Roger Martin

We need to study how great leaders think, not what they do.

Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School

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Roger Martin | Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School

A champion of innovation, cross-disciplinary study, and learning-by-doing, Roger Martin is one of the most respected business minds in the world today. A highly regarded author (his newest is Getting Beyond Better) and director of the Rotman School’s Martin Prosperity Institute, Martin is changing the face of business—and business education. 

“Instead of focusing on what exceptional leaders do,” Roger Martin says, “we need to understand and emulate how they think.” And, if you study them closely, many of today’s exceptional leaders—from A.G. Lafley of Procter and Gamble to Meg Whitman of eBay—practice Martin’s form of Integrative Thinking; a big picture approach which takes into account the fact that, at top levels of management, problems rarely fall neatly into segregated categories. He’s also an advocate of Design Thinking—a concept that balances analytical thought processes with intuitive thinking. With Martin’s expert guidance, these two schools of thought can be successfully learned and implemented.


“What may be the first book to document the practices of social entrepreneurs. You couldn't ask for better guides.”

Financial Post on Getting Beyond Better

In his newest book, Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works, Martin examines the role that social entrepreneurs play in driving societal transformation. He explores their propensity to target existing systems that are stable, yet unjust, and disrupt and transform them using novel ways of thinking. In Playing to Win, Martin shows leaders in any type of organization how to guide everyday actions with larger strategic goals—a proven method that has worked for some of today’s most celebrated brands and products. Fixing the Game takes lessons from the National Football League and applied them to a critical issue facing American capitalism: that increasing shareholder value is the ultimate job of any company. The Design of Business shows how leading companies such as Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, RIM, and others use design thinking to produce breakthrough innovations. And, The Opposable Mind, a Globe and Mail Top Ten Business Book, focuses on what leaders think, rather than what they do.


“Managers everywhere should be grateful.”

Fortune Magazine on Playing to Win

Since Martin joined Rotman in 1998, the school has rocketed up worldwide MBA rankings, while never being surpassed. The late Peter Drucker said, “What the Rotman School is doing may be the most important thing happening in management education today.” Martin was named one of the Top Ten Business School Teachers in the World by Business Week.   

Speech Topics

Business Strategy
Play to Win Improve the Architecture of Your Strategic Choices

Roger Martin is devoted to helping senior management teams improve the architecture of their strategy choices. They often find themselves struggling to determine what choices really need to be tackled to advance the cause of their organizations. And when they tackle whatever choices they think are important, they tend to struggle to make the choices, and even more, to see those choices convert to action. As a result, there is perceived to be a crisis of “implementation” in organizations. Martin sees the problem as one of how strategic choices are made. In this talk, he shares his process of Strategic Choice Structuring, designed to help management teams focus on high-value choices, making inspired choices, and making them in a way that leads to productive action. It is a process used by major companies like Procter & Gamble and Dun & Bradstreet.

Martin also shares five essential strategic choices that will move your company ahead of your competitors: (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.

Business Strategy
Integrative Thinking
In this keynote, Roger Martin shows how successful businesspeople engage in what he calls Integrative Thinking: creatively resolving the tension in opposing models by forming entirely new and superior ones. He describes how integrative thinkers are relentlessly diagnosing and synthesizing by asking probing questions: “What are the causal relationships at work here?” “What are the implied trade-offs?” He also presents a model for strengthening your integrative thinking skills of by drawing on different kinds of knowledge, including conceptual and experiential knowledge. Integrative thinking can be learned, he says, and this talk is the first step in helping audience members master this vital skill.
Fixing the Game What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL
In this keynote, Roger Martin reveals the culprit behind the sorry state of American capitalism: our deep and abiding commitment to the idea that the purpose of the firm is to maximize shareholder value. This theory has led to a massive growth in stock-based compensation for executives and, through this, to a naive and wrongheaded linking of the real market (the business of designing, making, and selling products and services) with the expectations market (the business of trading stocks, options, and complex derivatives). Using the National Football League as his primary example, Martin illustrates that it is possible to take a much more thoughtful and effective approach than we now do to seize American capitalism from the jaws of the expectations market and plant it firmly in the real market—and he presents the steps we must take now to do so.