Friday, July 16, 2010

Valid vs. Reliable -- thoughts on Roger Martin's "The Design of Business"

Most who follow the development of the field of design thinking know Roger Martin, the dean of the University of Toronto Rotman School in Canada.

I was recently given his book, "The Design of Business," to read by a friend.  It came with an endorsement of Martin's balance of creativity vs. analysis, exploration vs. exploitation, "madness vs. measure."  Sure, I thought.  Everyone in their right mind supports that balance, to one degree or another. 

But about halfway through the book, I understand why Martin is one of the leading thinkers in the field.  His discussion of reliable vs. valid is pretty fascinating.  Martin defines reliable as "consistent and predictable" and valid as "producing a desired result."

Here's a piece of the argument (directly from the book, with some bits removed for brevity):

"What organizations dedicated to running reliable algorithms fail to realize is that while they reduce the risk of small variations in their business, they increase the risk of cataclysmic events that occur when the future no longer resembles the past and the algorithm is no longer relevant or useful...    Such organizations inevitably come to see the maintenance of the status quo as an end in itself, short-circuiting their ability to design and redesign themselves continuously."

If you're interested, here's a talk he gave on the topic at the New School in NYC.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Random Aside: Infographics are pretty wonderful...

As a former journalist, I understand the acute challenge of presenting information in the most accurate, digestible way possible (especially in short attention span era).  As hard as it might be for writers to swallow, sometimes infographics are kind of the best way to present complex or data-rich topics in a readily understandable way.

Here are a couple I found through Fast Company.  They show something pretty basic (the most common kind of restaurant by neighborhood), but in a way that's illustrative of more complex societal dynamics at work in America's greatest city, especially in the Queens example.  For more infographics, check out GOOD magazine's site for a whole bunch of fascinating ones.