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Business Design

Designing the next generation of business leaders. As the world of business continues to evolve and accelerate, managers need a strategic mindset and design toolset to tackle complex challenges, navigate uncertainty and manage change.

The next generation of managers are leaders equipped to connect with users, make strategic decisions, and incentivize creativity and opportunities for innovation. These leaders are designed for the 21st century organization. Business Design is a way of thinking and working that applies human-centred design to improving or transforming business activities. It draws upon social science, design and strategy to create business value - from innovative new products, services and processes, to creative strategies and models. It involves developing a mindset to find, frame and ultimately solve business problems.

The Business Design major offers a diverse set of coursework to build competencies required for innovation-seeking firms. Business designers are corporate innovators -- they translate needs into insights, connect concepts across functional departments, and frame solutions into viable business innovations.

Business design is Rotman’s distinctive innovation methodology for finding, framing and solving business problems. Rotman students gain the knowledge, skills and tools needed to navigate, drive and manage the innovation process of new products, services and platforms, and discover new opportunities for growth, creativity and sustainability.

"Great leaders aspire to manage 'by design', with a sense of purpose and foresight. Lessons learned from the world of design, when applied to management, can turn leaders into collaborative, creative, deliberate, and accountable visionaries."

-Moura Quayle, author of Designed Leadership Columbia Business School Publishing.

About the Business Design Emphasis

Students will learn how to find needs/define problems, frame and reframe problems, and solve real world business problems. The classroom experience combines lectures, studio/hands-on learning, online toolkits, and experiential live-case learning. Required courses provide foundational knowledge of the business innovation process and design methods to collect data, inform insights, and prototype ideas into innovations.

Requirements to Complete

Effective January 2021, you must successfully complete three of the following core courses, which must include Business Design Fundamentals or Business Design Practicum

Core Courses

  • Business Design Fundamentals
  • Business Design Practicum
  • Creativity for Business Innovation OR Global Practicum: Design-Led Innovation
  • Design Research and Data Storytelling OR Service Design: Innovating Service-Based Organizations OR Futures Thinking: Developing Business Foresight

It is also highly recommended that students in this emphasis choose at least one other course from the following selection:

  • If interested in Strategy Roles: Corporate Strategy OR Strategic Change & Implementation OR The Opposable Mind OR Strategic Networks OR Corporation 360
  • If interested in HR/HCC Roles: Aligning People & Strategy OR Organizational Design
  • If interested in Marketing Roles: Consumer Behavior OR Marketing Research OR Marketing & Behavioural Economics
  • If interested Operations-related Roles: Operations Management Strategy OR Service Operations Management
  • If interested in Not-for-Profits: Leading Social Innovation OR Not-for-Profit Consulting
  • If interested in Healthcare: Service Design: Innovating Service-Based Organizations OR Health Sector Strategy and Organization

Upon successful completion of these courses, you may request the Registrar's Office for a letter of completion, certifying your Rotman Business Design emphasis.

Activities outside of class

Workshops (Highly Recommended)

  • As offered by the Business Design Initiative (BDI)


  • Rotman Business Design Club

Case Competitions

  • Rotman Design Challenge
  • Kellogg Design Challenge

Other Opportunities

  • Independent Study Projects (ISPs)
  • Internships
  • Business Design Initiative Research Assistants

Career Paths

The topics covered in this emphasis are critical in helping students develop their business design and innovation skills. These can be applied to any innovation and business transformation related role that can benefit from a greater consumer / human understanding and the ability to create new growth opportunities in marketing, new product development, management, consulting and entrepreneurship.

Business design roles are not found through the usual channels of career building and discovery – they have to be sought out or created. Roles for BD MBA majors span: service designer, customer experience manager, strategist, business analyst, innovation or new product manager, marketing manager, customer research manager, operations director, etc.

Companies that have recruited at Rotman:
A selection of companies where Rotman MBA graduates have worked in recent years:

Where can I get a job as a business designer?
Companies may offer specific roles as a business design specialist, however, you are more likely to find roles that incorporate aspects of the methodology in your day-to-day responsibilities. Some examples of jobs our grads have gone on to include:

  • Business designer, Openbox Innovation Agency, NYC
  • Customer experience designer, CIBC
  • Associate brand manager, Nike
  • Innovation catalyst, Fidelity Investments
  • Senior manager - Commercial Auto, TD Bank
  • Innovation project manager, The Hospital for Sick Children
  • Senior consultant, Monitor Deloitte

The alumni perspective

Each year our graduating students have gone on to work for top-tier innovative companies. Here’s what they have to say about business design at Rotman:

Rotman Design Challenge

Students come from around the world to tackle a real-world challenge

Explore other career directions
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