Roger Martin


Roger Martin

Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, Rotman School of Management

A champion of innovation, cross-disciplinary study, and learning-by-doing, Roger Martin is the leading proponent of Integrative Thinking—a bold new approach to the business problems emerging in the global economy. As the Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management, Roger presents a model for strengthening integrative thinking skills.

Roger served as dean of the Rotman School from 1998 until 2013. Remaining with the Rotman School, he now holds the Premier’s Chair in Productivity and Competitiveness and serves as Academic Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

His research and writing is in six related areas: Integrative Thinking, Design of Business, Strategy, Incentives and Governance, Competitiveness and Prosperity, and Social Innovation. He writes extensively and is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review having written 16 articles and maintained a regular blog on He has published eight books, the most recent of which is Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works (with  Sally Osberg). His earlier book, Playing to Win (written with A.G. Lafley) won the award for Best Book of 2012-13 by the Thinkers50. Previous books include Fixing the Game, The Design of Business, and The Opposable Mind. In addition, he co-edited Rotman on Design (with Karen Christensen).

In 2013, Roger placed 3rd on the Thinkers50 list, a biannual ranking of the most influential global business thinkers, behind only Clay Christensen (The Innovators Dilemma) and Chan Kim (Blue Ocean Strategy). In 2010, he was named one of the 27 most influential designers in the world by Business Week. In 2005, Business Week also named him one of seven global “Innovation Gurus.”

He serves on the public service boards of Skoll Foundation, Canadian Credit Management Foundation, Tennis Canada (past chair) and Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress (chair).

Roger received his BA from Harvard College, with a concentration in Economics, in 1979 and his MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1981.

Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works

Roger Martin shows leaders in any type of organization how to guide everyday actions with larger strategic goals built around the clear, essential elements that determine business success—where to play and how to win.

He has created a set of five essential strategic choices that, when addressed in an integrated way, will move you ahead of your competitors. They are: (1) What is our winning aspiration? (2) Where will we play? (3) How will we win? (4) What capabilities must we have in place to win? and (5) What management systems are required to support our choices? The result is a playbook for winning.

Using incredible stories of success, Martin outlines a proven method that has worked for some of today’s most celebrated brands and products and how this method can work for your organization as well.

Integrative Thinking

Integrative Thinking is the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative solution of the tensions in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superiors to each.

Martin is devoted to helping students and executives improve their decision-making by distilling the thinking approach of highly successful leaders and imbedding it in MBA and executive curricula. Many years ago, he came to the conclusion that watching what highly successful leaders do is confusing and unhelpful. They do what they do because of the specifics of the situation; which is likely to be different from yours.

His research has shown that while their actions vary widely, their method of thinking and deciding has strong common themes. He calls it Integrative Thinking and is demonstrating with business students and corporate and NGO executives that it can be taught.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking balances analytical thinking and intuitive thinking, enabling an organization to both exploit existing knowledge and create new knowledge. A design-thinking organization is capable of effectively advancing knowledge from mystery to heuristic to algorithm, gaining a cost advantage over its competitors along the way. And with that cost advantage, it can redirect its design thinking capacity to solve the next important mystery and advance still further ahead of its competitors. In this way, the design-thinking organization is capable of achieving lasting and regenerating competitive advantage.

Martin is devoted to helping companies, who tend to be ruled by analytical thinking, integrate into their thinking pattern, the best of intuitive thinking, which is typically the thinking pattern of artists and designers. Analytical thinkers tend to see “creatives” as potentially useful but quite scary because they don’t understand how “creatives” think – if they think at all! And creatives tend to see business-people as closed to new and potentially powerful ways of looking at things. As a consequence, they are more inclined to fight with or detach from one another – not utilize one another’s unique capability.

He is committed to helping exploitation and reliability-driven analytical thinkers and exploration and validity-driven intuitive thinkers understand why and how they need each other and why the higher goal for each is to develop their design thinking capacity. This is the capacity to combine the best of analytical and intuitive thinking into a reasoning capability that balances exploitation and exploration; that seeks reliability and validity; that provides the fastest and best movement through the Knowledge Funnel; and provides lasting competitive advantage in the 21st century.