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Design thinking: achieving insights via the “knowledge funnel”

Roger Martin (Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, was formerly a director of Monitor Company and he continues to serve as a senior advisor to CEOs of some of the world's leading companies. This article is based on concepts in his latest book, The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking Is the Next Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Press, 2009).)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 9 March 2010




The purpose of this paper is to explain how, in the future, the most successful business innovation efforts will balance analytical mastery and intuitive originality in a dynamic interplay that the author calls “design thinking.””


As a useful way to think about how to do this the paper takes the reader step‐by‐step through the “knowledge funnel” concept.


Design thinking empowers the design of business, the directed movement of a business through the knowledge funnel – from mystery to heuristic to algorithm – and then the utilization of the resulting efficiency to tackle the next mystery and the next and the next.

Practical implications

The apaper suggests that the velocity of movement through the knowledge funnel, powered by design thinking, is the most powerful formula for competitive advantage in the twenty‐first century.


The paper has a radical thesis: to advance knowledge, we must turn away from our standard definitions of proof – and from the false certainty of the past – and instead stare into the mystery of what could be.



Martin, R. (2010), "Design thinking: achieving insights via the “knowledge funnel”", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 37-41.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Company

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