I finally got around to buying (and reading) a copy of Rotman Management Magazine,the magazine of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, which I noticed in newsstands some time ago next to Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Strategy+Business and Stanford Social Innovation Review but never picked up. While SSIR has found a niche for itself (social innovation) that makes it complement market leader HBR without competing with it, and the MIT name is strong enough to find its own set of devoted readers, Strategy+Business could use a redesign of the magazine's inner pages and I was curious to see how RMM would position itself in a very competitive field.
If one has to give credit to a single person for the emergence of Rotman as a powerhouse business school with its own management publication, global reputation and a ranking as one of the world's best business schools (#1 business school in Canada, #4 in faculty research worldwide, #4 PhD Program, Top 10 in finance), that person would be Roger Martin, who was Rotman's Dean from 1998 to 2013, has popularized concepts such as integrative thinking and design thinking and is the author/co-author of best-selling books such as The Design of Business (2009) and Playing to Win (2013). As Dean, he also oversaw the launch of RMM back in 1999.
While part of Rotman's rising worldwide reputation is certainly due to Toronto's success story as a magnet for the creative class - to use a term first introduced by Richard Florida (now head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at Rotman) - there is no doubt that the growing impact of Rotman's faculty and graduates can also be attributed to an outstanding marketing strategy, in which RMM plays a critical role.
In contrast with HBR, which comes across as rather independent of Harvard Business School, in the sense that it does not try to specifically push research of HBS professors, RMM makes no mystery that it is Rotman's magazine. (As it should, if the overarching goal is to position Rotman as one of the very top schools of management in the world.) If you miss the words on the cover, you will quickly realize it due to the large proportion of contributors or interviewees affiliated with Rotman, and the way a number of them drop the Rotman name in their articles.
For instance, Jim Fisher in The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership mentions he teaches a course on leadership at Rotman in the first column of the article's first page. (The article discusses Managing, Directing and Engaging models of leadership. It should be quite obvious from their names which one the author advocates for the future, but the article was thoughtful and well-presented.)
Dilip Soman, in The Last Mile: Using Behavioral Insights to Create Value, advocates that "leaders spend too much time on 'first-mile' issues like strategies and too little time on the 'last mile', where consumer decisions are actually made". He is a professor of marketing at Rotman.
Bernardo Blum, Avi Goldfarb and Mara Lederman provide a Path to Prescription: Closing the Gap Between the Promise and the Reality of Big Data. If the "Path to Prescription" part of the title made you expect something about big pharma, you might want to know the "prescription" refers to prescriptive analytics, as opposed to its descriptive or predictive counterparts. All three authors are affiliated with Rotman.
Eileen Fischer and Rebecca Reuber author Retweet This: The Power of a Multi-Dimensional Approach to Social Media. The second author is a Professor of Strategic Management at Rotman.
Jonathan Bailey and Tim Koller investigate the effectiveness of boards of directors in All Aboard: Making Board Effectiveness a Reality. They ask: "Is your board of directors effective? A veteran director finds many boards wanting - and considers how to improve them." That veteran director is David Beatty of the Rotman School of Management, whom they interview at length. (Bailey and Koller are with McKinsey.)
Rotman's new Dean Tiff Macklem is the subject of a thoughtful interview on his first ten months on the job. There is also a great interview with Rotman alum Richard Nesbitt MBA'85 now adjunct faculty at Rotman who provides leadership lessons from a financial services veteran. Partha Mohanram, the CPA Ontario Professor of Financial Accounting, opens up the black box of accounting. Mine Moldoveanu, founder and director of the Mind-Brain-Behaviour Hive at the University of Toronto and vice-dean for learning and innovation at Rotman, discusses how to harness brain science and wearables for personalized learning.
But it is important to note that the contributions of Rotman-affiliated professors are interspersed with excellent interviews of management thought leaders with no connection to Rotman or Canada (that I'm aware of): Thinkers50 member Linda Hill on collective genius, four leading management thinkers in a Leadership Forum on the architecture of management (Herminia Ibarra, Georg Polzer, Tammy Erickson and Vineet Nayar), authors affiliated with MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group who wrote on collaborative leadership for sustainability, MIT faculty Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee on The Digitization of Just About Everything.
My favorite articles were Portrait of a Leader: Sheryl Sandberg by Wharton's Stewart D. Friedman, who provides a useful insert on his model of total leadership, which he describes in more detail in his book of the same name and The Power of Optimism by Bill and Melinda Gates. ("If you want to do the most, you have to see the worst." It was a beautiful article, although I wonder what happened to the patient dying from AIDS after Melinda Gates carried her onto the rooftop so that she could see the sunset, at the dying patient's request, because employees refused to do so. The employees' reason was that she would soon be dead and the other patients were keeping them busy. Melinda Gates makes it clear she told the employees where the patient was so that they would pick her up after the sunset was over, because Gates couldn't stay that long, but part of me wonders if they didn't just let her die on the rooftop after Gates was gone. Read the whole article and tell me what you think.)
I also enjoyed Co-creating the future: The Dawn of System Leadership by Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania. (No Rotman affiliation there: Senge is with MIT, Hamilton with the Sustainable Food Lab and the the Academy for Systemic Change and Kania with FSG.) A longer version of this article first appeared in SSIR. How to lead at your best, by Joanna Barsh and Johanne Lavoie, was excerpted from their book on Centered Leadership. (Hints: (1) Practice the pause. (2) Forge trust. (3) Choose your questions wisely. (4) Make time to recover.) They are with McKinsey. Change guru John Kotter of HBS discusses the importance of agility and provides an overview of management vs leadership in a thoughtful Q&A.
I very much liked the Q&A with famed executive coach Fred Kiel, who defines leadership character and defines a Return on Character matrix, and the Q&A with consultant/author Mark Barden, who explains "why we need to change our opinion about constraints." He defines three types of attitudes with respect to constraints: the Victim, the Neutralizer and the Transformer. ("These are people who see the constraint as an opportunity.") A key insight, for which he thanked Pentagram designer Michael Beirut, is that those are three stages all of us go through rather than three different types of people
Canadian-born Brad Katsuyama worked for many years for the Royal Bank of Canada and is now the founder of IEX, an alternative stock market. His adventures in high-frequency trading made him a central character in Michael Lewis's book Flash Boys.
In other words, RMM is (rather) careful about pushing the Rotman brand name while mixing Rotman articles with those by world-renowned thought leaders of peer institutions or aspirational peers. What can other schools learn from this example? Most universities, colleges and sometimes even departments now publish regular issues about research advances by their faculty. Those publications are often sent to alumni or donors ("members of the family", as Michael Kaiser would say about performing arts organizations). They usually push news updates that will only be meaningful to people who already share an affiliation with the school. RMM, though, takes the next step in providing leadership news and business insights in a useful, actionable format. It so happens that many of those new models or insights are contributed by Rotman faculty. This is a great way to position the Rotman School of Management on an international stage. I'll be looking forward to the next issue in the winter.