Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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Rotman's Business Design Studio

Rotman DesignWorks is the Business Design studio at the Rotman School of Management. Our mission is to transform business education through user-centered design.

Why Business Design? As the world of business continues to evolve and accelerate, it has become clear that the traditional manager’s toolkit is incomplete. Data alone is insufficient for solving our most wicked business problems.

At DesignWorks, we believe the success of our future business leaders will depend on their ability to integrate intuitive and analytical ways of thinking. Empathy, creativity and collaboration are keys to driving greater innovation and discovering new opportunities for growth and creativity.


Our Origin Story

 “Business people don’t just need to understand designers, they need to become designers.” – Roger L. Martin

 In the early 2000s, Procter & Gamble CEO - A.G. Lafley identified innovation as key to the future success of the company. 

He appointed Claudia Kotchka, Vice President - Design, Innovation and Strategy to develop this new capability with the help of Roger Martin, former Dean, Rotman School of Management. They saw the immense value of applying design beyond just the realm of products (e.g., experiences, business models, strategy). Yet for design to have real business impact, the designer's way of thinking and doing had to be embedded throughout the organization.

As a result, Claudia and Roger in collaboration with David Kelley (founder, at Stanford University and IDEO) and Patrick Whitney (Dean, IIT Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology) developed a structured approach to innovation that could be employed by both business people and designers.

 It combined three core elements: 

  • Empathy: What are our customer’s unmet needs?
  • Prototyping: How might we better meet these needs?
  • Strategy: How might we create competitive advantage?

 This approach left an indelible mark on P&G and how it practices innovation.

 Realizing that business education was lacking these critical skills, Roger and Heather Fraser (Rotman Adjunct Professor) brought their learning back to the Rotman School. The goal was to teach Rotman students how to better innovate - creating solutions that people really need and competitive advantage to help organizations succeed. Together they founded Rotman DesignWorks, an experiential learning centre where MBA students develop the latest Business Design skills through hands-on practice.


What we do for you

Innovation and design are more than a set of tools. They require a different mindset and a new way of thinking, and the best way to learn this is by doing it.

In a studio environment, our students are given opportunities for exploration, self-discovery and real-world application. They are guided through an end-to-end learning experience that includes courses, workshops, projects and study tours. With the invaluable assistance of the Rotman Business Design Club – one of the largest and most active student clubs at Rotman - DesignWorks also organizes industry events and supports Business Design competitions.

The DesignWorks team acts as teachers, facilitators and coaches, helping students become innovation-ready business leaders.

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