Decision By Design

A piece I co-wrote with Ryan for Rotman magazine was just published in their winter issue. It’s called Decision By Design, I put a copy of the article up here here if you want to check it out.

It’s my first time writing for a magazine. Everyone in the process was really helpful and supportive, but it still turned out to be a lot harder than I thought. If you have a chance to read it, I’d love to know what you think.


  1. Great work Colin (and Ryan too, if you’re reading this). I’m already a design-thinking advocate, so I read the article predisposed to liking it, and was not disappointed. I only hope that we’re able to get this into more of a mainstream dialogue; after all, if design is so clearly better, why isn’t it more common an approach?

    I would submit that there is a great deal of anxiety around knowing how to identify when you’re done prototyping/designing, and thus having the confidence to know when you’re staring at the final solution. It’s that same confidence that lets a talented film director know that they got *it*, and they can move on to the next shot. And perhaps that’s also why there are so few talented directors.

    Deciding among predefined options has a perhaps unfair advantage in explicitly also providing a specific, measurable goal that someone can achieve. A design-based approach requires leadership, regardless of the hierarchy, and that fact can easily push people back towards deciding over designing. So how can this best be overcome inside an established hierarchy?

  2. The article touched on the accepted “continuous beta” methodology on entrepreneurial online businesses…if you know of any other material that further connects DT with the development of online tools do you mind passing it on?


  3. Chris – you’re hitting on a huge tension of any organization. When is the offering you’re working on done? When can it be staged and systematized?

    I like your metaphor of a film director. That personality hold many tensions and directions in their head as they create a movie, and they have a point of view about where things should go. Unfortunately though, I think the idea of a ‘final shot’ when releasing a product can only increase the anxiety, and it’s sort of a false choice. (Things can always evolve.)

    I think this is when the customer can be a crucial guide (and traditional business maxims can be your friend). When you can’t decide if you’re looking at the final iteration, take it to the people. See if what you have is compelling, exciting, and different enough to matter. You’ll have to temper what you hear with your point of view, but your customer will always be your strongest indication of success.

  4. Greg – Thanks for checking out the article. There’s lots of people writing in this space.

    My colleague Ryan Jacoby writes about it a lot –

    Definitely check out Eric Ries’ blog, this is his chief topic (though he doesn’t refer to deign thinking that much, the theory is definitely in the mix) –

    You might also check out Roger Martin’s two latest books, they go into a lot of theory and examples that live in this area.


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