The Logical Philosopher

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rotman's beautiful minds

Over the past month the National Post has been profiling several 'beautiful minds' in their search for " Canada's most important public intellectual . They have some interesting people on the list from several aspects of our Canadian roots. Nominated to the list are well known authors such as Naomi Klein, Peter C. Newman, Malcolm Gladwell & Margaret Atwood. Our potential next Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff, is listed alongside Conrad Black and Preston Manning. And of course what Canadian list would be complete without Don Cherry and Lorne Michaels. I'm honestly surprised with the list given they just didn't throw in Mike Meyers and Wayne Gretzky while they were at it - but that's not the point of my post.

Last year I read an article on Roger Martin, the current Dean of U of T's Rotman School of Management. He was profiled in Toronto Life on his goal of taking Rotman from a directionless school "hemorrhaging cash and staff" that probably wouldn't make a top 50 MBA school list, to be ranked within the top 10 business school worldwide. (See article here). When you think about most business schools it is quite ironic - they aren't run like businesses, even though they supposed to teach business. I remember hearing about the business planning session at the MBA school I attended and it sounded like all the professors were bickering about the direction of the school and how it had to align to their specific research focus. It made it sound like building the school name in the business community and educating the students were unfortunate and necessary by-products of their tenure. But not at U of T - here was Martin, ready to run it like a business which would propel it into the top 10 rankings - and he is half way there. In the past 5 years Rotman has moved from 46th to 21st place in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings (first in Canada), while other notable Canadian Schools such as Ivey have dropped steadily from 19th to 34th place since 2000. (Source

While I have never met him my personal insight on why Martin has been and will continue to be successful can be found in the aforementioned Toronto Life article. Jim Fisher, co-founder of the Canadian Consulting Group where Martin started, noted:

"He did not have a lot of time for people with low aspirations." He sums up his younger counterpart: "Roger has a tremendous impatience with people who aspire to satisfy, rather than beat, the world."

How cool is that.

I have heard from students at Rotman that Martin is a great professor, not because he's taking the school places for everyone but because he is so involved in teaching and in the academic direction of the institution. A core part of the program he helped start is the "integrative thinking" model. The model deconstructs the business decisions of accomplished individuals in various industries, and then turns it into a mental model process:

Integrative Thinking is an approach to problem-solving that views often-imperceptible features as significant to resolution; considers complex cause-and-effect relationships; keeps the 'big picture' in mind, while concentrating on all the elements individually; and refuses to accept trade-offs in the problem's resolution, turning obstacles into opportunities....Instead of taking the world as it is presented to them, integrative thinkers work to shape their context and design creative business solutions.
So where does this leave us? On one hand we've got the National Post's list of beautiful minds which somehow include Cherry and Black, and on the other we've got someone who's noticeably missing from the list. Roger Martin - a Dean poised to be taking Rotman from where most business schools sit to a top 10 international ranking. In doing so he is helping shape the next generation of business students to be equally successful intellects and business "integrative thinkers".

Makes me wonder where the National Post was looking when they picked their candidates.