leaders with real design-thinking skills. Business education must be completely redefined to include the best, most appropriate principles of design in every curriculum. Marketing classes should teach a deep reverence for the user in context and the power of observational research methods. Finance classes should teach the art of storytelling and information design. Strategy classes should teach systems thinking and synthesis. If the goal is to create great "hybrid thinkers" who will have real impact, design should not be tacked on to existing business education but infused throughout it.

 

I’m not letting design schools off the hook either. While design students fared much better than their MBA counterparts that Saturday afternoon, I should point out that only the winning team from the Institute of Design at IIT actually charged a fee for the service they developed (a fact that was not overlooked by my final-round co-judge Ray Chun, the senior vice president of retail banking at TD). Some competitors were able to offer a vague notion that their ideas would generally create economic value, but crisp articulations of a profit model and underlying assumptions were hard to come by.

 

And I was less than impressed with the business-thinking skills of designers the following Monday morning, when I interviewed 10 of them at the Institute of Design in Chicago for jobs at Doblin. To most candidates, I asked of the ideas they presented in their portfolios, “But how does it make money? Who will pay for that? How much would you need to sell to be profitable?” and was met with far too many blank expressions when I did so. Design schools have a long way to go to integrate good business thinking into their programs. In order to make their value known to the world, designers need to speak the language of business--that’s where great ideas get funded and developed. Design education needs as much of an overhaul as business education if we are to benefit from the talents of design thinkers in the business world.

 

I hope that we see meaningful reinvention of both design and business education so that the business world can realize the true value of design thinking. Until that happens, Rotman’s Business Design Club would be wise to require challenge teams to comprise both designers and MBAs. At least it would level the playing field, and it may improve the educational experience for both--assuming each can decipher what the other is saying.

 

To view the full article please visit www.fastcodesign.com.

 

*Photo courtesy of thinkpublic.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus

More News

The Arts are Alive in Broward County
Jul 22, 2016 0 Comments
The arts breathe life into communities. The PNC Foundation, principally funded by the PNC Financial Services Group, has recognized this through its program, PNC Arts Alive! Since its debut in 2009, the program has awarded approximately...
Go to full post
Arts Educators Win Gold with Golden Artist Colors
Jul 19, 2016 0 Comments
It’s an adage that always rings true- behind every great artist is a great teacher. Americans for the Arts would like to congratulate educators Isaac AlaridPease, Jessica Clark, and Bryan Wilson on their selection as the 2016...
Go to full post
Curating Your Corporate Art Collection
Jul 15, 2016 0 Comments
When you look around your office, you probably have all of the necessities of a work environment- a desk, computer, phone, pens, paper. But something just as necessary might be missing on the white walls around you: a work of...
Go to full post
Announcing the 2016 BCA Hall of Fame Award and BCA Leadership Award Honorees
Jul 12, 2016 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce the BCA Hall of Fame and BCA Leadership Award honorees for 2016.  The awards are presented annually by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), a division of Americans for the Arts...
Go to full post
Americans for the Arts Releases Sixth pARTnership Movement Essay: Saying Thanks
Jul 11, 2016 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is proud to announce the sixth installment in The pARTnership Movement essay series: Say Thanks. The new release contains hard data, two notable case studies, and many reasons why the arts are a great way...
Go to full post
Volkswagen Drives Arts Education
Jul 05, 2016 0 Comments
Volkswagen is distinguished for its success in auto engineering, but the German car manufacturer should also be celebrated for its engineering of arts education programming. In a five year partnership with MoMA and MoMA PS1...
Go to full post
At Zappos, Creativity is a Shoe-In
Jun 28, 2016 0 Comments
Zappos knows that building a successful business means starting off on the right foot. With consistent support of the arts, especially in its home community of Las Vegas, Nevada, the online shoe and apparel retailer is widely...
Go to full post
From Data Center to Design-Centered
Jun 24, 2016 0 Comments
The term ‘technological infrastructure’ typically brings to mind rows of cables, wires, and circuitry, arranged in a precise and deliberate order. It probably does not conjure images of creativity and imagination. Granted, complex...
Go to full post
Technical Creativity: How Science and Art are Picking Up STEAM
Jun 21, 2016 0 Comments
In the left versus right brain debate, business is traditionally pushed to the left. But the true answer, much like the compromise needed in a business deal, lies somewhere in between. Corporations and businesses have increasingly...
Go to full post
Samsung’s Day of Service is a Day for the Arts
Jun 17, 2016 0 Comments
Samsung is a global leader in all things technology, from consumer electronics to semiconductors to information systems and more. On May 13th, Samsung dedicated time to the community in order to add arts advocacy to that list...
Go to full post
The Artistic Star of Starwood Capital
Jun 14, 2016 0 Comments
What kind of mind is needed to create and manage a multi-billion dollar real estate, hotel, and debt empire like Starwood Capital Group? A creative one.   Founder, chairman, and CEO Barry Sternlicht is not only a defining member...
Go to full post
Zipcar-Philadelphia Transports Mobile Murals
Jun 10, 2016 0 Comments
Everyone wants a car that turns heads when it drives by, so why not drive an actual work of art? For the third year in a row, Zipcar has partnered with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to celebrate the arts, raise...
Go to full post
Vans and Americans for the Arts Awarded with 2016 Gold Cause Marketing Halo Award
Jun 07, 2016 0 Comments
Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce that a 2016 Gold Cause Marketing Halo Award in the education category has been awarded to a partnership between Vans and Americans for the Arts. Developed 14 years ago by the Cause...
Go to full post
Feeling the Beat: Creating Music for the Deaf
Jun 03, 2016 0 Comments
Music is generally synonymous with hearing. So at an EDM concert, you probably wouldn’t expect a single deaf person to be in the crowd, let alone an entire audience of people without the ability to hear. Recently, 7UP partnered...
Go to full post

Already a partner?

Already a partner?

Learn easy ways to take your partnership to a new level.

Use our ads locally

Use our ads locally

View The pARTnership Movement ad campaign and find ways to use the ads.

pARTnership videos

pARTnership videos

Watch and share our videos from The pARTnership Movement.

Partnership ideas

Partnership ideas

Inspire employees with tickets to the ballet or a concert.

Are you an arts group?

Are you an arts group?

Get listed in our searchable directory.

Recruit talent

Recruit talent

Employees want to live and work in a vibrant community.